Sunday, October 23, 2011

Good Works

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 23, Year of Our + Lord 2011
Matthew 22:34-46

O.K., why didn’t we sing the third and fourth stanza?  Why did we skip the verses in our Office Hymn that speak of Jesus’ baptism and life of service?  Seems particularly odd, perhaps, on this Servant Sunday, as we recognize the contributions of our Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.  Maybe it’s just because the song is long, seven verses, with an unusual cadence.  At least O Love How Deep isn’t full of really high notes.  Well, I am very happy that we are able to sing a hymn that is 600 years old, to a tune that is over 500 years old, and so dropping a stanza now and again may be a good idea, to keep you all enjoying this wonderful hymn.  Nothing ruins the appreciation of a great hymn like turning it into punishment.  However, if you’ve peeked down at the offering hymn, you’ve noticed that we are going to pick up those skipped verses as we gather our financial gifts this morning, so there must be some particular reason why we’ve skipped them. 

There is: the perennial challenge of rightly preaching about Christian living.  It is quite right that we take a Sunday to consider the many different tasks that the ladies undertake, recognizing and celebrating the fruit of faith is an entirely Biblical thing to do.  Last week Paul praised the Thessalonians’ works of faith and love, and this week he talks about his own works in their midst.  The problem is not talking about and celebrating the life of the faithful.  And the problem is not looking to the life and service of Jesus, the One baptized for us, as an example to us the baptized.  We must remember that He is God and we are not, that He is Savior and we are the Saved.  But still, “what would Jesus do” is a good Biblical question, as long as we don’t make it our foundation.  No, there is nothing wrong with talking about good works, and Jesus is the first and best good worker to whom we should look for guidance.  No problems there. 

The problem that causes me to shy away from talking about good works is the faithful.  The problem, when it comes to focusing on good works, is us.  We are so prone to twisting the truth about the Christian life in order to satisfy our own egos that I, like any pastor who knows that our works do not contribute to our salvation, often hesitate when it comes time to celebrate the works being done within the congregation.  Because as much as we all want to see good works, the first and last thing that we need is the faith-working deliverance of forgiveness through the preaching of law and gospel, sin and grace. 

We do need to learn about good works, about Christian living, if for no other reason that good works are definitely important to God.  But it’s tricky, because we are so likely to get everything twisted around, turning our efforts at good works into a big mess.

Of course, I should be careful not to talk out of turn.  I don’t know much about women, nor about whether the efforts of our LWML ladies get all twisted up.  The longer I live the more I am sure that I know very little about women and how they do things, and so I can’t speak too authoritatively about whether our ladies efforts at good works get messed up.  But I do know men, and I know what can happen when men work together.  Everyone seems to start out with the best of intentions, nobody seems like they are purposely trying to ruin things.  But personalities can clash and ideas conflict, agreements ignored and plans changed without consultation.  Then egos are bruised and guys complain about each other behind backs, and pretty soon everybody wishes that we had never started trying to do anything in the first place, because our collective effort to do something good has become a breeding ground for discord and argument amongst brothers in Christ.  Satan laughs as Christians dishonor the Name of Christ.

Like I said, I don’t get very closely involved in the projects of our ladies, so I can’t say whether these types of petty arguments break out amongst them.  But we did all eat from the same apple.  We are all plagued by the same sinful  nature, so I’m guessing that perhaps these types of things can happen among women, too.  And when our sin leads us into arguments and strife, our first impulse is often to make rules, to try to restrain the negative actions of those other people who just can’t see how right I am, to make rules so that we don’t have any more arguing, and so I can get my way.

Which is pretty much what went wrong with the Pharisees.  That salvation is entirely God’s work, given as a free gift to sinners who trust in God’s promise, is clearly declared throughout the Old Testament to which the Pharisees were devoted.  Likewise, that God does want people to live right, to do good, is also part of the Word that the Pharisees studied.  Their problem was getting caught up in the life of good works, and forgetting that salvation is a gift from God received by faith.  The Pharisees made the life of good works their focus, and soon they twisted it into being their false way of salvation.  So when Jesus rejected their way, when He spoke instead about grace and mercy, when He hung out with obvious sinners, the Pharisees came after Him. 

Today we heard their final attack, during the first Holy Week, their last attempt to trip up Jesus and find some way of accusing Him.  Jesus has easily brushed aside their trickiest questions, so now they simply lay it all on the line.  Jesus seems to be rejecting the way of the Law, so they simply ask Him to declare what is the most important part of God’s law. 

I’m not really clear on what they hoped to accomplish, but Jesus seizes the opportunity to dispel any idea that He was rejecting the Law of God as given through Moses.  In the clearest terms Jesus lays out the standard of the Law, which is, by the way, also the shape of Christian living:  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.  No ifs, no buts, no wiggle room.  Love God, completely, before all things, with your whole being.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Do these things and you will  live. 

No opening to attack Jesus in this answer.  Also no chance for a sinner to please God.  Go ahead and run off trying, go ahead and try your hardest to live according to these two commands.  Neither you nor I can do it, for sin taints everything we do.  By works of the law shall no man, or lady, be justified.  The law of God demands that every mouth be shut, every human claim to righteousness before God be denied.  You must be silent.  I must be silent.  The Pharisees are silent. 

And so finally, in that silence, Jesus gets His turn to ask a question:  “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”  Jesus asks the Pharisees to explain from whom they understood the Christ to be descended.  The promised Savior who was to rescue Israel from all her tribulations, who son is he?  The Pharisees, knowing the Scripture, reply, "The son of David."  Jesus then asks. "How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet'?”   Jesus is quoting from Psalm 110, a psalm universally understood to be about the coming Savior.  In that Psalm, speaking of this coming Christ, or Messiah, who is to be his descendent, his son, King David calls this Messiah his Lord.  The fourth commandment is turned upside down, for sons are to honor fathers, this is the order of creation.  And yet there it is, David, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, calls his descendent Lord.  What does this mean? 

The Pharisees have no idea, no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.  But I know what  David was talking about.  I know what Jesus was getting at, and so do you.  You just sang it.  Oh love, how deep, how broad, how high, beyond all thought or fantasy, that God, the Son of God should take, our mortal form, for mortals sake.   He sent no angel to our race, of higher or of lower place, but wore the robe of human frame, and to this world Himself He came.  

The answer for us sinners to the demands of God’s first and second laws is the Son of David, who is also the Son of God.  God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit saw that as far as our ability to be the people He desires is concerned, there was no way for us sinners to succeed.  So God the Father sent His only begotten Son into our flesh, to bear our sin and be our Savior.  The life of perfect love for God and neighbor, Jesus lived in our stead, for us, in our place.  The death of perfect satisfaction, the sufferings of all time, the death that makes payment for all sin, Jesus died, just a day or so after this last confrontation with the Pharisees.  The Law of God has been perfectly kept, and it’s demanded punishments have been fulfilled.  So, in Christ’s Resurrection we discover good news, that God for Christ’s sakes declares righteous all who believe in Jesus as Savior. 

This remarkable love, so deep, so broad, so high, is always the focus of the Church.  We celebrate Christ crucified and resurrected because our lives depend on it, both our life with God, now and in eternity, and our life of good works.  For we can truly love only when we have been loved first, only the forgiven sinner is free to serve God and neighbor without self-interest.  Only those works that proceed from faith in the Sinless Son of God are worthy to present to the Lord.  We celebrate Christ by receiving again and again, through Word and Sacrament, His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation.  And that celebration spills over into our lives, leading us to works of love.  Christians do not do good to make ourselves look good; how could we possibly look better than when we are covered with Christ’s righteousness?  We give glory to God and love our neighbors not in order to earn God’s favor, but because we have already been favored by Him.  In Christ we have all things, including all the riches and glory of heaven, and so faith seeks no earthly victories, no earthly pride, no earthly righteousness.  We simply love, because He has loved us, and claimed us, and filled us with Himself.   

The life of love we celebrate today is a habit.  Not a habit of continually seeking good works to do, no, such a habit our sinful nature will use to turn ourselves into Pharisees.  No, the life of love is a habit of coming to Christ in the places where He promises to be, wherever His people gather around His Word and gifts, wherever two or more gather in His Name, coming to Christ to be fed, to drink deeply from the deep of His love.  From Him we receive life, and then through us He produces the works He desires.  O Love, how deep, how broad, how high, grant us your Spirit, that we may always live from you, Amen. 

Monday, October 17, 2011


Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost                         October 16th, A.D. 2011
Matthew 22:15-22

Have you heard the one about the Christian who was encouraging his neighbor to join him at a Sunday morning church service?  Time and again the reluctant neighbor put off the invitations, first with one excuse, then another.  Eventually, after yet another lame excuse, the Christian asked his neighbor to tell him the real reason for his unwillingness to come to church.  With just a bit of venom in his voice, the neighbor replied, “That church is full of hypocrites.”  To which the Christian replied, “Oh no, we’re not full of hypocrites.  There’s room for at least one more.” 

It’s no joke to be a hypocrite, at least not before God.  Webster says a hypocrite is a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion, a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs.  Hypocrite comes from the Greek word for actor, one who pretends to be someone or something different from who they truly are.   Being hypocritical is a really bad idea, first because God hates lies and deception, and second because hypocrites are always eventually revealed. 

A person pretending to be virtuous and moral but who is really doing bad things is almost always caught up in his or her lies by the people affected and circumstances of their deception.  If you are kind to your friends to their face, but run them down behind their backs, eventually everyone will know your hypocrisy and will begin to avoid you.  If you preach against drinking and driving, but consider yourself impervious to the affects of alcohol, your car wrapped around a tree and your night spent in jail will reveal the truth about your habits.  If you brag to anyone who will listen about how important your family is to you, but at home you treat your spouse and children like household slaves, you should remember that eventually your kids will grow up and they and your spouse may not always keep your ugly secret.  

But even if one was to somehow completely fool everyone else, the Lord always sees through hypocrisy.  Jesus, the Son of God, saw into the hearts of men, and He still does.  With the Spirit of Truth searching out all lies, with the Father above all knowing since forever, no human being can hide hypocrisy from God.  And so the hypocrite, living a pious, religious seeming lie, may seem to be doing well, but a hypocrite stands no chance before God.  Do not think that you can lie to God.  He knows.  And it is most certainly no joke to be a hypocrite, at least not before God. 

And yet who among us can deny that we are hypocrites?  Especially when we consider the standard of godliness put before us today by Jesus.  Jesus tells us to render, or give, to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to give to God the things that are God's.  Caesar was the emperor, the tyrant ruler in Rome who was oppressing the Jewish people, along with hundreds of other peoples around the world back in the first century.  Caesar was not a duly elected servant of the people, limited in power by a congress, judges and the next election cycle.  He kept law and order after a fashion, but Caesar was no beloved leader.  And yet Jesus tells the Pharisees and the Herodians to pay their taxes and give earthly obedience to Caesar.  We too, are to pay our taxes and give earthly obedience to our government, even when our government may be acting less than perfectly.  It is perfectly fine to try to minimize your taxes within the rules set by the IRS, as well as take action in our democratic system to try to improve our laws.  But unless the government is clearly commanding you to do something that causes you to sin, you are to obey the laws, pay your taxes, perform your civic duties, and give respect to your earthly governmental rulers.  All of them.  That is the Lord’s standard.  Can anyone of us deny our hypocrisy? 

Maybe.  Maybe you are a model citizen.  Maybe you can give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.  It’s not impossible.  But the real issue before us today is not giving unto Caesar, who only cares about outward obedience, but rather the issue is giving unto God, who is concerned with outward and inward obedience, the obedience of the heart.  Give to God the things that belong to God, says Jesus.  We are all holding back from God.  We are all hypocrites. 

First, what doesn’t belong to God?  The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.  What do you have that hasn’t been given to you by God?  Can you keep your heart beating, or does it just continue pumping blood around your body as an ongoing gift from God?  Do you make the sugar beets or the corn or the tomatoes in your garden grow?  Or do you just add water from the ditch or hose, and fertilizer from the chemical company, then sit back and watch the miracle of growth happen?  Oh sure, you work hard for your money, but where does your energy and intelligence that allows you to accomplish anything come from?  We only have our things, our families, our lives, as a stewardship, good gifts given to us to use and enjoy, but never to claim as our right, because they quite simply aren’t.  For a thing to truly be ours, we would have to be able to hold onto it.  But of course, no matter how tight our grip, eventually, everything slips through our fingers.

Every good gift comes from the Father above, but do we give thanks to God and rejoice daily in all the wonderful gifts He gives us?  The Lord doesn’t want us to pay Him back for all He gives us, He only wants us to praise and thank Him and use our gifts in keeping with His will.  God wants us to use our gifts, not only for ourselves, but also in service to our neighbor.  But we so often don’t.  We cling to our things with all our might, and spend too much time worrying about how we can get more.  We forget Who has given us all our goods, and we all too easily take the short step from ingratitude to misuse.  We are all holding back from God.  Who among us can deny our hypocrisy?  

All Jesus tells us to do this morning is give unto God the things that are God’s.  And yet, as fair as that sounds, Jesus leaves us in a desperate situation.  A clear and reasonable standard has been given us by God, but we are not capable of meeting it.  Truth be told, we often don’t even care to try.  Our situation before Caesar may be bad, but before God our situation is completely desperate. 

So, what should we do when we are desperate?  Shall I tell another joke?  No? 

Desperate people often try desperate things, take drastic action.  When I’m desperate I may try harder, really hard.  I might dedicate my life to God and His law, stop cheating on my taxes, stop running my mouth about my friends, start living my life for God first, and neighbor second.  And this would be a good plan, except that it won’t work.  There’s nothing wrong with such a plan, in fact much earthly good would come from such living.  But no heavenly good will come of it, because I’m involved, and I can’t meet the perfect standard. 

Each of us, no doubt could and should try harder, but us trying harder will not solve our problem.  Instead, in the face of our desperate situation before God, the first thing we sinners should do is shut up and listen.  Be still, and learn what God is doing.  Hear the Word of Christ, the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.  Listen to Jesus, hear more of His story, dig around a bit in His Word, and see if the Holy Spirit provides an escape, a way of rescue from our desperate hypocrisy. 

As Jesus’ instructions make you squirm in the pew, hear again when and where Jesus gave us this Word this morning.  Our reading from Matthew continues, as it has for several weeks, to describe the events of Holy Week, just a day or two before the betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.  Oh yes, we should hear these words as closely connected to the Cross of Jesus, where Jesus gave everything to God, and to you.  As you struggle with His words, remember Christ’s goal, and remember why He pursued it.  And why did Jesus go to the Cross?  To take away the sins of the world.  As He jousts with the Pharisees in our reading today, Jesus had already lived the perfect life that God expects of every man, woman and child.  Now Jesus heads to the Cross, to take away your sin. 

Did you hear that?  Jesus has taken away your sins.  Every good thing you have, from your beating heart to your 401K, is only a stewardship from God, a temporary possession you are to enjoy and take care of for God.  But God’s ownership is much greater than that;  even your sins don’t belong to you!  Jesus through His agony, bloody sweat and death, has claimed them for Himself. 

Hear this good news:  Jesus wants your sins.  The first return God desires from you is not your tithes and offerings, it’s not your praise and thanksgiving, but rather God wants your sins.  We gather around the Lord’s Word and Sacrament, not primarily to do service to Him, but rather to bring Him our sins, and receive forgiveness in return.  It truly is as we spoke earlier – if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we come to God without confessing our sins, we are the worst of hypocrites.  We will be cast out.  But if we confess our sins, if we turn all our hypocrisies over to Jesus, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

            So render unto the Lord God Jesus Christ the first thing that He asks of you – give Him your sins.  Trusting in His forgiving love, confess your sins to God, and He will give you forgiveness, life, salvation, and a new heart.  Pray the prayer King David prayed after confessing his sins of hypocrisy, adultery, and murder: Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free Spirit. 

The key to leaving hypocrisy behind is confession and absolution.  The sinner who wants to amend his or her way must begin by confessing the truth about sin, all the while confident of God’s mercy, because of Jesus, knowing that by His Word God will begin, continue and bring to completion His good work in the heart of the sinner who believes in Jesus.  

            Jesus has taken away your sins, so give them to Him.  Confess your sins, daily, make it your joyful, humble habit.  For you are forgiven, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Adam Talks About His Robes

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 9th, Year of Our + Lord 2011
Isaiah 25:6-9, Matthew 22:1-14

Naked.  I was naked, and He was looking for me.  I know that I, and the woman, that we had always been naked, without clothes, but now it was different, very different.  I was ashamed of who I had become.  The woman, I remember how she had been the perfect helpmeet, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, my perfectly matching other half.  We had the perfect marriage, so good, the way we were made for each other, the home we had been given, the life of simply enjoying the fruits of the garden, the promising future of babies, lots of babies, the calling to fill the earth.  What a wonderful marriage.  What a wonderful woman. 

But now she was not so perfect in my eyes, and I could see she felt the same about me.  We were different now, after just one bite, just one sin, now evil in some inescapable way, even though we didn’t want to be.  We were naked in our sinfulness, and so we hid, from Him.  We tried to cover ourselves with fig leaves, good luck with that.  No, we were exposed, ashamed, scared, as the Lord God came looking for us, for me, hiding among the trees. 

He found us.  But we were not destroyed.  Then what came seemed, for a moment, almost worse.  He knew all the answers to His own questions, but He asked me anyway, making me say the words, to confess what I had done, what I had failed to do.  I tried to blame the woman, and even the Lord, who gave her to me.  But I was guilty, and He made me say it.  “I ate the fruit You told us not to eat.” 

He did the same to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  She too was guilty.  Sure, the serpent tricked her, the devil made her do it.  But she did it, and so did I.  We disobeyed the one restriction the Lord God had given us, and now we were sinners, naked and evil, exposed to God’s righteous anger.  We were guilty.  What would He do? 

He made a promise.  We expected to be destroyed.  But the Lord God made a promise, and to the snake.  The Lord God, having wrung our weak confessions out of us, turned to the serpent, and made a promise.  After cursing the reptile to a life of slithering in the dust, then came a promise, a promise of enmity, that between the woman and the snake, between her Seed and his seed, indeed between Satan with all his demons and the whole of humanity, the Lord God was going to cause enmity, hatred, warfare.   
We had ruined the perfection of our life together, our marriage no longer completely joyful, but the Lord God promised three new marriages, new weddings of different kinds, not earthly unions between men and women, but heavenly unions, between God and mankind.  First would come the marriage of God and a people chosen from among the nations, a very hopeful word, since to choose from among nations meant there would be nations, so the call to fill the earth with people still stood.  God promised to wed Himself to a special people chosen for the purpose of delivering on His greater promise. 

The second wedding promised was the wedding of God and humanity in the Seed of the woman, the One Man, the Savior to come, but coming by some strange, divine biology, since strictly speaking women don’t have seeds, they have eggs.  God Himself promised to join us in our struggle, to enter into human flesh, through human birth, to unite God and man in one person. 

This union of God and man was to be completed so that the Lord could then consummate the third marriage, and give the eternal wedding feast, celebrating the eternal marriage between Himself, and us, the Church, the marriage between God and all believers.  The Lord God promised to send the Seed of the woman to win the hand of the new Bride, the new and eternal people of God, a courtship He would win by crushing the head of the serpent, a grisly battle that would lead to a joyous wedding feast, the biggest and best ever.

God made promises in the Garden.  Then He covered us.  Oh yes, first He explained our curses, the consequences in our lives of the sin we had brought into the world.  No longer would life be a walk in the garden.  We would struggle, because of sin, eventually dying, bodies back to the dust whence they came, death because of sin.  The Lord God spoke of all these curses.  But then He covered us.  He made clothes of animal skins, shedding blood, so that we could be covered, so that our now sinful nakedness would not be a constant shame.  We needed the protection, as we left the cool of the garden, cast out to live in the harsh scorching sun.  But even more, we needed the reminder.  The covering was a reminder of the promise the Lord had made to the serpent, that one day his evil power, his head, would be bruised, crushed, destroyed, by the Seed of the woman.  The Lord Himself would be our true and ultimate covering for sin, and so the shed blood of the animals who donated their skins and their lives for us was also a reminder of the promise, the promise of the coming Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world, who would bring life from death for sinners. 
The Lord God taught us these promises.  And through the centuries, He remembered His promises, even when my children forgot.  He chose Abraham, and Sarah, old and nearly dead, and from their marriage God created a people, Israel.  The Lord watched over Israel, delivering His people from bondage, becoming as a husband to her.  He reminded her with prophets, like Isaiah, who sang to the people about robes of righteousness, and of the day when the Lord would swallow up sin and death, a day for rejoicing in the Lord’s salvation. 

That day has come.  My Lord Jesus Christ, the Seed of the woman, tells the same story through Matthew that He taught me in the Garden, the story of Himself, of His weddings, of His wedding with Israel through the Old Covenant, and of His wedding with human flesh in the womb of Mary, where God and man became one.  The woman dreamed and longed for that day way back in the beginning, even thinking that Cain was the One, the Lord born of woman.  But of course, no, Cain was my son, a sinner.  The Father of Jesus is God, and so Jesus is without sin.  God the Father, by His Spirit, in the fullness of time, caused the Lord Jesus to be born of a woman, the Son of God becoming also the Son of Mary, born for the third wedding, born to be the bridegroom of the great wedding to come, the great wedding promised already way back before time, the wedding of the Lamb and His Bride, the Church.   

The Lord provided garments for the woman and I as we left the garden, way back in the beginning.  He also provides the garments you need for the wedding feast of His Son.  For your sinful nakedness must be covered, or you cannot take your seat at the feast.  No skins of animals will do though.  For this ultimate, eternal wedding feast, you need better robes, bought with better blood. 

The robe you need is the righteousness of Christ, woven for you as He hung on the Cross, where Jesus swallowed up sin and death in His own body.  He is your righteousness, and mine, our robes are washed clean with His blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  All sin.  My sin.  The sin I passed on to you.  The sins you have committed.  Jesus’ blood covers all sin, His robes making you perfectly beautiful, a part of His Bride, which is the whole assembly of believers, the Church of every time and place, from the woman and me right down to the last baby baptized before the Lord returns.  All members of His Church are made members by the washing of forgiveness in His blood. 

Jesus has won His Bride.  The wedding feast is being prepared, and He is returning, soon, to pick up His Bride, to gather to Himself all those clothed in His righteousness, clothed in Christ by Baptism, joined to Him by faith, linked to Him as branches in the Vine.  I know the wait can be hard.  I lived 930 years, waiting for Him to return.  But don’t forget that time, all time, including your time, is in the Father’s hands.  He will not forget His promises to you. 

It is hard to wait, though.  We see great potential in the world, the Lord God gives us many good things, which we rightly cherish.  And yet we also see sin and its destructive effect in everything we see and do.  For this in between time, let me tell you what carried me through, what got the woman and I through the long years of waiting.  I told you how the woman was not so perfectly beautiful to me, after we ate the fruit.  I told you how I could see her disappointment in me, there in her eyes, as we hid in the garden.  We did struggle, after we fell, she wanting to take over my tasks, me wanting to make her my slave, both of us struggling to focus on fulfilling our respective responsibilities within our marriage.  We struggled.  But remember what I named her. 

The fruit which I ate, the fruit which brought me death, came from her, but still I named her Eve, which means mother of all the living.  Even though we were going to die, I named her Eve, and she rejoiced in her name, even though her pain was multiplied in childbirth.  And why did I name her Eve?  Why did she rejoice in her name?  Because of the promise.  Because of the promise the Lord God made to the serpent, bad news for Satan, but Good News for us, Good News which we were privileged to hear.  Because of the promise that the Seed of the woman would come and put right what the devil had destroyed, because of the promise of forgiveness through Jesus’ blood, I knew that the woman really was  the mother of all the living. 

Eve is mother of all the living, not just of sinners living short, hard, sorrowful lives before returning to the dust, but rather mother of all who live forever because of her Seed, because of the Man born of a woman without any human father.  Eve, and I by grace with her, would be the ancestors of countless myriads of saints, all wearing the same robes of righteousness. 

And so, despite her sin, despite my sin, we had a good marriage, and a good life, daily returning to the promise of forgiveness, daily thanking the Lord for His plan.  Your life in this world will never be without struggle, but you too can live in hope.  Whether you are a man or a woman, whether you are single or married, whether you are blessed with many descendents, or none at all, you can also experience joy, even in the midst of this sinful world, the joy that comes from the promise.  Live in the promise, daily seeking the fountain of forgiveness, daily looking forward the wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.  This promise is for you, and all the living.  Amen.