Ez 6:7,8,12,14-20; Ps 122:1-5; Lk 8:19-21
Could there be greater rejoicing? After generations of exile without the freedom to celebrate their identity as the chosen people Israel, at long last they hear the invitation to go up to the house of the LORD. Even as the news reaches each heart, already, they have set foot within the gates of Jerusalem. More important than the strength of each faith filled family in exile is their unity as the tribes of the LORD. Their jubilation arises from their compact unity in the city of David. Finally, they are able to fulfill the decree for Israel and make a sacrifice of thanks to the Name above every other name. Finally, they are able to sit upon judgment seats and discern between the ways of the nations and the ways of the LORD. Another Persian King, Darius, issues a royal command, “Let the governor and the elders of the Jews continue the work on that house of God; they are to rebuild it on its former site.” The LORD speaks through his pagan servant, and his will is accomplished. Crowds gather around the Lord Jesus in our Gospel, and we rejoice that his heart expands to welcome into his family all who hear the word of God.
Generations of exile could not destroy the longing for the courts of the LORD. While in exile their captors could not replace the word of the LORD in the hearts of his people Israel. They continued to meditate and pray through the Torah and the Prophets during their years in Babylon. This heartfelt longing, for an identity beyond that of captives, set them free in spirit and truth. Such is the power of prayer. Even when the local officials of the new empire of the Persians resisted their building of the temple, the new king Darius commanded the fulfillment of the will of his predecessor, King Cyrus. The will of the LORD would be accomplished despite the objections of the local governor and his minions. When finally they completed construction of the house of the LORD, the returned exiles could not contain the rejoicing. In sacrifice the priests and Levites offered hundreds of bulls, rams, lambs and twelve he-goats as a sin-offering for all Israel. In fulfillment of the prescriptions of the book of Moses, the exiles kept the Passover. They purified themselves by the blood of their sacrifices in the house of the LORD. Now their identity was public. Now their unity was complete. Now they could live in the freedom of the children of God. This is our joy every time we gather here to celebrate the New Covenant in the Blood of the Lamb. Can there be any greater rejoicing?
Our hearts yearn and long for just such a unity. We need this kind of rejoicing and public worship to know who we are and why we live a life of sacrifice. Why do we listen and surrender to the word of the LORD each day? Why do we seek to be near the word of the LORD made flesh and blood in the Savior? Why do we strive daily to live as brothers and sisters in Christ? The simple story found in Saint Luke’s gospel today answers these all too important questions. The Mother of the Lord and his family wanted to be close to the Lord Jesus. The crowds made such closeness impossible. The Lord Jesus was told that his natural family wanted to see him. “He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.’” In this response we can find our reason for rejoicing. In this word of the LORD we hear the truth of who we are. When we hear and act on what we hear, we are the family of the Lord Jesus. We are brothers and sisters of Christ the Great High Priest; we offer with him the acceptable sacrifice that brings salvation to the whole world. We are one with the Theotokos, the Mother of God, who bears within her heart and within her womb the very living Word of God for all the nations to hear. Such is the good news of our identity. Can there be any greater rejoicing than here in the house of the LORD?