Baruch 4:21-30
April 30, 2017
St Paul’s Anglican Church

“Easter II”

Easter celebrates the greatest event in human history – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave! The death of death! He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia. Amen. Christmas is celebrated for twelve days… but Easter for forty days!

The beautiful lesson from the Book of Baruch this morning sheds light upon the profound meaning of Easter… even though written a full six centuries before the Prince of Life ever walked this earth!

Baruch ben Neriah (Baruch, the son of Neriah), whose name means “blessed” should not be an unfamiliar figure to us… even to the most unlearned student of the Bible… for his name is mentioned 21-times in the Prophecy of Jeremiah alone. He was, of course, the absolutely faithful “administrative assistant” to the Weeping Prophet as God’s people were carried into Exile (for their faithlessness) and as Jerusalem was ransacked and destroyed… Moses had Joshua to assist him. Elijah has Elisha. Jeremiah had Baruch!

Baruch skillfully employs a powerful literary device known as “personification” in order to communicate the emotions of the tragedy which befell the world’s most significant city – Jerusalem – whose name means “Foundation of Peace”… when she fell to invading armies on account of her sins in the year 586 B.C.

Jerusalem “tells her story,” if you will, in the verses before us this morning… speaking in the first person – as a distraught mother who has been bereaved of her covenant children… stripped of her security… dispossessed of her sacred treasures…

Her contemplative gaze is first turned to the past… and in woeful lamentation she recounts for her hearers what was found there…

She recalls the deep joy when her children were born… when she nursed them from weakness to the strength and resilience of youth… when they learned to walk and talk… when their innocent laughter filled the land…

She recalls the shades of change in their countenance – almost imperceptible at first – that signaled their departure from the Almighty. Heaven’s cheerful rays were soon dimmed — for her children no longer walked in His ways.

She recalls the fateful day when distant storm clouds developed on the horizon… and when apprehension began to form. Her steady scrutiny soon revealed her worst fears…

For what she saw was not the type of cloud that brings refreshing rain… Far from it! What she beheld were clouds formed by the hooves and chariot wheels of an approaching army! Indeed, the sound of thunder in her ears confirmed the approach of the dreaded Babylonians – a shameless and pitiless nation… without reverence for young or old… And they approached to execute God’s justice…

There was the siege… the starvation… the breach in the wall… the horde of invaders rushing in as a river… the glint of steel… the smell of smoke… the whiz of the arrow… the scream of confusion…

It is with tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat that she describes the departure of her children – noting the humiliation of their capture and departure… just like defenseless sheep swept off the hillside by thieves… Jesus, in the same manner, cried over Jerusalem in His own day!

Then she looks at herself… and describes her grief and her heartache… In her anguish, she has removed her garments of joy… and in their place, she has quietly and modestly donned the sackcloth of sorrow…

She identifies herself as childless and desolate – having lost her sons and daughters. She identifies herself as a widow without a protector… She knows her neighbors stare and gawk at her misfortune…

Then her expression is suddenly transformed as she turns around and looks ahead at the days yet to come… Her worry lines fade as a distant light is cast upon her face. A smile returns to her weary lips which have intoned so many petitions for help… And we ask her what she sees…

“I see salvation for those who return to the LORD,” she replies. I see deliverance for those who call for help… I see mercy for those who have been humbled…”

“I see everlasting joy for those who have known deep grief. I see freedom for those bound as captives. I see hope for the hopeless of this earth.”

And then she adds, “I also see brilliant rays of glory… and radiant light where once was only darkness… I see the destruction of wickedness and I see undimmed glory.”

How true her vision was that God granted her! For though she might not have fully understood these things from afar, with time she came to know them in great detail!

For Jesus Christ, her truest Son of the Covenant, taught righteousness and dispensed grace in all her quarters… He healed her sick… He fed and clothed her poor… He drove demons from her boundaries… And He showed all her inhabitants the majesty of the Father…

He knelt upon her sacred soil in prayer… His Feet climbed her grueling slopes… And He hung over her in vicarious pain upon an ugly cross.

The glory she saw was the light of His Resurrection… The glow of His angels sent to announce His return from the grave… He is not here. He is risen! Alleluia! Amen.

This Easter Season we remember this happy account of Christ’s Resurrection – sufficient to cheer the downhearted… to comfort the troubled… to deliver any and all from the strongest chains of bondage… to dispense to us the merits of righteousness otherwise impossible for us to acquire!

Our humble Ascension Candle this morning signifies this remarkable light “spoken of” by her who carries the name “Foundation of Peace” – for through her story untold millions have found the peace… the health… the well-being… she has always sought for her own…

The New Testament gladly informs us: Jerusalem which is above is free… the mother of us all (Galatians 4:26).

The Ascension candle burns for forty days to remind us of the brilliance of Christ’s Resurrection glory… An inviting light to welcome strangers from the darkness of sin… to warm the cold… to cheer the sorrowful… to guide the wayfarer… and to remind us of the undeserved glory we will one day share as we follow Him faithfully in this life by His Resurrection Power.

What does the Resurrection mean to you… and to me?

He is Risen… The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

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