The Best or Worst Trade in History
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord. Isaiah 60:5-6
St. Louis Cardinals great Lou Brock passed away recently. The mere mention of his name causes Chicago Cubs fans to twitch because the Cubs traded Brock to the Cardinals in 1964 in what is regarded as one of the best trades in history– or worst depending upon your allegiance. The Epiphany of our Lord is a reminder of the best/worst trade that occurs between God and humanity. The scene of the magi presenting their gifts to the child Jesus is captured in most of our homes. But it is more than just an offering by the magi, it is a trade that is even greater (or worse) than Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio.
So what do we bring to Jesus? We bring him our hearts, but not the way the evangelicals think of it, inviting him into our hearts. What we give to Jesus are hearts stained by sin and shame, hearts blackened by deceit and envy, hearts hardened by anger and resentment. We give Jesus our hearts. While it is a terrible trade for God, for us it is everything – forgiveness, life, and salvation.
It’s what Luther called the joyous exchange – We trade our sin and shame for Christ’s holiness and righteousness. We trade our failures for the victory of Christ over sin. We trade our sins of missing the mark for Christ’s right on target absolution. We trade the junk and rubbish of our shattered and fractured lives and in exchange we receive blessing upon blessing.
The liturgy actually tells the story of our redemption. We begin with the words with which God bespeaks us righteous at the baptismal font – in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then we confess our sins and God being faithful and just on account of Christ gives us in exchange His own righteousness. Behold, the old has gone and the new has come. That’s why the liturgy flows the way that it does – the sermon is a reinforcement of that new reality to those who have been made righteous. The offering comes after the sermon as the people made new offer their very lives not as players to be named later to complete the trade, but in joyful response for what they have received. The liturgy teaches you that your new identity is in Christ. After we have been reminded of that, we offer ourselves. We have traded our sin for Christ’s forgiveness and that is what enables us to offer our very best to God. It’s the best trade in history!
The Communion Liturgy spells it out as the pastor says, “Lift up your hearts” and the congregation responds “We lift them up to the Lord.” As Isaiah says in our reading, our hearts thrill and exult because we have received the very best from God. In meager response, we give Him what we can…a check folded and placed in an envelope…singing in a choir…service as an usher or altar guild member…shoveling of snow…calculating the finances…working with children or older adults...we offer God our hearts made new, indeed our very lives in response to His great mercy and grace.
Prayer - O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan