01 January 2010

Homily upon the Circumcision 2010

[Luke 2:21]

Such a little reading - the tiniest of the year - and yet so much to say. I really wanted to just read you Dr. Luther’s sermon for the day, since he had so much packed into it, but I figured I better make it a bit more concise, but I’m stealing all his points. They were splendid.

First of all: the silliness of circumcision. To human reason it certainly did look foolish indeed. And among the neighbors of the Jews with their public baths it became a matter of mockery. Those silly Jews. Why ever would they do that to themselves? But the ways of God always appear foolish to men. Noah’s big boat all built in the middle of land with nary an ocean in sight? Lot’s hightailing it out of Sodom without a backward glance, leaving all his property behind? Moses and Aaron threatening Pharaoh with destruction if he wouldn’t let God’s people go? Oh, the list goes on and on. Foolish they seemed, and yet we see who was right in the long run - the ones who trusted human wisdom or those who believed God’s threats and His promises. And it reaches right into the New Testament itself. That the death of one man should bring life to all? The splash of water really wipes out sin? A morsel of bread and sip of wine is the true Body and Blood of the Son of God and brings eternal life into us? Reason laughs, mocks such things, calls us fools for believing them.

And God uses them precisely to humble our proud reason and teach us not to rely upon our own smarts, but to build entirely upon His outrageous promises, joined to these outward signs. For if we do, then we do discover wisdom hidden in them - deep and yet present. Profound wisdom. You just have to be like a child to see it.

So with the circumcision our Lord underwent on this day. Why circumcise THAT member? Why not the tongue or the hand? asks Dr. Luther. Because what’s wrong with us has to do with our whole NATURE. Our whole being. We come from corrupted seed and the corruption is passed on through our fathers. We aren’t sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. And so to show that it’s the root of the whole matter that’s gone wrong, circumcision. So what needs to be changed is not behavior, but our very selves, our hearts. The core of our very being. Each time you pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God” you are crying out for that of which circumcision is the sign.

But what about the women? They had no such sign? No. For this was to point to Christ, who would be born of woman, but not of male seed. He would be born indeed, but not from corrupted seed, not born in our sin at all. Born holy yet fully human and so not needing circumcision. Free from the curse, free from death itself.

And yet. And yet He chooses to receive it. Places Himself under the Law for us so that through His keeping of the Law death might lose all claim upon us. His bloodshed today points to the greater bloodshed ahead - when death would seize and take him, it would do so utterly unjustly, for death had no claim on the Sinless One. And that is how death loses its power over all who are in Him. All who are in Him will rise at the last day and proclaim that death has wrongly taken them too: for in Christ they were innocent and death therefore could not claim them justly as its own.

And why was it the 8th day? To point to that time that is beyond our endless sevens which sooner or later carry us to the grave. To point to that time which is the Endless Day which Christ would open for us by His resurrection from the dead. Circumcision pointed to that even as Baptism puts us squarely into it. If you look up here and count the sides, you’ll see it. 8 of them. 8 for the 8th Day into which Christ will bring you - a day on the other side of bloodshed, death, destruction. A day where the sun never sets and the joys are eternal. Not a new year with its hopes and fears. A new day that never ends with no fear and eternal joys. Circumcision promised that One would come from Abraham’s Seed to usher in that blessing for every family of the earth. Baptism, which corresponds to Circumcision, opens the door to it, dumps you into it, promises you that it is yours.

Lastly, we note that the name Jesus is given on this day. Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins. Jesus, the name assigned by the angel before His birth, but which is claimed as His own on this 8th day of His appearing among us. And as Christ received His name this day, so on the Day we are put into Christ in Baptism, we receive our name, a name by which God has known us from all eternity. A name that He wrote before the ages in the Lamb’s book of life.

And so, people loved by God, let this new year be for us a true feast of the circumcision, a true living in our Baptism. Let us in Christ lay aside the old sinful self, corrupted by its deceitful desires. Let us let that old boy drown and die in the waters of Baptism and receive instead from our Lord our new self, a new heart whose will is aligned with God’s and who lives by faith in God’s promises - no matter how foolish those promises may appear to human reason. Let this new year be for us a time of rising up into the newness of life that is ours in Jesus Christ who this day was cut in the flesh for us that we might indeed become in Him the true circumcision who worships God in the spirit and puts no confidence in our own flesh.

Now greet the swiftly changing year
With joy and penitence sincere.
Rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace
Another year of grace!

Remember now the Son of God
And how He shed His infant blood.
Rejoice, rejoice with thanks embrace
Another year of grace!

His love abundant far exceeds
The volume of a whole year’s needs.
Rejoice, rejoice with thanks embrace
Another year of grace!


Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Weedon: it is possible that I give the impression of only looking for something to criticize. I don’t. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks …” It is only when the water brooks turn bitter that I complain, and it is always a disappointment – never a pleasure. Your homily was one I read with growing joy from beginning to end. When I came to the sentence, “We aren’t sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners,” it struck me that if “the many” would understand that therein lies a good portion of the Gospel of the Kingdom, our beloved Church would be overflowing with the good works of her joyful members. The fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are not given to us as a reward for trying to stop sinning, but because our dear Lord has made it possible for sinners to receive them.

Thanks for the joy.
George A. Marquart

Lawn Griffiths said...

Let this old abominable, perverse practice of circumcision be cast aside and labeled for what it really is: A mindless, cruel ritual on the helpless. I would have been helpful for Rev. Weedon to make a humanitarian statement and say that genital mutilation has no place in a just world. Sadly this repulsive cutting of a healthy body part, shamelessly wrapped up with religion, goes on today. A compassionate pastor would have condemned that practice.

korydon said...

Surely, Reverend Weedom, you must be aware of the deceit perpetrated by Jewish priests upon their disorientated flock during the Babylonian Captivity, when they inserted Genesis 17 into the Biblical narrative as a disciplinarian tool. If I may be so bold as to paraphrase Victor Hugo ... is it not virtuous to admit that the edifice is in danger of being maimed by the book?

As Paul wrote with such simple logic in his letter to the Galatians (5:2-4): "Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole (Jewish) law."

Surely your homily would be better received if the subject of male genital mutilation were separated from a discussion of Christian virtue. One sin will not wash out another.

Rood Andersson

William Weedon said...

Um, would that be the same St. Paul who took and CIRCUMCISED St. Timothy? What St. Paul could not and would not permit as a legal demand, set aside and fulfilled in Christ, he could freely grant when it served the purposes of the Gospel. Sorry, folks, but for those of us to whom the Sacred Scriptures are the inspired and infallible Word of God, circumcision was a DIVINE mandate, and one which remained in effect until it was set aside with all the ceremonial Law in our beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

George, thank you for the kind words.

Zogisle said...

Here's a Web site where one can buy foreskins.

SLICE - and three feet of veins, arteries and
capillaries, 240 feet of nerves and more than 20,000
nerve endings are destroyed; so are all the muscles, glands,
epithelial tissue and sexual sensitivity associated with the foreskin.
what nature intended as an internal organ irrevocably externalized.

The discussion on www.Change.org is powerful.

Unnecessary Infant Circumcision

If you're a cosmetics or biotech company, you too can order an infant foreskin on the internet.

Tissue harvesting for fun and profit! For the doctors and corporations, anyway. The actual "donor" gets nothing but a penile reduction surgery against his will.

Subject: FW: NYTimes.com: The Question of Circumcision and H.I.V.

The Question of Circumcision and H.I.V.
The Empire Zone

The New York City health commissioner’s decision to encourage men... amadjo75@aol.com

... high risk of contracting HIV to get circumcised has drawn an array of reactions today, including a note of caution from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. On March 28, the World Health Organization recommended that countries include circumcision as part of their AIDS prevention efforts ...

My response to the New York City health commissioner’s ...

"I can only assume, since we are talking about harvesting body anatomy... I can assume Commissioner that you must feel the same about the prevention of breast cancer as well... and begin recommending the removal of newborn female's breasts, in efforts to prevent breast cancer later on in life until "we" find a cure"

The excuse that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. A urologist once wrote, "That routine infant circumcision makes as much sense as cutting off a child's eyelids."

It seems that the hospital classifies the foreskin as medical waste and then sells the foreskin to drug and cosmetic companies. Some of the face care products that woman use is made from raped infant males. I guess they turned to foreskins when the animal rights activists demanded that they stop testing on animals. So, since they are making even more than charging the parents and insurance companies, they are not going to stop.

For you guys... here is a simple test... look in the mirror pull down your bottom lip and look at the soft moist skin... now, look at the head of your penis... now look at your lip again... the inside of your lip is the texture and condition the head of your penis should look like...

Much the same results would happen if your eye lids were cut at birth.

In Health - Zogisle