For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17) and Jesus Christ said: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
In Germany and some of its extensions today’s holiday is called “Buss- und Bettag”: Holiday of repentance and prayer. A good day before the last Sunday of the Church year. An opportunity to remember God’s goodness and his gracious favour towards us. He does not want anybody to be lost, but rather that everybody be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. In his loving generosity and kindness towards all of mankind he calls men to repentance and leads them in the way’s of righteousness and justice. He does not deal with us as we deserve, but rather forgives us all our iniquities and heals all of our diseases.
Our calamity is that we are so stuck in our old and evil ways, despite God’s mercy and compassion. A hard-core pharisee does not just turn around to be repentant sinner praying to God: “Lord have mercy on me a poor, miserable sinner.” A seasoned tax-collector does not just stand up from his booth, remitting all his collected treasures to the poor to follow Jesus in humility and self-denial. A self-made man does not just wake up one morning to recognize his utter dependance on God’s forgiving grace either. Just as a leopard can’t change his spots nor a Ethiopian the colour of his skin so neither can anybody used to godless and sinful ways just change them for good. (Jeremiah 13:23) Yet the things that are impossible with us are possible with God. That is an excellent antidote against doubt, faithlessness and despair.
Through the dynamite of his holy Word the living God does not just fire up a storm in this world. He doesn’t just break rocks and boulders, shatters mountains and lets the earth tremble and shake. He also changes men’s callous hearts into believing and faithful ones. That’s truly a miracle and wonder. He did change Saul into Paul. He brought St. Matthews to follow him faithfully and Zacheus to give his riches to the poor. He gave Mary Magdalene a new start in a life of holiness and righteousness. He called and kept St. Peter in his new and sanctified ways again and again – before and after his cruxifiction and resurrection – even though that rocking apostle again and again thought he knew better and needed to amend God’s ways. Yes, our God gave hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, healing to the ill, freedom to those in bondage and life to the dead. He brought divine abundance in the desert and created new hope, where there was nothing to look forward to. He truly did great miracles and wonders for us and our salvation. And he does the same even today. He’s coming close to completing his great mission of salvation. He’s not far off, but drawing very near. It’s his Advent soon. That is why we don’t have to despair in the old ways of this world, rather we can hope and rely on the creative powers of our Lord and Saviour. He makes all things new – through his holy Baptism and the washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit. He forgives daily all our sins and grants us his pardon and favour together with all Christendom. Therefore praise his holy name and sing with the congregation of forgiven saints: “Jesus sinners doth receive; Oh may all this saying ponder, Who in sins delusions live And from God and heaven wander! Here is hope for all who grieve – Jesus sinners doth receive.” (TLH 324,1)