Upside Down yet Rightside Up:
by Rev. Lance Armstrong O’Donnell, Pastor
St. Philip Lutheran Church and School
31 March, A.D. 2010
Isa 62.11-63.7; Rm 5.6-11; Jn 13.16-38
His apparel is splendid, yet it splattered a blood red, like the clothes of one who makes wine. It is beautiful, yet it is stained.
What is this metaphor?
Isaiah knows it. At the very beginning of the book that bears his name it is written:
"“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." (Isaiah 1:18, ESV)
St. Paul knows it. In chapter five of his Letter to the Romans his Spirit-borne words ring out: "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8, ESV)
This is the “great reversal,” God, in a sense, turning right-side up what we had turned up-side down, God forgiving through the blood of Christ what we had made so terribly wrong.
Yes, there is a “Judas” in all of us who steals and even betrays innocent blood. We don’t like to admit it. We say, “I’m basically a good person,” but looking truly into the mirror of God’s Law lays bare our souls. By nature we are centered not on the will of God but solely, myopically, on our own way. Even those in Christ have an “old Adam,” a sinful nature does not hallow God’s name and will.
Yet, as we sang, Christ comes “not in terrors as the King of Kings but with kindness and goodness, with healing in His wings.” The message of the Christianity is, “Through the cross we are reconciled to God.” We are restored to God’s favor, not because of anything we have done, but because Christ, the Eternal Son of God--in his love for us--offered to take God’s wrath against sin upon Himself.
And, so, the way of Christ is “upside down.” It is not “natural.” We find true life in community, in love; that is, in--again in the words of St. Paul--“looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2.4)