St. Mary, Mother of our Lord: Clothed in the Robes of Righteousness and the Garments of Salvation

Lessons: Isaiah 61:7-11, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 1:39-55
Hymns: LSB 855, 934, 536, 636, 655

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      God created Adam and Eve. He formed the dust of the ground, breathed into it, and made Adam. This He did on the sixth day of Creation. Then, He saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He caused a deep sleep to come upon Adam, removed a rib, and fashioned it to be Eve, his bride. She was truly flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. Adam and Eve lived in perfection together in the Garden of Eden. They wore no clothes and felt no shame, for they were without sin. Their lack of clothing demonstrated something—they were open books to each other. They had nothing to hide. No evil thoughts, no shameful pasts, no rotten feelings, no jealousy, no strain within their marriage. Everything was blissful.

      Then the serpent tempted Eve, trying to get her to eat of the forbidden fruit, getting her to question God’s teaching, and piquing her curiosity as to what this concept known as evil could be. She ate, and Adam, who failed to protect his wife from Satan’s lies, also ate. Immediately they realized they were naked, and they tried to sew some fig leaves together for a covering. They tried to hide from God.

      But God, knowing all things, called for them and visited them. After they tried to pass the blame, God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his Heel” (Gen. 3:15). This is the first Gospel, for it foretells of the coming of Christ who will defeat Satan. And it also speaks of the mother of our Lord, Mary, in that Jesus will be born of a virgin. When God said “Her seed,” He was speaking of the reality that a human will not father our Lord Jesus Christ. Normally, the seed at conception would fertilize the egg, but in this miraculous instance, there is no seed from man, but “her Seed.” For Jesus, who was present at Creation and is the eternal Son of God, will be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. I speak of the mystery of the incarnation.

      Today is August 15, the day in which the Church observes Mary, the Mother of our Lord. Some churches choose to completely ignore the commemoration of the saints. Other churches falsely elevate the saints. In the Lutheran Church, we observe the saints as examples of faith and do not worship or pray to the saints. We will hear more of Mary in a little while.

      On this day, I would like to examine a portion of our Old Testament lesson along with the opening words of Mary’s Magnificat, as we just sang and heard from Luke 1. I will tie these readings in to what I have already spoken concerning Adam and Eve.

      In Isaiah 61:10, it is written, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

      Before God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, God made tunics of skin as clothing for them. This was the first animal to die. Others would be sacrificed to foreshadow Christ, who would be sacrificed on the cross to take away the world’s sin.

      The book of Isaiah is sometimes called the Old Testament Gospel, for it speaks of Jesus in very clear ways. That is certainly true of our Old Testament reading today, for we hear the blessings earned by the Messiah and the Church’s response to her Bridegroom. We rejoice and our soul exults in God. For Christ has clothed us with the garments of salvation and covered us with the robes of righteousness.

      Just as God provided tunics of skin from the sacrificial animal after they sinned, so also God provides us with the garments of salvation and the robes of righteousness from Christ, our Bridegroom. Baptized into Christ, we put on Christ. We are clothed in Him. He presents us holy to our Father in Heaven, for He washed us white in His Blood.

      Even those evil thoughts which bring about challenges to all marriages today, Christ died for them, covers them, and takes them away. We are clothed in Him. All because Jesus fulfilled that promise first given to Adam and Eve after they had sinned. Her Seed will crush Satan. And Jesus did just that on the cross. Satan suffered defeat, for the grave could not contain our Lord and He rose from the dead.

      When Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and informed that she will bear the promised Messiah, she learns that she is to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin. She then visits her relative Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant with John the Baptist. And she breaks out in a song, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). These words are very similar to what we heard in Isaiah. It may well be that she was meditating those sacred words in her heart as she sang the Magnificat.

      She certainly had reason to rejoice, for God had chosen her to bear the sinless Son of God. Imagine that honor and responsibility! In the fulness of time, God sent His only begotten Son. He took on human flesh in Mary’s womb. She bore God Himself and raised Him as her own. For this reason alone, it is fitting that the Church should observe St. Mary. Earliest observances of this day were called the Dormition of Mary, observing Mary’s death and placement into a tomb.

      Unfortunately, false beliefs have crept into the Church concerning the Mother of our Lord. So that God’s people remain in the garments of salvation by keeping the faith, the task of the preacher is not only to warn against sin but also warn against false belief. The false teachings concerning Mary must be exposed. In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This is not to be confused with the Virgin Birth of Christ. The Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother’s womb and so Mary did not inherit original sin. A common view held within the Roman Catholic Church was that Mary was sinless and remained without sin. Because the Pope declared this as dogma that all Roman Catholics must accept, the Catholic Church endured a time of division. So, the same Pope called for the First Vatican Council, which met in 1869 and 1870. There they declared the Pope can speak with infallibility and create new doctrines for the entire Church. They call this ex cathedra. So, it was decided that the dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception was declared by ex cathedra. Then, a new problem arose. If Mary was without sin, then she could not have died, for death only comes to sinners. So, in 1950 Pope Pius XII declared that Mary did not die, but was assumed into Heaven—like Enoch who walked with God and Elijah who went up into Heaven by a whirlwind. As a result of this, the Roman Catholic Church does not call this day St. Mary, Mother of our Lord, or even the Dormition of Mary, but the Assumption of Mary—a teaching not grounded in Scripture—in fact it is opposed to Scripture.

      You see, like all other humans, Mary inherited the sin of Adam of Eve. This sin is known as original sin. It makes us all guilty of sin. Because the wages of sin is death, Mary died a natural death. There is a tradition that says Mary went with the Apostle John to Ephesus where she died. John was, after all, commissioned by Jesus to take care of Mary. On the cross, Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, behold your son!” And He said to John, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:26-27). Jesus, who was cared for by His mother when He was a baby, is now caring for His mother in His dying hour. Of course as God, He was always caring for her and the whole world. But He never forgot His mother even as He became famous and conducted His ministry. John, bearing responsibility for Mary, evidently continued to fulfill his God-given task until Mary’s death.

      We see faith in Mary’s life. She sang the Magnificat in faith. She faithfully raised Jesus. She believed in who her Son is—the Christ—as she instructed those at the Wedding at Cana to do whatever He says. That’s when Jesus turned water into wine. Mary stayed with her Son as He was put on trial and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Witnessing His death would have been painful enough for His disciples, but I suppose it was most painful for our Lord’s mother. Mary remained devout. She was named among the saints who continued with one accord in prayer and supplication following our Lord’s ascension into Heaven (Acts 1:14).

      Unlike what some churches teach, Mary was not righteous through her own efforts or by somehow avoiding the reception of original sin. Instead, she was only righteous because of what Christ Jesus did for her. Jesus died on the cross for her and for all sinners.

      God views us as righteous only when our sins are forgiven by faith and when we are granted the garments of salvation and the robes of righteousness. When we are exposed, we reveal our own sinfulness. We have no righteousness of our own to display. All that which is truly righteous comes from Christ and is granted to us by faith.

      On this day, we rejoice in the mercies of God granted to St. Mary. We rejoice that she was faithful in the vocation God gave her as our Lord’s mother. We rejoice that she was saved by grace through faith in Christ.

      And we especially rejoice that our sins are taken away, we are given garments far better than fig leaves, tunics of skin, and the clothing we are wearing. For in Christ, we are covered with the garments of salvation and the robes of righteousness.

      Therefore, will greatly rejoice in the Lord and our souls shall exult in God our Savior. Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen