Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Matryoshka Doll

If my gaze out of the window is well timed, I can see my wife returning from her morning walk.  In the winter she bundles herself with layers of clothing so that she looks like a matryoshka trudging through the streets.  When she returns to the house she removes layer after layer until finally my sweet and tiny little wife lady appears.

Wikipedia has an article entitled Matryoshka doll, with an explanation and various varieties of the matryoshkas displayed.

In times past I always had heard these called Babushka dolls.  Their correct name, however, is said to be matryoshka.

I suppose that we could say that in a way we all are matryoshkas.  We all have layers that we build up around ourselves so that the person deep within cannot be seen without peeling away the layers.  This can actually be understood from two perspectives.

From the one perspective we tend to cover up the person that we don’t want to face.  That person is the Old Adam of the sinful nature.  We try to cover that person with attempts at good works and pretense.  We try to cover our failures at being good with layers of prayers and devotions and offerings and tithes and other forms of worship.  Some people try to escape their awareness of self through drugs and alcohol or through food or sexual activities or pornography.  Some become workaholics, trying to stay too busy to take notice of the person underneath, striving for the sense of success that evades them no matter how much they achieve or acquire.  Some turn to psychology and psychiatry for help.  And some turn directly to the influences of the devil and the world and just let the monster loose.

The other perspective is one that a person cannot find for oneself.  It is a gift.  It is poured out from heaven through the waters of Baptism.  St. Paul calls this the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.  He also refers to it as the adoption of sons into God’s kingdom as those who have been crucified with Christ to sin and raised with Christ as a new creation in the new life in God’s Holy Communion.  St. Peter calls it the answer of a good conscience through the power of the resurrection. 

In this wondrous heavenly activity enacted on earth through His Church, God drowns out the old sinful nature and brings forth a new and beautiful person who is regenerated with the faith of Jesus so that the person is restored in the image of God that sin corrupted and caused to be lost.  From this perspective the person comes to God with a very different approach.  Now the person peels off the layers of pretense.  This is done through honest confrontation and confession of one’s sins.  The power to face these honestly is this “good conscience” that St. Peter says is generated in us through the power of the resurrection applied to us in our baptism.  Having heard the sweet words of the Gospel we know that in Christ our sins are forgiven us.  This knowledge empowers us to come to God honestly confessing the sins that weigh upon our hearts so that we may hear Him assure us that for Christ’s sake our sins are forgiven us.  In Baptism God makes this declaration and imputation to us once and for all.  But since we need to hear it again and again on account of the sinful nature that still inheres in us, God commands us to come to Him continually with our confession so that we may hear His absolution.  Furthermore, He has given us His called servants within the public office of the ministry.  He has authorized them to speak for Him concerning His Gospel within this holy public office.  This way we can hear from a man standing before us that God does indeed forgive even the sins over which we still struggle in our hearts and minds and spirits.

In the divine service a corporate liturgical confession of sins precedes all else that follows the invocation.  In this way we confess our sinfulness and hear God’s blessed absolution and are empowered to come all the way to His Table of His Holy Communion without fear or doubt.  There He gives us the very body of Christ into which we are made to be one with Him and with one another.  There He also gives us the very blood that is shed even from eternity for the remission of our sins.  He gives us His blood over and over so that we are renewed in this life of forgiveness and renewal into His Communion to live freely by grace through faith.

When this is the way in which we walk and live, then we see through all of the layers of our pretense, all of the layers of guilt and iniquity, so that we then see the beautiful child of God that exists purely by God’s gracious decree in our baptism.  Then we live in the freedom that God declares for us, the freedom of our declared righteousness or justification by grace through faith.  Since this is ours purely by God’s work for us and in us through His own ordained means of grace, all cause for doubting is eliminated.  Then we live in the freedom of God’s grace through faith.

For this reason especially I find the little matryoshkas to be joyous little figures.  I also have this special reminder each time that I see my sweet matryoshka wife return home and peel away her layers of winter protection.

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