01 March 2015

To Be with the Lord Jesus Where He Is

Do you wish to be a Christian, a disciple of Christ Jesus?  And would you follow Him, in order to be with Him where He is, both now and forever?

Then you must be taught by Him and learn from Him.

Not only that, but your ongoing catechesis must focus your attention on who this Jesus is.  And the big question will remain, at all times: What do you think of Him?

What do the people say?  What is the public opinion of Jesus?  Well, He’s a preacher of the Word of God, a preacher of repentance; and He’s another prophet, like John, and a baptizer.

And to be sure, He is all of these things, and more.

But the question is also put to you: Not only what you think, but who do you say that Jesus is?  What do your words and actions confess concerning Him?  What do you say about Jesus in your vocation as a Christian, in your own particular place in the world?

If your life says nothing at all about Jesus, then how shall your life be saved?

But what, then?  Who is this Jesus?

He is the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed.  So have you confessed, by the grace of God the Father, already in your Baptism.  So, what will that mean for Him?  And what does it mean for you?

Jesus, the Son of the living God, is anointed by the Spirit of His Father to be the Son of Man; wherefore He must suffer many things, and die, and rise again for you and your salvation. And if you are His disciple, and you are taught by Him to carry the cross and follow after Him, then you also suffer and die and rise again.

Jesus puts this to you plainly.  Will you accept it and bear it?  Will He be your Lord and your God?  Or will you buck and resist His Word?  And would you presume to rebuke Him for His Cross?

Repent.  Get back in line behind Jesus, and follow Him.

Deny yourself, take up the Cross, and follow Christ.  Do not set your heart and mind on your own interests, and do not walk according to the worldly wisdom of self-preservation.  But give attention to the Word of God.  Fear, love, and trust in Him.

Such is the work of the Cross in your body and life here on earth.  It puts you to death, it crucifies and buries you with Christ, so that you may rise from the dead to newness of life and live forever in Him.  That work begins and remains rooted in your Baptism, and it continues all your days.

Real life and the one true God are found, not where you are prone to look (that is, within yourself), but in Christ, crucified and risen; in His Word of the Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins; and in His holy flesh and blood.  This promise is for you and for your children.

Thus, not only must you be put to death to yourself, to your sin, and to the world, but so also your children must be crucified, put to death, and buried with Christ Jesus — if you would give them the salvation of their bodies and souls and the life everlasting.

Each of you is called to deny yourself, to take up the Cross, and to follow Jesus.  But you parents, you fathers in particular, are called to catechize your children in this way of the Cross.  That means teaching them the Word of Christ Jesus within your home and family, and bringing them to be taught within the household and family of the Church.

Fathers, teach your children the Bible and the Catechism, the Liturgy and the hymns of the Church.  And teach them by your example, too, by exercising your faith in the way you love and serve them — and in the way you gently serve and care for their Mom.

Prioritize the Gospel of the Cross in the way that you order and arrange your own life and your family’s.  Do not live for the acquisition of worldly goods, which perish, but let everything be bent toward the storing up of treasures in heaven, which are found only in Christ and His Gospel.

To live by faith in Him will put you and your children at odds with this adulterous and sinful generation.  Indeed, it puts you at odds with yourself, with your own sinful heart and fallen flesh.

To live according to His Word, by faith, under His Cross, is difficult and painful.  It is beyond your strength and seemingly impossible altogether — like the promise of God to ancient Abraham and barren Sarah, and like His covenant with them, which was finally fulfilled, against all odds, for them and for you and for all the nations, in the Cross of Christ.

The guarantee and certainty of this faith, by which you have peace, hope, love, and joy in the midst of tribulation, suffering, setbacks, and temporary disappointments, is that same Cross and Passion of Christ Himself, who is God in the flesh; and it is found in His bodily Resurrection from death and the grave to eternal life.  For He has not failed, and your faith in Him shall not be disappointed.

It is because of this Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, that you are reconciled to God.  Live and walk in Him, therefore, in the surety of what He has done, and in the way that He has gone.  In Him alone is where your life is found, now and forever, and there is no life anywhere else.

Even now, you are in and with Christ Jesus, because He has first of all established Himself for you, and He has given Himself for you.  So has He also given Himself to you, and established you in Himself.  That is the gift and the good work that He has granted to you in the waters of your Holy Baptism.  That is what He gives to you with His Body and His Blood in the Holy Communion.

Thus, it is in Christ that you now live before God, righteous and holy, at peace, and hopeful even in the face of death.  So, too, your safety and security in Christ remain sure and certain, no matter how the world may hate you and hurt you, or despise and dismiss you, or ignore you as of no consequence.  The Lord remains steadfast and faithful, no matter how your own frail heart may waver with doubt or quail in fear, as even the heart of father Abraham did at times.

God’s promises to Abraham have indeed been fully accomplished, also for you, in the holy Seed of father Abraham, that is, in the incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He is fruitful, and He multiplies His family throughout all the nations of the earth by the preaching of His Gospel.

No matter how many Christians ISIS may brutally burn or behead, they shall not be able to defeat or destroy those dear brothers and sisters, nor rob them of the life that is theirs in Christ Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross and thereby defeated death and the devil for us all.

And when you yourself are confronted with death, at whatever age, and by whatever means, you shall follow the Author and Perfecter of our faith through the dark valley and the very gates of Hades into His Resurrection and His Life everlasting.

You and all who are born again by the washing of water with the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus, who believe in Him, are the true children of Abraham by grace through faith in the One who is both Abraham’s Son and Abraham’s Lord.  So you are an heir of God’s promises to Abraham. Yes, and much more than that, you are a son of God in Christ, and He is counted as your righteousness.

So does God your Father in heaven give life to you and to your mortal flesh, to your body and your soul, by the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.  And by the power of His indestructible life, so do you also live under His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead.  Yes, yes, it shall be so.  For even though you die, yet shall you live, and you shall be with Him, where He is, even forevermore.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

25 February 2015

Rest Yourself in the Lord of the Sabbath

The first three Commandments really belong together in governing your relationship with the Lord your God.  It is a relationship of faith and love: of fear, love, and trust, as Dr. Luther describes it.

The First Commandments requires such faith in your heart, as the fountain of true worship, and the Second Commandment calls for the faithful confession of God’s Name with lips and mouth.  But the Third Commandment directs you to the Word and work of God, who speaks to you by His Son and gives you rest in body and soul through His forgiveness of your sins and His gift of Life.

As the First Commandment is the foundation for all Ten, since all good works are done by faith — we should fear and love God so that we obey His Word and love our neighbor as He says — so is the Third Commandment the interpretive heart and center of the Law, because faith itself and all the good works of faith depend upon the preaching and hearing of God’s Word.  There is no true faith in your heart, nor a right confession on your lips, except by the Word that He preaches.

The Third Commandment calls for the same fear, love, and trust in the Lord your God as the First, but as this faith is to be exercised in the world with your body and life, your time and energy; not by your working and doing, but, first of all, by your resting in what God does, by your listening to what God says, and by your receiving of what God gives to you in His Ministry of the Gospel.  You worship the Lord by trusting Him with a kind of active passivity that looks to Him and relies upon Him for all good things.  You quiet your mind and mouth to listen attentively to His Word.  You set aside your own activities and pursuits, in order to avail yourself of His activity for you.

The Sabbath Command thus rests upon an implicit promise that God is the One who gives you life and provides for you all that you need for body and soul, for this world and the next.  He is the One who upholds the world and gives it life by the power of His Word.  It does not depend on you, nor do your own body and life depend on you, but you and all depend upon the Lord who loves you.

You do have your work to do, as God has called and stationed you to perform according to His Word, within your family and community, and within the fellowship of His Church on earth.  But even this is the work of the Lord your God, who chooses in love to care for His Creation by the ways and means of His own Creation: from the majestic holy angels to the men and women whom He calls and positions in various walks of life; from the plants and animals that feed and clothe us, to the sun that shines, the rain that falls, the dirt beneath our feet, and the air that we breathe.

You honor the governing authorities, for example, beginning with your father and mother, as per the Fourth Commandment, because you trust that God is the One who stands behind these people; that He has provided them for you, for your good; that He catechizes and disciplines you by their words and works; and that He accomplishes His own purposes through them.  Instead of living as a law unto yourself, you rest yourself in God, and you submit to those He has placed over you.

The Sabbath Command also rests upon the promise of the Lord that He will not keep silent, that He will not be absent, but that He will continue to speak, to preach and teach, to catechize His people with His Word and Spirit, and to bestow His gifts by the ways and means of His Gospel.  It is in this promise that you wait upon Him, you rest yourself in Him, and you rely upon Him.

In particular, it is the incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus, who actually is your Sabbath Rest.  For He is your Savior, who delivers you from sin and death and every evil, and who brings you into the safety, peace, and rest of everlasting life with God.   Already now in the desert wilderness, and hereafter for eternity in Paradise, He is the Bread of Life, the living and Life-giving Bread from heaven, who feeds you with Himself in both soul and body.  He is not a Law for you to keep, but a Gift of God for you to receive.  Your faith and life thus rest upon Him, upon His faithfulness.

Your love for God (above all else) and for your neighbor (as yourself), in accord with all of God’s Commandments, proceeds from your Sabbath Rest in Jesus Christ.

Your love for God begins with the faith in your heart that is worked in you by the preaching of the Word of Christ, and with the right use of His Name as the Second Commandment requires:

You pray, praise, and give thanks to God in Christ Jesus on the basis of His great Salvation.  You confess and call upon His Name, as He has revealed and given His Name to you in your Baptism; which is to say that you speak to and about the Lord Jesus as He has spoken to you by His Word and the preaching of it.  You say the same thing that He has said.  And, with your speaking of His Word, you also act as He has acted.  You live before God, and for your neighbor, as Christ lives.

As He gives you rest in body and soul with His Word of the Gospel, and in His Holy Sacraments, so do you give rest to your neighbor by your gracious words and with your charitable works of mercy.  Most especially that includes the forgiveness of your neighbor’s trespasses against you.  In all respects, you love your neighbor, not only as yourself, but in the way that Jesus loves you.

Live rightly (in keeping with God’s Word), and not wrongly (in disobedience to His commands), because you are in Christ Jesus.  In Him alone is your life and your salvation, your peace and rest forevermore.  You are in Him, and He in you, because He speaks to you and gives Himself to you.

The holy life to which He calls you — a life comprising faith toward Him and love for Him and for your neighbor — is not a means of gaining a righteousness of your own by the works of the Law.  It is rather to live righteously by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, by faith in His Word of the Gospel, His forgiveness of sins.  It is to live by the Lord’s own keeping and fulfillment of His Law for your salvation.  For He is the completion and perfection of the Ten Commandments, who in holy faith and holy love, as true God and true Man, has reconciled you to His God and Father, atoning for your sins by His sacrifice upon the Cross, and justifying you with His Resurrection.

The Lord teaches you to live in this way, according to His holy and righteous will, because it is good and right, and because it is good for you; lest, by departing from His Way, from His Word and work of the Gospel in Christ, you lose the life that He desires for you and gives to you.

In much the same way that the Second Table of the Law protects your neighbor from the harm that you would do to him, so do the first three Commandments protect you from the harm that you would do to yourself.  For the constant temptation is to live unto yourself, as a god unto yourself, in splendid isolation from your neighbor and his needs, and without the Word of God in the world.  As though you could actually make a name and a life for yourself.  As though you did not need the Ministry of His Gospel as much or more than your body needs food and drink and oxygen to live.

The truth is that trying to make a life for yourself only robs you of life.  It wears you out and ruins you in body and soul.  But God calls you to rest yourself in Christ Jesus, so that, by His grace, through faith in His Gospel–Word and Sacraments, you have peace and rest even in your labors.

The point and purpose of genuine fasting, therefore, is that you would cease and desist from the desire and effort to feed yourself, in order to be fed by God, to eat and drink from His open hand. Thus fasting from your own desires, you feast upon Christ in faith and with thanksgiving.

Where you have not lived in this way — where you have not trusted and relied upon the Lord your God by seeking out His Word and receiving His good gifts — where you have gone your own way, instead of keeping His Commandments — repent of your sins, and return to the Lord your God.

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy; that is to say, not Saturday per se, nor even Sunday as one day out of seven, but remember the true and permanent Sabbath that is yours in Christ Jesus.  Rest yourself in Him, and remain in Him, by listening to His Word and the preaching of it, daily returning to the significance of your Baptism, and availing yourself of the Sacrament.  Delight yourself in these means of grace, as the Lord Himself delights in you by these very same means.

Rest yourself in the Lord of the Sabbath, and be at Peace in Him, for He remembers you in mercy.  He remembers you, not simply with faraway thoughts and emotions, but with His active presence, and with His Word and works of love for you, and with the gift of His own flesh and blood.

As He has fulfilled the entire Law for you in love — on your behalf and for your eternal benefit — so does He do you no harm, but He helps you in every way.  He daily and richly provides you with all that you need, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting in His Body.

With the preaching of His Gospel, with Holy Absolution, and with His Body given and His Blood poured out, He forgives you all your sins, and He gives you life in place of death and damnation.  That precious good news and free gift of God in Christ Jesus stands fast and secure against all the weariness and wickedness of this old world, so that you are not undone or destroyed; you are not worn out or left to waste away in melancholy grief or hopeless despair, but you are raised up and refreshed in your body and soul, in heart, mind, and spirit, in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.  Assuredly, He is your Peace and Sabbath Rest, now and forevermore.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

22 February 2015

He's By Your Side Upon the Plain

The Kingdom of God is at hand in Christ Jesus, and His Baptism has become your Holy Baptism.  Thus, you are a beloved son of God the Father, and you are well-pleasing to Him. For Christ has bound Himself to you, and you to Him, by and with His own Name.  The Father has opened heaven to you in the Body of the incarnate Son, and has poured out His Holy Spirit upon you.

For all of that, you now find yourself living in the arena between God and the devil, and you are driven into personal conflict with the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh.  Day by day, you are tempted by these enemies of God to doubt, deny, and disobey His Word.

On the other side, your dear God and Father would test you, as He tested Abraham.  He does not tempt you to sin, by no means, but He does try your heart and mind to test, instruct, and strengthen your faith in His Word and in the promises of your Baptism.  So it is that you are daily being put to death, and daily being raised to newness of life in Christ Jesus.

Life is a battlefield when the Kingdom of God invades the devil’s stomping grounds.  Which is why — because the Lord Jesus has been baptized to be your Champion and your Savior — He is immediately driven by the Spirit of God from the waters of His Baptism into the wilderness, there to be tempted by Satan, in order to engage that wicked foe in a strange and dreadful contest.  Thus, the Son of David goes out to meet a bigger, badder Goliath than this world has ever dreamed of.

The wilderness is where Christ contends with Satan, because the wilderness is where you also are tested and trained.  The wilderness is where the fallen children of Adam & Eve learn how to live in Paradise again.  It is the long stretch of desert between Egypt and Canaan, in which the children of God are catechized to enter the Good Land that He has promised.  It is where you are taught to live in the Kingdom of God by faith, and so also to work in love for God and for your neighbor, instead of trusting and loving only yourself.  To that end, it is in the wilderness that you are called to repent and believe the Gospel.  But, of course, it is especially at those points of repentance, faith, and love that you are under attack and assaulted by the devil.

The Lord your God tests you and tries you, in order to clarify and strengthen your faith and your confession.  The devil tempts you into evil, in order to rob you of life and bring you to death and condemnation.  So it is that Satan wickedly entices you to sin against God’s Word, but then, in craftiness and spite, he is also the first in line to accuse you and bring charges against you.

At every point in your life on earth, this battle is waged: In your successes, and in your suffering and failures.  In what you have, and in what you lack or lose.  In what God has promised, and in what you covet for yourself that God has not given you.  Always the devil is tempting you to question and contradict, to ignore and despise what God has spoken, both the Law and the Gospel.

But, now, let God and His Word be true, and know that everything else is a lie and a deception.

Trust the Lord, your God and Father in Christ Jesus. Cling to His Word, come hell or high water against you.  Do not despair of His goodness, nor despise His good gifts of body and soul.

Do not be deceived or misled into evil, which has merely the appearance of “good,” but leads only to death.  Beware the assaults and temptations of the enemy: the lies, the flattery, the questions, and the accusations of the devil; the enticements and attacks of the world; the lusts and desires of your own mortal flesh, which are the rotting cesspool out of which all sin and death proceed.

Sometimes crass, sometimes subtle, the devil is always crafty, and every sin to which he tempts you is dangerous and deadly.  Do not kid yourself.  It is not true that “all sins are equal,” but all sin, by definition, is contrary to the Word of the Lord, and that is always to your detriment.  Every denial, and every disobedience of what God the Lord has spoken is a refusal and rejection of the Life that is found only in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  That is why the soul that sins shall die.

Where, then, shall you live?  In the Kingdom of God by His grace?  Or with the devil in his prison house of death and despair?  That is what it comes down to, finally.  You cannot have it both ways.

Repent.  Now is the time.  Do not wait, as though to accomplish your own agenda first, but turn away from evil and do good.  Exercise your faith in deeds of love.  Deny your own lustful desires, and live instead by the charity of the Lord.  For the Kingdom of God is at hand in Christ Jesus.

Remember your Baptism into Him.  Remember what God has said and done.  Recall what you have confessed and sworn by His Spirit.  Renounce the devil, all his works, and all his ways.

Do not suppose that you can live a double life, with one foot in the world and one foot in the Church.  “Here we straddle” will not cut it as a battle cry against the old evil foe, nor satisfy the Lord your God, but will only rip you apart from head to foot in heart, mind, and spirit.  Instead, you must sacrifice your idols, no matter how precious they may be to you.  Obey the Word of the Lord, no matter how difficult it may be, and no matter how ludicrous it may sound.  Rely upon His promises, and call upon His Name in the confidence that He will provide, that He will save you from sin and Satan, death and hell, even forevermore.  Trust Him, that He will do it.

At times it will seem otherwise, as though God were actually against you — as it surely did when the Lord Himself called Father Abraham to sacrifice his beloved Isaac.  But even in the desert wilderness, even as you are called to fast and pray, you shall not starve.  Your God still feeds you.  Nor shall you go naked.  Your God still clothes and shelters you.  You shall not die alone.  Your God is with you always, through death into life everlasting.  Indeed, beloved of the Lord, your God dies with you and for you.  He is your Strength and your Song, your Surety, and your Salvation.

He has set Himself as your great Champion, and He is faithful; He does what He has promised.  There is no shifting or turning with Him.  You are sheltered under the shadow of His wings.

Thanks be to God, His Kingdom does not rest upon your faithfulness, nor even your repentance and faith.  The Kingdom of God is at hand in the Body of Christ Jesus, and only in Him.  It is as sure and certain as His Nativity, His Baptism, His life, His death, and His Resurrection from the dead.  Your repentance and faith, your life, and your salvation are all firmly established on Him.

Consider the example of Christ Jesus; which is always more than an example, because everything He does, He does it all for you, so that you may live in Him.  In the wild desert, in the face of all the wicked assaults of the devil, He receives the ministry of His Father’s holy angels.  And so does He now minister to you by His messengers, both angelic spirits and mortal preachers of the Gospel.

Here, then, be served by the angel of Christ.  For you are His beloved, a son or daughter of His Father by His grace.  For His own sake, and by His victory on your behalf, He is well-pleased with you.  Do not be afraid.  He holds no sin against you.  You are forgiven.  Be clothed in the garments of your Baptism, which are ever cleansed and pristine by His own Blood.  Be fed from His hand with His own Body.  For by Himself He has sworn, that you are His, and He is yours forever.  Heaven stands open to you, and the Kingdom of God is here for you in the Body of Christ Jesus.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

20 February 2015

To Be with the Lord Jesus Where He Is

The Lord Jesus has come down from heaven, and He has come down from the Mountain, in order to raise you up from death to life; to set you free from your slavery to sin; to bring you into the good land that He has promised and prepared for you; and to bring you to His God and Father in and with Himself.  For that is the divine purpose of man, namely, to live with God in Christ Jesus.

You have been created for this divine Life, to abide with the Lord your God, receiving all good things from Him by His grace, even forevermore.

Yet, for now, you are distanced from God, lost and alone, threatened and afraid.  Not because you are a finite creature, but because you have preferred creation over the Creator.  Not because you are flesh and blood, but because you hunger for the flesh more than you hunger for the Lord.

You fear, love, and trust your flesh, even in its frailty and weakness, more than God and His Word.

So you worry about getting sick, and you work to fill your belly, but you doubt and question and too easily forget about the Word and work, the promises and providence of the Lord your God.

Even so, it is for you — with all your doubts and fears and misplaced loyalties — it is for you that Christ Jesus has come.  Not because you have been so faithful or even well-intentioned, but because He is faithful and just, and because He loves you.

And in His love for you, He has entered the wilderness to be with you.  He has hungered and thirsted in His mortal flesh and blood, just like yours, so He knows exactly how you feel.

But, above all else, He has hungered and thirsted in both His body and soul for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, even to the point of His suffering and death for the Glory of God.

To save you for God, He has borne your sins and sickness, all of your iniquities, and all your griefs and sorrows in His flesh; so that by His stripes and by His wounds you are cleansed and healed.

He has passed through the waters of the Flood, the Red Sea, and the Jordan, in order to make a way for you, an Exodus from death into life.  He has gone alone, first of all, in order to bear the wrath and judgment of the Law of God in your stead.  And as the Passover Lamb of God, He has been sacrificed in your place, so that His blood covers you, and so that death passes over you.

Now, what the world perceives in this Sacrifice of Christ is nothing but utter defeat and hopeless despair, as though all were lost.  How, then, shall it ever suffice, or really do any good at all?

And how easily do you also give up hope and suppose that there is no help to be found?

Do you count the cost, and add and subtract appearances and variables, and come up empty?

Repent of such unbelief.  And do not despair, but believe the Gospel.  For Christ is risen from the dead and has returned to the Father in His glorified Body, and this He has done for your salvation.

He has taken His seat at the right hand of God the Father, and He has seated you with Himself there.  So that, where He is, there you are also — in the Body of Christ on earth as it is in heaven.  Indeed, He has brought you into this good land, with Himself, through the waters of your Baptism.

Recline yourself here at His Table, then, as He invites you, and rest yourself here in His Feast.  For He feeds you with Food that shall not perish, so that you shall not perish, either.  And there is more than enough:  Take and eat!  Drink of it, all of you!  And give thanks to the Lord your God.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

18 February 2015

Your Home is Where Your Jesus Is

Home is where your heart is.  So, where is your heart and home?  Where does your heart live?

It is really a question of what and where your treasure is, where you look for it and seek it, and where you would keep it and store it for yourself.

And your treasure is your bliss, your prize, your real wealth.  It is what makes you happy — and, if it is threatened or taken away, you’re at a loss, frightened, and sad to the point of despairing.

Your treasure is wherever your heart would find its peace and rest, whether for a little while or forever.  It is whatever you suppose will satisfy you and make you content; whatever will mark and measure the meaning and purpose of your life, and fulfill your destiny, and make you glad.

As such, your treasure is also your god, for good or for ill.  And, whatever your treasure is, so shall you be like it.  So, then, what is your treasure?  And, again, where is your heart?

Perhaps it is your property, your house and home, your souvenirs, collections, and investments.  Or your family: your parents and siblings, your spouse and children.  Or, your reputation, your popularity and friends, your respect within the community.  Maybe your treasure is power, position, privilege, and prestige.  Or your possessions and income, your salary and savings.  Food and clothing, toys and hobbies, the bare necessities, or the best that money can buy.

What is it that you’re proud of?  What identifies you?  What do you rely upon, and fall back on, and aspire to get for yourself, to keep for yourself, and to promote yourself with?

If you treasure and store up stuff, whether coins or castles, clothes or collectibles, know that it will perish, every bit of it — even if it is not stolen from you first.  Either way, it does not last, it cannot give you life, and it will not save you.

If you treasure worldly wealth and riches, of whatever currency, paper or plastic, precious metals or digital data, it will come and go in the blink of an eye — or you will die before it has done you any real good.  Locusts of one sort or another will come and devour it before your eyes, each and every penny, every last red cent, and there will be nothing left.  Neither the biggest bank, nor your mattress, will guard and keep such wealth for you in heaven.

And if you treasure other people as the source and substance of your life and happiness and future well-being, remember that all men die, because all men sin.  Even princes and princesses are mortal, as are pastors according to their person.  Parents and children, spouses and friends also die in their day, and they shall not return to you here.

But not only that: People are fickle and flighty, not only finite but fallible and flawed.  Other people are as sinful as you are.  If you make of them your god, they will fall far short and fail you.  They may lie to you, or break their promises, or simply be unable to follow through.  They may speak with flattering words, while already their thoughts and feelings are pulling away from you.

What, though, if everyone thought well of you?  What if everyone were impressed with you, and looked up to you, and praised you in every way?  What if your reputation among men was sterling silver and unsurpassed in all the world?

Well, then, dear friend, you would already have your reward.  But not with your Father in heaven.

Enjoy your reputation, your position and prestige, the praise and flattery of the whole world, if you can, for as long as it lasts.  But beware that it will not help you in the end, and it will not raise you from the dead.  Neither now nor ever will it set you free from sin or set you right with God.

If you would have life, and if you would live now and forever, repent of your idolatry and return to the Lord, the one true God, your Maker and Redeemer.

Store up treasure for yourself in His heaven, in the secret place of faith, in the hidden place of His Cross, in the inner room of His Church.  Which is to say, fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of the faith, and be reconciled to God in Him.  For He is your righteousness and holiness, your Peace with God, and your true Sabbath Rest.

He is your true and lasting Treasure.

So, how do you store up Jesus for yourself?  What does that even mean?  What will it look like?

You lay hold of Him where He lays hold of you, that is, by His Ministry of the Gospel.  For He gives Himself to you by this way and means, as the One who has given Himself to God for you.  Thus, He is your Sacrifice, whom God does not despise, and He has also become your priestly Food and Drink.  As He was anointed by the Spirit of God in His human body of flesh and blood, so does He anoint you with His Holy Spirit by the Gospel, by the forgiveness of your sins.

His flesh and blood are the Sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the world, for He who knew no sin became sin and death and the curse, in order to put sin to death in Himself, and to bring forth the blessing of righteousness and life everlasting in His Resurrection from the dead.

He, then, has entered into heaven for you, where He has established His place for you with His God and Father, and where He ever lives to make intercession for you as your great and merciful High Priest.  Thus, by the power of His indestructible Life, in and with His own glorious Body, risen from the dead and never to die again, immortal and imperishable, He is your Treasure, now and forevermore, whom moth and rust and thief cannot touch, and even death cannot destroy.

He is your Anchor behind the Veil, within the Holy of Holies eternal in the heavens.  He is your Life and your Salvation with God.

And yet, see here, He has also left behind the Grain Offering of His Body and the Drink Offering of His Blood, that you may eat and drink and be satisfied, and rejoice in Him who loves you.  With these most holy and precious Gifts, He gives Himself to you, and He pledges Himself to you for all time and for eternity.  So that, whether you have much or little in this life on earth, you have everything in Him, forever and ever.

Whether men speak well of you or curse you to your face, His Word adorns you with His holiness and righteousness, with the glory of His grace and the beauty of His Resurrection from the dead.

Whether you live or die, you are the Lord’s, and He is yours, and in Him all things are yours: His Father and His Spirit, His Name, His Sonship, His Life and Salvation in body and soul, and all things in heaven and on earth.

You lack no good thing in Him, nor shall you want for anything, who are seated at His Table to eat the Flesh of the Lamb and to drink from the overflowing Chalice of His Blood.

Such righteousness and life, and peace and rest, can only be given by God, and only by His grace, and can only be received by faith in Jesus Christ.  No one else in all of creation can bestow such gifts, nor can your works obtain them.

Yet, this righteousness and life, this peace and rest in Christ are yours.  They are for you, and they are here given and poured out for you, preached into your ears, pressed into your hands and placed upon your lips and tongue, and laid upon your heart by the Spirit through the Gospel.

Here, then, your heart has found its home in Christ Jesus: with His Father, who is now your Father.

It is with such sure and certain hope, in such confidence and faith, that you pray to Him.  Not to be seen or heard by men, but to be heard and answered by your true God and Father in heaven.  He will reward you, by His grace, with Christ and all His benefits, hidden under the Mystery of His Cross, yet a greater treasure than the heavens and the earth.

Thus do you also fast as you pray, knowing that God your Father feeds you.  You discipline your mortal flesh, depriving it of passing pleasures, that you might hunger for the Body and Blood of Christ, and so for His Kingdom and His Righteousness.  You train yourself to regard the Creator and Giver of all things above His whole creation and His many good gifts.  You curb your appetites, in order to prevent your appetites from controlling and consuming you.

Thus do you set your heart and mind, your body and soul, against the enticements of the devil, and you rest yourself in the refuge of Christ Jesus.

So are you also free to love and serve your neighbor with genuine works of compassion and gifts of mercy.  Trusting your God and Father in Christ for all that you need, and receiving what He provides — not only for yourself, for your family and friends, but also for the stranger at your gate, for the orphan and widow in distress, for the poor and needy who are always at hand — you are generous on the right hand and on the left.

You don’t keep score, nor maintain a ledger.  You simply love, as you are loved.  In this way you let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  And so do you also glorify Him, and exercise your faith in Him, in love for Him, when you give alms, and when you pray, and when you fast.

So does your Father work His good works in you, even in your body of flesh and blood, in your words and actions of faith and love.

For He washes you through and through, inside and out, with His mercy.  He cleanses you from all your sins and iniquities by His Gospel.  He repairs whatever is broken, as He has raised Christ Jesus from the dead.  And He fills up all that is lacking with His Food and Drink and Holy Spirit.

If you do not feel or experience such grace and peace and love and hope in yourself, nevertheless, it is given to you, and it is yours, in Christ Jesus.

Do not receive this grace of God in vain, but lay hold of Him who loves you, who lays hold of you by His Word of forgiveness, by His Word of the Cross.  For now, yes, even now, is the acceptable Time.  Now is the Day of Salvation.

Where you are disciplined by His Love, where you are broken by His Law, where you are crucified by His Cross, there also does He raise you up by His Gospel in His Resurrection from the dead.  Indeed, His death is your repentance, and His Resurrection is your Life, your Righteousness, and your Hope in the face of sin and death and every evil.

Do not despair, for He does not grow weary of loving you.  He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.  He does not punish you as you deserve, but He daily and richly forgives your sins and cleanses you from all unrighteousness.  He is patient with you, and as He has pledged Himself to you, He shall never leave you nor forsake you.

He has opened His heart to you, even unto His death upon the Cross, in order to save you from sin and death; and He has come to make His Home with you, to abide with you in Peace and Love.

Here, then, is your Home, your heart’s true Love and greatest Treasure.  For here is your true God.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

15 February 2015

The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ

Jesus comes down from the mountain, in order to bring you up the High Mountain to God.

Generations earlier, Moses had also come down from the mountain — with the two stone tablets of the Testimony — and, having spoken with God on the high and holy mountain, he commanded the people all that God had told him.  By this Word, the Lord established His Covenant with Israel, that He would be their God and they would be His people.  The Ten Commandments defined the character and content of that relationship, comprising faith in Him and love for Him and others.

There was also given, in great detail, the Lord’s instructions for the Tabernacle and its furnishings, the Priesthood and its vestments, and the foundations of the sacrificial means of grace, by which the Lord would abide with His people and cause His Name and His Glory to dwell among them.

As the instrument and minister of this divine revelation, the face of Moses shone with the Glory of the Law.  It was transfigured by his speaking with God, so that it radiated the light of the Lord.  That frightened the people when they saw it.  They were threatened by it, as by the thunder and lightning, fire and smoke of Mt. Sinai.  But it also enticed, intrigued, and impressed them, quite rightly, for it demonstrated that what Moses spoke to them was the Word of the Lord their God.

He veiled his face afterwards, each time, until he next went in before the Lord to speak with Him.  And St. Paul tells us why: namely, so that the people would not see the fading away of that Glory.

The Glory faded from the face of Moses, because Moses himself was fading away.  Though he was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, he too was from the dust and returning to the dust in his sin and death.  The mortal flesh of fallen man is not able to bear or sustain the Glory of God; not even that of great Moses, the Lawgiver.  Indeed, the Law itself brings death to sinful man.

The Law is not fulfilled in Moses, nor in the ancient people to whom it was given at Mt. Sinai.  Thus, the Glory of God does not remain with them forever, but fades away, time and time again.  It must be restored — and it can only be restored — by the preaching of the Word of the Lord.

But, apart from Christ Jesus, the veil remains, hiding both the true Glory of God and the sin and death that it exposes and exacerbates.  Minds are blinded and hearts are hardened against the Law, so that it is either misused or abused: ignored, or disobeyed outright, or else relied upon for life all the while it destroys you.  In your sin you can neither fulfill nor escape the holiness of the Law.

In Christ Jesus, though, the veil is removed.  The Light of the revelation of the Glory of God shines upon us in His face and does not fade away.  For though He takes upon Himself and suffers the full burden of sin and death in His own Body of flesh and blood, He does not relinquish or let go of the divine Glory, but fulfills and completes it in perfect faith and in holy love for God and man.

The Glory of God is established and revealed in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, first of all by His Incarnation, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and then also by His Holy Cross and Passion, His innocent suffering and death.  That is where and how the veil is removed.

But what you see in the flesh of Christ is scary, isn’t it?  Overwhelming and confusing.  As it was for Peter, James, and John on the Mountain of Transfiguration; and as it was for all the disciples when they saw the Lord Jesus arrested, hauled away, condemned, beaten and mistreated, and cruelly put to death upon the Cross.  His Glory confronts you with the Cross that kills you, and it reveals that fulfilling the Law is not only beyond you but is altogether other than you supposed.

The Glory of God is good and right and wise, but, precisely so, it brings to light all the ways that you are not.  And it has already been established that the true divine Glory of the Law is, in fact, a ministry of death for you and for all who are not holy and righteous but sinful and unclean.

Removing the veil to reveal the righteousness and holiness of God — in the face of Jesus Christ, in His Body and His garments — exposes all the dirt and filth that fill your heart and mind, infect your perishing flesh from the inside out, and stain your garments with all the damn spots of your thoughts, words, and deeds.  Removing the veil uncovers the nakedness and shame of your sin.

As painful and scary as that is — and, make no mistake, as devastating as that is to every pretense of self-righteousness or do-it-yourself-ness — it is not the whole story, but only the beginning of that which is perfected in Christ Jesus.  For He is not another Moses or Elijah, but He is the One to whom they have pointed and for whom they have waited in hope, as do all the people of God.

He does not simply speak or reveal the Word of the Lord, but, as you know, He is the very Word of God, who has become flesh to dwell among us, to reveal the Father to us, to shine upon us in Love with the Light and Life of the Holy Trinity.  He is not “on par” with Moses and Elijah, but far above them, residing from eternity in the bosom of God the Father, though He has also come down from heaven for all of us and our salvation, in order to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus does not simply preach and teach the righteousness and holiness of God, nor simply reveal the Glory of God, but He is all of these things, and He embodies them all in His own flesh for us.

As such, He removes the veil which covered the divine Glory and darkened the hearts and minds of man, by submitting Himself to the Law’s “Ministry of Death” in your place and on your behalf.

He bears your dirt and filth and stain in His own flesh and blood, as though all of it were His own; as though He were the One (the only One) who had done what He should not and failed to do what He should; as though He were the Guilty One.  He is publicly exposed and put on display before God and the whole world in your naked shame upon the Cross.

And here is the wonder of all wonders: His divine and holy Body is transfigured by His Cross and Crucifixion, so that He thereby enters into Glory — with our human flesh — by way of His death.

The indestructible Power and Glory of His Resurrection, anticipated here in His Transfiguration, is the divine Glory that He accomplishes and establishes for you and for all people by His Cross.

Which is why it cannot be preached or even told until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead.

In this light, therefore, are at least two reasons why Peter’s confused suggestion is misguided and wrong, no less so than when he took it upon himself to rebuke Jesus and refute His coming Cross:

First of all, Jesus does not need anyone to build a tabernacle for Him to abide with His disciples, because He is Himself the Tabernacle of God among men.  And, second, He actually becomes that true divine Tabernacle in His human flesh and blood — for all who believe and are baptized into Him — by coming down from the Mountain and going the Way of His Holy Cross and Passion.

He is the Tabernacle, the Temple of God, the merciful and great High Priest who remains forever, and the once-for-all Sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, because He lays down His own life and sheds His own holy and precious blood for the salvation of all the children of Adam and Eve.

As the one perfect Mediator between God and Man, because He is both true God and true Man in His one Person, the fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily among us in His own flesh and blood, He comes down from the Mountain — as He has come down from heaven, and as He went down into the waters of His Baptism, even to death and to the grave.

He comes down to offer Himself up, in order to raise you up with Himself from death unto life.  For in His bodily Resurrection from the dead, the Glory of God in His face and in His flesh shall never fade away.  He has satisfied the Law completely, both meeting its demands and suffering its punishments for the sins of the world.  And having risen from the dead, He is never to die again.

What He has thus accomplished and achieved in Himself, in His own Body and Soul, in all His thoughts, words, and deeds, He now also gives to you, and bestows upon you, and makes it your own by His grace, through His Word of the Gospel, which is a Ministry of the Spirit and of Life.  By that Ministry, by that New Covenant in His Blood, you receive His mercy and forgiveness.

Through your Baptism into Christ, into His Cross and Resurrection, you have passed through death into life, and you have entered into the Glory of God with your body and soul and all that you are.

To be sure, it does not yet appear what you shall be, but everything that Christ Jesus has received in His Body of flesh and blood, in His Resurrection from the dead, is now also yours in and with Him.  Therefore, when He appears in all His Glory for the Judgment of the living and the dead, then you shall see Him as He is, and you shall be like Him: Radiant, glorious, and beautiful.

As the veil has been lifted by the Cross of Christ, for now you behold the Glory of God precisely in the Cross: Not only in the Gospel of Christ — in the preaching of His Cross, and in His Body given, His Blood poured out for you — but also in yourself, bearing the Cross as a disciple of His.

That is the part that is still so difficult and hard to understand, but you are not left to yourself, to figure it out or handle it on your own.  You are catechized and cared for by the Word of Christ, and by the care and catechesis of His Church, which He has established on earth as it is in heaven.

The crucifix above the Altar artistically confesses and declares the Body and Blood of Christ that are given and poured out for you upon His Altar.  Historically, that is why Lutherans have always preferred the crucifix, that the body of Christ on the Cross should confess His Body in the Supper.

This, indeed, is the majestic Cloud that now surrounds you, the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night, in which you behold the glorious power and presence of God among us.  For the Body of Christ, crucified and risen, and given for you to eat, His Blood for you to drink, truly is the Tabernacle of God among men.  Here is where and how Immanuel is God-with-us.

And this Sacrament of Christ is the mirror by which you are given to see the transformation — the transfiguration — of your own body of flesh and blood into the same Image of God, from Glory to Glory.  For the Cross that you bear and suffer in the Name of Christ Jesus, the blessed Fruits of which you here and now receive, is a participation in the divine Glory of the Lord, as well as the means by which you are being transfigured with His Glory unto the Resurrection of your body.

Here is mercy for you in the one Lord, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, do not lose heart, but rest in Him.

Already now, though you cannot see it, you are clothed with His radiant garments of righteousness and holiness, pure and clean like no bleach or laundry soap on earth could ever hope to manage.  As He has taken the stain of your sin, your nakedness and shame to be His own, so are you covered with Christ Jesus and clothed with His grace and His Glory by His Gospel of forgiveness.

So, too, as He feeds you here with His Body and His Blood — transfigured by His Cross, unto the Resurrection and the Life everlasting — so does He gather you up, both body and soul, into His Body of flesh and blood, and bear you up the High Mountain to His God and Father in heaven.

Thus do you behold by faith the true divine Glory in the Fruits of His Cross, given and poured out for you and for the many.  You eat and drink in His presence, and you do not die, but you live.

Dear Christian, listen to Him, and hear what He says:  Take and eat this Bread.  It is My Body, which is given for you.  And drink from this Chalice, which is the New Testament in My Blood.  It is poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Come, find your peace and rest in Him, and receive your inheritance, which shall not fade away.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

02 February 2015

The Redemption of the Lord

We have been returned, as it were, to Christmas once again—on this fortieth day of Christmas, which is really the conclusion of the Christmas cycle.  In just a few weeks, with the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, we will be turned toward the glory of His Cross and Passion, in the hopeful expectation of His Resurrection.  But for the moment, the Word of God has called us to behold and receive the infant Lord Jesus in the courts of His House, His Holy Sanctuary.

This festival day actually recalls and celebrates two different events, which coincided in the visit of the Holy Family to the Temple in Jerusalem.  In accordance with the Law of the Lord, there is the purification of St. Mary following the birth of her firstborn Son, and then also the redemption of the same little Lord Jesus, who was not a Levite but from the tribe of Judah.

We acknowledge that the Blessed Virgin Mary is indeed a saint by God’s grace and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, her Son, but that she was, to begin with, a sinner in need of such forgiveness—in need of cleansing and purification.  That much is simple and straightforward enough.  And yet, it is profoundly ironic that she would be required by the Law of God to undergo purification for bearing the spotless and holy Son of God!  She a virgin undefiled, who conceived by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the Savior of the world, had to be purified for that very reason.

To be sure, such requirements of purification were not unique to St. Mary.  They belonged to the ceremonial and sacrificial Law of God, whereby He sanctified and set apart His people (Israel) from the pagan nations of the world.  His Law, in this regard, dealt not only with sins per se, but also with other aspects of natural life.  This ceremonial Law drew strict boundaries between what was pure and clean, whole and complete, on the one hand, and what was flawed or blemished, diminished or incomplete, on the other hand.  And again, the purpose was to sanctify and set apart the chosen people of God, and thus to reflect the absolute holiness of God Himself.

In addition to these lines of purity, the ceremonial Law of God attached special and particular significance to bodily functions pertaining to procreation and childbirth.  It is in this category, of course, that St. Mary’s purification falls today.  To consider what this means, think back to the Garden of Eden and to the consequences of the Fall into Sin:

In the first place, God cursed the woman with pain in childbirth; but then He also promised a Savior Who would be the Seed of the Woman.  Thus, both the Law and the Gospel, the curse and the blessing, the consequences of sin and its forgiveness are all centered in the Woman precisely as Mother: centered in her ovaries and womb.

From Eve onward, then, especially among the chosen people of God, every aspect of a woman’s fertility and childbearing was both a proclamation of the curse of sin and a proclamation of the promise of the Gospel.  And in a very real sense, the bleeding that follows childbirth and continues for roughly six weeks (or forty days) is likewise both a consequence of the Fall into Sin and a foreshadowing of the blood that would be shed by the Woman’s Seed, that is, by the Savior Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, who would bleed and die for the forgiveness and salvation of the world.

The same sacrificial blood of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, was signified by the requisite sacrifice of a lamb—or, in a case of poverty, the sacrifice of a turtledove and a pigeon—for the purification of a woman following childbirth.  Indeed, like everything else in the Old Testament, the point and purpose of this ceremonial and sacrificial Law of God was to prepare the people for the coming of the Christ.

Therefore, if the fertility and childbearing of each and every other woman recalled the Fall into Sin and the promise of the Gospel, all the more so, the childbearing of this Woman, in particular, that is, the childbearing of this Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, was the ultimate fulfillment of both the curse and the promise of God in the Garden.  Through her, through the very pain and process of childbirth, God has given Himself to bear our sin and to be our Savior, to sacrifice Himself and to shed His own blood for the sins of the world.

Far from being exempt from the requirement of purification, St. Mary was the Mother, above all others, whom this Law of God was really all about.  Not as though she had sinned in giving birth to the Son of God, but because His birth encompassed and dealt with the whole reality of sin and its forgiveness, for the salvation of all sinners languishing under its curse.  Indeed, as St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Galatians, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us!  In very much the same way that our Lord’s circumcision on the Eighth Day fulfilled the covenant of circumcision, so does St. Mary’s purification on this fortieth day fulfill the first promise of the Gospel in the Garden of Eden.  It is a declaration, in accordance with the Law of God, that the promised Seed of the Woman has arrived to crush the serpent-devil’s head.

Likewise, the same principle and significance are also at work in the Presentation of our Lord, which is the other ceremonial Law that is fulfilled on the fortieth day of Christmas.  It goes back, not to the Garden of Eden, but to the Exodus from Egypt.

Most of you will no doubt recall the devastating tenth plague, which the Lord brought against Pharaoh and the whole land of Egypt: The Lord God sent the Angel of Death by night to slay all the firstborn sons of both man and beast, from the firstborn of mighty Pharaoh on his throne all the way down to the firstborn of the lowliest captive in prison.  The firstborn sons of Israel, however, were spared from this plague of death, because they were covered and protected by the blood of the Passover Lamb.  Where the Lord’s Angel saw the blood of the lamb, he passed over the home.

Henceforth, the Lord commanded that the firstborn sons of Israel (both man and beast) would belong to Him by right.  Indeed, it needs to be understood that all the Children of Israel belonged to the Lord, even as all the earth is the Lord’s and all the fulness thereof.  But even more so, the firstborn sons belong to Him, because He spared them from death and sanctified them for Himself in the Exodus.  Thus, all the firstborn animals among the people were to be sacrificed to the Lord, and all the firstborn sons of the people were to be given to the Lord for His service.

Now, as part of the Covenant that God established with Israel at Mt. Sinai, He set aside for Himself the entire tribe of Levi to serve Him as priests among the people.  And as such, He established that all of the other tribes would redeem their firstborn sons from service, for the redemption price of five silver shekels.  For the people to pay this price for the redemption of their firstborns served as a constant reminder that both they and their sons and daughters, and their animals, and all of their earthly goods, belonged in fact to the Lord their God.  And all the while, then, the tribe of Levi was responsible for the priestly Divine Service of God, including the offering of the many and various sacrifices that He had commanded, all of this in preparation for the coming of the Christ.

Which now brings us to the Presentation of that very Christ in His Temple on this day:

The Lord Jesus Christ, Who is not only the firstborn Son of Mary, but also, from all eternity, the “Firstborn,” the only-begotten Son of God the Father.  In Him we behold the love and mercy, the grace and peace, and the divine Glory of the one true God in the flesh.

In contrast to the Israelites in Egypt, this firstborn Son of God will not be spared the plague of the Angel of Death.  On the contrary, He has come to bear and suffer that plague in His own Body on the Cross.  Indeed, this one Lord Jesus Christ, the almighty and eternal Son of God, has come to be the Passover Lamb, so that His own holy and precious blood might cover His people from death and release them from the bondage of sin.  Accordingly, it is the very Body and Blood of this same Lord Jesus that are set before you and given to you as your Passover Meal, your Feast of Salvation.

What is more, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Mary’s Son, is the merciful and great High Priest who supercedes and replaces the Levitical Priesthood of the Old Testament, once and for all, by His own voluntary sacrifice (of Himself), and by His innocent suffering and death on the Cross.

In keeping with the Law, Jesus would have been “redeemed” by Joseph and Mary at the cost of five silver shekels, since He was not from the tribe of Levi.  Yet, St. Luke does not mention any such payment or redemption, implying instead that the true theological significance of our Lord’s Presentation was not a redemption from service but consecration for service unto God.

To say it another way, the little Lord Jesus, less than two months old, was consecrated to become both the Priest and the Sacrifice, and thereby, also, the Temple itself in His own flesh and blood.

Bearing all of this in mind, you may see that the Presentation of our Lord is the fulfillment of the Passover, the Exodus, the Priesthood, and the entire Old Testament Liturgy, for the redemption of all people—yourself included—from the slavery and eternal punishment of sin, death, and hell.  Not with any silver, but with His own body and life!

It is in that Body of Christ Jesus, here within His Church of the Gospel–Word and Sacraments, and especially in His sacrificial flesh and blood—in this, the New Testament Passover Feast—that you now meet the Lord Himself, as did St. Simeon there in the Temple.  In this Lord Jesus Christ, in His own flesh, you behold your Light and your Salvation, indeed, the Savior of the world.  And as you take Him up into your arms, as you receive Him into your own body, you also may depart in peace, according to His Word of the Gospel.

For He has become like you in every respect, save only without any sin of His own.  And He has taken all of your sin upon Himself, and carried it in His Body to the Cross.  He has suffered all that you must suffer; He has been tempted in every way that you are tempted; and He has borne the judgment of God and the damnation you deserve, so that you may be covered by His blood and spared eternal death.  Indeed, He has sacrificed Himself for you, for the forgiveness of all of your sins; and here and now He gives to you Himself, His Body and His Blood, for Life and Salvation in Him.  And this true Body and Blood of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will strengthen you and keep you steadfast in the true faith, unto life everlasting.  Depart in His Peace.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.