18 July 2009

Baccalaureate Homily

By the Wisdom of Christ, Pursue Your Vocations in Love

(Esther 3:12—4:16; Colossians 3:1-4, 12-17; and St. Luke 10:38-42)

The future set before you is one of freedom, and of both present and coming responsibility. You are who you are, in the place where God has put you, set in relationship to various other people. And now you have new and immediate plans, with all the new things that accompany them.
You proceed with those plans in the freedom you enjoy as an American citizen, and in the more fundamental freedoms of faith.
It is not your faith itself, but the object of your faith, namely, Christ your Savior, that sets you free to live. Bear that in mind, and treasure that in your heart, because He makes all the difference: not only in this world, but for the life everlasting in both body and soul.
There are basically two ways, or three if you will, to approach the future and the living of your life on earth. The first way, which is the only good and right way, is by faith in Christ Jesus.
The other way (or ways) is to rely upon yourself — in other words, to be your own god; to fear, love and trust in yourself — which is the way of idolatrous pride or hopeless despair.
If you rely upon yourself, then nothing you do will succeed. It will mean nothing, and it will fail, sooner or later. Because there is a death sentence against you, the accusation of the Law, which condemns you; far more certain and deadly than Haman’s edict against the Jews. Unless that is dealt with and resolved, then, whether you do nothing or anything at all, you are lost. You, and everything you are and have, will perish utterly.
But the Lord has worked deliverance for His people. No less so than He delivered the Jews from Haman’s plots; because, in delivering them, He preserved the Seed of Abraham.
Now, you know what He has done: that He has borne your sin and condemnation in Himself, in His own body, in His own human life on earth, and that He has suffered and died for you. His death has removed the edict of the Law that stood against you, and has silenced your accuser. His death has reconciled you to God, the King, so that you are brought into His presence in Peace. He holds out the golden scepter of the Gospel to you, and so you stand before Him without fear of punishment. You are not condemned, but safe and alive.
You live, because He has removed your sin by His death, and because He who died for you has risen from the dead. You live, in Christ, with God, because He lives. That is how absolutely sure and certain your life is.
You live that life with God in Christ by His Word of the Gospel — the Word of forgiveness — and by faith in that gracious Word of Christ Jesus.
Listen, then, to what He speaks. Receive what His Word gives you. Everything flows from that. Really, it does.
It is by His Word — the Word of the Gospel of His Cross — that you have died with Him in your Baptism; and that you rise with Him, each day, from your Baptism unto the life everlasting.
It is by His Word that you now live that life. Not only because He orders your footsteps by His Word, but especially because His Word forgives your sins, each and all of them, and cleanses you inside and out, and gives you the One thing truly needed: Himself.
With His Word, you have Christ Jesus.
Apart from His Word, you have nothing (nothing but darkness, despair, death and damnation).
What, then? Is there no room for Kings and Queens on earth, fair maidens and sweet princes? Must there be no Marthas, but only Marys? Is there no place in your life for arts and sciences, for work in the world, for the labors and pursuits of heart and hand?
These are altogether the wrong questions and conclusions!
The Resurrection and the life that are yours in Christ Jesus, by His grace, do not mean that you must despise the life that you live in your body on earth. Just the opposite, actually.
You go about your vocations, and you serve your stations in life on earth, with confidence in Christ, in true peace (such as the world could never give), with love for others and with thanksgiving to God, because His Word of the Gospel sets you free.
That is the Wisdom of God in Christ, granted to you by His Spirit with the forgiveness of sins.
Do not expect the world to recognize or understand this. But you are in no competition with the world, which is perishing and passing away! Your life is hidden with Christ in God.
The Lord’s forgiveness of your sins, His life and salvation, grant meaning to your life, both now and forever. So that what you do in faith and love has divine significance and great value — to God, by His grace, and also for your neighbor’s benefit. Indeed, you have the great things of the Gospel to give your neighbor, to the glory of God. Your whole life sings with thanksgiving.
That song of faith and love embraces your studies and pursuits, your current and future vocations and stations in life, the labors of your mind and hands, the fruits of your heart and lips; even your relationships and romance. All things are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, and so received with thanksgiving and used rightly in love.
It is a matter of priorities, ordered by faith in Christ and His Word. Thus, the manna is gathered daily, and then there is the Sabbath Rest that remains for the people of God. There is a time for fasting, and a time for feasting. Because the measure and meaning of all things, in heaven and on earth, is found in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus. You fast in order to hear His Word and give attention to it. You feast upon His Word, and in the hope of His Word.
There are many things to distract you, to bother you and worry you and make you anxious, nervous and afraid, including both good things and bad. Repent of the bad things and turn away from them. But let even the good things have only their proper place, and do not be anxious or afraid, but at peace.
Use your freedoms to make your plans and make your choices; to chase your dreams and reach your goals; to do what you are given to do; to love and serve your family, friends and neighbors. Not as though your life depended on it, but as living the life that is already yours most certainly.
The Word of Christ gives you that life, which is with God forever. It shall never be taken away from you. Because His Word freely forgives you all your sins, you shall not die, but live.
Hear and heed that Word of the Gospel, and believe it. Cling to it, and trust it. Do not crowd it out of your life, but let everything else flow from it, and back to it.
In the forgiveness of His Cross, you are at peace with God in Christ; and you are safe, and you are really alive. Because He is gracious and compassionate, gentle, kind and patient with you. And He is pleased with you. You’re not going to mess things up.
You truly are free to live, and to love. If you perish, you perish, and yet you live. For whether you live or die, you are the Lord’s, and He is yours, and that is for keeps.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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