25 July 2009

Through the Waters out of Death into Life

The cosmic deep of creation. The worldwide flood. The Red Sea and the Jordan. The waters of your Holy Baptism. Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is always bringing you through the water out of darkness into light, out of slavery into freedom, out of death into life.
He makes His disciples, including you, to get on board the boat in order to cross the water to the other side. His goal for you, and your destination, is life with God forever in both body and soul in the land of health and strength, flowing with milk and honey and every good thing.
Now you’re in the boat in the midst of the sea, with water to your left and water to your right and water all around you. And how is it going?
You’re tormented and tossed about by the waves, straining at the oars, because the wind is against you. The Law always accuses you, and your works do not avail. So there are turbulent winds and waves buffeting you inside and out. And it appears that Jesus has abandoned you. He’s gone off on His own, and left you alone, it seems.
Are you going to drown and die in the water forever? Will the Flood really end in newness of life for you and all creation, or in the permanent destruction of your flesh and your soul in death?
Truthfully, Jesus has not forgotten or forsaken you. He sees you in your distress, and He moves to save you in His love. He passes through the water to go ahead of you by His Baptism, even unto His death upon the Cross. He ascends the Mountain of God, finally by that very sacrifice, in order to pray and intercede for you, and to become your prayer and your sweet-smelling incense.
But even then, as the new Moses who has brought you out of Egypt, and as the new and greater Joshua who crosses the Jordan and blazes the trail for you into the heavenly promised land, He does not leave you alone but comes to you, to journey with you and bring you into life with Him.
Why do you harden your heart against Him? Why are you so incredulous and frightened by His presence? Why do you act as though death will have the decisive last word? Repent of that.
There is but one Flood that does put you to death: one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, which crucifies and buries you with Christ, in order to raise you up with Him to new life, to eternal life within His New Creation. Never again shall any other such flood destroy you forever! Never.
You behold in the cloud of His Glory — which is the Gospel of forgiveness and salvation — He has set the sign of His Cross, with its crimson-colored rainbow of His holy and precious blood, as the seal of His gracious Word and promise to you: You shall not die but live.
That sign and seal of the Cross, with which He has marked your brow and your breast in Holy Baptism, is not simply a reminder to you. But, no, He sees; He remembers; and He moves to act in love according to His promise. He shall never leave you nor forsake you.
Consider the Covenant of the Loaves, which He takes, He blesses and breaks and gives to you — and with that Holy Food, also the New Covenant in His Blood, which He pours out for you.
Listen. He has come to you here, in His Boat, and He shall not pass you by nor leave you to die.
Take courage, and do not be afraid! He calls out to you in love. He speaks to you in mercy. His atoning sacrificial death has quieted the Law and brings peaceful calm to your troubled heart and mind. He grants genuine peace to your life in both body and soul, already now, and even forever.

He is here in the Boat with you, until He shall bring you safely to the other side with Himself. His Baptism avails for you. His death is your atonement and reconciliation with God. His Resurrection and Ascension are your prayer to the Father, who has given you His own Name in this same Lord, Jesus Christ; who has made you His dear child and loves you, now and always.
Rooted and grounded in His love for you in Christ, you are strengthened by the power of His Spirit through the forgiveness of all your sins (day by day), and you are filled with all the fullness of God Himself in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, His Son.
His Word to you — His Word of the Gospel, His forgiveness of all your sins — and His Holy Sacraments — are the hem of His garments, the fringe of His cloak, by which you lay hold of Him and are healed of all your iniquities; and, in the resurrection, cured of all your infirmities.
With these same garments of the Gospel, you are clothed with Christ Himself, and with His righteousness and holiness and innocence and blessedness.
With Him, in Him, through Him, by His Name which you bear, you pass through the water out of death into life. And out of the depths you ascend the Mountain of God to pray in His presence.
Even when it seems that Jesus has left you alone, or that He would pass you by, let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid. The Lord is with you, and He is here to save you.
The waters of your Baptism will not destroy you forever, but the wind of the Spirit now breathes forgiveness into you, that you may live in peace and quietness, such as this world can never give.

Look, and listen: The incident of the Loaves has not ceased, but continues for you here aboard the boat. Take, eat, not a ghost, but the Body of Christ, His own sacred flesh; and drink His Blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for you, and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins, for the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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