23 August 2009

Eat Your Bread with a Clean Heart

If you would honor the Lord your God and serve Him rightly, hear His voice and obey Him. He needs nothing from your hand, but for His Name’s sake do what He commands. Do not presume to flatter Him with your lips while contradicting His Word with your behavior.

But, no, if you would honor God, then honor your father and mother, whom He has set next after Himself in authority over you. Do not despise or anger your parents, but serve and obey them, love and cherish them. If you are a child, listen to your father and mother; gladly do as they tell you; and do not grumble or complain against them. If you are a grown adult, nevertheless, honor your parents, through whom God gave you life and cared for you; and now, you care for them in their old age.

And if you would honor the Lord your God, as a member of His Church, do not commit adultery, but love and cherish your own spouse, and respect your neighbor’s marriage. Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Husbands, love and serve your own wives, as Christ loves His Church and gives Himself for her. Be faithful to your wedding vows, not only in what you say but in all that you do. Avert your eyes from temptation. Guard your heart and mind against lust by the prayer and meditation of God’s Word. And serve your own wife or husband with your words and with your body.

It is by such love for your parents and your spouse, and by loving your children and your other neighbors, as God has commanded in each case, that you honor Him and worship Him from the heart, not only with your lips but with your life.

To live and love in this way is to live by faith in Christ, according to the Word of the Lord.

Apart from this faith in Him, His Word is a closed book to you, which you can neither read nor comprehend. And apart from faith in His Word, you neither know the Lord your God nor can you come to Him or worship Him. Nor can you love your neighbor as the Lord commands, not even your parents, your spouse, or your children. Nor shall you live at all, but apart from Him you die, inwardly and outwardly, day after day, now and ever.

You cannot redeem yourself from death, and there is no righteousness of your own by which you can obtain life for yourself. No washing or wringing of your hands will do it.

True life is found only in God, the Lord, and comes only from Him, by His grace, through His Word. He is the Potter, and you are the clay, His workmanship. It is only as His child that you live.

Do not harden your heart against Him, and do not attempt to hide your heart away from Him. You will not live without Him, but neither will you bribe or trick Him, and you cannot take Him by force to constrain Him. No outward pretense or charade will bring you to Him; and He is not within your grasp, that you should bring Him down from heaven to you.

If you dishonor your parents, if you curse them with your lips or in your heart, you must die. If you commit adultery, whether with your flesh or in the lust of your eyes, in your heart and mind, you must die. You are far from the Lord, and He is hidden from you.

But you are not hidden from Him.

And His heart is not far from you, nor hardened against you.

For He is the Father who always loves His Son; and for the sake of that beloved Son, the Father loves the Bride of Christ and all her dear children.

For He is the Son who always loves and honors His Father. And in that fear, love and trust, He leaves His Father, in order to seek His Bride and give Himself for her, to present her to Himself and cleave to her forever.

For He is the Husband who loves His Bride, the Church. He lays down His life for her, to save her life from death; to forgive her all her sins; to cleanse her by His blood; to sanctify her by the washing of water with the Word. Therefore she is beautiful and glorious with His Glory; even as He takes her to Himself in love and gives to her His own Name, which He has from His Father.

So has He done for you, dear child of God.

He has given Himself for you, even unto death on the Cross, in order to redeem you with His holy, precious blood, and to clothe you with His own perfect righteousness.

In Holy Baptism, He has betrothed you to Himself, and dressed you in a flawless white wedding garment. There is no spot, nor wrinkle, nor any blemish in you, neither inside nor out; not at all in His eyes. The Father has given you into His hands, and He delights in you with all His heart.

Now live by His grace. If the world accuses you of sin and every evil, cling to your Bridegroom, Christ Jesus, who is your Savior and your Head. He bears your reproach and removes it. There is no condemnation that shall stand against you; not ever. His Father is now also your Father, who vindicates you and raises you up from affliction into increasing gladness; out of darkness into light; out of the silence of fear and doubt, into the joyous singing of faith in His forgiveness.

Listen to the sound of His sweet voice, and follow the Light of His Word upon your path.

It is true that, bearing His Name, you bear His Cross. You suffer and die with Him. You are crucified, dead and buried with Him. But so also are you raised with Him, to live with Him. And the fruits of His life-giving Cross are your daily bread.

Indeed, you are one flesh with Him, a member of His Bride, and therefore of His Body, because you eat and drink from His own hand His Body and His Blood.

But how dare you eat this Bread and drink this Cup? Are you not sinful and unclean? Are you not unworthy? Have you not broken God’s commandments, disobeyed His Word and lusted after other gods?

But, no, you are already clean because of the Word of Christ, who loves you and forgives you. He has washed you in His innocence with water and His Spirit in your Baptism. And as often as your hands and feet are soiled with the dirt and sin of life in this world, day by day, He forgives you with His Word of Absolution.

For He is a Husband who nourishes and cherishes His Bride, as His own Body, even with His own flesh. He has bound Himself to you, and you to Him, with His own Name.

He has carried you across His threshold into His own house and home. He seats you at His Table, and here pledges Himself to you most personally and permanently. He shall never leave you nor forsake you.

So does He honor and worship and glorify His Father, and so does He love and honor His Bride in purity, in righteousness, innocence and blessedness forever.

Here, then, dearly beloved, entrust yourself to Him. Receive His gifts. Hear His Word and behold His Glory in the Gospel. Do not be afraid, but rejoice in your Lord, who rejoices over you in love.

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

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