09 August 2009

Eating and Drinking under the Tree

"I Am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will not thirst."

That is the Word and promise of Christ, the Son of God, your Savior.

You have come to Him, because the Father has called you and given you to Christ, His Son. And you believe in Him, because the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, and He has enlightened you with His gifts, who also sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith.

You shall by no means be cast out. You shall not hunger or thirst, nor lack any good thing. You shall not perish, but live. For Christ the Lord, to whom the Father has given you, shall raise you up on the last day.

But now, from the waters of your Baptism, you have come to Him in the wilderness. And here, it seems, there is rather a lot of hunger and thirst. Indeed, you are hungry and thirsty, not only in your body, but in your heart and mind.

You suffer because of your faithfulness; because of the Name that you bear; because you are a Christian. And yet, you also find in yourself that you are not so faithful. Instead of steadfast faith and confident trust in the Lord who loves you, you harbor doubts and fears, frustrations and discouragements; perhaps even threats of dark despair. And against those who have hurt you or failed you, you harbor anger and resentment and bitterness. Instead of speaking with grace, you grumble and complain and utter harsh and spiteful words. You harden your heart against your neighbor, whom you ought to love and forgive; and so you harden your heart against the Lord your God, the very Father of mercies and God of all comforts.

Thus, you do not yet see, neither in yourself nor in your life nor in the world around you, what your eyes long to see; and it is so hard to wait upon the Lord. Your belly may be momentarily filled and satisfied, but it won't be long before it growls and rumbles again. And even when your body is full, your heart and mind still hunger for peace and rest.

Why not give up and die? That is the question of your old Adam, when he is not striving to make a god out of himself. From towering pride to the pits of despair in a heartbeat. What is the use, after all? What is the point?

Your fathers ate their daily bread; whether they prayed or not, whether they were evil or good, God the Father almighty opened His hand to feed them, to shower them with sunshine and rain, to give them everything they needed for this body and life. Yes, your fathers ate their daily bread — and they died!

How, then, shall you survive and live? Eat, drink, and be merry, and tomorrow you still die. Or stop eating altogether and starve yourself to death. What difference does it make? Whether you live twenty years or seventy, forty-five or ninety, what does it matter? No amount of daily food and drink will spare your life forever.

But now, take your rest under the tree. That is where you live, and die, and rise again. It shelters you and shades you, in any case; even when you are ready to give up and die in disgust.

Consider that your Lord Jesus has suffered and died for you: in tender-hearted kindness, in mercy and compassion, with great love for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

His Cross and Passion, His suffering and death were not meaningless or pointless, nor without hope. These were, instead, a sweet-smelling sacrifice and offering, by which you are beloved and well-pleasing to God your Father. You know that is true, because God has raised this same Jesus from the dead — never to die again. This same Jesus, the Lamb of God, who came down from heaven and became flesh, who took your sins upon Himself and died in your place, has risen from the dead. Therefore, you also shall rise and live with Him.

So also, in your suffering, you are not cast aside; you are not abandoned, nor forgotten. What you may suffer as a consequence of your sins is a discipline for your good, unto repentance and new life in the free and full forgiveness of all your sins. And what you suffer in faith and love, as a Christian, is for the glory of God and the good of your neighbor.

But you do not suffer for yourself, nor by yourself, and you do not die alone. In Christ, you shall not die, but live forever.

He who for your sake died and was raised, strengthens and sustains you here under this Tree of His Cross; even here in the wilderness of this world, in the valley of the shadow of death.

He loves you. He is kind and merciful. He does forgive you all your sins.

The Father has given Him from heaven for you, in the flesh, to save you. To give you life. For that is His good and gracious divine will! This is the very thing God most desires; and He does it.

He stretches out His hand to you in Christ, in order to lay hold of you in love; to raise you up, to strengthen you in both body and soul, for this life and the life everlasting.

And see here, Christ Jesus feeds you with His own flesh and blood; which He has given, and He gives, for the life of the world.

Arise, and eat, drink, here under this Tree of Christ. The journey is too much for you to travel on your own, but with this Food He travels with you all the way. He strengthens and sustains you in the true faith. He will not let go of you, but shall raise you up at the last.

So does He now grant you to depart in peace and joy; and even so shall you live.

Arise, and eat, therefore. On the strength and vitality of this Food, the Bread of Life, you come to the Mountain of God, now and forever.

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

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