28 October 2009

St. Simon and St. Jude, the Apostles

The fact that you have come to worship in the Lord’s House is no guarantee that you are walking in His Word. Your "worship" is no protection against the judgment of His Law. But if you would live, and not die, then do what He commands you.

Love one another. That is a summary of the Law; that, in love for the Lord your God, you love your neighbor as your own self, and serve your neighbor with your whole body and life.

What, then, should you do? Where do you begin, and how shall you proceed?

It is not a matter of your own choice, but of where the Lord has chosen to appoint you. Wherever He has called you to be, wherever He has stationed you, that is where you live and love. That is where you serve the "other" whom the Lord has set before you.

Do so according to His Word, that is, according to His commandments, which determine and define and describe what "love" is. In brief, though, do good and not evil. For love gives good things and does no harm to the neighbor.

Where you have done harm, make amends. Where you have failed to do good, now do it.

Mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God. Lest He bring misfortune and calamity upon you; lest He remove His Word from your midst.

It’s really a question of who your friends are. Not that you pick and choose the people you will love; nor that you show partiality or favoritism; but that you are either a friend of Christ Jesus, or a friend of the world.

Who do you love? Jesus, or the world?

Where do you look for life? In Christ Jesus, or the world?

If you are a friend of the world, you’ll perish with the world and all its wealth.

If you are a friend of Christ Jesus, then you will be hated by the world; you’ll be persecuted and perish with Christ Jesus. But so will you also rise and live with Him, and partake of His inheritance, imperishable in heaven.

Don’t suppose that you’ll play both sides against the middle; not without getting crushed in between the Rock and the hard place.

The other Jude (Iscariot) tried that and was lost. And the other Simon (Peter) was in danger of the same, denying his friendship with Jesus. But by the grace of God in that same Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Peter was called to repentance, and he was saved to bear much fruit.

You, then, where you have denied your Lord Jesus: Repent — and befriend Him, who has befriended you.

That is the key, dearly beloved of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has called you His friend, and He has surely become a best friend forever to you.

How so? First of all, by laying down His Life for you. Then also, by preaching His Word to you; and, with His voice, giving His Father to you. For hear how He has named you with His Name, which He has from the Father and shares with the Father forever.

Thus, when the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ raised Him from the dead, He caused you also to be born again, His child, to a new and living hope, unto life everlasting.

That is what is yours in Christ Jesus, by grace through faith in His Gospel. That is what has been given to you in Holy Baptism. And all of that is given to you by the preaching of His Word. Which is why we rejoice in the Holy Apostles of Christ Jesus, and why we remember with thanksgiving St. Simon and St. Jude (not Peter and Iscariot) on this day.

The Lord Jesus chose these men, who were lightly esteemed by the world and martyred for His Name, but befriended by and beloved of God.

Why did He choose them? For His own Love’s sake. For the Love of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, He loved them, even unto death; and He loves the Church, including you, to whom He appointed them to preach.

As He has appointed you to love and serve your neighbor, so has He chosen and appointed St. Simon and St. Jude, and countless other pastors and teachers ever since, to love and serve you and His Church with His Word. And wherever the Seed of His Word is thus sown, there He bears much fruit, which remains even to this day.

The fruit of His Word is the fruit of the Cross, and so it is borne in suffering, great distress and martyrdom. St. Simon and St. Jude are remembered together, because they are said to have suffered and died together in Persia. You also bear the Cross because of Jesus’ Name.

But you, like the Holy Apostles (for you are no less beloved than they), are protected by the Word of Christ through faith in His Resurrection from the dead.

Though you cannot see Him, nor yet feel and experience His Resurrection in your mortal flesh, you love and trust in Him, and hope in His flesh and blood; because He has chosen and befriended you. He loves you, and He strengthens you, chiefly by forgiving you all your sins, and by giving you His own eternal life: His beautiful, indestructable life.

His Body was made desolate upon the Cross; He became a curse, like Shiloh and Jerusalem; He was destroyed like the once great Temple. But in His Resurrection from the dead, the Lord your God has established His House on earth.

The Lord’s House is found wherever the Word of Christ the Crucified is preached; wherever Holy Baptism is administered in His Name; wherever His Body and His Blood are given and poured out in remembrance of Him.

Not only that, but, as your dear Lord Jesus feeds you with the fruits of His Cross on the one hand, it is also the case that His Resurrection and Ascension, His own crucified and risen Body and His holy, precious Blood, ARE your true and salutary worship of the living God.

In Him, you and your prayer and thanksgiving are received unto your Father in heaven, and you are saved in the great company of the Apostles, Prophets, martyrs and all saints forever.

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

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