09 January 2010

God Is Your True Father, and You Are His Beloved and Well-Pleasing Child

If you make something or buy something, and it doesn’t work, you fix it or replace it. But if you are a father, you love your children and take care of them; no matter what may be broken or wrong or not working.

The Lord your God is your Maker and Redeemer. He has created you, and He has bought you back; He has purchased you for His own possession.

But He has also chosen you and called you to be His child. He has chosen to become your Father, and He has called you by His Name.

He is your Creator, not by necessity, but by His gracious choice, for the sake of love. And He has not only made you and formed you, like a work of art or as a machine, but He has adopted you to be His own dear child and heir; to share the Sonship and inheritance of Christ Jesus, in and with His Name. His discipline, also, is that of a loving Father, and He does not disown you.

He has created you and given you life, and He still provides for you and takes care of all your needs. But there is still more to His being your Father than simply your existence and biology.

He is your true Father, a real Daddy. He loves you, and He honors you; for you are precious in His sight. He has redeemed you from your sin and death, and He daily forgives you all of your trespasses. He rescues you from every evil of both body and soul. And all that He is and has, He freely bestows upon you by His grace, along with His Name and His Spirit.

That is what it is and what it really means to be a father.

Men, if you are given a family, learn from Him, your Father in heaven, to care for your children on earth. And whether you are given children of your own, or not, learn from Him to care for His children within the household and family of His Church.

Women, know that in your God and Father you have One who is faithful, loving and true; who does not take, but gives you life; who loves you and delights in you; and who will never leave you nor forsake you. That is where you find and receive the confidence and strength to live and to love as His child; to honor your father and mother on earth; to submit to your husband, if you have one; to care for your children, or for others; to love your neighbor; to guard your heart and mind, body and soul, in purity and peace. You can do all things with such a Father as you have.

Little children, you also are safe and secure in your Father’s loving care. He hears and answers your prayers, because He has named you with His Name and adopted you to be His very own.

Of course it is true that fathers on earth are not always like this. Even the best of human fathers are not always faithful and kind; not always dependable, patient or attentive.

And there are too many fathers who are not like this at all. Men who beget children outside of holy marriage, not by any gracious choice, but by fornication and adultery. Men who become biological fathers, but are no real Daddies to their sons and daughters. Men who neglect their wives and children; who berate them, demean them, or use them; who do not listen, are rarely there, and do not give but take. Men who make demands and issue punishments, but who do not teach and do not forgive.

There are many men like that. In fact, as all men are sinners, all men are tempted and prone to such unfaithfulness. Where you have been like that or done so, repent, and become otherwise.

But that is not what it is or what it means to be a father. And that is not what your true Father in heaven is like.

Only, how can you be sure and certain, confident and at peace, that such a true and faithful Father as He is, will not disown you and send you away in your guilt and shame?

For if there are unfaithful, negligent and absentee fathers on earth, there are also rebellious and disobedient children, prodigal sons and wayward daughters, who dishonor their parents and daily sin much against their Father in heaven.

God’s Law requires that such children should be stoned to death.

You also have sinned against heaven and in God’s sight, and you surely deserve nothing but punishment. For the soul that sins shall die. You cannot fix or repair that.

How, then, can you be sure of your Father who art in heaven? How shall you call upon His Name and have any hope or expect to be heard?

How shall you be released and set free from sin and death? And how shall your broken-ness ever be repaired?

The answer is right here in the Baptism of Christ, which has been given to you as your own Holy Baptism. And the certainty and confidence of that answer is Christ Himself.

It is for His sake that the Father has created you in love, that the only-begotten Son might become the first of many brethren.

And it is by Him that the Father has redeemed you, purchased and won you, from sin, death, the devil and hell.

He is the Son begotten of the Father from eternity, and it is precisely His divine Sonship that is shared with you in Holy Baptism and given to you by the Gospel. For He has become true man, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that you might become a child of God in Him.

It is His Name, which He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which is now given to you.

It is the same Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who descends upon Christ Jesus at His Baptism, and rests and remains upon Him, bodily, who is also poured out upon you generously with the water and the Word of Holy Baptism.

These gifts of God Himself are granted to you, freely and fully, with all the steadfast faithfulness of the same Lord God who gives them, because they have been received by Christ Jesus in His own Body of flesh and blood like yours, in your stead and on your behalf. Not arbitrarily, but with justice and righteousness.

Have you not heard?

When all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized.

When you were baptized, Jesus also was baptized with you. For He has taken His stand with you, here in the waters of the Jordan, in the waters of your Baptism, in order to pass through the waters with you out of sin and death into life.

I baptize you and your children with water, but the One who is mightier than I, the One who is your Redeemer, the One in whose Name I baptize, He comes to you in the washing of that water with His Word and baptizes you with the Holy Spirit through the forgiveness of all your sins.

You die with Him in the water, as He dies for you, but so do you also arise and emerge from the water, and from the dust of the earth, from death and the grave, just as He is risen from the dead and lives forever and ever.

Having died with Christ, you are set free from sin. And rising with Him, you live, as He lives. For He takes you up in the water, in and with Himself, and out of that watery tomb into an open heaven. In His prayer, you ascend to His God and Father. And in His Sonship, you are a beloved and well-pleasing son of the same God and Father. That is your relationship with God, as sure and certain as Christ Himself, His Body and His Resurrection and Ascension.

All of this is made yours in Holy Baptism.

Therefore, the fire of His Holy Spirit does not consume or destroy you; you are not scorched or burned up, but cleansed and purified in body and soul.

You don’t yet see it or experience it, not fully, but only in part. For now, both death and life are at work in your body, as the Spirit has been poured out upon you bodily in Christ. You suffer the consequences of sin in your mortal flesh and blood. But you also bear the fruits of the Spirit in your body and life on earth.

All of this is taken up and worked out in the daily significance of your one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins: that you drown and die through contrition and repentance, and rise and live with Christ in His risen and ascended Body.

Already, His own Resurrection is your once-for-all Absolution, which is spoken and given to you, again and again, in the Gospel.

And as His Cross and Resurrection were the completion and fulfillment of His Baptism in the Jordan River, so shall your Baptism into Him be completed and fulfilled in the death and resurrection of your body, unto the life everlasting.

Then what is already true and sure and certain for you in Christ Jesus, will be fully realized in you.

That is the Glory of your Father in heaven, and that is your inheritance as His dear child in Christ. He has staked the honor of His holy Name upon it, for with His Name He has bound Himself to you, and you to Him. And He has tenderly invited you to call upon His Name in faith.

Do not be afraid, but take refuge in Him here. It is your Father who feeds you at this Table, with His beloved Son, because you are so precious to Him. He will uphold you, and guard your going out and coming in, from this time forth, even forevermore.

The Peace of the Lord be with you always.

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

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