18 April 2010

Worship the Lamb Upon His Throne

There is one Divine Liturgy in heaven and on earth, at the center of which is the one object of the Church’s worship, the Lamb who has been slain, upon His throne.

He has all authority in heaven and on earth, because He is both Lord and Christ, and He alone is worthy to receive all worship, honor, glory, blessing, thanks and praise.

But how shall you worship Him? With what works and worthiness?

Where and how shall you find Him and come to Him, and recognize and know Him?

Do you know this Man? Do you love Him more than all else? More than others do? Are you brave enough and strong enough to follow Him to the Cross? Will you then confess Him before the whole world, and call upon His Name at all times, pray, praise and give thanks?

And do you tend and care for His lambs and shepherd His sheep, as these are given you to love?

Or do you breathe violence, threats and murder against His disciples, in your zeal to please and impress God with your own boldness, confidence, works and wisdom?

Do you persecute the Man, without even knowing who He is? Are you kicking the goads and flailing at the wind, instead of worshiping the Lamb who has been slain?

Do you love the praises of men, and fear their threats and violence, more than you fear, love and trust in God? Do you therefore cower before the world, and disavow and deny the Name of Jesus in your words and actions, hiding behind your silence, or hiding your cowardice behind a false bravado and colorful curses?

You’ve been where Simon Peter was — embarrassed and ashamed of yourself. So eager to make amends, but frustrated and afraid of failure. Trying so hard to undo your past mistakes, but not really knowing how or even where to start. Hoping to make a good impression, but falling flat on your face. Working day and night to get things right, but coming up empty.

And you’ve been where Saul of Tarsus was, too. Striving to please God and serve Him like a champion, without even knowing how wrong you are and how much hurt and harm you are causing — and to whom! Trampling your neighbor in your zeal to get to God, but all the while pursuing the path of perdition.

You are in the dark, a blind man stumbling around, as good as dead, with nothing to eat or drink, but only restless anxiety.

You are not worthy of Christ, but the chief of sinners.

You have denied the Lord Jesus before men, instead of bearing His Cross.

You have hurt those who are His own dear members. You have wounded the Lamb, if not with your own hands and fists, then with your sins and death.

But now, stop your weeping, and do not be afraid.

You have not known the Man; you could not recognize Him, standing there in front of you, and you have not loved Him with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength.

But this same Jesus, who was crucified, has known you, and He loves you.

You have not called upon His Name, but He has called you by name; indeed, He has called you by His own Name.

You have not confessed Him before men, and yet He has confessed you before His Father in heaven; He even brings you, in and with Himself, to the Father.

You could not find your way to Him or go to Him, but He has come to you. He seeks you out in love, finds you in peace, and calls you gently to Himself; not that you should serve Him, but that He would serve you.

You have worked so hard, and worried so much, but you have accomplished nothing. You have nothing to show for your efforts, do you?

But here is Christ, the Lamb of God, with the Food He has provided and prepared for you, the Meat and Drink indeed by which you live.

Come, child, eat and drink. The crucified and risen Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to you in this Breaking of the Bread. In this way, He manifests Himself to you.

Here He shows to you a more excellent way than the road you have been so intent upon. Here is the way of faith and love, the way of divine life and divine worship.

It begins with this: Your love and worship of Jesus are not located in what you do for Him or give to Him, but in what He says and does and gives to you.

His glory and honor and blessing and power and might, are grace, mercy and peace: The forgiveness and salvation of sinners. The redemption and sanctification of creation and the purchase of all men for God, by and with His own precious blood.

His glory and honor and blessing and power and might, are not in what He receives from man, nor in His being served, but in what He gives by grace, and in His serving, His Service.

Your love and worship, therefore, are not in what you give to Him, but in what you receive from His hand: The washing of water with His Word, by which you are cleansed and clothed with His righteousness. The generous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The forgiveness of all your sins. And the breaking of your fast with His Feast.

Now, then, do you love Him who so loves you and serves you and feeds you and provides for you?

Then stop weeping, have no fear, and do not worry.

You need not work so hard for Jesus, nor try so hard to please Him and impress Him. He is already pleased with you!

But receiving all good things from Him, love Him and serve Him by loving and serving your neighbor. Let your effort be found there, and work at that way of life.

Instead of ignoring, neglecting, trampling or persecuting your neighbor in your rush to get to God, rather stride forward in the strength and confidence and freedom of faith in Christ. Live by grace, and love your neighbor; feed, clothe and care for him.

Such love is the other side of divine worship; for you love and serve your brother and sister, as Christ Jesus loves and serves you. Such love is surely a sacrifice and a way of suffering for others. It is indeed a bearing of the Cross in many and various ways: In what you bear and carry for others; in what you suffer and give up for love’s sake; and in what you cover and forgive in mercy.

In all of this, you glorify God in Christ, even unto death.

And all the while that you are poured out in love for your neighbor, you are presented by Christ to God the Father; for He Himself is the Incense of your prayer, in whom you also ascend into heaven, into the Holy of Holies made without hands.

Not only there and then, but already now by faith in Christ, by His Gospel, by His grace; here in the Temple of His Church on earth, on the shoreline, not far away at all.

If you have jumped or fallen off the boat, return to this gracious shore by the waters of your Baptism; and if you are still in the boat, even if you are scared or confused, the Lord is not far away from you, but very near, granting you His hospitality here.

Because Jesus is here for you, so are you truly gathered here with all the saints and angels and all the company of heaven — with the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, with the holy Evangelists, the blessed Apostles and Prophets, and the noble army of myriad martyrs — gathered in the presence of the Lamb upon His throne.

Worship Him with your body and soul, with all your heart, mind, spirit and strength. Bend the knee and bow your head, as you bow your heart before Him; in humility, yes, but all the more so in the confidence of His mercy and His great salvation.

Worship Him, not because He needs your worship, but because He is your Lord and your God, your Life and Light and Salvation, your New Song and constant Prayer.

He is worthy of such worship, because He is your Savior, and He has all authority in heaven and on earth: authority to forgive you all your sins, as He surely does.

My son, my daughter, take heart: Your sins are forgiven.

Beloved disciple of Christ Jesus, it is the Lord who stands here on the shore for you. See, here, He has made a Meal for you with His own hands: His own flesh and blood, that of the very Lamb of God, who was slain — and, behold, He lives forevermore.

Come, child, eat and drink, without money and without price. The night is far spent, and the Eighth Day here breaks and dawns upon you in Christ Jesus, who is your Sabbath Rest.

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

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