The first duty of the royal priesthood of the baptized is to pray: in faith toward God, and in love for one another. To pray to the Lord your God through Christ in the Spirit, is to worship the one true God, the Holy Trinity. To pray and intercede for your neighbor, for your family, friends and enemies, for the Church and for the world, is to love your neighbor as Christ Jesus loves you.
To pray is also to sacrifice — that is, to entrust yourself to God for the benefit of others — as the Offertory and the Prayer of the Church belong together in the Liturgy of the Holy Communion.
So has Christ Jesus done for you; and so does He continue to pray for you, as the One who has sacrificed Himself for you and for all, once upon the Cross, who ever lives to make intercession for you and all the saints according to the good and gracious will of God.
To pray and to sacrifice — in faith and love — as a royal priest of the most high God in Christ Jesus, is to stand before the Father in peace, to live and abide in His presence, to share His glory and partake of His divine nature, by His grace.
To be such a priest, to pray and to sacrifice in faith and love, is to be united with God in Christ Jesus, in the unity and love of the Father and the Son, in the Holy Spirit, in the bond of peace. It is to have the Spirit, heart and mind of Christ, and so to be of one heart and mind with His Body, the Church: gathered together in the upper room with the whole assembly of His many brethren, with the glorious company of the Apostles, the noble army of martyrs, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the faithful women, disciples young and old, male and female, slave and free, from all the nations on earth — united in prayer for the world, for the Church, and for the coming of Christ.
Thus to pray and sacrifice is, indeed, to speak by the Holy Spirit in and through Christ Jesus, sharing His divine Sonship, knowing and loving God the Father in Him, as you are known and loved by the same God and Father in Christ.
The world does not know or comprehend God the Father; neither do you according to your old Adam. You don’t know Him, nor what He is like. And so you cannot find Him or go to Him. You cannot love Him, nor can you call upon His Name.
The world’s notion of God, of fatherhood, of love and unity and peace, of forgiveness, life and salvation — it is all confused and wrong; it is twisted and distorted and false. But so far from the truth is this “knowledge” and “wisdom” of the world, that you do not even realize how false it is.
It is only by and through and in Christ Jesus, the beloved Son, that you know and love the Father, and come to Him, and stand before Him, and live and abide in His presence. It is only by and through and in Christ Jesus that you pray and sacrifice and worship God rightly. Not as though to appease His wrath or bargain with Him, but as a dear child and heir, a son of God in Christ, a royal priest in Him who is your great and merciful High Priest in all things pertaining to God.
It is in His office and vocation as your great High Priest that Christ Jesus prays and intercedes for you, as He does for His whole Church, for His disciples and His Holy Apostles, and for all who believe in Him through their preaching of His Word. He prays and intercedes in harmony with His sacrifice, and in and with His sacrifice, with His Body and His Blood.
He has come down from heaven, from the Father, to reveal the Father to you, and to embrace you in the Father’s love, and to anoint you with the Holy Spirit from the Father.
All of this He has done deep in the flesh, in His own holy Body and precious Blood: by His holy Incarnation; by His humiliation and obedience, unto His innocent suffering and death upon the Cross; and by His sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the world.
So does the Father reveal Himself and give Himself to you in the Person of His incarnate Son.
Then, in human flesh and blood like yours, in His own Body, Christ Jesus reconciles you and all the world to His Father, and He returns to the bosom of His Father in heaven, by the way of His atoning sacrifice upon the Cross, in His Resurrection and Ascension. So that, in Him, you are raised up to God and brought into His presence, named with His own great and holy Name, above every name that is named, and glorified with His own divine glory.
Such glory it is — do be aware and understand — it is the glory of the Cross and suffering; the glory of self-sacrifice, of love for those who sin against you, even for your enemies; the glory of forgiveness and of prayer for others, for the very ones who hurt you and crucify you. Not pain and suffering for the sake of pain and suffering, in some perverse and sadomasochistic manner, but the willing sacrifice of your self and your life for the rescue and loving service of others.
You may not even know what the point or purpose of your sacrifice and suffering are, but when you proceed by faith in the Word of God, within those vocations to which He has called you, and in those places where He has positioned you, in love for the neighbors He has set before you, you may be certain that your labors are not in vain, nor your hardship, pain and sorrow. The Cross conforms you to the Image of God’s beloved Son, and it works in you what is good and blessed, both for you and for others. It teaches repentance and compassion; it strengthens faith and love.
It is not the glory of the world, to be sure, but it is the true divine glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is that glory by which He loves you, and gives Himself for you, and forgives you all your sins, and serves you in peace, all at His own expense, for His mercy’s sake.
That is the glory to which you are called, which you are given freely by Christ Jesus: the Glory of His Cross, given to you by and with His Holy Spirit, through the forgiveness of sins, in His means of grace, which are truly means of everlasting life and eternal salvation.
The unity for which He prays, that you would have with God and with each other in Him, is granted to you — with the Name and Spirit of God — in the living and life-giving waters of Holy Baptism. That is the River of Life which flows from the Cross of Christ, from the Throne of God and of the Lamb, from His wounded side, the very heart and life of the City of God.
That is the River which cleanses and refreshes you, which washes you of all impurity and every unrighteousness, and which quenches your deepest thirst with the Holy Spirit of Christ Himself.
It is by and through that sacred River of living water, by and through that water of Holy Baptism, that you have come into the Holy City and are seated at the Lord’s own Table, where you are given the right and the glorious privilege to eat and drink of the Tree of Life.
The leaves and the twelve great fruits of that Tree are the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, the Breaking of the Bread in the Holy Communion, and the priestly prayers of the Church of Christ.
Those fruits of the Tree of Life, the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus — offered as a sacrifice upon the Cross, and given to you as a eucharistic feast — these are indeed your life and salvation. And the leaves of that same Tree, that is, the Word of Christ, the Holy Absolution of His Gospel, the apostolic preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name — those leaves are for the perfect healing of your heart and mind, your body, soul and spirit, unto the Day of Christ.
Whatever frailty and weakness, whatever sickness or infirmity you find within your flesh, you are made brand new, whole and perfect and complete, holy and without blemish, in Christ Jesus. That is most surely true, though you cannot see it or feel it now. It is given to you by God, in the crucified and risen flesh of Christ Jesus, who has received the glory of the Father on your behalf.
He binds Himself to you, not only by His Incarnation and by His bearing of your sins and death in His Body on the Cross, but also by giving you Himself, with all the fruits and benefits of His sacrifice upon the Cross, in His Holy Sacraments: In the washing of the water with His Word, His Name and Spirit, in Holy Baptism; whereby you have been (and are) united with Him in His Cross and Resurrection. And in the eating and drinking of His Body and His Blood, whereby He unites Himself to you, and you to Him, more personally, intimately, profoundly and permanently, than the world could scarce even begin to imagine.
Therefore, the Glory of the Cross of Christ is yours. His priestly prayer, His suffering and death, His sacrificial love and forgiveness — all of these are yours. His vindication by the Father, His victorious Resurrection from the dead, His Ascension into heaven — all of these, also, are yours.
The Love of the Father for His Son is yours. The Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is yours. The perfect unity of the Holy Trinity is the unity that you share by His grace in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son now rests and remains upon you in peace.
God the Father in heaven, who is so foreign to the world and sinful man, is now familiar to you in Christ Jesus, the beloved Son. He has become your own dear Father, and you His dear child.
Therefore, the priestly prayer of Christ to the Father is yours. You crawl up into His lap, snuggle yourself into His arms, sob into His chest or whisper into His ear — and He hears and answers Christ Jesus in your prayer. He hears and answers your prayer, as surely as Christ has sacrificed Himself for you upon the Cross and has been raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father.
For so has He made Himself your refuge and strength, your very present help in trouble.
So has He brought you safely and securely into His City, into His home and family, into His Holy of Holies — eternal in the heavens, but now also established among men on earth in His Church.
So does He cover you with His pinions and shelter you under His wings.
So does He love you, forever and always, and grant you His peace through forgiveness of sins.
And so do you live before God in righteousness and purity, innocence and blessedness — just as Christ is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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