05 June 2010

Arise, and Do Not Weep, but Live

There are so many reminders of your sin and death, and the two are inextricably connected. Death in yourself and in others points to sin; whereas sin and its curse and consequences point to death.

Orphans and widows are a special case in point. Bereft of father, bereft of husband, they are bereft of headship, authority and care in their distress. Sin and death have robbed them of such fundamentals of life on earth; as sin and death likewise separate you from the Lord, the Holy Triune God, who would be your Father and your Bridegroom.

There are, consequently, all manner of widows and orphans, with many different kinds of distress. There are women whose husbands have died, and children whose fathers and mothers have died. But there are also women whose husbands abuse or neglect them, or cheat on them, or leave them alone. And there are children whose fathers and mothers ignore them, or beat and abuse them, or leave them altogether. And there are those, unmarried, who do not find or receive the family and friendship of the Church, although such kinship ought to be extended in the name of Christ to all of His dear Christians, to all who have but one God and Father, who are anointed by one and the same Holy Spirit.

It is only by the grace of God that you and all are not entirely bereft of everyone and everything; for sin and death would claim each and every one of you forever.

Again, there are so many reminders of your sin and death, including all those things leading up to your death, which relentlessly bring your iniquity and mortality to light; which manifest your distance and separation from God; and which cause you doubt and fear, suffering and sorrow, and no end of anxiety and distress, day by day, night by night.

Among those troubling reminders of sin and death, the strongest and fiercest enemy of all, and by the far the most terrible and terrifying, is God's own holy and righteous Law. It always accuses, condemns, and threatens to punish you severely; not because the Law is evil, but because it is holy and righteous, and you are not.

Therefore, it is so very frightening when God the Lord turns toward you. For you do not know, up front, whether He does so with His Law or with His Gospel, whether in anger or in love. But the very sin that haunts you, tells you that God is surely out to get you, to punish and destroy you, as you rightly deserve. You fear His wrath, but you do not love and trust in Him. Even as He turns toward you, you turn and run away from Him.

Yet, as frightening as His presence is, it would be far worse if He were not turned toward you. Then there would be only trial and tribulation, trouble and death, both here in time and hereafter in eternity.

So that is your no win situation, your Catch 22. You're damned if He do, or so it seems; and damned if He don't.

But in Christ Jesus, God the Son — by His Cross and Resurrection — the very One who has so pursued and persecuted you with His Law, now preaches the Gospel to you: to forgive your sins and give you life instead of death. And this, in fact, is what He has always been aiming at, what He has desired and sought for you from the very beginning. All along, He has acted in love, by grace, with mercy.

He is moved by His deep divine compassion for you; for which the Father has given His Son and sacrificed Him for you, and the Son has given Himself and sacrificed Himself for you. Such love, such mercy, such compassion.

God turns Himself toward you, His face and His heart, and He comes to you — in Christ Jesus — for the sake of His divine and holy love: to save you from sin and death, and to remove from you forever the accusation, condemnation, and punishment of the Law.

Thus, He stretches out His hand to touch you in mercy. Not to strike you or spank you, not to hit you or hurt you; not to molest or abuse you, but to care for you, to hold you tenderly in His love for you. He does not grab or take from you, but opens His hand to give you all good things. He does no violence against you, but with compassion He touches you. He touches your sickness, your disease, your leprosy. He touches your stink, your oozing wounds, your ugliness and pain. He touches your coffin, your funeral bier, your dead body, your rotting corpse. He lays His hand upon your sin and death, not to punish you, but to remove these from you: to take them upon Himself!

The death that you see and feel and experience in yourself, in your parents, in your siblings, and in your children, God the Father has laid upon His only-begotten Son. So that He thus remembers your iniquity in His own death, in order to remember you in mercy, and to raise you up in and with Him.

For the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, has made His bed in the dust of the earth, in your grave, so that now, when He lays you upon His Bed in Holy Baptism, and He stretches Himself upon you and covers you with His Name, His Cross and His Spirit, He carries you up into the Upper Room of His Church — the House where He lives with you — and He raises you up from death to life, out of the grave into heaven, to the bosom of His God and Father.

All of this He does by the Word of the Gospel, which is preached to you, even here and now.

This Word of the Lord in my mouth — in your ears — is Truth, it is Spirit, and it is Life. This Gospel that I preach to you is not mine but Christ's; and it is for you. Here and now — and this is how — He forgives your sins and gives you life.

He gives you and yours back to your Mother, His Church. No longer are you an orphan or a widow, but you are His own beloved and beautiful Bride, and you are a dear child of His Father.

As often as you die each day because of sin, He raises you up again through His forgiveness. He speaks His life-giving Word of Holy Absolution, and He touches your dead body with His own holy flesh and precious blood. By these means, not only does He give you life and make of you a new creation; He also restores you to the family and fellowship of His Church, so that you belong to one Body and Bride of Christ.

Here in His house, in His home and family, by and with His Word, His Body and His Blood, He remembers you, and He feeds you in mercy, grace and peace.

Your sin He remembers no more, for He has removed it far away from you forever. It is gone. Therefore, you shall not die, but live; and even though you die, yet shall you live.

You, He does remember; and, remembering, He acts to save you.

Do not weep, but arise, and here be given back to the bosom of your Mother. Be seated at the Table of your Bridegroom, and be well-fed here in your Father's house, both now and forever. Amen.

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