07 November 2010

Raising Sons of God for the Bride of Christ

No one knows the Scriptures like Jesus, for no one knows the Father but the Son — and those to whom the Son reveals Him. For Christ Jesus Himself is the Word of God, by whom the Father speaks to you in love. To Him the Scriptures point, and of Him they testify, crucified and risen.

From the beginning, everything the Father does, He does for the sake of His Son: with His Son, through His Son, by the Word of His Son. For everything the Father says and does, flows from and with His love for the Son, and the Holy Spirit also abides in that divine eternal love.

The Holy Triune God creates the heavens and the earth and everything in them, because the Father loves the Son. The Man is the king of His creation, and the Woman is his queen, because the Man is made in the Image and Likeness of God — and that Image and Likeness is Christ, the beloved Son, who is the only-begotten of the Father from all eternity, but who will in the fullness of time be conceived and born of the Woman. The Father beholds His Son in the Man, and He beholds the Man in His Son. And in the Woman, whom He created for the Man and brought to him and gave to him, He beholds the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, our Lord.

When the Woman is deceived by the serpent, and her husband follows her into sin, rejecting the Word of God and bringing death upon themselves and all their children, God preserves their life in the world for the sake of His Son, the Seed of the Woman, for He will come in mortal flesh to save them from sin and death, to slay the serpent and to set them free from his deceit and despair. The Lord sends them out of the Garden, it is true, but He does not put them to death. They live for many years and have many children, and that is already an indication of the Resurrection.

So, too, when Abraham, as good as dead — and his wife a barren old woman herself — is given the son whom God had promised, it is a testimony of the Resurrection. Likewise, when father Abraham, in faith, is ready to sacrifice that same beloved son, but receives him back as though from the dead when the Lord stays His hand and provides for Himself the sacrificial Lamb — it is a type of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Lamb, the only-begotten Son of God and the promised Seed of Abraham, who is sacrificed and raised from the dead.

It was the same when God put the whole sinful world to death with the flood, and yet preserved believing Noah and his family in the ark. That great type of Holy Baptism is no less a type of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, into which you have been baptized.

The story is told again in the Exodus from Egypt. God spares the sons from death by providing a lamb, sacrificed instead, whose flesh is their food and whose blood is their shield and protection. Again God brings His chosen people through the deadly waters and preserves them in the desert by providing for all their needs: living water from the rock and miraculous manna from heaven, lest they dehydrate and die of starvation. For in bringing them out of Egypt, He raises them from death to life, and even in the wilderness He promises to bring them at last into a good land, full of life and health and strength and every blessing. That promised land for which they hoped and set their hearts upon the pilgrim’s way, was not Canaan, but the new heavens and new earth, the Paradise of God, which they and you enter through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.

Really, the entire story of the Scriptures is the story of the Cross and Resurrection, because the entire Bible is a Book about Christ Jesus, the almighty and eternal Son of the living God. As He creates all things out of nothing, so does He bring new life out of death and the grave. When He creates the Man out of the dust of the ground, it is an image of the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. When He protects Joseph in Egypt and Esther in Persia, and delivers His people through them, it is a sign of the Resurrection. When He rescues Jonah from the belly of the great fish and raises him out of the watery depths, in order to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, that too is a type of the Resurrection. And when He calls David to repentance and spares his life, it is for the sake of David’s Son, who dies in the place of His father, in place of you and all the world, but whom God also raises from the dead and seats at His right hand, enthroned above all the heavens.

The resurrection of the dead is a consequence of who God is and of what He chooses freely to do in love. For He is the living God, the Author and Giver of life, and the Creator of all things, who loves those whom He created and acts to save them by living His own life in human flesh.

Because the Son of God became true Man, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our human nature participates in His divine eternal life, even as Man is created in His Image to begin with. Our flesh abides in God, for God has made our flesh His own flesh, and our blood and our bones His own blood and bones. As surely as God raised Jesus from the dead, therefore, so will He also raise the bodies of all the dead for the judgment, whether unto righteousness and eternal life or condemnation and eternal death. Each man, woman and child goes either to heaven or hell in the body, either to live bodily in the presence of God, or to suffer punishment apart from Him.

But the Resurrection of Christ Jesus is far more than simply the down payment and guarantee of a renewed and continued bodily existence after death. His Resurrection is the manifest victory of His Cross and Passion, the first fruits of the Atonement and of the New Creation. Everything that God ever intended for His Creation is fulfilled by the Incarnation and the Cross of Christ, and fully realized in His Resurrection from the dead in our human flesh and blood. His voluntary suffering and death, in perfect faith and love, is the fulfillment and satisfaction of the Law for us, the forgiveness of all our sins. Accordingly, His Resurrection from the dead is our redemption from sin and death, our reconciliation with God the Father, our righteousness and our holiness.

When God raised Jesus from the dead, He absolved the sins of the world, which the beloved Son had borne in His body on the Cross. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He thus declared the world “not guilty.” When God raised Jesus from the dead, He raised up you and all the baptized faithful from the dead, as well, not for an uncertain judgment that could go either way, but for the sure judgment of righteousness, unto salvation and eternal life. That is what He always intended for you, that you should have life in and with Him; not only from when you were conceived and born, but from the very beginning, yes, and even from before the foundation of the world. And that which He always intended for you, in love, He accomplished for you in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead. If Christ is raised from the dead — as He surely is — you also are raised from death to life; so that, even though you die, yet shall you live, never to die again.

It is in this light that you know the true point and purpose, the sacred significance and the relative importance of marriage and family. These things do not contradict but confess the Resurrection.

Marriage and family signify Christ and His Bride, the Church, and the children of God in Christ Jesus, who are begotten by His Word and Holy Spirit, by His Gospel of forgiveness, by the labor of His Cross and the delivery of His Resurrection from the dead. From the beginning it has ever and always been so. The creation of Man in the Image of God, male and female, and the creation of the Woman for the Man, was in view of the union of Christ and His Church. The blessing of children, that the Man and his Bride should be fruitful and multiply, was the original mission and evangelism, by which the Church has continued to grow even after the fall into sin.

Prior to the Incarnation, the begetting and bearing of children — to Adam & Eve, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to the sons of Israel, and to Judah in particular, and then to David and his sons — was a preserving of the promised Seed, who would crush the head of the serpent and rescue all the sons and daughters of the Man. Every daughter was potentially the Woman whose Seed would be the Christ, and every son was potentially the One, the righteous Servant of the Lord.

For that reason, especially, the Law of Moses guarded and protected the Seed of Israel. Thus, if a man died leaving behind a widow but no children, his brother was to marry her and raise up sons for the sake of his name and his inheritance. Several times this law pertained in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus, as in the case of Tamar and Judah, and again in the case of Ruth and Boaz.

Now that the Seed of the Woman has come and has conquered in the fight, of course we do not look for any other to be the Christ, the incarnate Son of God. Yet, the fact that He was conceived and born of the Woman redeems and sanctifies the bearing of children. And as He Himself is the heavenly Bridegroom of His holy Bride, it is still for this reason that a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, the two becoming one, joined together by God through His Word. What is more, as already indicated, it is by this bodily union — in the Image of Christ and His Church — that children are conceived and born, who are also catechized and baptized, born again of water and the Spirit as sons of God in Christ. That is a high and holy calling indeed.

To be a son of God in Christ, by virtue of your Holy Baptism, is to be a son of the resurrection in Him who is your crucified and risen Lord, never to die again. In the resurrection of your body at the last, you shall be like the angels in heaven; not that you will cease to be a human being, nor that you will be a disembodied spirit, but that you will not be married or given in marriage, you will neither beget nor bear children (whether you have done so in your life on earth or not). You will live in the presence of God — sharing the Glory of God in Christ Jesus, your Brother in the flesh — deriving your life entirely from Him, and living unto Him in peace and joy forever.

Although the Day of the Lord and the final resurrection of the body have not yet come, nor the appearance of His presence in your midst (for He is with you even now, hidden from your eyes), you live already as a son of the resurrection, as a son of God in Christ, by virtue of your Baptism into Him, by His grace through faith in His forgiveness of all your sins. For where there is such forgiveness, death and the devil no longer have any claim on you, but life and salvation are yours for Jesus’ sake. His Cross and Resurrection define your life on earth, whether you are married or unmarried, whether you are a parent or a child. If you are married, your chastity in marriage — your faithfulness and love toward your spouse — confesses the marriage of Christ & His Church. If you are unmarried, you are yet a member of His Bride, the Church, and He is your Groom.

As those who are married on earth are a type of the great Marriage of the Lamb in His Kingdom, those who are not married in this life on earth provide a prophetic sign that our present life is transient and passing away; it is a pilgrimage in which we have no permanent home. Either way, married or unmarried, your hope is in Christ Jesus, and you live by faith in His Gospel. So then, whether you bear the cross of caring for your spouse, or you carry the cross of living without a husband or wife on earth, do so patiently, and redeem the time that you are given by loving and serving your neighbor: Begin with your own family, however big or small it may be, and then also care for the Church as the household and family of God (which is, in truth, your family, too).

Likewise, if you are a parent, serve the Lord in faith by serving your children in love. And if you are a child, serve the Lord by honoring your father and mother, as He has commanded you to do.

But if you have no children of your own, then love and serve the children of your God and Father in heaven, for they are your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. And if you are an orphan, young or old, then care for the older members of the Church, and for your elder neighbors in the world.

Whatever you do on earth, do it in the hope of the resurrection of the body: the resurrection of your own body, and the resurrection of your neighbor’s body. Remember that your body is like that of Christ Jesus, and so is your neighbor’s body. What you do in and with your body, and what you do for your neighbor’s body, should be a confession of the Lord’s Resurrection. Do not despair in the face of death, but neither despise the body, even in its frailty and weakness.

All doubts and denials of the Resurrection are of the devil, the deceiver. But the Lord Jesus shuts the tempter up, and silences his accusations, and slays him by the Breath of His mouth, that is to say, by the bestowal of His life-giving Holy Spirit through the Word and preaching of the Gospel.

As He has chosen you in love from the beginning, from before the foundation of the world, so has He called you by that preaching of the Gospel, the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

Stand firm in that sure and certain Word, in which the Resurrection and the Life and the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ are yours. Live in His Gospel, and when the time comes, die in His peace. For you are alive with His Spirit, and though you are baptized with fire, you are not consumed.

Hold fast to the holy apostolic traditions, which are the testimony of the Scriptures to Christ Jesus; the preaching of His Gospel and the Word of Holy Absolution in His Name and stead; the administration of Holy Baptism, also in His Name; and the celebration of His Holy Supper in His remembrance, which is, first of all, the way in which He remembers you and moves to save you.

By these means of grace, which He has handed over to His Church on earth and has faithfully preserved among His people from generation to generation, so does He strengthen and preserve you, steadfast in His Word and faith, unto the resurrection of your body, to the life everlasting of your body, soul and spirit in His own crucified and risen Body. For His Resurrection surely is and remains your resurrection, your reconciliation and your righteousness, both now and forever.

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


Rev. James Leistico said...

thank you for posting these sermons. I didn't see it until after I'd written mine for today, but read it last night. While I didn't grab anything you wrote in particular for this one, the Word preached here did inspire improvements while I sat at the computer this morning and while I preached a little later. To Him be the glory forever.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thank you for your kind words, Brother Leistico. Christ be praised!