27 November 2010

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, through Jesus Christ, His beloved Son.

He has come to find you and has met you in a foreign land, on the outskirts, separated from Him and from others.

Sinful and unclean, you have been subject to death and to every sickness and sorrow of heart and mind, body and soul. You could not cleanse or heal yourself, nor can you feed and clothe and shelter yourself. You cannot raise yourself from death to life — but you must wait upon the Lord, and listen for His voice, and meet Him where He comes to you.

Wait and watch, therefore, and take to heart that He has come near to you, here and now, with tender compassion for you, with grace, mercy and peace, and with all that you need.

He has come to provide you with all good things, and, above all, to raise you up and bring you in and with Himself into the good land He has promised, a place of perfect peace and rest; the home where righteousness abides; to the heavenly and holy city, New Jerusalem, and into the Temple made without hands, eternal in the heavens; into the very holy of holies, the inner sanctum of the Holy Triune God.

He brings you to that good land through the wilderness of sin and death, and you survive that journey, in spite of your frailty and weakness, and though it is very hard, because He daily and richly provides you with clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home (or tent and shelter), family and friends, and whatever else is necessary — not only for this body and life, but for body and soul, for the life everlasting.

This present wilderness is not pointless, but a pilgrimage of repentance, of faith and forgiveness, whereby you learn to recognize both your own mortality and the Lord’s mercy. You learn to confess your sin, your sickness and sorrow, but also His salvation. You learn to call upon His Name in every trouble, by prayer and supplication with praise and thanksgiving — to ask Him and to thank Him, because He is good, for His mercy endures forever.

He brings you through this wilderness, through the valley of the shadow of death, and He catechizes you in this way of repentance, faith and life, prayer and thanksgiving, by the way of His Cross — in His own Body of blood and flesh like yours — as your faithful and merciful great High Priest.

He has come down from heaven to find you in the wilderness, and to lead you through all harm and danger, even through death and the grave, through the baptismal waters of the Jordan, into the good land flowing with milk and honey.

He is the Word that proceeds from the mouth of God the Father, that you may live, who has become flesh, and has given Himself for you, and gives Himself to you as the true Manna — the Bread of Life, which neither you nor your fathers could have known or baked up, but God the Father has opened His hand to give you.

But He is more.

He is more than you could ever have asked or imagined. He is more than a new and better Moses, and more than a new and better Joshua. He is more than your Prophet, Priest and King, and more than the Food and Drink which now sustain you on the way.

For He is also the Sacrifice of Atonement for all your sins. His Blood has made peace for you and reconciled you to His God and Father. Not only that, but His Blood and the water from His side are for your cleansing and refreshment, to heal all your diseases and quench your deepest thirst.

He, also, in His Body of flesh and blood, is the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving with which you are brought into the presence of God, a fragrant offering, acceptable and pleasing.

Not only does God give Himself to you in Christ Jesus, but He also brings you to Himself, in thanksgiving, through the same Lord Jesus Christ. And His own Body is the Temple of God, wherein you approach and draw near, and wherein you live and abide in His presence, both now and forever.

In short, to say it simply, everything is summed up and centered in the incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord. He is God, with you and for you in the flesh, and He is the sweet-smelling sacrifice and the incense of your faith and prayer, by which you rise and live unto God. You pray to the Father in His Name, and through Him you offer thanks and praise — else even your thanksgiving would fall short!

You have no access to God apart from Christ Jesus — you would remain cut off and far removed — but now all the fullness of God dwells with you bodily in the flesh and blood of this incarnate Son.

All of creation is redeemed and sanctified, cleansed and healed and made brand new in Him, in His Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection — in His Body and by His Blood, the very Feast that is given and poured out for you, here and now, to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all your sins, for life and salvation.

Now, then, with your body, as well as with your heart and mind, soul and spirit, give glory to God, worship Him and give Him thanks and praise, by receiving this heavenly Manna and spiritual drink at His Word. Open your hand to receive what God here opens His hand to give. Open your mouth and be fed, and when you have eaten and are satisfied, open your mouth to bless the Lord and praise His Name by confessing the good Word He has spoken to you.

As everything is a gift of God’s grace to you in Christ, there is nothing for you to give Him but to return thanks; and your thanksgiving is joined to the flesh and blood of Christ, also by His grace, through faith in His Gospel–Word and Sacrament.

Your life, too, is offered as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving to God, that you might praise Him with your body and your whole being, by loving your neighbor as the Lord your God loves you in Christ. Therefore, that which you hear and receive from Him, practice in speaking and giving to your neighbor in His Name. Feed and clothe, shelter and protect, for the Lord your God daily and richly does these things for you.

Live by faith in His Word, and walk according to His commandments, because He is bringing you into the good land that He has promised to you. To live in such a way, according to His Word — in faith toward Him and in fervent love toward one another — in Christ Jesus — is to live, already, the heavenly life on earth.

It is to live the life of God Himself, as He has lived for you, in the flesh, on earth as it is in heaven.

And in that same Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, in His Body of flesh and blood — in His Cross and Resurrection and Ascension — you have already passed out of the wilderness through death and the grave into the life everlasting.

That is how safe you are, and your body and your life — secure with Christ in God — and that is how sure and certain your salvation is.

See, here, He opens up His hand to feed you with Himself and to satisfy you, in both body and soul, with all that you need. He forgives you with His Blood, feeds you with His Body, and renews your life by His good Spirit.

All glory, honor, worship, praise and thanks to Him who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus His Son!