29 November 2013

The Word Is Near You

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God — by Whom all things were made.  In Him is Life, and the Light of the world, and the divine Love that upholds all things.

That Word has become flesh and dwells among us in grace and truth.  He has become like you, in order to be your Savior and to share His Life with you.  Having become true Man, He has borne your sins in His own body of flesh, and He has shed His blood to atone for all your sins.

This is what the Word of God has done for you.

He has created you for life and love.  He has fashioned your flesh, given you the blood in your veins, and breathes oxygen into your lungs, with the good and gracious will that you should live, not only here and now, but with Him forever.

For it is not only that He has become like you, but He has made you to be like Him.  He has created you in His Image, in order that you might become and be His brother; and that His God and Father should thus be your God and Father; so that His Holy Spirit should also abide in you and with you, and rest upon you, and remain with you, unto the life everlasting.

Therefore, the same Word of God who became flesh, true Man born of Mary, still comes to you and makes His dwelling with you.

He has not only given Himself for you and atoned for all your sins, but He comes to give Himself to you, to save you from your sin and death.

Being the Word of God, He comes to you by speaking, by the voice of preaching.  That is why St. John the Baptist was sent by God, a voice in the wilderness, to preach and point to Christ Jesus, the Word-made-Flesh, the Lamb of God.  In and with that voice of preaching, Jesus Himself drew near to His people and appeared among them.  And He has ever since continued to call and send preachers in His Name.

As St. John preached and pointed out Jesus to Andrew, and Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, so did Andrew and Peter preach to countless others.  And, following in their footsteps, first as disciples and then as ministers of the Word, the Lord has provided a holy tradition of pastors and preachers in every time and place, even to this time and place, even here and now.

The holy Apostles are the Lord’s first and foremost gift to His Church on earth — His one holy catholic and Apostolic Church — because, not only did they preach Christ and administer His Sacraments in their own day, but by their example and the inspired record of their words and works, of their doctrine and fellowship, Christ Jesus still draws near and dwells among us.  So does He speak to you and dwell with you today.

It is especially appropriate that the Feast of St. Andrew should mark the beginning of the Church Year, and the beginning of holy Advent — the sacred season of our Lord’s coming — since Andrew was among the first of our Lord’s disciples and Apostles.  Though we have no Scriptures from his hand, we have the apostolic witness of his life and ministry, of his discipleship and apostleship.  He heard and followed Christ Jesus, preached His Gospel, absolved sinners, baptized and communed disciples, and finally gave his body and life for this Ministry of Christ, our Lord.

Truly it is meet, right and salutary that we should remember St. Andrew with thanks and praise to the One who called and sent him.

The preaching of Christ Jesus is fundamental and necessary to faith and life and salvation, as much so as the Cross and Resurrection.  And the apostolic office of preaching is fundamental to that ministry of faith and life.  For how should any preacher preach the Word of Christ, if he is not called and sent by that one Lord, Jesus Christ, in His Name and stead, with His own voice and authority of the Gospel?

But, Christ be praised, that He does call and send preachers, and He puts His Word on their lips, into their mouths — His preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Like the Prophets before them, and like St. John the Baptist, St. Andrew and St. Peter and the other Apostles, and the pastors and preachers who have followed them in the Office of the Holy Ministry, have been appointed and ordained as watchmen for the Church on earth.  They warn against sin and unbelief, in order to turn you away from death.  And along with that, they preach Christ Himself, His Gospel and His Life into your ears, into your heart and mind, into your body and your whole life.  So it is that you live instead of dying.

The preaching of Christ Jesus is the preaching of forgiveness, because He truly is the Lamb of God who takes away your sins.  And that preaching of the Gospel of forgiveness is “the Word of faith,” because it is by that preaching of Christ that your ears are opened to hear Him, and your heart is opened to believe in Him, to fear, love and trust in Him.

Christ and His Spirit are actively present and at work in this preaching, and through this preaching, to create and nurture faith in your heart; in much the way that God created all things out of nothing by His Word, and called forth light out of the darkness by His Word.

That same Word of Christ that is preached to you, also opens your lips and your mouth to confess His Name and to call upon His Name.  And you shall not be put to shame; because He has mercy upon you, and He saves you by His grace — by this preaching of His Word of the Gospel.

Not only does this preaching of Christ Jesus forgive you and save you from sin and death, but it still points you to this Lamb of God, and it gives you life and salvation by setting you at His Table to feast upon His flesh and blood.  His sacrifice upon the Cross was once and for all, but just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, so is this great Feast of His Sacrifice, His Holy Communion, an ongoing and never ending meal of Salvation.

How much closer could He be to you, than He is here in this Feast of His Body and His Blood?

So, then, do you want to know where He is staying?

Come, and you will see.  Hear and heed His Word, His preaching, and follow Him here to His house, and stay with Him here, where He stays with you.

He is here with you and for you — He is near you, in your ears, and in your mouth, and in your heart — because He sends His preacher to you here, and He causes His Word to be preached to you here, and He draws near to dwell with you in this preaching.  This Word forgives you and feeds you, and it shall not fail you.  For this Word of Christ is the Love of God, His Life and Light and Salvation — for you and for the many.  He is the Christ, the Messiah, and He has found you here.

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

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