11 December 2010

Wait in Patience and Rejoice in the Lord

Well, what are you waiting for?

What have you come here to see?

What do you want? And what are you hoping for?

What do you expect?

You have heard of the works of Christ, but what has He done for you lately? Where do you find yourself? And what are your circumstances?

Beloved, wait upon the Lord. Not by laziness or lethargy, but wait upon the Lord by seeking out His Word and the preaching of it, and by gladly hearing it and learning it. Wait upon the Lord by confessing His Word, and by praying in accordance with His Word, in faith, hope and love.

Wait in patience, under the Cross of Christ, not grumbling, groaning or complaining, neither against the Lord your God, nor against His servants, nor against your neighbors. Do not harden your heart against faith and love by grumbling, but persevere in prayer and confession. Speak and sing what is true and right and good, even when you ain’t feelin’ it, because God has spoken to you by His Son, and the Lord sings to you so sweetly in His Gospel.

It is better to be comforted by the Gospel in your misery, in the midst of sin and death, than to be comfortable in this world that is perishing.

The world is so impatient, precisely because it is dying. It’s time is short. But you, dear brothers and sisters of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, wait in patience and rejoice in the Lord.

Watch for Him, and wait upon His coming, and do not worry. Though you find yourself under His Cross, strengthen your heart by His Word. For He is near, a very present help in trouble — though you be imprisoned by one means or another; though you be deaf, mute or blind; though you be leprous or lame; though you are mortal, and you mourn your family, friends and loved ones.

Wait patiently upon the Lord, and trust that He will open up His hand to satisfy your every need of body and soul, for this life and forever. Trust that He will do so, despite the fact that you are impoverished in one way or another, and you would prefer to be wealthy and rich, dressed in fine clothing and living in a royal palace.

You do live under the curse of sin and death, that’s true. But the Lord Jesus Christ has turned that very curse into the blessing of His Cross: for you and for all.

Therefore, this desert wilderness in which you find yourself is not a death trap, not really, but a journey of repentance from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to Canaan.

The Lord disciplines you here in the wilderness, because He loves you, dear child, and He puts you to death by the cross in order to catechize you in His way of life: in the faith, hope and love of Christ Jesus, in His Cross and Resurrection.

He teaches you to hunger and thirst for Him alone. He teaches you patience and faith. He teaches you to wait upon Him in hope.

This isn’t like a semester of lectures, nor even a lab. It isn’t like reading a book, studying your notes, writing a paper or preparing for final exams.

It does require listening, experience, and preparation. But you do not and you cannot prepare yourself; leastwise, not on your own.

No, the Lord sends His messenger before His face — coming to you in the wilderness, walking with you there, in the way of His Cross — to prepare His way before Him, and to prepare you for His coming. He does it by preaching a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

That preaching, that Baptism, that repentance and forgiveness, is your preparation for the Christ, by which the Lord prepares you for Himself. It is His good work, His good and gracious gift.

He does not simply preach it and teach it, nor does He merely offer it and give it to you, but He Himself receives it, undergoes it, and fulfills it for you, in human flesh and blood like your own.

So the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence at the hands of sinful men. The Prophets and Apostles do, because they preach the Christ, the Crucified One. St. John the Baptist does, because he is the Lord’s own forerunner, who points not only with his words but with his body and his life to the sacrificial Lamb of God. And Christ the Lord Himself suffers violence, every last bit of it: all that you suffer, all that you deserve, and all that you inflict upon your neighbors. So that by His suffering and death, by His Cross and Passion, you are brought through suffering, sickness, death and the grave, into the Kingdom of Heaven.

You see, the curse of sin and death has been laid upon childbearing and childbirth, and upon every child born of a woman. It is laid upon you, because you are a sinful son or daughter of the first Adam and his wife, and it has been laid upon the second Adam, Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, because He has come in love and voluntarily subjected Himself to the curse in order to redeem all the children of men, to save His people from their sins.

Now His Church, His own beloved Bride, in the waters of Holy Baptism, gives birth to the children of God in His Kingdom, through the bloody labor of His Cross and the delivery of His Resurrection from the dead. Whoever is born from that womb is greater even than John.

Therefore, do not take offense at the Lord’s Cross: not in its historical fact and victory, but neither in its preaching to you, nor in your own life as His disciple. The last of these is where it is most heavy and hard to bear.

But wait upon the Lord in patience under the Cross, not complaining but rejoicing in His Gospel. Rejoice at all times and in all places, in any and all circumstances, in the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection.

Rejoice in the Lord, for He does set prisoners free.

Rejoice, for He does cleanse lepers and heal the lame; He casts out demons and cures diseases.

Rejoice, for He does feed and clothe, shelter and protect the poor; He provides for all their needs.

And again I say, Rejoice. For He does raise the dead from the dust of the earth to live forever and ever. Amen.

All of this He has experienced, done and accomplished for you — in Himself — in His own patient waiting upon the Lord, His God and Father — by His Cross and in His Resurrection.

And He gives it all to you by grace: into your ears, into your hands, into your mouth, and into your body. He gives it to you by the preaching of His Gospel to you; by the preaching of His Cross and Resurrection; by His preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of all your sins.

So that He makes His Advent and draws near to you — in your own prison, and in your desert wilderness — by this preaching of His.

This preaching is the crescendo of His grace and glory as the Christ, the Crucified one. And it does and gives as good as it speaks! Even while yet hidden under the Cross, it does as it says.

His preaching opens your ears to hear, and your heart to believe, and your mind to comprehend.

His preaching opens your lips and your mouth to pray and confess.

His preaching opens your blind eyes to see Him by faith in His hidden Mysteries of the Cross. So that you recognize Him and His Victory in Holy Baptism, and you recognize His Body and His Blood in the bread and wine of His Holy Supper.

His preaching provides you with water in the wilderness, streams and pools of cool clear water in the desert. Water to cleanse you and your dirty feet. Water to quench your parched mouth and desperate thirst.

His preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of your sins prepares the way of the Lord before His face, and leads you in His paths of righteousness by faith, and keeps you on the narrow Highway of Holiness. Surely there are dangers on your right and on your left, and yet, because you are ransomed and redeemed by the Lord, reconciled to God and righteous in His sight, the roaring lion who is on the prowl, who is seeking to devour you, and the vicious beasts that would destroy you — they are all kept at by. The wild things cannot harm you, because the Lord is with you.

"How so?" you ask. For you still suffer harm, and hurt, and heartache, hunger and even death.

But have you not heard? Christ also, before you, has suffered all these things, and more, and everything that you suffer. He has spent His time in the wilderness, where the wild things are.

Surely He has also died your death.

And God raised Him from the dead for you!

Therefore, no hurt or harm, no heartache or hunger, no suffering, sickness or death, shall have you forever.

Rather, taste and see, even here and now — in the House and at the Table of the Lord; in His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven; even in the presence of your enemies — taste and see the great Feast to which the Highway of Holiness leads you by the Cross.

With His Body and His Blood, Crucified and Risen, the Lord Jesus answers all your questions and concerns. He answers all your prayers, too, with this resounding “Yes” and “Amen.”

Though you were born of a woman under the Law, under the curse of sin and death, you are now born again of the free woman, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, the daughter of God; so that, now and forever, you are His dear child and heir, a royal citizen of His Kingdom.

Though you have been shaken by a fierce wind, still, you are not bent or broken or blown away; your dimly burning wick is not snuffed out.

Though you have been naked and ashamed, and are rightly garbed in sackcloth and ashes, here, indeed, you are dressed in the fine clothing of your Baptism, which is the righteousness of Christ.

And though you still sojourn through a desert wilderness, here you live and abide in the true King’s Palace in perfect Peace and Sabbath rest at His festal board.

Here, then, beloved of the Lord Jesus, eat, drink, and rejoice. For He is with you, and all is well.

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

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