The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come by the water of His Baptism, by the blood of His Cross and Passion, and with the Spirit of His Gospel, in order to love you and abide with you. He has come to befriend you; that His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full in Him: no longer driven to and fro by covetous desire, but content and at peace in His friendship.
His joy is found in faith and love; for He abides forever in His Father’s Love for Him. He trusts His Father’s Word and promises, and so He has kept His Father’s commandments, from the waters of His Baptism to the bloodshed of His Cross. He went to death in the hope of the resurrection.
And the Father loves Him faithfully, as ever and always. He has raised Him up again, and poured out the Spirit upon Him, so that His risen and glorified Body is the fruit of the Cross that remains.
You, then, abide in His Love. Avail yourself of His Love for you in the Gospel. Rest yourself in His Love for you, by trusting His Word and promises to you: from your Baptism, even unto death. And, so also, keep His commandment: love one another, as He loves you.
For He has called you His friend. And what does this mean? It means that He has made you part of His own family, a member of His own household, a comrade in His inner circle. He has made you His own brother in the fullest sense of that word. Which means that He makes common cause with you; He bears your burdens, as though they were His very own; and He lays down His life for you, in order to spare you and save you. That is the height of friendship, as even the ancient pagans were able to understand in their own way. But now the Lord Himself has called you His friend. He values you and your life with His own life, and He thereby makes you equal to Himself.
He loves you with the Father’s love for Him. Think of what a remarkable thing that is! That the very Son of God should love you with the very Love that God the Father has for Him. So He does. Everything that He has heard and received from the Father, He speaks, makes known, and gives to you. He is not selfish or greedy. He does not horde or hide His stuff from you. He does not argue and fight to take anything from you, nor to keep anything for Himself. But whatever is His, He makes it all yours. From the fullness of His joy, He pours out Himself and His Life for you.
As He Himself has come in the flesh to save you by the water and the blood, and with the Holy Spirit, so does He now give Himself to you by the water, by the blood, and with the Holy Spirit.
He preaches peace by His Gospel of forgiveness. He calls you to repentance and to faith, that you might receive and rejoice in what He gives you freely by His grace. He pours out His Spirit upon you with the new tongues of His Cross and Resurrection: with the language of His Atonement.
He speaks of your redemption by His Word of the Cross, and it is so. He declares you righteous with His Word of the Resurrection. He sanctifies you by the Spirit with His Word of the Gospel.
He preaches the Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And to you who are baptized, He calls you back to the waters of your Baptism, that is, not to be re-baptized, but to contrition and repentance, to confession and absolution: to be washed by the One who loves you to the end.
He calls you, disciple of Jesus, to eat and drink with Him who has risen from the dead; not only with Him, but to eat His Body given and to drink His Blood outpoured; so that He would thus abide in you, and you abide in Him, in body and soul, now and forever.
He fills you up with His joy, and with Himself, and so do you overflow with His joy — the way His Chalice overflows with salvation for you. You overflow with His joy, and you pour yourself out in love for others; for your neighbors; for those whom you befriend with the Love of Jesus.
Thus do you keep His commandment: to love one another, as the Lord Jesus loves you.
His commandment is not burdensome. It is not a command of the Law, that you should make yourself righteous by keeping it. Nor is it the command of a master to his slave, that you should be shackled and chained and compelled to obey, under threat of punishment.
His commandment is that of a friend, the word of a comrade in arms. Like soldiers executing a maneuver, each serving his own role. Like teammates coordinating a play on the field or the court. Like musicians playing in tune, in harmony with one another. Like dancers moving together with beauty and grace, one of them leading with confidence, the other following his lead with poise. Like partners, planning and then putting into practice some great endeavor or grand adventure.
His commandment is that you should be with Him, and that you should be and do like Him. For He has befriended you, and He would have you be His friend. Not because He needs your help. He does not offer you a contract or a bargain. He befriends you solely for the sake of His Love.
He has already done and accomplished everything for you. But now, in His Love, not only does He give you this great work of His by grace; He draws you into it, so to live and work with Him. He gives you all the credit, and all the benefit and profit of His work, as though you had done it; and now He also works in you to do the same, that is, to bear good fruits after His own kind.
He has chosen you in love. He has called you His friend. And He has appointed you to go and do likewise for your neighbor: to befriend your neighbor within your own vocation, that you might show yourself to be a friend of Jesus.
This isn’t anything like a Facebook “friendship,” though even Facebook can become a part of it.
It is not self-promotion, but a true friendship of self-giving for another. It is not begging or expecting others to do for you, but simply doing for your neighbor. It is coming alongside him, in order to share and help carry his burdens. It is laying down your life in love for your neighbor, not because she has been “friendly” to you, but in order to befriend her. It is making friends by being a friend, not emotionally, but actively; not for the sake of some “return on your investment,” but from the fulness of joy in Christ, in the peaceful contentment of His Love.
Beloved, let His Love have its way with you, and so love one another, as He is loving you.
Abide in His Love by resting in His Gospel. That is a kind of active passivity, by which you avail yourself of His means of grace, of His free gifts. Listen to His preaching; receive His Sacrament.
Pray to the Father in His Name. Pray in the confession of His Name, that is, according to the Word and promise that He has spoken to you. Pray in the faith and confidence of your Baptism into Him.
Abide in His Love by living within your vocation, in the confidence of His calling; as Christ Jesus also went from His Baptism to His Cross, in the Way of Life that His Father laid out before Him.
Live in the confidence of your Father’s Word, who has called you His beloved and well-pleasing child. Know that the work He has given you to do is pleasing to Him, and productive; and that He is with you in that work, which He Himself has prepared for you and given you. There is meaning and purpose and a point to it all, and the fruits of your good work remain forever in Christ Jesus.
Live in the confidence of His forgiveness. For not only does He fill up what is lacking, and amend whatever is amiss, but He freely and fully removes all of your sin; He does not hold it against you, nor does He consider it. By His grace and Spirit, He cleanses you from it, because He loves you.
Live in the confidence that your Father loves you forever for Jesus’ sake. He does not cast you away, but He hears and answers your prayer. Always there is the loud and resounding “Amen!” of the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead. So does He save you, according to His mercy.
Live in the confidence, in the sure and certain hope, that He will raise you up: daily, and forever and always. The One who promises is faithful, and He will do it. Because you also are among the good fruits that Christ Jesus bears by His tree of the Cross, and so shall you remain in His own Resurrection, abiding in Him, as He abides in you.
That is the testimony, the pledge, and the gift of His water, blood, and Holy Spirit, which He pours out upon you here, and into you, body and soul, for the resurrection and the life everlasting in Him.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A sword in the hat is better than a foot in your mouth. All the better if it is that double-bladed sword that slices and dices between bone and marrow. But I have always liked to sort things out by thinking out loud with friends and colleagues. And since my opportunities to do so are limited, I figure I can multiply my thinking and sorting here.
Married 27 years, my wife and I have had ten children born to us (six boys, four girls); we have another son and daughter by marriage, a son who went ahead of us to heaven from the womb, four grandchildren and counting. I was ordained in 1996, and have been the pastor of Emmaus since then. I have a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies from the University of Notre Dame (2003), and an S.T.M. from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana