25 November 2012
Be on the alert! So says your Lord, four times over, this morning.
Pay attention to what you see happening in the world all around you, in both church and state, among your neighbors, in your family, and in yourself. But above all else, give ear to what you hear from God, the Lord. Interpret what you see (and what you don’t) by what He says.
Everywhere you look (and no less, where you refuse to look), there is sin and death, decay and destruction. The whole world is wearing out and wasting away. None of it will last. The days are growing short. A harsh wind is blowing in a big storm. The winter is coming.
It’s far more than just the weather, isn’t it? There’s all sorts of uncertainty in these troubled and difficult times. Political unrest and economic turbulence abound. If it’s not a fiscal cliff, then some other precipice lies ahead of you. So, watch your step!
Depending on your politics, you may be happy or sad about the recent elections, with various hopes or fears for the future. But the Psalmist is right: Trust not in princes; nor presidents, either. It’s not about a prejudice against politicians. When it comes to what really matters most, do not trust in yourself, either; nor your neighbor; nor anything of this fallen world. For all of creation is subject to the curse of sin. It dies and decays.
You, also, are like the grass, which withers and fades; like autumn leaves, which look so glorious for a little while, but then they fall; they are gathered and burned, or they decompose into the soil.
Number your days, you son or daughter of man, and know how short your life here is. Consider your end, which comes before you know it, sooner than you think. Your mortal life is nothing. There is no strength of man that survives.
Since everything looks (and is) so bleak, what hope is there? What in the world shall you do?
Beloved, your hope is in the Lord. Therefore, be alert to Him. Give ear, again, to what He says. Pay attention to what He is doing by His Word of the Cross, though it, too, appears to be futile.
Your dear Lord Jesus deals with sin, which is the real problem and the underlying cause of death and every evil. He forgives all sins which you have done, but He also deals with your sin at its core: not so much as bad behavior to be punished, but as a turning away from God, the Creator. You do not trust the Author and Giver of Life, the One from whom your life and all things come, on whom all things depend. Your unbelief is the unrighteousness which leads only to death.
But, now, the Lord sends forth a Law, even to the ends of the earth. He establishes His justice in the midst of sin and death. Henceforth, His righteousness is near; for His salvation has gone forth. Though the heavens and the earth and all of creation will perish — the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment — still, His salvation and His righteousness are forever.
Give attention to that fact: His righteousness and His salvation are forever, and they are for you.
His own arm will judge His people; and, it is true, His holy and righteous Law would condemn you and sentence you to death and damnation, because you are neither holy nor righteous in yourself. Yet, He calls you to Himself; He calls you by name, to be His own, to wait upon His arm in hope.
For with His mighty, outstretched arms, in the tender palms of His own hands, He has suffered the tribulation and the final judgment in Himself. It is in this way that He has accomplished justice and established righteousness in the earth. He has taken all the hurt and all the heartache of the fall into sin upon Himself. Though He is the Creator of all things, and He is Life in Himself, He has taken the entire curse of sin and death, the destruction and decay of the world, upon Himself.
In His Passion unto death, even death upon the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ has atoned for the sins of the world. And in His Resurrection from the dead, He has rectified what was broken in all of creation; He has reconciled the sons and daughters of man unto His God and Father in heaven.
You know the Story, which the Holy Scriptures tell, the Creed confesses, the Liturgy unfolds for you and for all, and the Church Year rehearses, even to the end of the age:
The beloved and only-begotten Son of God has left His home with the Father in heaven, and He has come forth on a journey to redeem you and save you. As true Man, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Word and Spirit of God — and, therefore, as your own Brother in the flesh, with a body and blood and a nature just like yours — He has waited in faith upon His Father. He has lived as true Man (as man was created and meant to live), not knowing the day nor the hour in advance, but simply hearing and heeding and relying on His Father’s faithful Word.
He has taken heed. He has stayed awake. And He has been alert. Therefore, when that day and that hour came, He was ready: Watching and waiting in faith, He went to His Cross in holy love.
Learn the lesson of His Tree. Consider its tenderness, its leaves and fruit, which are for the healing of the nations — and no less so for your healing, unto strength and perseverance and eternal life.
He has sent forth His messengers with its rich and lush fruits, to gather His elect from the four winds, His disciples from all nations. Thus, by the fruits of His Cross, that is, by the preaching of His Word and the administration of His Sacraments, He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies His whole Christian Church on earth. With these healthy fruits, by this Ministry of His Gospel, He Himself is near you — He is right at the door — daily and richly to forgive you all of your sins.
It is for this purpose that He has appointed His servants to care for His household, that is, to feed and clothe, to nurture and teach His family. His pastors and teachers are watchmen on the heights, doorkeepers, and stewards of the Mysteries of God. They are called and ordained to keep watch, both day and night; to guard your coming in and your going out by His Word, by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; and to guide all your days and your deeds in His Peace.
But what He says to them, He also says to you: “Be on the alert!” For to you, also, He has given your own proper tasks, your own particular duties, within His household and family. Do not think that, if you are not a pastor, you do not have to pay attention or take care. But be faithful in your own office and station in life, and care for your neighbors according to your calling. That is where you are to watch and to wait for the coming of the Lord, faithfully doing what He has given you to do, in the hope of His mercy; which is to say, in the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection.
Take heed to the Word of the Lord, to His Law and His Gospel. Thereby set your heart on the pilgrim’s way, to live by faith as a sojourner through the wilderness, as a wayfarer on earth. Not with your eyes downcast and your chin dragging in the dirt, but lift up your head, your heart and mind, your eyes and ears, unto Christ your Savior; for He is ready, willing, and able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in His glorious presence — blameless in body and soul.
Keep yourself in the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, your Savior, and so live by His grace.
Beloved, He has taught you how to live in His love; and day after day, week after week, year after year, He continues to catechize you in the way you are to go, which is the way of life in Him: To say it short and simple, rest yourself in the Word and promise of Christ, that is, upon His Gospel. Rely not on yourself, but on Jesus. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will not fail you.
In the midst of the great tribulation — which is to say, in your pilgrimage under the Cross — build yourself up on your most holy faith by giving attention to His Word: Do not despise it, but hold it sacred, gladly hearing the Word of Christ as it is preached, and learning from His Word when it is taught. Avail yourself of the Gospel, not only in the preaching, but also by making regular use of the means of grace. Receive the Sacrament according to the Word of Christ. Confess your sins, and receive the Absolution (that is, forgiveness) from your pastor as from Christ Himself; in no wise doubting, but firmly believing, that by this Word your sins are forgiven before God in heaven.
So, too, keep yourself in the Love of God and live by faith in Christ, by praying in the Holy Spirit: at all times, and in all places, without ceasing. Not by your own reason and strength, but by the Word of Christ, as He has spoken to you. For you have the Spirit of Christ only by His Word. And in turn, you pray and confess His Word only by His Spirit. Such prayer is the voice of faith.
Therefore, pray throughout your days, when you get up in the morning, and when you go to bed at night, and as you take up and lay aside your duties of the day. And let your whole life be a kind of prayer, by constantly repenting of your sins before God, and by relying on His grace and mercy.
Pray, also, within the fellowship of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. For it is in Him and with Him and through Him that you pray, and He has taught you to pray with and for each other. Thus, you serve and support your fellow Christians with your prayer, and they do the same for you. And together you receive the answer to all of your prayers in the Word and Flesh of Christ Jesus.
So, then, by the Word of God and prayer, wait eagerly upon the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life. Set your hope firmly and fully upon Him, and fix your eyes on Him, by clinging to the promise of the Gospel. Trust that, by His sacrifice and bloodshed on the Cross, and in His bodily Resurrection, He has established His righteousness and His salvation, for you, forever.
Do not be consumed by the temporal things of this life on earth, but temper your consuming with the humility of repentance. After all, you don’t know what the next four years may hold; nor even what tomorrow may bring; nor if there will even be a tomorrow for this earth, or for you upon it. But, rather, comfort and strengthen yourself with the eternal things of Christ, who has risen from the dead and lives and reigns forever, and whose Word shall never pass away.
And as you wait upon His mercy, so have mercy on your neighbor: Comfort and encourage the doubting in their weakness and fear, by loving them graciously and well. Save others by snatching them out of the fire, by warning them straightforwardly. Don’t wink or nod at sin, but call it what it is, and call your neighbor to repentance in a spirit of gentleness. To hate the garment polluted by the flesh is not to flee from your brother or sister, but to flee from sin in the fear of the Lord.
Have mercy on your neighbor, who is a sinner like yourself; as you also depend on the mercy of God in Christ, and as He Himself is merciful. Be gentle and compassionate, as the Lord your God is gentle and compassionate with you. Forgive, as you yourself are freely and fully forgiven.
Have no fear of death, and do not despair of hope; for the Lord Himself now helps you in your weaknesses and doubts, and He now saves you from the fires of your passions, and from the fires of eternal punishment in hell. As your merciful and great High Priest, He persists in constant prayer and intercession for you. And here in His Church, He faithfully speaks His Word to you. He sends His holy angels to guard you and keep you in body and soul, and His ministers to gather you to Himself by the peaching and teaching of His Gospel, by forgiving you all of your sins in His Name and stead, and by giving you the Food and the Drink that you need at the proper time.
In calling you daily to repentance, He calls you daily to faith in His forgiveness of all your sins, and to find your Sabbath rest and perfect peace in His righteousness and holiness, His innocence and blessedness. Indeed, the forgiveness that is yours in His Blood delivers you from every evil, unto that day and that hour when He shall call you from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven; as even now His fruitful Cross shines the summer sunshine of His faith and love upon you in Peace.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
11 November 2012
When you consider the holy martyrs of Christ, or the veterans of our country who have died in battle, it does not matter at all how rich or poor they were; because they have given, not a gift or token, but themselves, their very lives. There is no more that anyone can give, than to lay down his life, and then it makes no difference whether he has got a million bucks or barely a few cents.
But even to make the ultimate sacrifice of one’s own life is not necessarily noble, just, or right. It really depends upon the motive, the cause and the purpose for which one dies. Some causes are sinful, no matter how sincerely committed the one who serves them may be. And it often happens that a good and worthy cause may be served by a sinful heart, for selfish and self-serving reasons.
Some give all in the worship of false gods. Others do so in despair of any god, which is another kind of idolatry. Some would go so far as to give their lives, in the hopes of saving themselves, so to speak, by personal fame and glory — because they love the praises of men more than God — as though the memories of the mortals who come after them would give them life after death.
Well, then, what about these two widows whom the Lord has set before you from His Scriptures? Neither of them loses her life, but each of them gives up all of her remaining possessions. What is the heart of the matter in these two cases? What motive, cause and purpose are found in the widow of Zarephath, and in the poor widow who puts her last two coins into the Temple treasury?
The widow of Zarephath obeys the Word of the Lord, as it is spoken to her by the Prophet Elijah. Her cupboard is almost bare, but she prepares the last of what she has to serve the man of God. She evidently trusts the promise that her bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall her jar of oil be emptied, despite the drought and famine that persist. Her faith is not misplaced; for the Lord provides for her needs, exactly as He promised. Yet, the widow’s heart is divided between both faith and fear, as we discover in the story that follows. For when her son becomes sick and dies, she rails at the Prophet, that he has come to bring her iniquity to light, and to put her son to death. Only after he has raised the boy to life again, does she confess that God’s Word is in his mouth.
As for the widow who puts her two small copper coins into the Temple treasury, we are not told of her motivation, but only the extent of her gift. It is extraordinary, that she should give up all that she has. But is it out of faith, or out of fear, or out of fiercely competing attitudes inside of her?
The Law of the Lord forbids the affliction of widows and orphans. But the scribes, or many of them, anyway, “devour widows’ houses.” How so? With their culture of appearances, whereby they establish a climate of comparing and competing for the praise and honor of the people.
So, is this poor widow prompted by faith and trust in the providence of God, to give her last two cents? Or is she driven by fear and desperation to keep up and compete with the religious elite?
And what about you? What do you give and do to support the church and ministry, and to care for your neighbor? And what do you hold back for yourself, for your own family and your friends?
Whether you give big donations out of your surplus, or sacrifice what little you have to live on, what is your motivation, your purpose, and your cause? Is it to be seen by other people, to position yourself among the pious or the prudent? Or do you presume to impress the Lord God Himself?
That same Lord God already knows the answers to all of these questions. He observes your giving, and not only what you give, but how. That is to say, He sees and knows your heart. But do you?
Examine yourself before the Lord your God, according to His Word, and do not pretend that you don’t care what anyone else thinks of you and your actions. Whether you are bold and outgoing, or timid and withdrawn; whether you are self-assured and sophisticated, or shy and self-conscious; whether you love and seek the spotlight, or you prefer to be a wallflower and hide in the shadows, you also are concerned with appearances, and with your reputation in the opinion of others.
To have no care and concern for your neighbors would be inhuman, and to have no regard for your good name and reputation would surely be lawless and wild. What a frightening psycho maniac you would be, if you really didn’t care about anyone else or their opinions of you! But neither is your care for others purely that of love. Instead, your prideful ego competes for the affections and the accolades of the whole wide world around you. You long to be admired and applauded, if not for your loud extravagance and flair, then for your simplicity and quiet modesty. Either way, you do hope to be awarded some kind of prize and recognition for your efforts and accomplishments.
Here’s the rub: All men die, including you, and then comes the judgment. There are no second chances. And where you stand in the public eye, in the popular opinion of the world, won’t make any difference. Whether you die a hero or a bum will be irrelevant when you stand before God.
Already you live before Him. Whatever you do in this body and life, is done in His presence. Whatever you give, is given unto Him. And whatever you withhold, is withheld from Him.
How, then, shall you live (and die) before the Lord your God? That should be your chief concern, at all times and in all places. Not simply out of self-concern and self-preservation, though your life really does depend upon Him, on where you stand in His judgment. But you should chiefly be concerned with where you stand before Him, because He is the Lord, the true and only God.
Now, precisely because He is God, and you are not, the question is not: How shall you go to Him? Nor: What shall you give to Him or do for Him? You cannot save yourself, nor are you able to set yourself right before the Lord your God. You cannot find Him on your own. You cannot reach Him by your own power. You cannot give Him anything that is not already His in the first place!
The question, rather, is this: How shall you wait upon the Lord? And again: How shall you receive Him, who comes to you in peace and freely gives Himself and all His gifts to you by grace?
For this, indeed, is what God does for you and gives to you in Christ Jesus. It is His true character, His great strength, His glory and His grace to do so. He is under no compulsion, nor under any delusion, but He acts freely in divine and holy love, in order to give you Life with Himself.
It is not cheap or easy for Him. Though He was rich, yet, for your sake, He made Himself poor, so that you, by His poverty, are now made rich with all the treasures of His Kingdom. This is the charity of God Himself, who became man and suffered death, that you might rise and live with Him in His Resurrection from the dead, and thereby share His divine Life, forever and ever. He is the Veteran of that one decisive battle, between life and death, and it is by the Victory of His Sacrifice that you are rescued from sin, death and hell, and brought into the presence of God for everlasting life and perfect health in body and soul, for true and lasting Peace and Sabbath rest.
Consequently, before God, there is nothing for you to give but thanks. For all things come from Him by grace, and He needs nothing at all from anyone. But the sacrifice of thanksgiving is truly meet, right and salutary, by which you honor and confess His holy Name and His glorious grace.
The sacrifice of thanksgiving is offered to God in repentant faith. That is to fear, love, and trust in Him, which is the right attitude and posture of your heart and mind, body and soul, before Him.
At the same time, you also give thanks to God by loving your neighbor in His Name and for His sake: with your words, and with your actions, and with your alms (that is, your gifts of charity). Not as though placing yourself above your neighbor, but as living before God along with your neighbor, in humility and peace. Which is to live for your neighbor, as Christ has lived for you.
You bear the Cross for your neighbor, by using your strength to serve him, and by forgiving him his trespasses against you. You are ready, willing, and able to die for your neighbor, because God, who has given Himself for you, and has died for you, is your life and salvation forever and ever.
Truly, you have much to give and share, because of what the Lord your God has done for you and given to you. Your sacrifice of love for your neighbor is made possible, and it means something, it makes a difference, because of the sacrifice of Christ for you, and because you are raised up with Him in His Resurrection from the dead. So it is that, whenever Christians lay down their lives in love for others, whether as martyrs or as soldiers, or in whatever capacity they are called to serve, it is in Christ Jesus that they do so — not unto death, but unto the Life everlasting in Him.
So, how do you know what you should do and give? Given your finitude and frailty, your limited capacities and resources, how shall you set your priorities and make good choices and decisions?
You have but one life to live, one life to give — whether for your country, or for what, for whom?
Shall you put your last two cents in the offering plate? Or cash in your savings and give it as alms for the poor and needy, in order to follow Christ? But how shall you serve some neighbors at the expense of all the others? Is it really down to “random acts of kindness,” or what is your plan?
Christian, you are to act according to the Word of the Lord, your God. That is the answer to these questions. Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments, and then you will know what God would have you do and give, and where and how He would have you serve and sacrifice. Realize that He speaks to you through your pastors and teachers, your parents and other authorities, whom He has placed over you in love. Therefore, honor your father and mother. And sanctify unto yourself the preaching of God’s Word, by gladly hearing it and learning from it.
The key remains that, even in love for your neighbor, you live your life at all times before God. So, then, serve and support the Prophet of the Lord, that he may continue to preach and teach the Word of God to you and to your neighbor; and then also serve and care for your own family with whatever the Lord daily and richly provides for you, whether bread and water or meat and mead. Contribute to the Church and Ministry, and do your part, that this, your congregation, may be a place of peace and hope in the preaching of the Gospel and in the Sacraments of Christ Jesus.
Do not be afraid to do what the Lord has commanded you to do, and do not worry and fret about where you stand, whether you are giving too much or too little. Have no fear of sin or death! For though you fall far short, and you are frequently more fearful than faithful; and though you have not laid down your life, but are too often absent without leave from where the Lord has stationed you; and even though all men hate you, criticize and despise you, not only for your many faults, but also for your limited faithfulness — even so, the dear Lord Jesus has given Himself for you.
Hear, now, how He greets you in grace and mercy and forgiveness with His Gospel. See how He clothes you with Himself, in the long white robes of His Righteousness. He covers your nakedness and shame with His purity and peace, and He adorns you in real beauty as His holy and beloved Bride. For you are no longer a poor widow, but Christ is your Bridegroom. And you are not an orphan, an alien or outcast, but God is your own dear Father in Christ Jesus, and you belong to His household and family forever — wherein the flour is not spent, and the jar of oil does not run dry.
He sets you in the place of honor in His Synagogue, that is to say, in the great congregation of His holy Church, so that you may hear His Word and live by the preaching of His free forgiveness. And He seats you in the place of honor at His Table, too, while He, who is the first and the best, girds Himself to serve you. He removes His royal robes for this work of His, in order to cleanse you, to wash your dirty feet with Holy Absolution. And then He also waits on you, and feeds you, not with simple bread and water only, nor even with perishing delicacies of cake and champagne, but with the choicest Meat and finest Wine of His own holy Body and precious Blood. Here, then, with all the riches of heaven, with His own Body and Life, He makes you wealthy by His grace.
And as He comes and gives Himself to you, here and now, He also appears, now and forever, in the presence of God for you. He lives before God as your great High Priest; so that is where you and your life are now, and where you shall abide forever. Even now, in the midst of the great tribulation, your life is already hidden with Christ in God. And when He appears at the last, in Glory, He will bring you without sin, body and soul, into the Resurrection and the Life Everlasting.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
04 November 2012
To set aside for God a part or portion of your time is idolatrous. To dedicate or offer to the Lord a portion or percentage of your possessions is sacrilegious. For how shall you call Him the Lord your God, to whom you would give only a part or portion of yourself? How shall you presume to worship Him, whom you would place beneath your feet as but one priority among many others?
No, it will not do to subdivide yourself, your time and energy, your stuff, your heart, mind, soul, and strength. But with all that you are and have, you shall fully love and serve the Lord your God, and nothing else besides Him. For there is one Lord, one God, not many. There is but one Author and Giver of Life. Wherever else you would look for life, you will have nothing but death. Not that God is merely a means to some other end, but He alone is your Life and Light and Salvation.
To whatever or whomever else you would direct or dedicate your thoughts, words, and actions, if not the Holy Triune God, that is your idol and your false religion. Or to suppose at any point that you have “done your time” and “paid your dues,” is already to have failed and fallen short of the glory of God. For He would have all of you; that you would have your whole life entirely in Him. Do not look at your neighbor, either, to measure and compare how much he has done, or how much he has given. For your own life is lived before God, and you will not ever do or give “too much.”
Your offerings and your alms are inadequate and insufficient, no matter what the amount, and no matter what percentage of your income and your wealth, so long as you withhold yourself from God and from your neighbor. For you are to love the Lord your God with everything that you are, with your entire being; and you are to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Which is not to say that you should love your neighbor in addition to God, nor alongside of God; for that would be to make another god out of your neighbor. Rather, you are to love your neighbor under and within your love for God, that is, according to His Word, and after His own great heart of love.
It is for God’s sake that you love your neighbor: in humility, in faith, in mercy, and in peace. And that is how you are to live your whole life in the good land to which the Lord your God has called you, which He has promised to you in His Word, and which He gives to you in Christ Jesus.
Many of you know, and can still remember, what it is like to be “in love,” to be “head over heels” for someone. Your every waking thought is turned toward that person, as well as your dreams at night. Every decision, every action, every utterance is considered and weighed and carried out with reference to your heart’s desire. The way you dress and groom yourself, the smile on your face and the spring in your step, all derive from and return to the object of your affection. So much the greater and all the more consuming is your love for the Lord your God to be, at all times and in all places: A single-minded devotion, an undivided heart, and a living sacrifice of body, soul, and spirit, all belong to Him by right. Because He is the true and only God. There is none other.
I want you to consider those who have gone before us in this life on earth: What do they have now? Is it life or death? Is it God or the devil? There is no middle ground, no in between, no other options or alternatives. There is only the life everlasting, or eternal damnation. There is only the Kingdom of God, or the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his wicked fallen angels.
Some of you have known some of those whom we name before the Lord’s Altar this morning, who have departed in the faith and confession of Christ. And all of you have lost loved ones in the past, whether recently or long ago; whether from the womb or after many years of life together. Parents and children, spouses and siblings, neighbors and friends. Think about those people, those men and women, boys and girls, all of whom were mortal and sinful like yourself. What was important to them here? What did they treasure? How did they spend their time? Where did they invest themselves? With what did they depart this vale of tears, and with what did they enter eternity?
What did they take with them? And what do they have now?
All that remains forever is Christ Jesus and His Word, His Spirit and His Father. Apart from Him, there is only darkness, and death, and damnation. Where, then, shall your heart and life be given and belong? How shall you live, here and now, that you may rise and live with the Lord forever?
According to His Covenant with Israel at Sinai — according to His Ten Commandments, which are His statutes and His judgments, His good and acceptable will, and irrefutably His holy Word — He says, the Way of Life is the way of faith and love: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and, in love for Him, to love your neighbor as yourself. That is how you shall live in the good land that He promises and gives to you. That is how you shall thrive.
But where you do not love the Lord God and your neighbor, there is alienation, enmity, separation, loneliness, and fear. Not peace and rest, but anxiety and hard labor. Not life, but death, now and forever. That is the land laid waste by your lack of love for God and man. That is the kingdom and the city of your own idolatrous self-love. It is sprawling, unruly, divided, and running amok.
Yet, over His good land, the Lord your God has raised up and established a good King, who is the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed; His Servant David, with whom He has made an everlasting Covenant: Not like His Covenant with Israel at Sinai, which His people broke, although He was faithful to them. But a New Covenant in the very flesh and blood of great King David’s greater Son.
As the ruler goes, so goes the nation, right? You know it’s true. You see it, time and again, in the kings of Israel and Judah. There is a bond between the prince and the people. And when you go to vote for your presidential candidate this coming Tuesday, you won’t be voting only for one man, but for what he stands for (or against): for his ideals and his values, and for what you hope that he will do. You’ll be hoping, and I hope you’ll be praying, for a leader who will truly be a father of the country, who will be instrumental in helping the entire nation to be healthy, strong, and great.
As the ruler goes, so goes the nation. But the King whom God has raised up for His people and His land, that is, the Lord’s Anointed, with whom He has made His Covenant forever, He is more than any ordinary Monarch. He is not only a ruler or leader, but a merciful and great High Priest in all things pertaining to God. He is, indeed, the Royal High Priest, who has redeemed you with His Life-Blood, by His Cross, and has reconciled you to God in His Resurrection from the dead, in order that you may live with Him in His Kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness; that you may have Peace and Sabbath Rest in a good land, freely flowing with milk and honey; that the Lord may be your God, and you His own dear child and beloved heir; and that you may abide forever and ever in His presence, blameless and holy before Him in body and soul.
Who is this King of Glory, and how is He able to do and accomplish such great things for you and for His people? He is the Son of David, who is also David’s Lord, because He is the Word made Flesh, the incarnate Son of God. For the Lord your God is one Lord, one God, but He is the Holy Trinity: Three Persons in one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And the Son has become true Man, the Seed of David, by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thus, from one Psalm, this same Lord Jesus Christ lays before you the great Mystery of the Holy Triune God and of the Incarnation.
He is not showing off, but He is teaching you the Gospel. For in His Incarnation, the Lord your God has fulfilled the first and greatest commandment, and likewise the second, for you and for all people. The Son loves the Father, also now in His own human flesh and blood, with all His heart, with all His soul, with all His mind, and with all His strength. And in such love for His Father, He has made Himself your neighbor, in order to love you with His own body and life.
Thus, the one true God, beside whom there is none other, has come beside you, and He has placed you beside Him, so that you might share His Life and abide with Him in His divine and holy Love.
He has held nothing back. He has emptied Himself, poured Himself out, and given Himself to God, even unto death upon the Cross. That is His Priesthood and His Sacrifice, which He offers to God on your behalf. His Life is in His Blood, and He gives His Life entirely, in love for God, and in love for you. For by the shedding of His Blood, He atones for all your sins; and not for your sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. He redeems you for Himself, forever and ever. And He establishes the New Covenant between God and Man in His own flesh, with His own Blood.
His own Body is the new and greater Tabernacle, in which God abides with you, and you abide with God. For this Son of David, the King of Peace, replaces the old Tabernacle with the Temple of His crucified and risen Body. And by His holy and precious Blood, you enter with Him into the Holy of Holies, which is to say, into the very presence of God. You are brought to the Father in Him, in order to receive the eternal inheritance that belongs to the Son of God. That is what He freely gives to you, by grace, in the Holy Communion, which is the New Covenant in His Blood.
Here there are no contingencies; nor is there anything lacking or amiss. There is nothing “iffy” or uncertain about the Life that is here given by the one true God, who gives Himself to you. For He has offered Himself, as the perfect Sacrifice, once for all. And this same Lord Jesus has risen from the dead, and has ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He lives and reigns forever.
Therefore, with His Gospel, which is the sprinkling of His Blood, He cleanses your conscience of all sin and shame and every stain. As He was crucified for your transgressions, and raised for your justification, so now He daily and richly forgives you, reconciles you to His God and Father, and sanctifies and purifies your body and soul with His Holy Spirit. All of this by His Blood, with which He gives to you His Life. He thereby raises you from death to life in Himself.
The Law commands you and requires you to love the Lord your God, but here the Lord your God loves you. The Law tells you to cleanse your heart and draw near to God, but here, by His Gospel, the one true God draws near to you in Christ, in order to cleanse you by His grace and forgiveness. He comes to free you from the devil’s kingdom, from the slavery and prison house of sin and death, and to bring you into the Kingdom of God. The King Himself, the Christ, the Son of God, shares with you His faithfulness, His faith and holy love. He fully gives to you His relationship with His God and Father, so that the true and only God is now your God and your Father in Him.
That is what the dear Lord Jesus Christ has done for those who have gone before us in the faith, whom we rightly remember with thanksgiving to God in Christ. We do not worship them, but with them we worship God; and, loving Him above all things, we love them also, for His sake. For they belong to us, in Him, and we belong to them. They are not dead and gone, but alive forevermore. Not by their own wisdom, reason, or strength — not by their own faithfulness and love — but by His grace, by His faith and faithfulness, and by His love for them; by His perfect obedience and the absolute sacrifice of His entire Body and Life; and by His Gospel in the Word and Sacraments.
So does He give Himself, His Life and His Love, to you. This only-begotten Son of the Father, your merciful and great High Priest, the Prince of Peace, preaches and teaches the Word of God, which is the Word of Life, the Word of faith and love, to you and all His children, and to His children’s children, from one generation to the next, even to the close of the age.
It is in the Temple that He preaches and teaches the Word to you; that is to say, within His Body, the holy Christian Church (on earth as it is in heaven). His Word is spoken to you from His Holy Altar, from which He also gives to you His Body and pours out for you the New Testament in His Blood. For as the Word has become Flesh and tabernacles among us, the Word is never without His Flesh, but He always brings you to His Father in His Body and with His Blood. He gives you, not a part or a portion, but Himself, whole and complete. He withholds no good thing from you.
As there is one Bread and one Cup, one Spiritual Food and Drink — of one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all — so there is one Holy Communion in heaven and on earth, which is the one Body of Christ. He is not divided, but the many are united and become one in Him, as the many grains of wheat become one Bread, and the many grapes are united in one Cup of wine. In this one Body, all of the faithful, of all times and all places, live and abide in perfect peace, forever and ever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.