24 February 2014

A Place of Peace and Rest in Christ Jesus

The Lord Jesus has taken your place, from His Baptism in the Jordan River unto His Cross and Passion, His Crucifixion, death and burial, in order to give you His own place in His Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to the Right Hand of His God and Father in heaven.  It is in this crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ that God is your true Father, and you are His true child.

As your Savior, who has come down from heaven to save you, He has borne your griefs and carried your sorrows on His own back and shoulders.  He has taken the heavy yoke of the Law upon Himself, and the full burden of your sin and death into His own flesh, in order to atone for you by His blood.  So it is, that, in His Resurrection, by His Word and Holy Spirit, you receive all the good gifts and blessings of His Father.  Indeed, you find your dwelling place in Him.

Come to Him, therefore — here within His House on earth — and find your perfect Sabbath Rest in Him, in the Liturgy of His Gospel, in the Ministry of His preaching and His Holy Sacrament.

For though He has ascended into heaven, where He lives and reigns forever at the Right Hand of God — and He has done so in order to establish a place for you there, in the bosom of the Father — so does He also provide for and serve His Church on earth, especially by raising up servants of His Word, and by sending ministers of His Gospel in His Name and stead, who preach and teach His Word; who work His works by His authority; who administer His means of grace and peace.

It is by this Ministry of the Gospel that God the Father reveals and gives to you His beloved Son; and by which the Son also pours out the Spirit and reveals the Father to you, and, not only that, but brings you with Himself, in the Holy Spirit, to His God and Father in heaven.

Thus, by the way and means of the Gospel, it is indeed on earth, here and now, as it is in heaven.

You cannot come by your own reason or strength; you cannot grasp it by yourself, nor for yourself.  You will fail every time you try.  You cannot take it, nor can you keep it by your own labors and hard efforts: Not by your own intelligence; not by your own wisdom and personal experience; nor by any strategy of your own devising.  You plainly and simply cannot do it.

But Christ has come to you; and He calls you and brings you to Himself by the preaching of His Gospel of forgiveness; and with this Word of grace and peace, He gives you a place that remains.

Actually, Christ Himself, your merciful and great High Priest, He is your Place: He is your home, in which your righteousness abides.  He is your Place of perfect Peace and genuine Sabbath Rest.  For you live and abide and rest in Him, in His crucified and risen Body of flesh and blood — as in His Body, the Church.  You live and dwell in Him, in faith before God, and also in love for your neighbor.  Such faith and love, the fulfillment of the Law, is the righteousness of Christ, the place of Christ, into which you are called by His Word and Spirit; it is the grace in which you now abide.

It is sobering to consider that Judas Iscariot was given that place of Christ, as a disciple, and as an Apostle of the same Lord Jesus.  But he departed from that blessed place, in order to go to his own place: a place of his own making, apart from God, in the darkness of despair, death and damnation.

Matthias, on the other hand, who has already had the place of Christ as a disciple, is now called and ordained to the place of Christ, that is, to be one of the holy Apostles, as well.  In that Office, he speaks with the voice of Christ Jesus; he speaks the Word of the Lord, the Law and the Gospel, unto repentance and faith in the forgiveness of sins.  He works the works of Christ in His Name.

There is hard work and suffering involved in this sacred vocation; and, at the end of his life and service on this earth, Matthias will be martyred for this Ministry of the Gospel of Christ.  Not only in his words and works, but in his very body and life, he bears the Cross of Christ the Crucified; precisely because he is one who has been given the place of Christ.  That is true, not only for the Apostles of our Lord, but for all of His disciples in their respective vocations and stations in life.

Yet, as hard as it may be to comprehend, Jesus promises and tells you that His yoke is “easy,” and that His burden is “light.”  Not from the standpoint of the world and its expectations; nor from the perspective of your old Adam and your mortal flesh, which, like Matthias, are finally put to death.  But even this burden of death becomes “light,” and the work that you are called to do is “easy,” because your peace and rest remain in Christ Jesus, in His risen Body, in His indestructible Life; for in Him, your own body and life remain safely and securely hidden with God.

You have been given this place of Christ before your dear Father in heaven; and so do you also have the place of Christ in loving service for your neighbor, wherever the Lord has placed you in this world, in this poor life of labor.  Here, it is true, the place that you are given and its duties are heavy and hard.  To be called to faith and love, in the here and now, is to be called daily to death — as you are commanded, for example, to love your enemies, to pray for those who persecute you.

Remember, though, that it is the place of Christ to which you have been called, in which you live and abide by His grace.  He also has suffered and died; not only for your neighbor, but for you.  And by His death, He has conquered death; in His Resurrection, He has opened up the way of life for you and for all, forever and ever.  The yoke is “easy,” because you do not work or suffer for yourself and your salvation, but for Him who has already died and been raised for your atonement and justification.  Your burden is “light,” because your sin is forgiven, and your death is undone.

Such is the Peace of Christ, which the world does not know and cannot provide, but it is yours.

In gentleness and tender care, the Lord who loves you comes to serve you in body and soul, and to give you His own life.  He daily removes and washes away your sins with His holy forgiveness.  He raises you up from death to life, not only by the promise of His own Resurrection from the dead, but also by restoring you to the pledge and promise of your Baptism; by providing for all your needs, according to His grace and mercy; and by feeding you with His Body and His Blood, in which your flesh and blood are made brand new and made ready for the resurrection at the last.

In receiving these gifts, rely upon His gracious Word and promise, and so rest yourself in Him.  Rejoice in the knowledge of faith, that you are reconciled to God in Christ Jesus, your Savior.  Be at peace, dear child of God, as your Father is at Peace with you in His beloved Son.

Not by your own wisdom, reason, or strength.  It never is, nor can it be.  But like a little baby, as in your mother’s womb, or in your daddy’s arms, so are you fed and cared for by the Lord your God within His Holy Christian Church.

Indeed, you see in the example of St. Matthias — who, for his part, says and does nothing here, but he receives the Office to which he is called and ordained — in this you see that our dear Lord provides such servants for His Church on earth.  He has always done so, even to this day and place.

Through pastors who are given a place by God’s grace; who follow in the train of the Apostles and Prophets and Martyrs; who speak and serve by the calling of Christ, with His own Word — by their preaching and administration of this Holy Gospel, the Father reveals the Son to you, the Son reveals the Father to you, and you also are given a place in the Kingdom of God: Not only an office of love, wherein you serve your neighbor in the world, but truly a house and a home with God, your own dear Father in heaven; for the Body of Christ, His Son, is your Place of peace and rest.

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

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