16 March 2014

Born Out of Nothing by the Word

As good as dead, that’s what Abram was.  He was already 75 when the Lord first spoke to him about his offspring; and, a couple decades later, he was still childless and not getting any younger in his 90s.  His barren old wife, Sarai, too; her womb was dead and dying.  Their bodies were dust, and returning to dust.  Born of the flesh and blood of Adam, they were subject to the sin and death of Adam.  That is the legacy of fallen man; from sire to seed the curse descends.

It is the same for you, as well.  You receive it from your parents, and you pass it on to your children, if you have any.  No amount of intelligence, strategy, hard work, luck, or wealth will break that cycle.  No matter how successful you may be, it will end.

As you face the future, then, what hope do you have?  What is the point in going forward, going anywhere at all, in doing or attempting anything?  What does it matter, and why do you bother?

If your aim and hope were for this life only, that would be a most pitiable shame.  Whether it be an education, a job, a spouse and family, or fame and fortune; and whether you manage to achieve such goals, or fail at them all; it would make no difference in the end, and it wouldn’t matter.  Not only that, but the rest of the story would be worse than pointless, separated from God in the eternal darkness and despair of ongoing death: existing, but without life or light or love anymore forever.

Except, that isn’t all He wrote or spoke; that isn’t the whole story; because the Author and Giver of Life has created you in Love, in order to give you His own Life; and, in that same divine Love, He causes the Light to shine upon you by His Word.

His Word.  That is really all that Abram and Sarai had when they set out from their home and family to a new place they had never seen before.  On a wing and a prayer, you might say, but the Lord’s promise came first and led them forward.  “I will surely be with you and bless you,” He pledged; and, of all things, He would bless the whole world in the Seed of Abram.  The old man and his barren old woman would have children, not according to the power and promise of their powerless and perishing flesh, but according to the Word and promise of the Lord their God.

It doesn’t sound like much to go on.  In fact, it seems like nothing at all.  And when the promised Seed of Abram finally comes, the Word of God made flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood, He doesn’t look so promising, either; leastwise not when He reaches the goal of His coming.  The long-awaited Son is born to die.  The beloved and only-begotten Son is to be sacrificed upon the Wood of His Cross.  What sort of hope is that?  Well, it’s not one that depends upon you or your understanding, that is for sure.

The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.  The shadow of death appears to overwhelm it.  Men are born, they grow old, and they die.  Or, too often, they do not even grow old; neither do they get a second childhood.  However long or short the days may be, the nighttime descends, and all is dark and cold.

Even so, the darkness is not able to prevail against the Light of the Word, nor overcome it.  True, you cannot see where it is coming from, nor can you tell where it is going; but listen, anyway, to the Voice of the Spirit, which is the Word of God the Father, spoken to and for you by His Son.

This is the very Word by whom all things were made out of nothing, by whom and for whom all things exist and are upheld.  He is the Light of the world, who even now calls forth the Light out of the darkness; for He is the Life of all mankind, who brings forth Life out of death.  And He has come down from heaven to earth, into the flesh and blood of man, into the depths of sin and death; not because there is no hope, but precisely to fulfill the promise of His Father, and to become the Blessing — that is, the “Good Word” of God — by whom all the nations are blessed.

He comes to make all things new, to bring about a New Creation by the new birth of water, Word, and Spirit.  It’s not a “second try,” nor “old plan B,” but the actual completion of the Lord’s original intention in the Person of the Incarnate Son.  In His Body of flesh and blood, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He is the Image and Likeness of God, in which you are raised from the dust of the earth and created anew.  By His Voice, by His speaking of the Gospel, God the Father breathes the Holy Spirit into your mortal flesh, in order to give you His own immortal Life in body and soul.  So does He shine the Light upon you in divine and holy Love.

That you might believe in Him, and, believing, have abundant Life in His Name, St. John the Baptist was sent to preach the Holy Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and St. John the Apostle was sent to preach and to publish the Holy Gospel.  By the same Word and Sacrament, even to this day and place, the Holy Spirit also testifies that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, crucified and risen from the dead, is the Christ, the Son of the Living God; that He has come in the flesh to save you from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  And we know that His testimony is true.

It is in love for His only-begotten Son that God the Father has created you, and in love for His Son that He has given Him to save you; and it is in love for His Father that the Son of God has come to bring about this great salvation, that you might live with God in Love, in the Spirit of the Father and the Son.  He has come down from heaven, from the bosom of the Father, St. John testifies, and He has become flesh, in order to reveal the Father to you; to manifest the fulness of divine grace and truth in Himself.  He has come to redeem you from sin and death, as the very Lamb of God who bears away your sin in His own Body to the Cross.  And He has come to raise you up and to bring you into His own relationship with God the Father, as the beloved and well-pleasing Son.

So it is that you are begotten of God and born from above through this one Lord, Jesus Christ.

By His Incarnation (His becoming flesh for us), and by His Holy Baptism in the Jordan River, the Word and Spirit of God are now to be found in the flesh and blood of this Man from Nazareth.  For His Body is the very Word of God, and the Holy Spirit rests and remains upon Him forevermore.

As the one true God has thus become true Man, so does He also reveal and give Himself to you in earthly means, and He pours out His Spirit upon you, as well, through earthly means of grace, as the Spirit also reveals and gives the same Christ Jesus to you in His Word and Holy Sacraments.

Significantly, the Christ who is thus revealed to you, who gives Himself to you and pours out His Spirit upon you, is the very One who is crucified, dead, and buried for you.  Such is the depth of His Love for you, and, at the same time, the height of His divine Glory as the Lord your God.

He comes down from heaven, in order to raise you up by His Cross, to bring you to the Father in His own crucified and risen Body.  He descends, in order to ascend, and to bring you in and with Himself to God.  Thus, you now see and enter the Kingdom of God by the way of His Cross.

The Cross itself — that is to say, the lifting up of the Son of Man in Crucifixion — strange as it may seem, that is already His exaltation, His glorification, and His return to the Father in perfect faith and perfect love.  It is the voluntary sacrifice of God, by which He wins the victory of life and salvation for you and all the nations.  From the death of His Body comes the life of all the living, even the Life everlasting.

It is a striking and mysterious paradox, which you cannot understand until you are enlightened by the Spirit of Christ through the catechesis of His Word.  For He is lifted up on the Wood of the Cross in the form of the serpents, as it were; that is to say, in the likeness of the very sin and death which are killing you, in order to save you from those fiery serpents and their poisonous sting.

The Resurrection of the same Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, is also your rescue from the serpent, sin, and death, your reconciliation with God the Father, your righteousness, and your salvation.  It is the New Creation of God by His Word — in the Flesh of the Word, crucified and risen — out of the nothingness of sin and death.  It is the Light of God, shining in the darkness of sin and death; the Light which He also causes to shine forth in your heart by the preaching of this Holy Gospel.

For the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead is the Life of all who believe and are baptized into Him.  It is the power and authority by which you are born again of water and the Spirit, a Sign as miraculous as the conception and birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, and as marvelous as the conception and birth of Jesus Himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Nazareth.

So are you begotten and born of God — in body and soul — by faith in Christ Jesus.  And such faith, itself, is conceived and born in you by His Word and Spirit, by repentance and forgiveness of sins; which is to say, by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, not only for you, but in you.

You are put to death, in order to be reborn to newness of life.  You are buried with Christ, by your Baptism into His death, in order to be raised with Him in His Resurrection, unto life everlasting.

Which means that, even now, by the Mystery of His Cross, as you are daily being put to death, so are you being lifted up and offered to God the Father as a sweet-smelling sacrifice in Christ Jesus.

As you thus live and die on earth by faith in Him — and as He thus lives and abides in you by His Word and Spirit, with His own flesh and blood — so it is that your flesh and blood, your body and your soul, your heart, mind, and spirit, likewise ascend before God and live in His Presence.

Wherever you go, be it near or far, the Lord goes with you by His Word; and you live with Him by faith in His Word.  And by His Word and promise, you are blessed, no matter come what may.  Has He not given you the guarantee and pledge of these heavenly things in His own earthly things, in His holy Body and precious Blood, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins?

If you perish, you perish, but only from this mortal life on earth; for whether you live or die, you are the Lord’s, in whom you shall not perish but live forevermore.

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

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