11 May 2014

The Pastor and Bishop of Your Body and Soul

He has come to give you His abundant Life.  He has come in the flesh to be and abide with you, so that you should abide, both body and soul, henceforth and forevermore, with the one true God and Father, and with the Holy Spirit, in and with this same Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son.

It is for this neverending purpose that He has become flesh and blood, with body and soul just like yours, in order to bear your sin and be your Savior.  It is for this sacred and salutary reason that He has handed Himself over to His voluntary suffering and death; that He has laid down His own life upon the Cross, and that He has taken it up again in His mighty Resurrection from the dead.

So, too, with the authority that God the Father has given to Him over all the works of His hands, which is to say, over all of creation, the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, the crucified and risen Lord has called and sent His Holy Apostles and the servants of His Word to preach this Holy Gospel and distribute the blessed Fruits of His own Cross and Passion.  To give you His Life.

He is the Door — you have heard Him say so — the Door by which His shepherds and His sheep enter the fold, and by which they come and go, in safety, peace, and rest, from this body and life on earth unto the life everlasting of body and soul in Paradise forever.

For He is the Way to the Father, and He has opened the Way to you and to all by His holy and precious Blood, by His innocent suffering and death, and by His gift of the Holy Spirit.

His shepherds are first of all called to follow after Him, by repentance and faith in His Cross; and they, in turn, are thus given the Cross to bear to and for His Church in all their life and ministry.  To care for His lambs and tend His sheep with patience, perseverance, compassion, and the free and full forgiveness of all their sins in His Name and stead.

So are His lambs and sheep called by name, each one, through this Ministry of the Holy Gospel, to die and rise with Him in repentant faith, and thereby to follow after Him and live with Him.

So hear and heed His Voice.  Recognize the tone and timbre of the Word of God in the preaching and teaching of His Law and His Gospel.  And by the same token, flee from strangers and strange voices, which preach and teach another word, an alternative or contrary word, or any other way.

Listen to the Voice of your Good Shepherd, and follow in His footsteps; live and walk after His example.  Bear the Cross and suffer patiently within your vocation, by faith in His Resurrection.  When you are picked on, laughed at, forgotten, or left out, do not lash out or give up, but trust in Christ.  When you are reviled and hurt, do not revile in return, but pray for your persecutors; and forgive those who trespass against you, just as you are daily and richly being forgiven by Christ.

The rod and staff of His Cross are a discipline, to be sure, which guard and keep you away from danger, and guide and keep you on the path of life; because it is also by and from His own Cross that He provides you with lush green pastures, clear and clean water, and an abundant Feast.

He Himself has borne your sins in His own Body on the Cross, so that you might die to sin and live unto righteousness in Him.  And it is by and with His Cross that you are signed and sealed in Holy Baptism, and named with His own Name, to be His own dear sheep, and He your Good Shepherd, the true Pastor and great Archbishop of your body and soul.

The sacred example of His own life, death, and bodily resurrection, for you and for all people, is embodied in the life and ministry of His Apostle and the undershepherds who follow after them, even to this day and place.  It is likewise given to you in the Fruits of His Cross and Passion, that is, in the means of His grace and forgiveness, in the ways and means of His life and salvation, in particular His Holy Baptism and Holy Absolution, the preaching of His Holy Gospel, and the Holy Communion of His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you and for the many.

These gifts of God in Christ are the green pastures in which you safely graze as a sheep of the Good Shepherd, and they are the sheepfold in which you rest secure in His Salvation.

By your Holy Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection, you enter through the open Door of Christ into the Temple of the Lord.  In His Holy Supper you feast at His Table, well spread with Meat and Drink indeed.  And in the gracious Peace of His Holy Gospel, you abide in His House forever.

Here, then, little flock, sing to the Lord, your God and great Good Shepherd.  Make a joyful noise to this Rock of your Salvation.  Come into His presence with thanksgiving, and praise Him with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, rejoicing in His Spirit by faith in His Word.

Oh, come, let us worship and bow down!  Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  Let solemn awe possess us, even now, in the teaching and fellowship of His Apostles; in the Breaking of the Bread, which is the giving and receiving of His Body and His Blood; and in the prayers of His Church.

For He is your God, and you are His own sheep.  You are in His hand, and He brings you to these pastures in grace, mercy, and peace, that you may have abundant Life in Him.  There is forgiveness with Him, that you may fear, love, and trust in Him.

As you thus enter into this gracious and glorious presence of God by such faith in Christ Jesus, by His Cross and Resurrection, and by the free and full forgiveness of His Gospel, so also go out to your neighbor in love, living the divine Life of the same Lord Jesus Christ.

His shepherds and His sheep alike follow after Him, and you shall be like Him.  For by His Cross you die with Him, and in His Resurrection you do now rise and live with Him and share His Glory.

His Christians hold all things in common with His Holy Apostles, and therefore with Him, and with His Father and His Holy Spirit.  And as this Holy Triune God is Himself a Holy Community of Persons, so does the Church abide in Him as a lively fellowship of faith and love.

Do no harm to your neighbor, therefore.  Do not steal, kill, or destroy his body and life, his good name and reputation, his marriage and family, nor anything else that is your neighbor’s.  Do not enter by “some other way” into any place you don’t belong.

But by the Way of Christ the Crucified, do speak to and for your neighbor with the Voice of that Good Shepherd.  Give life wherever you are given to do so.  Guard and protect, defend and serve the life of your neighbor, that he too may follow the Shepherd safely into His green pastures and live forever in His Name.

If you are a mother or father, love and care for your children as the Good Shepherd cares for His beloved sheep in mercy.  And if you are a child, honor your father and mother, and hear and heed their voice as that of the Lord, who speaks to you through them and serves you with their labors.

Wherever and however you have strayed from the path of righteousness, repent with all your heart, and return to the Pastor and Bishop of your body and your soul.

For His shepherds and His sheep alike find life and health and strength in Him, who is your Savior and your God.  He is the Door, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and He has opened Himself both to you and for you, that you may flee from sin and death and find the Food and Drink you need, and the Life and Salvation for which you are created, in and with Him.

Even in the depths of that dark valley, under the shadow of the Cross, He leads you into this Life and Salvation by His own victory over death and the grave, by the Resurrection of His Body.

It is this Body of Christ that is given to you here at His Table.  In the face of all your enemies, He feeds you with Himself, that you may have Life, and have it abundantly.  It is for this Feast that He is here!  And, oh, what transports of delight from His pure Chalice flow, for you and for the many!  For He calls you by His own Name, and you are His, and He is yours, forever and ever.

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

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