14 May 2015

That Christ Should Fill All Things with His Body and Life

Beloved of God, the Lord Jesus has not gone away.  He has not left you alone.  He Himself is with you, and has poured out the promised Spirit of His Father upon you.  The same Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, is even now, and so shall He ever be, your merciful and great High Priest.  He lives before God in righteousness and purity on your behalf, so that your place is also with God in Him, who reigns over you in love with His Gospel.

As He has stretched out His arms for you upon the Cross, to sacrifice Himself to the Father as the Propitiation for all your sins (and not for your sins only, but for the sins of the whole world), so does He lift His hands in blessing upon you, to justify you with His own righteousness, to raise you up from death to life with Himself, and to anoint you with His Spirit by His Word.

Thus, He gives Himself to God as the true Man, and He gives Himself to you as the one true God; and, in Him, both God and Man and heaven and earth are bound together in perfect harmony.

Righteousness and peace kiss each other in Him, and you are reconciled to God the Father in His beloved and well-pleasing Son.  Indeed, your flesh and blood, your body and soul, your whole life, and all of creation are sanctified with God eternally in the Body of Christ Jesus: in His own Person, first of all, but also in His Body, the Church, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.

It is in Him that you know and love God rightly, and that you live the true life.  Not by escaping from your body of flesh and blood, nor from your place in life, whatever it might be, but precisely in that place where God has put you, in your own skin, in your life and occupations on earth.

Remain there, where He has stationed you, and be gathered here within His Church on earth, and wait upon the promise of your Father in Christ.  Already you are being clothed with His power from on high, with His Spirit and His righteousness.  Already you are God’s own child and a citizen of His heavenly Kingdom.  Yet, for now it is by faith in His Word, and not by sight.  As the Lord Jesus Christ entered into His Glory through His suffering and death upon the Cross, so do you enter the Kingdom of God through repentance, unto faith in His forgiveness of sins.

Do not be afraid, and do not despair of His presence and His peace.  His blessing is upon you in the lifting up of His wounded hands, and the Gospel of His Cross and Resurrection is preached to you in His Name; as surely as He lives and reigns forever at the Father’s Right Hand and intercedes for you as your Royal High Priest.  God the Father has established Him there by an unbreakable oath, by raising Him from the dead, crowning Him with Glory and honor, giving Him all authority in heaven and on earth, and putting sin, death, the devil, and hell under His feet.

It is true, as you know well enough, and as the Lord Himself has told you in advance, that in the world you have tribulation.  He knows this as well or better than you do, because He has suffered it all in your place.  So it is that, for now, in your own body and life, you don’t yet see all things beneath His beautiful feet.  You don’t yet experience the fact that His enemies and yours have been defeated.  You don’t yet feel His Victory and your Redemption.  No, what you see and feel and experience is not the Resurrection but the Cross.  And it might also seem as though His Ascension were hardly a cause for celebration, but nothing else than another heartbreaking goodbye.

For all of that, the fact remains that Christ the Lord is with you.  He has entered the presence of His God and Father in the same flesh and blood and bones that He shares with you and with all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.  The Cloud that received Him is the grace and glory of God, by which He also comes to you and abides with you in the Gospel.

It is not by accident or coincidence that men in white stand before you and proclaim the Word of the Lord Jesus to you; for thus it was necessary, not only that He should suffer, die, and rise again on the third day, but also that repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached in His Name to the ends of the earth.  By this Ministry, He fills all things and the Kingdom of God comes to man.

So does the Word of the Lord go forth, beginning from Jerusalem, to all of Judea, to Samaria, to Rome, to the New World, the Third World, to Africa and Asia, and to the whole planet.  And as the Word goes out, so does it gather disciples of Jesus together into one Body, one Church, into the Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem, where the Lamb upon His Throne is not only the Priest and King, but He is the Temple of God among men, the Lamp and the Light which illuminate the New Creation, and both the Bridegroom and the Wedding Feast of finest Wine and richest Meat.

That is your home, your place of peace and Sabbath rest.  That is where you live, because that is where Christ is both with you and for you forever.  He really does unite and hold all things together in Himself, in His own Body and by the power of His indestructible Life, as He serves you in His Church on earth, and He worships the Father in heaven, and He pours out the Spirit by the Gospel, and He ever lives to pray and intercede for you at all times.

It is not only that He is everywhere at once, filling all things with Himself; nor only that He is with you here and with the Father in heaven — although that much is true, to begin with.  But He also brings God to you, the Father and the Holy Spirit, in and with Himself, in all that He continues to teach and to do, and in His own Body of flesh and blood.  And in Him, at the same time, you are with God; for He brings you to the Father and seats you with Himself in the heavenly places.

Beloved, you are baptized into Christ, and that means, not only that His Cross and Resurrection are yours, but also that His Ascension, His Spirit and His Father, and His place within the Holy of Holies are yours in Christ.  So, too, when you eat His Body and drink His Blood here, within His Church on earth, you live and abide with Him in the Bosom of the Father in heaven.  This, indeed, is already to be living the true divine life for which you have been created by the Holy Triune God.

It’s not as though your life on earth under the Cross were always pleasant or easy.  You know that it’s not.  With all of creation, you long for the consummation of all things: for the resurrection of the body, for the glorious revealing of the sons of God, and for the life everlasting in Paradise.

You long for the consummation of all that Christ has accomplished.  And you pray for that, just as Christ our Lord has taught you to pray to the Father in heaven for the coming of His Kingdom.

Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!

As you thus pray for the coming of Christ and His Kingdom, do so in the bold confidence that He has borne the Cross for you and conquered in the fight on your behalf, and that His resurrected and glorified Body is already the Firstfruits of your own resurrection from the dead.

In His Body, it is already a done deal.  And it is for you, as the Sacrament delivers and declares.

That is what His Ascension means and signifies and does for you.  He fills all things in heaven and on earth, in order to be actively present and at work in and with His Church, and so also to bring His Church and all her members, including you, to His God and Father within His own Body.

The fact that He ascends as the Crucified One, and that He serves you by the ways and means of His Cross, means that all the hurt and heartache and hard things shall not be able to destroy you, nor to separate you from Him, His Life, and His Love; but, by His grace, they actually help to heal you and save you, and to bring you to heaven.  For He works repentance in you, and He disciplines your mortal flesh, in order to bring you through suffering and death into faith and life with God.

There simply is no pain, no persecution, no place nor pit nor hell hole, where He is not with you in peace.  And so, you are with Him, who lives and reigns forever at the Right Hand of the Father.

He doesn’t make you come to Him, nor even to meet Him halfway.  And He doesn’t simply come to keep you company in misery.  But He gathers you fully to Himself, and He embraces you with Himself, and He abides with you as true God and true Man, as your Savior and your Salvation.  Therefore, as you know from the testimony of St. Paul, your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Mortal life in this fallen world is one of constant separations, which cut you off and distance you from family, friends, and loved ones, and even from your nearest and dearest kin.  Whether by death or disease, by accidents or atrocities, by adventures or adversities, by ailments or age, your relationships and your connections are constantly being changed, and eventually they are ended.

But the Ascension of your crucified and risen Lord Jesus proclaims a permanent place for you and perfect peace with God.  That does not change, and it cannot be taken away from you.  Nor is it far away from you now, but up close and personal, a very present help at all times, in every trouble, and a source of genuine great joy in the face of everything that confronts you.

It is here for you in the Temple of God, given and poured out for you to eat and drink.  It is here for you in the hands of Christ Jesus, with which He blesses you, and feeds you, and absolves you; with which He signs and seals you as a Christian, a child of God; and by which He raises you up.

As all of this is here for you in Him, in His Body and His Blood, so shall He be with you always, wherever you may be.  And so are you with Him, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit, at home and at peace with the Blessed Holy Trinity + now and forever.  (Amen)

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