31 May 2015

The Faith and Worship of the Holy Trinity

The Holiness of God is that He alone not only lives but is Life in Himself, from all eternity to all eternity, in the permanent relationship of three divine Persons in the perfect unity of mutual Love.

And the Glory of this Holy Triune God is that He, solely for the sake of His own divine love — that is, the Father for the sake of His Son, the Son for the sake of His Father, in the Holy Spirit — the Lord almighty and all-merciful moves outside of Himself to create and give life to others whom He deals with entirely by His grace.  He grants them the freedom to live and to love in holiness; and when they fall, He saves them from their sin and death by His own voluntary Self-sacrifice.

This divine Glory of the one true God is manifested and exercised by His Word and by His actions in and with and for His creation.  Specifically, the Glory of God is manifested and exercised by the Word of Christ, the Word-made-Flesh: by His Incarnation and Atonement, His Cross and Passion, His Resurrection and Ascension, His Ministry of the Gospel, and the entire Life of His Church.

The Father gives His only-begotten Son into the flesh and even unto death upon the Cross for the life and salvation of the world.  He reveals Himself and speaks to you by His Son, and He pours out His Spirit upon you by the same Son, Jesus Christ, in order to save you from sin, death, and every evil, and to give you His own divine life in your body and your soul.

This Divine Liturgy of the Holy Triune God — that is, the Father’s giving of His Son, and His giving of the Spirit by His Son — this Divine Liturgy forms and fills the Church of Christ on earth as it is in heaven.  It has done so once and for all in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  And it has given Life to you in the washing and new birth of Holy Baptism, which is foundational to the Church and the particular way and means by which you enter the Kingdom of God within His Holy Christian Church.

The Divine Liturgy culminates in the Holy Communion.  There the one true God gives Himself to you in Christ, the incarnate Son, by His Word and actions, by the gift of His flesh and blood, and by the gift of His Spirit for your body and soul.  There the Father loves you and cares for you as His own dear child and heir.  He forgives your sins and gives you His Life in place of your death, His Light in the midst of your darkness, and His Love in place of your selfishness and lust.

It is in this way that the Lord your God reigns over you in love as your King; not from the throne of a dictator in a royal palace, but from the Cross of His own Sacrifice in the midst of His Temple.  For here in the Temple of His Church He serves you with the Priesthood of His Atonement and by the Ministry of His Gospel.  In this way, the glorious train of His royal robe fills the Temple.

And in the royal priesthood of all who believe and are baptized into Him, in the faith and life of His Christian disciples from all nations, in all times and places, His Glory fills the earth.

It is for the worship, praise, and glory of the Father in His Son and by His Spirit that you and all have been created.  Not that He depends on you or needs anything from you, but that you live by His grace, receive life and all good things from Him, abide in Him by faith, and give Him thanks and praise.  To worship the Lord your God, the Holy Trinity, is to live within His Divine Liturgy.

Such worship actually is the Christian faith and life.  It is your Christian priesthood.  It is to receive and share the Life and Love of God, and to live in the Light of His Glory, in and with Christ Jesus and by His Holy Spirit.  It is to speak as He speaks, by His Word, and to live with Him as He lives.

It is to prostrate your heart before Him in repentant faith, with fear, love, and trust in Him above all else; then also to prostrate your body and your life before Him, and for your neighbor in love.

This Christian faith and life — this true “catholic religion,” as we confess in the Athanasian Creed — is manifested, exercised, and lived in the worship that you render unto God by your words and by your actions, by the confession of your mouth and the living sacrifice of your body.

It is in what you say with your lips and what you do with your body that you worship the Lord your God by faith, and that you live in love toward Him and toward your neighbor.  For with your heart you believe unto righteousness, and with your mouth you confess and call upon His Name unto salvation.  And because your body shall also be raised in glory unto the life everlasting, so does your body likewise participate in your faith and worship of the one true God, the Holy Trinity.

But how can this be?  How is it even possible?

In your own flesh, you have inherited the guilt and mortality of your parents, and to that deadly inheritance you have added sin upon sin from your conception onward, even to the present day.

Truth be told, there is nothing in your fallen flesh but sin and death and the vile stink of a rotting corpse, though you hide in a whitewashed tomb.  You are a man or woman or child of unclean lips.  You have not spoken as you should.  Nor have you lived in and with your body as you should.

How then shall you worship the Holy Triune God with your mouth and with your body?

How shall you take the holy body and precious blood of Christ, the Son of God, upon your unclean lips?  How shall you eat and drink the Lord Himself, the Holy One, with mouth and lips and tongue that have lied and cursed and gossiped, borne false witness, and profaned the Name of God?

How shall you ascend with your heart and mouth and body, and with your thoughts, words, and actions, unto the Lord your God in heaven?  And how shall you enter into His Kingdom?

How shall you come out of the night into the day, out of the darkness into light, and out of death into the Life of God?  How shall you ever be able to see Him and know Him and live with Him?

Beloved of God, repent of your sins, and listen now to what the Father speaks to you by His Son.  For His Word is near you, in your ears and in your mouth, in your heart and in your life; that is, the Word of faith and forgiveness, which is preached to you in the Name of Christ your Savior.

To be sure, you could not ascend to Him, nor could you have entered into heaven on your own, but He Himself, the Son of God, has come down from heaven to you.  He has descended from the bosom of the Father to embrace you to Himself in peace, and to abide with you in steadfast love.

He has become flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood, and He has taken upon Himself, into His Body, all the curse and consequences of sin and death and hell, in order to atone for the sins of the whole world and to reconcile all flesh to God.  Thus, in His own flesh, with His own blood, He has cleansed your flesh from sin and set your flesh free from death.

As He has been lifted up in death upon the Cross, so does He raise you up from death and the grave unto life with God in both body and soul, now and forever, through His Gospel of forgiveness.

For He is not simply a teacher sent from God.  Nor is He merely a means to some other end.  But already in Him, in His Person, in His Body conceived and born of Mary, crucified and risen, the one true God has drawn near to you and dwells with you.  Not just once-upon-a-time, back then, but right here and now in the earthly things of His Church and Ministry.  In His means of grace He reveals and bestows the heavenly things of God, preached and given and poured out for you.

As He has descended from the Father, and as He comes to you in divine and holy love, so does He pour out the Holy Spirit upon you in peace; and so do you ascend in and with Him to the Father.

It is in and with Christ that your faith and life, your heart and mind, your body and soul, your words and actions are gladly received in the presence of God.  The Father delights in your worship because He delights in you for the sake of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten and well-beloved Son.

Behold here the burning coal with which He touches your lips from His Altar of sacrifice, that is, the Body of Christ which burns brightly with the Holy Spirit. This He places on your lips and on your tongue, not to condemn you or destroy you, but to cleanse you of iniquity, guilt, and shame.

And as this touches your lips, His Word also opens your mouth to show forth His praise, to glorify His holy Name, and to sing with all the host of heaven, the angels and archangels and all saints:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, Yahweh Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of His Glory!

Come, then, let us worship Him in peace, because He has shown His mercy to us in Christ.

All glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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