27 September 2015

Salted by the Cross and at Peace in Christ

In what does your life consist?  What does it mean for you to live?

It is not by your own works, nor is it found in the wealth and wisdom of the world, but it is by the Name of the Lord that you live — as His child — by His grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Name of Christ has been granted to you in your Holy Baptism, inscribed upon your forehead and your heart, your body, soul, and spirit, by the Cross.  That is your strength and your salvation.  For so are you also anointed by the Holy Spirit for faith and life with God, who is now your own dear Father in Christ Jesus, the beloved Son.

What, then, does this mean for you and for your life?

You are salted by the Holy Spirit through the Word of the Cross.  And so are you disciplined unto daily repentance by the Cross, which crucifies you to the world, to your sin, and to your self.

But so are you also “seasoned,” inside and out, with the peace and love of Christ the crucified, because you are granted new life through His forgiveness of all your sins, and you are righteous before God in His Resurrection from the dead.

In that light, how shall you deal with yourself?  And how shall you deal with your neighbor?

There is a kind of startling violence in the Word of Jesus today.  It is a violence, not against your body per se, far less against your neighbor at all, but a violence of the Cross against the sinfulness of your heart, and against all your sins of thought, word, and deed.

The truth is that your only hope and help, your life, and your salvation, both now and forever, are in the Name of the Lord.  His Name saves you, gives you divine life, and bears good fruit in you, in your heart and soul, and in your flesh, here in time and forever in the resurrection of your body.

By contrast, the sin that reigns in your heart and in your fallen flesh, your unbelief and idolatry, brings forth death in your body and actions, and leads to the damnation of body and soul in hell.

Both sinful unbelief and repentant faith are matters of the heart, which are embodied and bear fruit in your flesh, in your bodily life and actions.  And those actions of your body, in turn, substantiate and strengthen the attitudes of your heart, whether for good or for evil, for life or for death.

Therefore, deny your body the sinful desires of your lust and greed, your jealousy and selfishness, and live instead in the faith, hope, and peace that are yours in the promise of the Resurrection.

Live in and with your body, even now by faith, in view of the fact that your body shall be raised to live with God in His Kingdom forever.  For your body also bears the Name of God in Christ.

Live, therefore, in such a way that your body confesses and glorifies His Holy Name.

If your hand or foot or your eye is involved in sin — if you stretch out your hand to take what is not yours, or to hurt and harm your neighbor in his body; if your feet turn and walk away from your neighbor in his need, but they run to find trouble in places you ought not be; or if you look with lust at your neighbor, or at pictures of your neighbor, and allow your eyes to linger on such images that feed your covetous desire (which is idolatry) — in any and all such cases of sin, repent in your heart, and so also repent in your behavior.  Discipline your flesh to cease from doing evil and begin to do good.  Avert your eyes, divert your feet, and withhold your hand from wickedness.  But look to your neighbor in love, draw near to him in peace, and reach out your hand to him to give help.

To persist in your sin is already a kind of living death, a hellish and demonic existence on earth.

But to live by faith is to rely on the Name of Christ Jesus, unto the life everlasting.  To live by faith in His Name is to pray by and with His Word and Holy Spirit.  And to live by faith in His Name is to avail yourself of His Ministry of the Gospel — to seek it out, to ask for it, and to support it.

Stemming from what you thus receive, to live by faith is also to live in love, catechizing and caring for others in the Name of Christ.  It is to speak to and care for others as Christ Jesus does for you.

Would that all Christians would thus faithfully profess the Word of the Gospel they have heard!

In the way that you speak, and in the way that you act, deal with your neighbor in patience and peace, with long-suffering kindness, in mercy and forgiveness.  Be slow to anger, reluctant to hurt, eager to heal, and quick to forgive, just as you are forgiven in the Name of Christ Jesus.  Restore your erring brother or sister in a spirit of gentleness, for love’s sake, in the humility of repentance.

To say it simply once again, discipline yourself, your words and actions, not only to avoid what is not right, but also to do and to say what is good and right.  Live in that way whether you feel like it or not.  It is not hypocrisy but Christian discipline to do what is right when you’d rather not.

In all of these efforts and actions, and in all your failures — as you recognize your own sin and stumbling, which are all the more apparent as you strive to resist them — do not despair — and do not continue in your sins, either — but call upon the Name of the Lord, and rely on Christ Jesus.

Take to heart and rest assured that He cares for you and provides for you.  He forgives you all your sins for His own Name’s sake.  He raises you up, as well, in both body and soul, to newness of life each day in His own righteousness and holiness.  And so shall He also, finally and forever, raise you up from death and the grave to the life everlasting in heaven.

This is most certainly true.  For Christ has borne all your burdens in His own body on the cross.  Indeed, He alone has carried the whole burden of His people in His flesh and blood, in His living and His dying, in His perfect faith and holy love.  He has brought His people, you included, out of slavery to sin, through the desert of death, into the promised Kingdom of His God and Father.

And see here how He feeds you on the way, and how He feeds the vast multitude of His Church with Meat and Drink indeed: He pours out His Cup for you to drink His holy and precious Blood; and He gives you His own Body to eat, the life-giving Manna of God, which refreshes and restores your soul and renews your body for the resurrection and eternal life with God.

So it is that, even in the midst of death, here is real life and real living, which are yours in Christ.  He beholds you in love.  He comes to you and stretches out His hand to you in Peace.  He washes your dirty feet, and you are altogether clean by the forgiveness of His Word and Holy Spirit.  And at the last you shall behold Him; from your own flesh, your own two eyes shall see Him as He is, and you shall be like Him.  For He is your Redeemer, and He lives.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

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

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