29 November 2015

The Lord of the Donkeys

Although you are a sheep of the Good Shepherd, and you abide by His grace in His green pastures, on this day He would have you see yourself in that donkey, in that colt, the foal of a donkey.

Without any rider, you might appear to be free.  But you are not.  You are tied up and owned by other lords.  Unused and useless.  Unclothed, unbridled, unneeded.  But not free, and not safe.

And then Christ Jesus sends His disciples to release you from your bonds and set you free, to clothe you with the garments of a disciple, and to set Christ Himself upon you.  Not that He would burden you, but that He would be your gracious Lord and King.

In fact, for you and your salvation the Lord Jesus Christ has Himself become a donkey, as it were, a beast of burden.  For He carries all your guilt and sin and shame in His own body to the Cross, and He carries you also on His back through death into life.

In His descending, you are raised up.  He goes up to Jerusalem, yes, because He is offered up to the Father as the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the world.  But He thus comes down from the Mount of Olives, anointed by the Holy Spirit for the sake of mercy, in order to give you life.

The Law accuses and condemns you, and would rebuke your worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But He has come to establish righteousness for you, to save you by His grace, and to grant you safety, peace, and rest in the midst of His Jerusalem.  He receives your praise, as He receives you.

He does not condemn you, nor cast you away from His presence, but has called you to Himself.  He does not rebuke or reject you, but calls you to rejoice in His salvation and His righteousness.

For God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  And as there is now peace in heaven, in the heart of God the Father toward sinners, so is there now peace on earth in the preaching of the  Gospel, in the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

Now He calls you to be reconciled to Him.  For He would convert your stony, idolatrous heart into a heart of flesh — to love and trust in Him, your God in the flesh.  Rest yourself in His Peace, and so be at peace with Him.  And in such peace, love and serve your neighbor in his body and life.

Such love and peace in your body and life — in your daily words and actions, in your dealings with the sinners and brothers and sisters and fellow disciples all around you — such love and peace are all that is lacking in your faith as a disciple, as St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians.

To be sure, even in your weakness, in your frailty and falling short, your faith lays hold of Christ Jesus and His Righteousness, in which there is no lack but perfect life and light and love, both now and forever.  All of that is fully yours by His grace in the Gospel.  So, again, be at peace with Him, as He is indeed at peace with you.  And so do I also rejoice and give thanks for your faith and life.

But in your flesh, in your heart, mind, and spirit, in what you say and what you do, it remains the case that your faith in Christ has not fully turned in love toward God and toward your neighbor.

Repent, therefore.  Do not remain tied up and still attached to your old lords and masters, but live now in the freedom of Christ, that you may increase and abound in love for one another.  Do not avoid your brothers and sisters, but seek them out in mercy.  Do not wait for them to ask for your help, but look for ways to love and serve them, as Christ has come to help you when you did not know Him.  Do not speak ill of your neighbor, nor cause him any hurt in his body, his family, his home, or his honor, but let all your words be gracious and all your actions graceful toward him.

Love freely, in faith, and not as though you were under a whip or goaded by a prod.  Have no fear of punishment.  You shall not die, but live.  Rather, rejoice in the King who comes to you, who reigns over you in love from His Cross, and so also bear His Cross in love for your neighbor.

As Jesus Christ has become your gracious Lord and King, as He has borne all your burdens in His body, and as He has set you free from sin and death, so now bear Him in your body and life.

Be the colt that carries Him.  Be and live as a Christian.  Let your tongue and mouth be bridled; let your hands and feet be guided; and let your flesh be disciplined by this one Lord, Jesus Christ.

Let Him be the Lord who rides you through death and the grave into the life everlasting.

Let your outer garments be trampled under His feet on His way of the Cross, so that you may be clothed with new vestments, with His righteousness and purity, and with the holiness of His Love.

Has He not named you with His Name — the Name of the Lord your God — in Holy Baptism?

Has He not signed you — also in your body and your flesh, upon your forehead and your breast — with the sign of His Holy Cross?

And yet, it is not you, the servant, the donkey, but Him, the Christ, the Lord your God, who first of all bears the burden of the Cross and releases you from the bondage of your sin and death.

If you now bear the Christ and His Cross, it is only because He has already borne you and yours.

So it is that you are born again to a new and living hope.  No longer the foal of a donkey, you are a son of God, a daughter of Jerusalem.  You dwell in safety, and you shall be saved, because Christ the Lord has made righteousness and peace for you.  That is your freedom, and that is your faith.

For, behold, there is yet another donkey here at hand, who bears your King to you, who comes in the Name of the Lord, having salvation for you.

As He has sent His disciples to make a disciple of you — to forgive you in His Name; to baptize you and catechize you in love; to fill up whatever is lacking in you with Jesus — so does He also send His disciples before His face, to prepare this upper room of His Church, this House of the Lord, for the true Passover Feast of His Body and His Blood.

The Lord has need of bread and wine.  These are the colt that He now rides upon, that by these earthly means He should enter His Jerusalem in mercy, wherein He gives His Body for you, and pours out His holy, precious Blood for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Here He has need of you, as well.  Not that you should serve Him, as though He needed your help, but that He would serve you with all the authority of His Atoning Sacrifice and with all the power of His indestructible Life.  For He would be your one true King of righteousness and peace.  He comes, not to enslave you, but that you should live with Him in His Kingdom.

He is a greater and more faithful King than even David, a better and far wiser Son than Solomon.  He is Himself your righteousness and holiness.  He is Himself your safety, peace, and rest.

That is why we shout aloud, and cry out, and greatly rejoice.  That is why we sing of peace on earth as it is in heaven.  For “blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”  From the House of the Lord we bless His Holy Name and worship Him with thanks and praise.  Hosanna in the highest!

And happy are you, who know this festal shout on earth here and now, and in heaven hereafter.

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

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