01 April 2016

In the Fear and Faith of God

I know that you are here in church for the Divine Service because you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified, dead, and buried, but who has risen from the dead, just as He said; who now lives and reigns to all eternity.

Have no fear!  You are in the right place, where the Word of Christ has directed you to meet Him.  The Liturgy of preaching and His Sacrament is the Galilee to which He sends you.  Here He meets you with the proclamation of His Gospel of forgiveness; and here, by faith, you behold Him.

If you find yourself perplexed and confused by mixed feelings of both faith and fear, both joy and sadness, both confidence and doubt, take heart and do not be dismayed.  Everything is shaken up and turned inside-out by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.  And you, also, are called to die and rise with Him, to be crucified, buried, and born again — as in your Holy Baptism, so now by daily contrition and repentance and confession of your sins throughout your life on earth.

Here on earth there is the paradox of the now-and-not-yet.  By the grace of God, through faith in the Word of Christ, you have entered His Sabbath Rest, and you do have peace with God.  But it is also the case that, for now, you still continue to work out your salvation in fear and trembling.

So, what are the particular fears and uncertainties that attack you and assail your faith and joy?

Are you afraid of getting into trouble with your boss or supervisor, or perhaps even losing your job?  And if so, what are you willing to do or say, or what will you tolerate, for the sake of money?

Or do you worry that, sooner or later, you will be found out for a fraud, or that your past sins and failings will come to light, and that you’ll end up losing face with your peers and colleagues?

Is it death that ultimately scares you the most?  Maybe the precariousness of life in general, the dying of your friends and loved ones, or the growing frailty of your own health and mortal flesh.

What are you willing to barter for life and health, for safety and security, or for a little peace and quiet?  What would you give simply to be liked, or to be left alone?

The life that you are looking for is one of two things: It is either the idolatry of a false god, which will fail you.  Or it is the Life with God that is yours by faith alone in Christ Jesus, your Savior.

Though you struggle with the sins and weaknesses, the doubts and fears, the frailties and failures of your fallen nature, I know that you are in church looking for Jesus — and rightly so.  He is here!  And He is yours.  You are here because you are His disciple, and you are His disciple because He has called you and catechized you by and with His Word and Holy Spirit.  So do not be afraid.

He has given you the new birth of Holy Baptism, and He Himself has risen in you to will and to do what is pleasing to His God and Father, who is now also your God and Father.  So it is that you live by faith in His Gospel!

It is by and with that Holy Gospel that Christ Jesus meets you here with His forgiveness of all your sins.  He greets you with grace, mercy, and peace, with life instead of death, with comfort for your doubts and fears, and with the safety and security of His great salvation.

Though He has risen from the dead, leaving behind His borrowed tomb and the dust of the earth, He plants His feet upon the earth here at His Altar in His Church.  Lay hold of Him here, according to His Word, in His Body given and His Blood poured out for you and for the many.  Lay hold of Him here in the Liturgy of His Gospel, and worship Him with joy in the fear and faith of God.

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

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