What is the language that you speak? What are the words on your tongue? How do you talk to and about God, your Father in heaven, your Lord Jesus Christ, and His precious Holy Spirit.
What is the language, and what are the words with which you speak to your neighbor? To your spouse and your children. To your parents. To the people you work and live with in the world.
You might say, English. Maybe you know some other language. But that’s not really the point.
Do you speak the language of God? That is to say, do you speak the language of love? Are the words on your tongue words of faith, and of love for your neighbor and your God?
Or is the language that you speak rather that of the sinful world? Words of selfishness and of self-righteousness; of pride and conceit; of envy and bitter resentment. Hurtful words. Unkind words.
Jesus says, if anyone loves Me, He will keep My Words.
You learn to speak as you hear, and as you listen. So it is that you do love Jesus, and you do speak His Word. For you pray and you confess as He has taught you, as the Holy Spirit has taught you. As you remember your Catechism (though maybe not as well as you should). As you daily give attention to the Word of God (though perhaps you sometimes forget). As you pray the Our Father day by day, and as you confess the Creed each morning and each night. As you sing the Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of the Church, which proclaim Christ and praise His Name.
But what about the other words that you speak in the course of your days? What other language proceeds from out of your heart and out of your mouth? What is the sort of babble that you listen to and then allow to come rolling off your own lips and tongue?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones.” That’s how the saying goes, isn’t it? “But words can never hurt me.” What a load of bologna! That could not be more wrong, and you know it.
Words are the most powerful thing of all, whether for evil or for good. Cuts and bruises heal, but there are words that you have spoken that you cannot take back. And words that have been spoken to you that have cut more deeply than any sticks or stones could ever reach.
And this is not by accident, that words are so powerful and bear such consequences.
The Lord God Almighty created all things by His Word. And apart from His Word there is nothing at all. His Word created and still upholds all things in heaven and on earth.
And as you are made in His Image and Likeness, you are a rational and logical creature. Which means, in large part, that you’re designed to listen to words, to speak words, and to think in words. You are created to hear and receive the Word of the Lord, and to live by faith in His Word. So it is that words teach you the faith: For faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.
But words are also used to tempt you, and to lead you astray. And the words that you speak are not always the Word of God, but words that proceed from out of your own sinful heart and mind, echoing the lies of the devil, hurting and harming your neighbor instead of giving him life. For it is with your tongue and with your words that you curse and swear, attack and accuse.
Think of it. The same mouth that prays and confesses the holy Word of God, the same mouth that receives the very Body and Blood of Christ, the Word-made-Flesh — it is with that same mouth that you take the Lord’s Name in vain. With that same mouth that you bear false witness against your neighbor. That you utter harsh and hurtful words; that you gossip and pervert the truth; that you criticize and complain, though your words should be holy and set apart from sin and all evil.
Repent of your blasphemous and sacrilegious words and language. Repent of the idle and useless chatter that comes rolling off your tongue. Repent of everything that you take upon your lips that is not put there by the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus!
It is the Word and Spirit of Christ — which always come and go together — for where the Word of Christ is, there is the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit does not deal with you apart from that Word of Christ — it is that Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus that call you to repentance, and bring you to repentance; that shut your mouth to evil, in order to open your mouth and fill it with God, to fill it with His language of life and love. It is the Word and Spirit of Christ that save you from sin and all evil, from death and damnation, and from the terrible power of the devil and his lies.
It is the Word and Spirit of Christ that scatter you like dust, in order to gather you together into the one Body of Christ, His holy Church. Not simply as news and information, but as the very work of Christ Himself, the Son of God, the Word by whom all things are made, who is now made flesh and blood for you and all the children of men; and blessed by the Spirit of God in His own Body; and crucified for you, for your transgressions; who is also risen again, and ascended to the Father, making the way for you, and opening the way. He is the Word of God, and He is your Savior.
For by this Word, by this Christ, God the Father speaks to you in holy love and reconciles you to Himself in peace. He recreates you for the life that He intended from before the foundation of the world, and He reunites you with Himself in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit. And every bit of this He does by the Word of Christ, His only-begotten Son, also in His very flesh and blood.
Think back to the beginning, when God first created man out of dust from the ground, and He formed him from that earth. Beyond that, He did something else, by which He made the man into a living being. The Lord breathed His Breath or Spirit into man. That is what gave him life. Apart from that Breath, apart from that Spirit of God, there is no life or health or any other blessing.
But what has your sin done? It has exhaled the Holy Spirit and driven Him out of your lungs, out of your body, and out of your life, so that you suffocate and die; for you cannot live without Him.
Your sin is like a spiritual asthma. It chokes you and suffocates you, so that you can’t catch your breath. It’s like putting a plastic bag over your head, cutting off your air and killing you. It’s like those old sitcoms where people get locked in bank vaults, and the air is running out, and they cannot save themselves. That is your predicament, as well. But it’s far worse than suffocating.
It is eternal death when the Spirit of God is driven out of your heart and life. For the Spirit is God Himself. He is the perfect and personal Bond of Unity between the Father and the Son. And He is the very Love of God, the Love of the Father for the Son, the Love of the Son for the Father.
To receive the Holy Spirit, therefore, is to receive the Life of God. The Spirit is the “Glue,” so to speak — if it is not irreverent to say so — He is the Glue that unites you to God, that binds you to the Father in the Son, within that same divine Love forever and ever. That is your sanctification. That is your holiness. That alone is your true, divine, eternal Life, in and with the one true God.
But you cannot receive this Life-giving Holy Spirit; you cannot breathe this Air; you cannot speak this Language; and you cannot live this Life, except by the redemption of your Savior, Jesus Christ, which is the forgiveness of your sins and your reconciliation with His God and Father.
Apart from the atoning sacrifice of His Cross, you cannot receive the Holy Spirit. You are closed and shut to Him. But that is the dire situation that Christ Jesus has undone and rectified by His own voluntary suffering and death. And the faith and life and love of the New Creation, of Man made new by the Holy Spirit of God, Christ has manifested in His Resurrection and Ascension, and now He pours out generously from heaven through the Gospel in His Church on earth.
It is indeed this great salvation of your dear Lord, Jesus Christ, which the Holy Spirit bestows upon you from the Father through the preaching and Ministry of the Gospel. It is the Gospel above all else that is the language of God, the language of divine Love, the language that saves you. For it is by that Word that He forgives you, fully and freely, all of your sins.
As His Word brought all things into existence, what He speaks is so. “Let there be,” and there is. When He says you are forgiven, you are forgiven. And by that Word of forgiveness, He creates and sustains faith in your heart, and love in your heart for the Father, and for the Son, and for the Holy Spirit — and love also for your neighbors in the world, for your fellow sinners, and for your fellow redeemed children of God — like the love of God for you, though you do not deserve it.
It is by the Word of the Gospel, the forgiveness of your sins, and through faith in this Gospel, that God the Holy Spirit reconciles you to the Father in Christ Jesus, the beloved Son, and grants you that Peace which surpasses all human understanding. It is a Peace the world does not know and cannot give. A Peace that is more than the end of war, more than the end of an argument. It is the genuine Peace of reconciliation with God, so that you can now call Him your own dear Father.
It is by this Word of the Gospel that the Holy Spirit is your Advocate and Defender, your Defense Attorney, your Counselor, and your Comforter. And He stands with you and for you. He speaks on your behalf. He pleads Christ in the face of the devil’s accusation and the Law’s accusation. He pleads Christ for you, and that is a better defense than any lawyer in the world could provide.
Sin, death, the devil, and hell can no longer accuse you. God Himself no longer accuses you, but defends you and speaks well of you. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And the Holy Spirit, by the Word of the Gospel, puts you in Jesus, even as He lays the same Lord Jesus on your heart. In and with Him, you are safe from everything that would hurt you.
It is by this Word of the Gospel, this Word of Christ and His Spirit, that you are taught to confess — to say the same thing that God has spoken to you in Christ, and thereby to speak His language. Because, as the Psalmist prays, and as we pray with the Psalmist, the Lord thereby opens your lips to show forth His praise, to pray, and to confess, and to call upon His Holy Name.
This is what He has done, and what He continues to do, for all of our catechumens, young and old, whether they be seven, or seventy, or a hundred and seventy. Even as He feeds your mouth and theirs with the same Word made Flesh, that is, the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, your Savior.
That Word of Christ and His Holy Spirit — that Word of the Gospel — that Word is the Love with which the Father loves you. The Word of God does not simply teach you about His love. His Word loves you. It embraces you. It holds you fast and will not let you go.
That Word of the Gospel is the true and essential unity of the Church in heaven and on earth.
Apart from that Word, apart from that Gospel, there is no life, there is no love. Then there is only babble. Then there is only confusion and separation, and ultimately death and eternal damnation.
But let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid. For here and now, the Lord Jesus Christ is still speaking His Word to you. And He’s going to keep on speaking His Word to you, and breathing His Spirit upon you and into you. Hear what He says, and be at Peace in Him:
Take, eat; this is My Body. It is for you. It is for the forgiveness of all your sins. Drink from this Cup. It is the New Testament in My Blood. It is poured out for you, and for My whole Church, for all of My disciples from every nation. It forgives your sins, and with that forgiveness it gives you life and salvation.
This is the “remembrance” of Christ Jesus to which the Spirit brings you by and with His Word. It is a remembrance not only of the heart and of the head, but one that He gives into your mouth and into your body, both now and forever, in the Peace that passes all human understanding.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.