Real life is more than simply to exist. Real life is more than breathing and eating and drinking, going to bed and getting up to do it all over again. Real life is to dwell with the Father in peace and in love, to abide with Him in His House as a member of His household and family.
To live in the Father’s House, that is real life. And that is more than a matter of location. More than where your bedroom happens to be found at the end of each day. It is more than whether you even have a bedroom or a bed to call your own.
The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head in His life on earth, and yet, He was always at home with His Father. For the Father always abides in His Son, and He remained with Him at all times, even in the midst of suffering and death. And the Lord Jesus was always in and with His Father, no matter where He roamed, from His Nativity and His Baptism to His Cross and Resurrection.
The same is true for you by faith. Whether you live in a mansion, or a pup tent, or under a bridge; whether you have no permanent address, or a place where you’ve lived for fifty years, your home is with God the Father when by faith you are in Christ Jesus. Whereas, apart from faith, it doesn’t matter where you lay your body down, where you hang your hat, or what you call your home. Apart from faith in Christ, you have no real resting place, no true home, and no lasting family.
It is by faith that you live and abide with the Father in peace and in love. But that is not how it is for you as a child of Adam to begin with. As a son or daughter of Adam & Eve, you have been driven from your home with God, cast out of the Garden. Not because of any fault in God, but on account of your own fault. Your sin, your unbelief, and your idolatry have put you at odds with God and wrecked your relationship with Him.
You know what this is like from your own home and family. If you are at odds with your father or mother, or with your siblings; if there is some unresolved grievance; if you have done wrong but have not yet been reconciled to your father, then, even though you live in the same house, and you have your own room and your place at the table, it sure doesn’t feel like home. You may be frightened. You may be confused. You may be angry and bitter. Your feelings may be all over the map, but you’re not really at home, not when there is no peace between you and your father.
On the other hand, you may be a soldier or a student far from home; and yet, even though you are far away and cut off by distance from your mother and father and your brothers and sisters, your home is where your heart is, and your heart dwells in peace with your family across the miles.
In much the same way, as a child of God, your heart dwells in peace with your Father in heaven, and you reside in His household as a member of His family, when by faith you lay hold of Christ Jesus, no matter where in the world you happen to be, and no matter how things may be going.
But you can’t get there or live there by your own knowledge. You have no GPS or road map that tells you where or even what the Father’s House is. You do not know how to find your way, and you do not know how to dwell there and abide there in peace, until the Lord Himself teaches you by His preaching of the Gospel, by His forgiveness of your sins.
Forgiveness is the Key to the Father’s House. And that forgiveness comes from Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He knows the Way to the Father. He is the Way to the Father. He is the exact Representation and Likeness of His Father, especially in His flesh and blood as the incarnate Son. And now this Lord Jesus Christ — the Son of God who has become true Man, your Brother, born of the Woman — He has come to show you the Way, and to be the Way for you.
And just as God has been hidden from you because of your sin — for it is not a lack of knowledge that prevents you, but sin which bars the way, and breaks your relationship, and makes the House of God feel like a place of fear instead of a place of rest — Christ has come and hidden Himself under the Cross in the midst of sin and death, in order to reveal Himself to you by the Gospel.
It is by the Cross and Resurrection, and by the preaching of the Gospel, that the Lord reveals Himself to you. Not to your eyesight, and often not to your feelings and emotions, nor to your intellect and reason as such, but to faith — which He obtains in your heart, where and when it pleases Him, by His Word of forgiveness. It is entirely His good work and His gracious gift.
Christ hides Himself in weakness, in order to reveal Himself in love to you who are weak. The one true God hides Himself in flesh and blood; and not only that, but in the likeness of your fallen flesh, subject to the curse and consequences of your sin. Subject to your death.
God thus hides Himself in that which is the very opposite of God. He hides Himself in darkness and gloom. He hides Himself in hurt and sorrow and pain. He who is the Life hides Himself in death. And He does so in order to reveal Himself to poor, miserable sinners, like yourself, who are lost in the darkness and condemned to die; so that in the midst of deep darkness the Lord might lay hold of you and bring you in peace to His Father.
The Son hides Himself in, with, and under the Cross, in order to reconcile you to His Father in His own crucified and risen Body. That is the Way that He makes known to you through the Gospel.
Though you have been afraid; though you have been lost and confused; though you have been angry and bitter, God has set His heart at peace with you. He is not angry. He is not bitter. And He has not lost sight of you. Instead, the Father has given His Son in the flesh, even into death, that He might become the Firstborn of many brothers and sisters, among whom you are counted.
The Son of God, who has come from the very bosom of the Father, has returned to the Father by the Way of the Cross. He has borne the sins of the world in His own Body, and made Atonement for them by His Blood. And by the Way of the Cross, through suffering, death, and burial, He has risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. All of His enemies are trampled under His feet, the head of the serpent crushed by His sacrificial death for the salvation of sinners.
By this Way of the Cross, in His Resurrection and Ascension, the Lord Jesus Christ has prepared a place for you. And by faith in His Gospel, that is where you now live — with Christ in God — even while you sojourn through this valley of sorrow, a stranger in a strange land far from home.
Here within the Church on earth, you are in the Father’s House. Here you are set at peace with God, because your sins are forgiven. Here the gentleness of the Father toward you in Christ Jesus calms your quaking heart and your trembling hands and your troubled mind, so that you know peace such as the world cannot give. And you find that you do have a place within the household and family of God, because you do have such a Father who loves you and cares for you. He does not cast you away from His presence. He does not punish you as you deserve. He does not scold you for your sins. He gathers you to Himself, He sets you at His Table, and He delights in you as He delights in His own beloved and well-pleasing Son, your Brother and Savior, Christ Jesus.
That House and Home with the Father are yours in Christ Jesus, who has not left you alone, but He is very near you, in your ears, and in your heart, and on your lips and tongue, with His Word.
It is for this purpose that He called and gathered to Himself those poor, confused men, including St. Philip & St. James, those holy Apostles who were also men of flesh and blood, of sin and weakness, no different and no better than yourself. He revealed Himself to them, and He sent them to preach, to baptize, to absolve sinners in His Name, and to shepherd His flock with the Gospel.
We don’t know much about Philip, and we know even less about this James, who is often confused with a few others of the same name. And what we do know is not altogether complimentary. Yet, Christ knows and loves them well, and He was always with them in the Office to which He called them. He was with them in their preaching. He was with them in their works. So that what they spoke and what they did were the words and works of Christ Himself. Indeed, by these men He has done greater things than He ever did before, because He has accomplished His purposes and prepared a place for His people by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead.
What Philip and James and all the Apostles delivered in His Name, and what the ministers of Christ to this day preach and administer in His Name, are the fruits and benefits of His Sacrifice.
Christ has brought you home to the Father in Himself, in His crucified and risen Body And He gives you that Home here on earth within His Church by the Apostolic preaching of the Gospel.
Sheep, you know your Shepherd’s voice. You hear it in the Gospel. You know it, and you follow Him, even though it is by mortal men that He now speaks to you. You hear Christ Jesus in the preaching of His Word, and you know Him by faith. And knowing Him, you know His Father as your own dear Father in heaven. Because what you hear in Christ, and what you see by faith in Him, is the Father’s heart open wide to you in love, in mercy, in compassion and forgiveness.
Believe in Him. Trust in Him. Know that the Word He speaks to you is true. It is steadfast, sure, and certain. It is not empty and lifeless, but living and life-giving. It is stronger than death and the grave. And it is stronger than your own heart, which may accuse and condemn you.
Christ is for you. That is what He speaks. That is what He does. That is what He gives. Believe in Him. And believe in His Father. Believe the Word that He speaks to you, and confess that Word. Speak it against the lies of the devil, and speak it in love to and for your neighbor.
Proceed in faith as you hear that Word, even when everything around you testifies differently. Even though Christ is hidden under the Cross, and that which you see and experience in the world seems so tangible and so convincing, whether for good or evil. The Word of Christ alone is true and eternal. So confess it. And if you are mocked and ridiculed, so be it. Confess it anyway, and rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer for the Word of Christ like the Prophets and Apostles before you. Like Philip and James, who sealed their preaching with their own lifeblood.
Do not only confess the Word that is spoken to you, but also pray according to it. Pray in Jesus’ Name. That is to say, pray in the confidence of Christ who loves you. Pray from within the waters of your Baptism. Pray as a member of God’s household and family. Pray as dear children ask their dear father, only that much better; for God is your true Father, and you are His true child, and He does not spurn your prayers. He has commanded you to pray, and He has promised to hear you.
As you lift up your heart and your voice to call upon the Name of the Lord, you enter into His courts with thanksgiving; and along with your prayer, you also ascend like incense into the Holy of Holies, in and with the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.
Your prayer is heard for Jesus’ sake. By prayer in His Name you already dwell in the House of God, because Christ has drawn near to you. He has not simply waited on high for you to pray, in order to have compassion, but in compassion He has stooped low. He has built His Church here. He has raised its walls and established its foundations by the preaching of His Holy Apostles and Prophets, which He also causes to be preached to the ends of the earth and to the close of the age.
By that Word, right here and now, your sins are all forgiven. There is no condemnation. You are not cast out. You are at home with your Father, because His own dear Son, Christ Jesus, is here with you as your Savior, who will never leave you nor forsake you. And as He is here with you, with His Gospel, so shall you be with Him, where He is, forever and ever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.