29 March 2018

To Worship the Lord Your God in the Body of Christ

To live is to worship the Lord your God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And to worship Him is your life and your salvation.  It is for this Life that He created you, and to this Life He calls you.

The Lord calls you to Himself, to find your life in Him, and to worship Him by faith in Christ, by serving you, by feeding you, and by caring for your body and soul with His Word and Sacrament.

He does it all by means of this sacred Tradition and this solemn Ceremony, in which the Father hands over His Son, and the Son hands Himself over and gives Himself to you in His Supper.

The Life by which you live is in the Blood of this Lamb, just as life is in the blood of both man and beast.  For blood brings oxygen and nutrition to the body; it cleanses the body of infection, disease, and death.  So has this Lamb been sacrificed for you, and His lifeblood has been shed for your life, that you should not die but live with God and worship Him in peace.  Sacrificed once for all upon the Cross, His Flesh and His Blood are now given and poured out for you, in order to feed you, to quench your thirst, to forgive your sins, and to cleanse you of all that poisons you and kills you.

In this way, the beloved Son, who is the Lamb of God, worships the Father with His Body and His Life; and so does He also love and serve you, His neighbor, by and with His precious Blood.

It is Christ Jesus who thus makes this House of God your home, your place of peace and rest.  For here the Ceremony of His Holy Supper (His Passover) is delivered to you, no less than He handed it over to His disciples.  By this means, He gives Himself to you as your Meat and Drink indeed.  He pours out His Blood to cover you, to shelter and protect you, here within His Father’s House.

Holy Baptism is the door through which you have entered this House, and by which you have been made a member of this Household and Family of God.  For in the washing of the water with the Word and Spirit of God, you have been signed by the Cross with the Blood of the Lamb: upon the lintel and the door posts of your body and life, upon your forehead and your heart.  So that all you think and say and do is marked by the cruciform Image of God in Christ, in whom you now live.

The Lord has given to His Church on earth these sacred rites and ceremonies as the way and means by which He remembers His people, and by which they worship Him.  Thus are His Body and His Blood administered in His Name and stead by those whom He has called and sent.  And this Holy Sacrament is both the Sign and the Instrument of His great deliverance, by which you are saved.  For the Lord your God sees this Blood of the Lamb, which marks both you and this House wherein you feast and live; His judgment passes over you in mercy, and no plague befalls or destroys you.

This definitive Ceremony of the Lord’s Liturgy — this most sacred Tradition of Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who has mercy upon you and grants you peace — this Passover of the New Testament is the first and foremost of days and weeks and months and years.  Indeed, it is the beginning of eternity for you, as you eat and drink at the Word of Christ in faith and with thanksgiving.  It is a perpetual Memorial established by God for your heart, mind, body, and soul, whereby you worship the Lord here in time and hereafter in Paradise forever.  Not by your doing, but by hearing what He says, receiving what He gives, and trusting what He does.

For all of which it truly is meet, right, and salutary to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him in Christ.

It is likewise by this Meal of His Body and His Blood that you and all the children of God are one Household and Family, fellow members of one Body in Christ Jesus, anointed by one Holy Spirit.  You have one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and one God and Father in Christ, the beloved Son.  And you are given to feast upon this one Lamb who has been sacrificed for you, whose Blood now marks your Father’s House.  As you eat of His one Body and drink from His Chalice of Salvation, you are bound together with all who eat and drink, as one Body in Him.  You are bodied and blooded together with all of your brothers and sisters in Christ, as one Holy Communion in Him.

Thus, you are what you receive, and you receive what you are: The Body of Christ.  And that, not alone, but together with all who are baptized into Him, who recline at His Table and feast on Him.

To love your neighbor, therefore, is to love the Lord Jesus Christ in your neighbor.  This, too, is to worship the Lord your God and to live by faith in Him.  And so it is that you love your neighbor as Christ Jesus loves you, because Christ now lives in you, both body and soul, by and with His Word, His Holy Spirit, and His own Body and Blood, given and poured out for you in His Supper.

You wash your neighbor’s feet, as Jesus washes you.  Not only metaphorically, but sometimes for real, as when your parents or spouse are no longer able to care for themselves or wash their own bodies, or when you mothers and fathers bathe your little children and wash between their toes.

So do you also tend your neighbor’s wounds, and you tenderly care for his needs and his feelings.  You feed his body, you cover his expenses, you clothe his nakedness, and you forgive his sins.  You visit him in his affliction, in the house of bondage, and you grieve and mourn with him in the cords of death and the grave.  You comfort him with such love as the Lord so patiently lavishes upon you.  Indeed, you give life to your neighbor by your own blood, sweat, and tears.

And yet, for all of that, if you examine yourself rightly, and if you examine this Body of Christ to which you belong — if you consider even these neighbors here with you, who are your brothers and sisters in Christ, your own kin, the children of your own God and Father in Him — if you thus examine yourself, then you know that you have not loved as Christ has commanded you to love.

You have not let His love have its way with you, and so your love for others has failed.  There are those whom you have hurt, and there are those whom you have failed to help.  Your thoughts, words, and deeds have been soiled with sin, marred by selfishness, lust, and greed.  In your fallen flesh there is nothing else but this vile sin and death, from which you cannot set yourself free.

Nevertheless, the Lord your God has called you out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, out from under Pharaoh’s bitter yoke.  He has delivered you from sin and death.  Not because you were more prosperous or stronger than anyone else; not because you were more pious and faithful and sincere; not because you were more Lutheran, more confessional, or more orthodox than others.  It is not because you were more plain and simple, nor because you were more formal and elaborate.

The Lord has called you, by His grace alone, with His Gospel of forgiveness.  He has passed over your sins in mercy, and He remembers them no more.  He has spared you from death and the grave, and He has brought you into Life with Himself.  He has done so for His own Name’s sake, for the sake of His divine and holy Love in Christ Jesus, the Lamb who has been slain for your salvation.

So has He named you with His Name by calling you out of bondage and bringing you into His House of peace and rest through the waters of Holy Baptism and the forgiveness of all your sins.

The Father has sacrificed the unblemished Lamb for you at Twilight, and He has marked your door with His Blood.  He catechizes you here in His House with His Word; He seats you here at His Table; and He washes your feet with the Absolution of Christ, so that you are clean by His grace.

And here the Father feeds you with the Lamb whom He has chosen from before the foundation of the world; whom He has sacrificed upon the Cross in your place, that you might live by His grace.  As He fed the disciples then, even Judas and Peter and Thomas — not because of their faithfulness, but by His own faithfulness — so does He feed you.  For the Father loves the disciples of Jesus, whom He has called and chosen by His Word and Holy Spirit.  And so does the Father love you, as Christ Jesus loves you, even to His death upon the Cross, and in His Resurrection ever after.

It is by this Love of God for you in Christ Jesus, by the Body and Blood of the Lamb, that you live and worship the Lord your God in body and soul, and that you also love as you are loved, forever.

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

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