31 May 2020

The Ways and Means of the Spirit of Christ Jesus

It is no wonder that you are thirsty.  For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  Your lips are parched, your throat as dry as dirt, until God waters your soil with the living Waters of Christ Jesus, and so fills your body of flesh and bone with His Life-giving Holy Spirit.

Here then is your Eden, your Paradise on earth, your Oasis in a desert wilderness.  For here, from the wounded side of Christ, from His innermost being, by the divine Glory of His Cross and in His Resurrection, the Lord pours forth the Holy Spirit like water into your thirsty soul.  This Spirit is the Water of Life from the Rock of Ages, cleft for you.  It is for this Drink that you have been created, and nothing else but this Gift of God Himself will quench or satisfy your thirst.

It is for this purpose that God has come in the flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  And the Son receives the Spirit from His Father in His own Body of human flesh and blood — in the waters of His Baptism and in His Resurrection from the dead — in order to pour out the same Spirit of God upon all flesh.  He receives and breathes the Spirit as true Man, that you might drink of the same Spirit and live forever with the Father in His Son.

So has the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ caused His Church to be planted and to prosper in this place, in order to pour out the living and Life-giving Waters of His Holy Spirit upon His people at Emmaus.  In fact, it was on this date in 1922 that His disciples at St. Paul, South Bend, first met and began making plans for the beginning of this congregation in the following year.

But you know as well as I do that there are plenty of nearby alternatives, many of them attractive and enticing with promises of life and health and success.  And the truth is that you are tempted and prone to sample whatever is on tap — to belly up to the bar and have a round — as often as you try to quench your thirst with other “waters,” other beverages of choice, and other “spirits.”  Maybe it’s too much of God’s good gift of alcohol.  But I’m not talking only about drunkenness or alcohol addiction.  It could just as easily be bottled water and a health food diet that you make into your personal well spring, in the hopes of saving yourself and securing your body and life in the world.  It is whatever you rely on to satisfy your thirst, to wet your lips and whet your appetites, to fill the empty hollow in your belly — even though any other water than the Spirit of Christ Jesus will not enliven your flesh but will leave you dying of thirst, like trying to live on salty sea water.

Repent of such foolish idolatry, which is not only sinful but deadly.  Rather, come to Christ and drink freely and fully of the Holy Spirit, whom He pours out generously, without measure and without cost, for all who believe in Him.  When you drink of Him, not only do you have abundant life with God in both your body and your soul, but then you are also able to receive, to use rightly, and to enjoy the good gifts of His whole creation.  When your thirst is quenched and you are filled with the living Waters of the Holy Spirit, then, whatever your own beverage of choice may be, and whatever your diet is like, you eat and drink in faith and with thanksgiving to the glory of God.

The Spirit who proceeds from the Father in the Son is the Author and Perfecter of Life.  He is worshiped and adored with the Father and the Son, because He is one and the same true God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.  He bestows the true beauty of divine Wisdom in the world, as He gives growth and good order to all of creation; and by the Word of the Gospel of Christ Jesus He establishes the Church, the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.

Come to Christ, therefore, and drink of this living and Life-giving Spirit of God.  Not by your own wisdom, reason, or strength, but where and when and how it pleases God, in the ways and means whereby the Lord reveals and gives Himself to you and pours out His Life-giving Spirit upon you.

It is by faith in His Word that you come to Christ.  For the Holy Spirit calls you by the Gospel, and by the preaching of the Gospel He brings you to Christ Jesus, even as He lays this same Lord Jesus Christ upon your heart, mind, body, and soul, with His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

Come to Christ by hearing and heeding His Word, which is preached to you by His Spirit in His Church.  For the Church is the Body of Christ, the fullness of Him who fills all things; and the Spirit of His God and Father rests and remains upon His Body. His Church is the true Mountain of God, which surpasses both Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion.  Here is the Tabernacle of God among men.  Here is the Temple of the Holy Spirit in the one Body of Christ Jesus, in His Means of Grace.

By your Holy Baptism you are united with Christ in His Cross and Resurrection, and you receive the Holy Spirit in the external bodily means of water and the Word, as Christ received the Spirit in bodily form as a dove at His Baptism.  So, too, you come to Christ and drink of His Spirit as often as the Lord returns you to the remembrance and significance of your Holy Baptism by way of repentance and faith in His forgiveness of sins, especially by His Word of Holy Absolution.

What is more, the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus are your Spiritual Food and Drink, given and poured out for you in the Holy Communion.  Here at His Altar you come to Christ and receive Him and His Holy Spirit, as He comes to you and gives Himself to you by His Ministry of the Gospel.

As you are thus taught by the Gospel in Word and Sacrament to know and love the Lord your God, to believe in Jesus Christ and come to Him, and to receive and drink deeply of His Holy Spirit, so do you also pray, praise, and give thanks in the Name of Jesus.  You confess His Word and call upon His Name, and you are saved.  For the Lord is merciful to all who call on Him, even as He has taught you and invited you to pray to Him in Peace, in the confidence of His Resurrection.

The teaching of this Word of Christ is not random or haphazard.  It is beautifully arranged and laid before you, just as all of creation is ordered according to God’s glorious grace and wisdom, by His Word and Holy Spirit.  The Gospel is unfolded for you in the story of Christ Jesus in the Flesh, in the pattern and progress of the Church Year: from Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, through Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, into the ongoing Life and work of Christ in the Time of the Church.  Not only the stuff of creation, but the hours, days, weeks, and years, and all the seasons of your life on earth, are sanctified by the Gospel of Christ Jesus, by the Holy Spirit in and with that Word.

Thereby, within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the prayer of Moses is answered in the Body of Christ Jesus.  That is to say, the Spirit of the Lord is poured out upon all flesh, and He rests upon all of the people of God, because Christ has been glorified by the Father in His Cross and Resurrection.  So it is that you and all the disciples of Christ Jesus are taught by God, by the Gift of His Spirit.  And you speak the Word of the Lord, confessing what He has spoken to you.

Still, there is an ordering of the Church’s life in Christ.  All are one, and all are equal before God in the righteousness and holiness of Christ Jesus; for there is one Lord, one Spirit, and one God and Father of all, one faith, one Baptism, and one Body of Christ.  Yet, the unity, equality, and harmony of His Body, the Church, is not that of undifferentiated sameness, formless and devoid of character.  No, the Kingdom of God is ordered and arranged, like the artistry of the human body, like the genius of God’s good creation, with a great variety of different gifts, a wondrous panoply of sizes, shapes, and colors, of sights and sounds, and of beautiful contours and textures.

Not all are Moses.  Not all are ordained elders in the Church.  Not all are pastors and teachers, bishops, or deacons.  But there is a diversity and distribution of the many gifts of the one Holy Spirit.  There are different offices within the life of the Church, each of which bears the necessary graces of the Spirit for the fulfillment of God’s holy will and purposes.  With such a variety of “voices,” with such a multiplicity of “languages,” the one Holy Gospel is confessed and is heard in all the world, from the rising of the sun to the place of its going down.  So also here at Emmaus.

It is for this faithful confession of the Word of Christ Jesus that all Christians, with all their vast array of differences in personality, ability, interests, and skills, are each and all anointed and filled with one and the same Holy Spirit.  So are they united to one another within the Holy Communion of the Body of Christ.  Not to erase or eradicate all differences between them, but to give life to the entire household and family of God in Christ, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name.

Those who are thus given to drink of the Spirit of Christ, who are filled with such living Waters of the Lord, become springs of living Water and fountains of the Spirit for others, each of them within his or her own callings, in his or her own particular office and station in life.  So, also, each one of you, in your own place, is a fountain of living Water for your neighbors in the world.  And Emmaus is a part of that, too.  Not a mirage, but a true oasis in the desert, despite any appearances or experience to the contrary.  For the Word and Spirit of the Lord flow out from this holy place.

It is in, with, and under the Cross that such Waters spring up in you and water the earth; for it is by the Cross that Christ Himself is glorified, and by and from His Cross that the Spirit is given.  Your place in life, your words and works, are consequently despised by the world — and by the fallen old man in yourself and others, too.  Taunts of drunkenness are leveled at you.  Even the New Wine of Christ, His holy and precious Blood, is blasphemed and disregarded in this way.

But do not be dismayed, and do not give up hope or grow weary of doing good.  The Lord Himself is with you in, with, and under His Cross.  As you are thirsty, come to Him and drink.  You belong to the Kingdom of God, and the Spirit of God rests and remains upon you in Christ Jesus.

Blood and Fire and Vapor of Smoke, the Pillar and Cloud by night as by day, and all the signs of the Cross and Passion of Christ Jesus — these are not a denial or contradiction of God’s Kingdom here with you; they are signs of His Power and His Glory and of His gracious Presence.

The Kingdom of God has been established in the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus.  Not only once upon a time, nor only here and now, but forever and always.  His Body abides for all the years yet to come, even to the close of the age, unto the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.

Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, anointed by the Spirit in His own Body of flesh and blood, is the fulfillment and perfection of the Lord’s Old Testament Liturgy of grace, and so also God’s ordering of time and space.  He is the true Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for you.  His Blood has redeemed you, it marks your door to guard and protect you from death, and it is poured out upon your lips and tongue and down your throat to quench your deepest thirst.  And His Flesh is given you to eat for the freedom of forgiveness and faith.  The same Lord Jesus Christ is the true Pentecost, the Firstborn from the dead, the Firstfruits of the New Creation.  His Body and His Blood are the Atonement by which you are reconciled to God, received by the Father, and able to rejoice in Him who is your Lord and Savior.  For He is the Tabernacle of God who abides with you, and you with Him, from the wilderness into Canaan.  He breathes the Spirit of Life into your body by His Word of the Gospel, and He pours out the same Spirit from His side in the Water and the Blood, in order to cleanse and refresh you within and without, in your body and your soul.

All of this that He has done for you and for all people was promised and prepared for by the times and epochs ordained by the Father in the Old Covenant, in the pilgrim festivals that He instituted through Moses.  But now they have been accomplished in Christ Jesus, and they are bestowed upon you in the Sundays and Seasons of the Church Year.  Not as a new Law, but as the Gospel, from Jubilee unto Jubilee, in the gladness, joy, and righteousness of the Resurrection.  This Lord’s Day — and every Day of Grace — is shaped, defined, determined, and filled by the Word of Christ Jesus, and thereby sanctified by the Holy Spirit as your true Sabbath Rest in Him who loves you.

So, then, although you do not know when that great and final Day of Judgment will come upon all flesh, the fullness of the time has come and is here for you in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

Here is the last, great Day of the Feast: The eternal Eighth Day of the Resurrection and of the Life everlasting.  The Lord has brought you thus far by His grace, by His Word and Holy Spirit, to believe His holy Word and live a godly life here in time and hereafter in eternity.  And according to His steadfast loving-kindness, He feeds you here and now with His Spiritual Food and Drink.

Are you hungry?  Take and eat the Body of Christ.  And you who are thirsty, come and drink the Blood of Christ, poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

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

24 May 2020

Welcome Home to Your Father in Christ Jesus

Where do you live?  Where do you find your life?  Where is your home?  They say that “home is where the heart is.”  So, where is your heart?  What is it that you love, and where do you reside?

As a Christian, your heart and your home are with Christ Jesus, already here and now within His Church on earth, because He is here for you with His Word and Holy Spirit.  It is in and with Him that you live, by His grace, by faith in His Gospel, the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

Of course, that was true for Judas, too.  He was a disciple of Jesus, baptized with the Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of his sins, and communed by the hand of his Lord.  He had a place in the Lord’s House, a place at the Lord’s own Table.

But Judas turned aside and went to his own place.  He gave up the place that he had been given with Jesus, and he took back his own place in a field of blood, a place to which he returned by the path of his wickedness, because his heart loved money more than Jesus.  He saw to that himself.

Whatever excuses he made for himself, whatever rationalizations Judas used to justify his choices and decisions, they resulted in despair and death.  It would have been better for that man, our Lord Himself says, if he had never been born.  That is a sobering word and a serious call to repentance.

You also have been baptized and given a place at the Lord’s Table.  But where is your heart?  Where is it that you live?  And where are you headed?

What is it that you cling to and chase after?  What is it in your life that you love more than Jesus?

Maybe it’s money, as it was for Judas.  Maybe you’re desperate to keep what you have.  Or maybe you’re convinced that, if only you had more, then you could be happy, then you could really live.

But maybe it isn’t money at all.  Your idols and temptations may be altogether different.  Maybe for you it is leisure time, or being able to travel and take nice vacations.  Or maybe it’s popularity, perhaps that is the false god for which you would be willing to sacrifice your place with Jesus.  Maybe it’s your family, your house of brick and wood, or your hobbies and entertainment.  As if any of these things mattered or made any difference at all apart from Christ Jesus.

The tragic fact is that your sinful heart is characterized by a wanderlust that is so easily bored with Jesus and desperate for something new and exciting.  Something better.  Something you can take and keep for yourself.  So you are tempted by your own covetous lust and desire, tempted to turn away from the Lord your God, to go to “your own place,” instead of living and abiding in the place that Christ Jesus has graciously gotten for you and given to you by the Ministry of His Gospel.

Thankfully, though, in spite of all that, the heart of God is turned toward you, and His great heart of love is still wide open to you in Christ Jesus.  He desires nothing so much as your salvation and your eternal Life with Him.  He does not covet riches.  Indeed, your Lord Jesus did not count His equality with God a thing to be grasped; though He was rich, for your sake He made Himself poor, that you might inherit the riches of God in Him, and live with Him in His Kingdom.

For the sake of His divine and holy love, the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, has come down from heaven.  He has left His own place in order to descend into the depths of your place of sin and death.  He has made His bed in your field of blood, and He has slept in it, so that, in His bodily Resurrection, you also are raised up from death and the grave in and with Him.  And in His Ascension you are carried to the Right Hand of the God who is now your Father in Christ Jesus.

The Son of God has come down, in order to take you up.  He has left His home, in order to fetch you back to the Home that He has prepared for you with His Father in heaven.

You get a glimpse of how He has accomplished this great salvation if you consider St. Peter’s preaching and catechesis to those one-hundred-twenty disciples in Jerusalem.  In choosing a new Apostle to take the place of Judas Iscariot, the potential candidates needed to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life from His Baptism in the Jordan River to His being taken up.  For it is especially from His Baptism that Jesus began His great good work of bringing you and all the people back to God.

There in His Baptism, as He descends into the water, He is already lowering Himself down into the depths of your sin and death.  And as He comes back up, He raises you up with Himself.

Already in His death upon the Cross He is lifted up, in order to draw all men to Himself.  For it is by His Sacrifice that He atones for the sins of the world and reconciles the world to His Father.

And so it is that He is lifted up in His Resurrection, and He is lifted up in His Ascension to the Right Hand of God, where He ever lives to intercede for you in His Body and with His Blood.  And where He is, there you are and ever shall be, also, both body and soul, in and with Him.

He has blazed the trail for you.  He has come down to where you are, so that, in His lifting up, you are lifted up to be with Him where He is.  By and from His Baptism, He has entered into your house of death and doom; and by His lifting up on the Cross He has turned everything around for you, and He has brought you with Himself back to His own God and Father in heaven.

All of this that He has accomplished is given to you in Holy Baptism.  It is given to you by the Apostolic Ministry of the Gospel — that Ministry which began with Christ Jesus Himself, and then continued with His holy Apostles, with Peter, James, and John, and then also with Matthias.  By the grace and mercy of God, that Ministry of the Holy Gospel goes out to all the nations, to the ends of the earth, even to the close of the age, to make disciples by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the Name of Jesus, by the catechesis of His Word, and by Holy Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, just as He has spoken.

You share the Name and Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beloved Son, because you are baptized in His Name and with His Word and Holy Spirit.  You are a Christian, because Christ has anointed you with the Spirit of God, and He has named you with His own Name — the Name that is His from God the Father from all eternity, which He has also received as true Man in His own Flesh.

He has been given that divine and holy Name in His Flesh, in order to bestow that Name of God on you.  Thus do you bear the Name of Christ in your flesh, in your body and soul, both here and hereafter, and thus are you a Christian, a disciple of Christ Jesus, a child of His God and Father.

By your Baptism you also share His Cross, and sharing His Cross you share His Resurrection and Ascension, His Father, and His Spirit.  Everything that belongs to Him, He now shares with you.

Sharing His Cross, you share His Life and His Glory, His Home and Family.  When you suffer for the sake of Jesus, when you bear the Cross in your callings and stations, when you are persecuted for the very name of Christian that you have been given to bear — in all of this you are glorified with the Glory of Christ Jesus.  You share His Glory, the Glory of the Father manifested in Him, which is the Glory of His Cross and the sure and certain hope and promise of His Resurrection.

The Cross and suffering are certainly not enjoyable or fun.  That is not what the Glory of God is all about.  The Cross and suffering are painful and difficult, and it is only by the grace of God that you endure to the end and are saved.  But as you share the Cross and suffering of Jesus, He teaches you and trains you not to become too friendly or familiar with this perishing world of sin and death.  His Cross and suffering teach you not to fear, love, and trust in that which does not last.

If your heart abides in the world, then your heart makes it bed in the dust of the earth.  But when your heart abides in Christ Jesus by faith in His Word and promises, then your heart is already in heaven — and that is where your body and your soul shall be also in the Resurrection at the last.

It is in Christ Jesus that you live, no matter where on earth you may be.  Your true home is not here in this world.  Yet, even here and now, the Lord Jesus Christ — who has overcome this world with all its trials and tribulations — He is with you always.  He is with you in your suffering, especially in that which you suffer for His Name’s sake, as you bear the Cross for the sake of His Gospel.

It is in Christ Jesus that you are already at home with your Father in heaven.  You already live and abide there with God in Christ Jesus, even while you are still on your pilgrimage here on earth.  Here you are a stranger in a strange land.  You are still on your homeward journey through the wilderness.  But in Christ you have already reached your goal.  There is no doubt as to the ending.

Because He has become and is your Good Shepherd, so are you a sheep of His pasture.  So does He feed and nurture you in peace and safety.  He leads you beside the quiet waters.  He keeps you in your Baptism.  He pastures you with His Word.  He feeds you with Himself at His own Table.

Believe that it is so, and do not let your heart be troubled.  Be at peace, for you are in Christ Jesus.

In all of your going out and coming in — with all that you say and do — confidently bear the Name that Christ has given you to bear.  It is your Father’s Name.  It is your Patronymic.

Wherever He has sent you to serve His household and family here on earth, confidently bear that Name with which He has so graciously named you.  In your vocations you are firmly established within His household.  You are not far away from Him, because He is ever near and close to you.

And as often as you wander away from Him — as often as you get yourself lost because your eye latches onto something in this world and leads you astray — as often as you return to your own place, instead of remaining in the place that Christ has gotten for you and given to you — turn back, and come home.  Repent.  Be lifted up with Christ Jesus, your Savior, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead.  For He has built His House, and He has established a place in it for you — a place that He keeps on giving to you by the preaching of His Gospel of forgiveness.

Do not let your heart be troubled.  Do not be afraid.  Do not despair when you consider your sin and shame.  Though you may be lost, Christ is still near.  You shall not die homeless and alone.  For here you are already home in Christ.  Here you already live with Him and with the Father.

You live here in His Church, because your sins are all forgiven by His Word.  Your feet are firmly planted in Christ Jesus, and your heart is safely hidden with Christ in God.  “Welcome home.”

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

21 May 2020

Living the Heavenly Life with God in Christ Jesus

Whether your life is hellish or heavenly depends, not upon your location or your circumstances, but entirely upon the faith in your heart and the god on which you depend.  If your heart clings to Jesus Christ and abides in Him, then your life is heavenly and divine, already now in your body here on earth.  But if your heart fears, loves, and trusts in gods other than Christ, then your life is a hellish and damnable “living death,” which can only go from bad to worse.

It’s not that your body of flesh and blood is problematic or a prison; neither is it the material world of God’s good creation that imprisons you.  Rather, it is your sin and death, idolatry, and unbelief that drive you into fear and dread and sheer despair.  Thus do you perceive even your God-given vocations and your holy stations in life to be burdensome, tedious, and irksome, painful and unfair.  And as such, it seems to you that God the Lord is not the Sun that warms and lights you, but a cruel and demanding taskmaster, your judge, jury, and executioner.  So, too, you do not love and serve your neighbor, but you hate him, despise and resent him, hurt and take advantage of him.

How, then, shall you ever be able to escape from such a hellish prison?  How shall you learn to worship the Lord your God in reverent fear, love, and trust, instead of trying (vainly) to run away from Him in dreadful terror?  How shall you break out of that maddening downward spiral, in which you’re always fleeing but never able to evade the threat of death and eternal punishment?

How shall you cling to Christ Jesus in faith, hope, and love, and so rest yourself in Him?  How shall you rise with Him, and live in Him, and abide with Him in the bosom of His God and Father?

As impossible as all of this appears to be, rejoice, give thanks, and sing!  For all of this has been accomplished for you, and it is freely given to you here and now, by your Savior, Jesus Christ.

He is not far away or far above you, but He has brought you to God in Himself, even as He draws near to you with God.  He has done so by His Incarnation, by His Holy Cross and Passion, by His bodily Resurrection from the dead, and by His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father in His own human flesh.  And He continues to do so by way of His Church and Ministry of the Gospel.

He has entered into the Holy of Holies made without hands, eternal in the heavens, as your great and merciful High Priest, as your Anchor behind the Veil.  There He lives and abides in the presence of God in flesh and blood like your own, even as He feeds your body and soul with His Body and Blood here at His Altar in His Church.  So it is that, where and what and who He is, you are also, by His divine grace, through faith in His Gospel.  God and man, heaven and earth are no longer far apart and separated from one another, divided by sin and death, but they are perfectly reconciled and united in the Body of Christ Jesus.  You find your heavenly life in Him, therefore.

True, there is a right and wrong way to lay hold of Him on earth, as demonstrated in the contrast between Mary Magdalene and Thomas in the stories of the Resurrection.  Ironically, it was faithful Mary Magdalene who attempted to lay hold of Him in an earthly way at first, from which she was dissuaded when He pointed out that He was ascending to His God and Father; whereas doubting Thomas was given to lay hold of Christ Jesus in the sacred wounds of His Cross and Passion, that is to say, within His means of grace — the Word and Flesh and Blood of His Gospel — which Thomas and the other Apostles were then sent to preach and administer in His Name and stead.

Here, then, first of all, even in the midst of your doubts and fears, in spite of your sins and failings, the Lord Jesus lays hold of you in His mercy, with the grace and peace of His forgiveness, by the preaching of His Gospel, and by the administration of the Fruits of His Sacrifice upon the Cross.

That is how and why it is that, already here and now in your mortal body of flesh and blood, you live a heavenly life in the presence of God.  In and through Christ Jesus, your High Priest, you worship God in His Temple, in the midst of His Jerusalem, His Church on earth as it is in heaven.

Christ Jesus Himself is the Incense and the Prayer of His Body and Bride, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.  So is He also your Incense, your Prayer, and your Worship, whereby your body, soul, and spirit are received by your true God and Father in perfect peace and love and joy.

Likewise are you given to receive the same Lord Jesus Christ into your body of flesh and blood, and to live and abide in Him by faith in His Word as you go about your callings here on earth.

The truth remains that He is not far from you.  Lo, He is with you always, even to the close of the age, and even to the ends of the earth.  As you go about your life, therefore, be not far from Him.

Do not attempt to live your life on earth apart from the Gifts Christ freely gives to you here in the midst of His Jerusalem — the Gifts of His Gospel in Word and Sacrament — whereby He bestows the Gift of the Holy Spirit whom He promised from the Father, which He has first of all received for you in His own crucified and risen Body (in your stead and on your behalf).

As He does indeed pour out His Spirit generously upon you here and now, know that He Himself abides with you and lives in you, in order that you should live and abide with Him, both now and forever, in the glorious presence of the Holy Triune God.

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

17 May 2020

To Live and Love in God’s Love for You in Christ

The Lord your God has created you for life, and He has created you for love.  That is how you are made.  It is what you are here for and who you are to be.  Your existence and your being are from God, and so there is a presence and a movement about you that belong with Him.  You live best when you live toward Him and move in harmony with Him.

When you are apart from Him, away from Him, or at odds with Him, you are and will be restless, out of sorts, and afraid.  Your heart will be searching and longing for Him, whether you know it or not, and it will never be satisfied, at peace, or at home, until you are found in Him and are living in Him.  Otherwise, your heart will grow cold, bitter, and hard, and you will be angry all the time, or despairing; arrogant and proud, or eaten alive with envy and jealousy.

Driving everyone else away and retreating into yourself doesn’t work, and it won’t help.  Nor does using and controlling other people.  Neither lonely isolation nor lording it over your neighbor will gain you the peace and satisfaction that you crave.  These are ways in which you try to be like God, and you make a god out of yourself, but they are not the divine life at all, nor anything like it.

The one true God never has and never does exist in lonely isolation, but is a perpetual communion of three divine Persons in perfect unity, an eternal relationship of mutual Love.  And it is for the sake of that divine eternal Love — the Father for His Son, the Son for His Father in the Holy Spirit — that He created all things in peace.  Not out of necessity or need, but solely out of Love.  Not to be served, but to serve, to give good gifts by grace, to love His creatures with fatherly affection.

You have been created — you exist, and you are here — to live with God, and to be loved by God.

He does indeed love you.  He has done so all along, from before you even were.  He has created you in love, and He loves you still.  The Father loves you in His Son and with His Holy Spirit.  Therefore, in His love you are like God, and you live God’s life, because God the Son has bestowed God the Spirit upon you, and He brings you to God the Father in and with Himself.

This true divine Love in Christ Jesus is the character and content of the true divine Life for which you have been created, and to which you are called.  Therefore, in the same way that your heart and mind and body and life are restless until they rest in God, so do you also long for love from your innermost self.  You long to be loved — and you are created by God to love others, as well.

As the Father loves you in His Son, so are you called to love the Father in Christ Jesus.  And as the Holy Spirit lives in you — who is Himself the very God who is Love — so are you called to love the Father and the Son, and to love your neighbor as you are loved by the Holy Triune God.  To love in this way — to love both God and man — is fundamental to the life you are given to live.

But the problem is that, while you have been created for love, and so you have a built-in inner hunger and deep desire for love, your heart and mind and soul and spirit have been bent, turned backwards, curved inward upon yourself.  Which is to say that you are consumed with self-love, which is not really love at all but selfishness and self-idolatry.  That is your most basic sinfulness.  You do not really trust any love but your own, and you are not really concerned about love for anyone but yourself.  And so the whole beautiful capacity for love for which you are created, has become instead this crushing insatiable appetite of lust and greed and jealousy and spite.

Oh, to be sure, you may love those who love you — with a certain kind of love — but there’s always a condition, a contingency, a contract, so to speak.  What’s in it for you?  And how can you best protect your own interests and yourself?  How can you be safe and secure and certain that you won’t be hurt or taken advantage of?

Knowing your own selfishness, even if you would hardly admit it, you don’t trust others to love you any better than you love them.  On the one hand, you must work for their love and earn it; and on the other hand, you must guard yourself against betrayal and treachery.  Selfish love is never free, and it is never certain.  But selfish love is all that you have ever known apart from Christ.

It is the sort of love that you expect from Christ Himself, as well, and from His God and Father.  For as you make a god out of yourself, so do you also assume that God must be like you, and that His love must be like yours.  That is the way of the world and its thinking, yes.  But the world does not see God or know Him.  Consequently, you strive to win His love, to bargain and barter for it, to work for it, to earn it, and then to horde it for yourself, as though others could rob you of it.

It is such a sad dilemma, because your heart cannot be happy or have any lasting peace apart from the love of God, but you are so mistaken and confused about the nature of His love.  You long for it, but you do not trust it, and you do not know where to find it or how to get it.  In fact, a love that you would have to work for and earn would be no real love at all.  That sort of love will never satisfy, but will only stoke the burning fire of your selfish desire and leave you desperate for more.

Longing for God’s love, therefore, but neither knowing nor trusting that He loves you, your heart is embittered toward Him, angry and resentful, but also hurt and afraid.  You perceive (wrongly) that He demands so much, and that He gives so little in return; and so you are scared, and you grow tired, and you don’t know what to do.

You can’t win this game, but there’s nothing you can do about it.  You’re playing by all the wrong rules, but you are not able to sort it out for yourself.  You’ll have no peace or rest or satisfaction until you live with God and abide in His love, but His life and love are foreign to your fallen nature and your sinful flesh, as elusive and beyond your grasp as they are to the world.  They sound like impossible demands, which accuse and condemn you and drive you to despair and death.

So you fill your life with countless idols, and you erect your monuments of every kind to hedge your bets.  You’re as religious as you know how to be, captivated by whatever comes down the pike having any hint of spirituality, and still always craving something new, the next big thing.

You’re always searching for “the unknown God,” the One who will love you and give you life, who will save you and keep you safe.

But now, in spite of all that, you do know Him, don’t you?  You know the God of love, who is your life and your salvation.  Not because you have figured Him out and found Him on your own, but because He has found you and reveals Himself to you.  You know His Voice in His Word of the Gospel.  And though you do not see Him with your eyes, you love Him because He first loves you.

In His divine and perfect love, He has not forced Himself upon you, nor does He force or constrain you to love Him.  In gentleness He has come to woo you to Himself in peace.  In mercy He reveals Himself to you by His grace, and He makes Himself known to you through His forgiveness of your sins.  He gives you life by giving His own life for you, and by raising you up in and with Himself.  He does not accuse you or condemn you, but He comforts you and heals you.  He teaches you to know and trust His love, simply by loving you.  He gives you Himself and His Spirit freely.

His commandments, therefore, are not burdensome and deadly, but life-giving.  He does not set before you the righteousness of the Law and of works as a means of getting life for yourself, as though He were calling you to raise yourself up by some new and better effort on your part.  Nor does He offer you a “tit-for-tat,” “you-scratch-My-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours” kind of bargain.  The Lord does not learn how to love from you, nor is the love of God contingent or conditional upon your love for Him.  Rather, what does He command?  “Love one another, as I have loved you.”  It is first of all the case that He loves you, even in this world of tribulation, even to the end.  He has come to you in love, and He will not leave you.  He gets down on His knees to serve you, to cleanse and forgive you, to feed you, and to quench your thirst, in order to give you Life.

It is because He loves you — because He loves you so faithfully and so well — that you love Him, and that you love one another in His Name and for His sake.  His New Commandment is, in one respect, the same Law of Love that you have heard from the beginning, as He also commanded from Mt. Sinai.  But it is made brand new by His own fulfillment of that Law in His perfect love for you.  In Him it is not an order, a demand, or a threat, but an assertion of the Life that is given you to live — the divine Life, which Christ has lived for you in the flesh, that you may live in Him.

It is still true that you cannot raise yourself up to live and to love in that way by any wisdom, reason, or strength of your own.  But then again, it was never the intention that you should.

You have not been created to live independently or self-sufficiently, but to live in and with God, by His grace, through faith in His Word.  And you have been rescued and redeemed from your sin and death, from your selfishness and lonely isolation, not to live unto yourself, but unto Christ.  That is why the character and content of your life in Christ is Love.  Not that you achieve or gain that divine life by your loving, but that you now live that life which He has given you in His love.

To speak of this life and of this love is to speak of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, crucified and risen from the dead.  For you know God, His Life and Love, in this dearly-beloved and well-pleasing Son of the Father.  He has loved you by coming and giving Himself for you.  He has loved you by taking all your sins upon Himself and bearing them in His Body to the Cross, making atonement for them by His death, by the shedding of His holy, precious Blood.  And in His Resurrection from the dead He now loves you by raising you up with Himself and bringing you to the Father in Himself.  That right there — His Resurrection and Ascension — is the life to which He calls you, which He now also gives you by His grace by pouring out His Holy Spirit upon you and into your heart through the Gospel.  That is how He loves you, and that is how you now live.

Likewise, even now, your Baptism saves you, as day by day it raises you up from death to life in and with Christ Jesus.  It cleanses your conscience before God through the Resurrection of the same Lord Jesus Christ, through whom you are justified.  For as He has given Himself for you and died for you bearing all your sins, His Resurrection is your resurrection.  His Resurrection is your righteousness.  And His Resurrection is your reconciliation with God the Father in heaven.  More than that, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the sure and certain proof that God loves you.

In His Resurrection, and so also in your Holy Baptism, you are recreated, and you are made brand new for life with God and for love.  That is the hope that is yours, and is most certainly true, which is given to you in the Gospel, in the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.  Not one of them remains.  Not one of them is counted against you.  Not one of them is seen by your Father who loves you.  And as the Father thus loves you in Christ Jesus by and with that Gospel, so do you sanctify the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart, and you strengthen your heart, by the same Gospel.

If you are afraid — if you are ashamed — if you are embarrassed — if you are guilty — if you are hurting — if you are sad — if you are angry — if you are tired — listen to the Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins, and hear and receive the Love of God in Christ Jesus.  It is for you.

Because you are loved by the Father, by the Son, and by the Holy Spirit, you have and you live the life for which you have been created, and you are free to love without fear.  You know such love, and you know the one true God who loves you, because He comes to you here, and He gives Himself to you, and He abides with you here at His Table in His House, unto the Life everlasting.

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

10 May 2020

The Father Is Glorified in the Body of His Son

The Life of God, and life with God, doesn’t look like you’d expect, actually.  Whatever you might picture in your mind, that isn’t what unfolds in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, which is the only place where you see God as He truly is, and the only way that you see Him rightly.

Following your Good Shepherd, who lays down His Life for the sheep, leads you also to the Cross and suffering in His Name and for His Name’s sake.  So are He and God the Father glorified in you by the grace and glory of the Holy Spirit, though it hardly looks or feels anything like “glory” on the surface of it.  Consider the case of St. Stephen, the first martyr, which echoes the Passion of the Christ, on the one hand, and exemplifies the Christian life of discipleship on the other hand.

As you walk in the Way the Lord has called you to go, you will also bear the Cross and suffer in this fallen world.  Not only externally, but within your heart and mind, and in your flesh and bones, whether you are put to a violent death, suffer some accident or illness, or fade away with age.

But do not let your heart be troubled.  That is the Word of your Lord Jesus.  It is admonishment, and comfort, and encouragement in the face of every danger, hardship, and sorrow that you bear.  Believe in God, He says.  Which is also to believe in Jesus Christ Himself, the only-begotten Son, who is of one Substance, of one and the same divine Nature, as God the Father.  Hear and heed His Voice, which is the Truth and not a lie.  His Cross is not your destruction, but Life indeed for all who follow Him by faith, who love and trust in Him, not by sight, but by His Word and Spirit.

It is by His own innocent suffering and death that He prepares a Holy Place for you in the House of God.  He does not simply make for you a “space” to call your own within some sprawling castle, but He shares with you His own position of beloved sonship within the Father’s home and family. So, as God the Father willed and desired, His firstborn Son becomes the First of many brethren.

Thus united with Christ Jesus by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, you are a dear child in the household and family of God.  So are you also a living stone, as it were, in the Temple of God, which is the Body of Christ Jesus, on earth even now as it is forever and ever in heaven.  You aren’t just “taking up space,” nor simply occupying space “out of the way” somewhere, but you are built up into this Holy Habitation of the Lord within the Holy Communion of His Church.

Such is the Place that Christ Jesus has prepared for you by His Cross and Passion.  And He is also the Way by which you come to that Place, and by which you now live and abide there with God.

It is for this, in particular, that St. Stephen was stoned to death, because He preached that Christ Jesus is the true Temple of God, who has completely fulfilled and permanently replaced the Old Testament structures in His own Body, crucified and risen from the dead.  So it is that you, also, are being put to death and daily raised to newness of life on account of His Cross and Resurrection.

By the flesh and blood of Christ, crucified and risen, and by His Word and Spirit, which are the Truth and the Life of God, you come to the Father and worship Him in the Spirit and the Truth.  Which is to say that you come to the Father in peace, and you worship Him by faith, in the Body of Christ Jesus, the Lord’s Anointed.  You fear, love, and trust in the Holy Triune God, as you fear, love, and trust in this one Lord Jesus Christ — even now in your life on earth under His Cross.

By faith in Christ, your life and death are not a tragedy but a pleasing sacrifice of thanksgiving, offered to God in your body and soul, and received by Him the way a father embraces his child.

The Truth is that you know and see the Father in the incarnate Son, as you know and see the same Son, Jesus Christ, in His Ministry of the Gospel: in the preaching of His Word; in the water, words, and promises of Holy Baptism; and in His own Body given, His Blood poured out for you, in the Holy Communion.  It is by this Way of Christ Jesus, by these means of His grace and forgiveness, that God the Father comes to you in His Son.  And so do you come to the Father in Christ Jesus.

What does this mean for you?  And how is it that you actually live that Way?  It is in the Body of Christ Jesus, in His flesh and blood as He comes to you and gives Himself to you in His Church, that you know what God is like and who He is, and that you believe and trust in Him.  Not only in your head, nor only in your heart, but with your whole self, your body, soul, and spirit, as a son or daughter of God, in a living relationship of love, as a dear child with your own dear Father.

Not only that, but it is in Christ Jesus your Savior that God the Father beholds you, and knows you, and loves you, and receives you to Himself.  For the Son of God has taken your human nature to be His very own.  He has taken your place, borne all your sins, carried all your sorrows, and made Atonement for you by His death in the flesh, by the shedding of His holy, precious blood.  And God has raised this same Lord Jesus Christ from death and the grave for your justification.

So it is that God the Father regards you and receives you to Himself in and with Christ Jesus, as a beloved and well-pleasing son in Him.  And it is in that reconciliation and relationship with God, in Christ Jesus, that your faith and righteousness are rooted and grow, live, and bear good fruits.

By faith in Christ Jesus, by faith in His Word and His works of divine love, you also do the works of Christ in the presence of God and in relation to your neighbor.  And He does greater works than these in you, because He goes to the Father by His Cross and Resurrection.  He offers Himself up as the fulfillment and perfection of all Sacrifice.  As your merciful and great High Priest He enters with His own Blood into the most Holy Place, where He remains forever with the flesh and nature that He shares with you.  He is your Anchor behind the Veil, and you now live there with Him.

The Father is thereby glorified in His Son.  Not only then and there, on Calvary in the first century, but to this very day, and even to the close of the age.  For the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is also glorified by the words and works of those who believe in Him, who confess and call upon His Name.  Who follow after Him, taking up His Cross and suffering with Him, and so living with Him in His Resurrection from the dead.  Who speak and sing and sacrifice in His Name.

It looks different for each one of you, no doubt.  Even among the Holy Apostles there were quite different personalities, abilities, backgrounds, and characters.  Yet, the Lord has created and called each and every one of you to be glorified in Him, and He in you, with a passionate personal Love as unique as each individual.  Neither Creation nor the Cross brings about a sameness of all things, but a unity and harmony of all things in Christ, and a fellowship of faith and love in His one Body.

And within that Holy Communion, as different as all of you are from one another, with different ages, different shapes and colors, different interests, different jobs to do — with different sorrows to suffer, and different joys to rejoice in — each of you bears the Image of Christ the Crucified.  Each of you echoes His Passion and exemplifies His Cross within your own particular place in life.  And far from contradicting the grace of God in Christ, it is by the Cross that He is glorified in you.

On account of Christ Jesus, as you live and love by faith in His Body of flesh and blood, you also go to the Father.  You are offered up to God as an acceptable, living, and spiritual sacrifice in both body and soul — no less so than your crucified and risen great High Priest is seated at the right hand of the Father, where He ever lives to make intercession for you before the Throne of God.

In, with, and under the Cross of Christ, and in His bodily Resurrection from the dead, your whole life is offered as a prayer of praise and a song of thanksgiving to your God and Father in heaven.

It’s not as though the Lord were far away and distant from you, so that you should have to find and make your way to Him.  Rather, you know the Way because He who is the Way is here with you, in order that, where He is, there you may be also.  It is for this life and salvation with His God and Father, in and with the Holy Spirit, that your dear Lord Jesus comes to you and gives Himself to you, and that you receive all things in Him and from Him, as a beloved child of God in Christ.

Therefore, you are not put to shame, and you shall not be disappointed.  Although you are being crucified and put to death all day long, heaven is here open to you in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, who has prepared this most Holy Place for you, and by whom you enter and abide in Peace.

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

03 May 2020

The Pastor and Bishop of Your Body and Soul

He has come to give you His abundant Life.  He has come in the flesh to be and abide with you, so that you should abide, both body and soul, henceforth and forevermore, with the one true God and Father, and with the Holy Spirit, in and with this same Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son.

It is for this eternal purpose that He has become flesh and blood, with body and soul just like your own, in order to bear your sin and be your Savior.  It is for this sacred and salutary reason that He has handed Himself over to His voluntary suffering and death; that He has laid down His own life upon the Cross, and that He has taken it up again in His mighty Resurrection from the dead.

So, too, with the authority that God the Father has given to Him over all the works of His hands, which is to say, over all of creation, the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, the crucified and risen Lord has called and sent His Holy Apostles and the servants of His Word to preach this Holy Gospel and distribute the blessed Fruits of His Cross and Passion, in order to give you Life.

He is the Door — you have heard Him say so — the Door by which His shepherds and His sheep enter into the fold, and by which they come and go in safety, peace, and rest, from this body and life on earth into the Life everlasting of body and soul in Paradise forever.

For the incarnate Son is the Way to the Father, and He has opened the Way to you and to all by His holy and precious Blood, by His innocent suffering and death, and by His gift of the Holy Spirit.

His shepherds are first of all called to follow after Him by repentance and faith in His Cross; and they, in turn, are thus given to bear the Cross to and for His Church in all their life and ministry.  They are called and sent to care for His lambs and tend His sheep with patience, perseverance, compassion, and the free and full forgiveness of sins in His Name, with His own authority.

So are His lambs and sheep called by name, each one, through this Ministry of the Holy Gospel, to die and rise with Him in repentant faith, and thereby to follow after Him and live with Him.

So, hear and heed His Voice.  Recognize the tone and timbre of the Word of God in the preaching and teaching of His Law and His Gospel.  And by the same token, flee from strangers and strange voices which preach and teach another word, an alternative or contrary word, or any other way.

Listen to the Voice of your Good Shepherd, and follow in His footsteps.  Live and walk after His example.  Bear the Cross and suffer patiently within your own place by faith in His Resurrection.  When you are picked on, laughed at, forgotten, or left out, do not lash out or give up, but trust in Christ.  When you are reviled and hurt, do not revile in return, but pray for your persecutors, and forgive those who trespass against you, just as you are daily and richly forgiven by Christ Jesus.

The rod and staff of His Cross are a discipline, to be sure, which guard and keep you away from danger.  But they also guide and keep you on the path of life, because it is by and from His Cross that He provides you with lush green pastures, clear and clean water, and His own abundant Feast.

He Himself has borne your sins in His own Body on the Cross, so that you might die to sin and live unto righteousness in Him.  And it is by and with His Cross that you are signed and sealed in Holy Baptism, and named with His own Name, that you should be His own dear sheep, and He your great Good Shepherd, the true Pastor and Archbishop of your body and your soul forevermore.

The sacred example of His own life, death, and bodily resurrection, for you and for all people, is now embodied in the life and ministry of His Apostles and the undershepherds who follow after them, even to this day and place.  It is likewise given to you in the Fruits of His Cross and Passion, that is, in the means of His grace and forgiveness, in the ways and means of His life and salvation, in particular His Holy Baptism and Holy Absolution, the preaching of His Holy Gospel, and the Holy Communion of His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you and for the many.

These gifts of God in Christ Jesus are the green pastures in which you safely graze as a sheep of the Good Shepherd, and they are the sheepfold in which you rest secure in His Salvation.

By your Holy Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection you enter through the open Door of Christ into the Temple of the Lord.  In His Holy Supper you feast at His Table, well spread with Meat and Drink indeed.  And in the gracious Peace of His Holy Gospel you abide in His House forever.

Here then, little flock, sing to the Lord, your great Good Shepherd and your God.  Make a joyful noise to this Rock of your Salvation.  Come into His presence with thanksgiving, and praise Him with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, rejoicing in His Spirit by faith in His Word.

Oh, come, let us worship and bow down!  Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  Let solemn awe possess us, even now, in the teaching and fellowship of His Apostles; in the Breaking of the Bread, which is the giving and receiving of His Body and His Blood; and in the prayers of His Church.

For He is your God, and you are His own sheep.  You are in His hand, and He brings you to these pastures in grace, mercy, and peace, that you may have abundant Life in Him.  There is forgiveness with Him, that you may fear, love, and trust in Him above everything else in heaven and on earth.

As you thus enter into this gracious and glorious presence of God by such faith in Christ Jesus, by His Cross and Resurrection, and by the free and full forgiveness of His Gospel, so also go out to your neighbors in love, living the divine Life of the same Lord Jesus Christ in your body on earth.

His shepherds and His sheep alike follow after Him, and so shall you also be like Him.  For by His Cross you die with Him, and in His Resurrection you rise and live with Him and share His Glory.

His Christians hold all things in common with His Holy Apostles, and therefore with Him, and with His Father and His Holy Spirit.  And as this Holy Triune God is Himself a Holy Community of Persons, so does the Church abide in Him as a lively fellowship of holy faith and active love.

Do no harm to your neighbor, therefore.  Do not steal, kill, or destroy his body and life, his good name and reputation, his marriage and family, or anything else that is your neighbor’s.  Do not enter by “some other way” into any place where you do not belong.

But by the Way of Christ the Crucified, do speak to and for your neighbor with the Voice of that Good Shepherd.  Give, sustain, and nurture life wherever you are called and given to do so.  Guard and protect, defend and serve the life of your neighbor, that he too may follow the Shepherd safely into His green pastures and live forever in His Name.

If you are a mother or father, love and care for your children as the Good Shepherd cares for His beloved sheep in mercy.  And if you are a child, honor your father and mother, and hear and heed their voice as that of the Lord, who speaks to you through them and serves you with their labors.

Wherever and however you have strayed from the path of righteousness, repent with all your heart, and return to the Pastor and Bishop of your body and your soul, that is, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

For His shepherds and His sheep alike find life and health and strength in Him, who is your Savior and your God.  He is the Door, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and He has opened Himself both to you and for you, in order that you may flee from sin and death and find in Him the Food and Drink you need, and the Life and Salvation for which you have been created.

Even in the depths of that dark valley, under the shadow of the Cross, He leads you into this Life and Salvation by His own victory over death and the grave, and by the Resurrection of His Body.

It is this Body of Christ that is given to you here at His Table.  In the face of all your enemies, He feeds you with Himself, that you may have Life, and have it abundantly.  It is for this Feast that He is here!  And, oh, what transports of delight from His pure Chalice flow for you and for the many!  For He calls you by His own Name, and you are His, and He is yours, forever and ever.

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

01 May 2020

The Place of the Son in the House of the Father

Though it looks like you’re all alone, left to wander on your own in the darkness, sometimes afraid, and often confused as to which way you should turn, where you ought to be, and how to get there; though your provisions are sparse, your clothing thin, your bread too little, and your water bitter — Do not let your heart be troubled.  Believe in God.  That is to say, believe and trust in Christ Jesus, the Crucified One, who is risen from the dead, and who lives and reigns for you forever.

There is one true God, the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ; and though it is a great Mystery, He is manifest and known in the Person of the incarnate Son, who is one and the same true God.  It is this true God and Father, in the flesh and blood of Christ, the Son, who pours out the Holy Spirit upon you, the Lord and Giver of Life, who is Himself the one true God, in order to save you.

See what great Love He has for you!  Not a passing fancy, nor a fair weather friendship, but the Love that constitutes the very Being of God, the Bond of Love between the Father and His Son.  Not simply emotion or affection, but the Gift of Himself, given and poured out for you and for all, and given into your ears, into your hands, into your mouth and body, unto the Life everlasting.

Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid, but now be comforted and brave.  For in your Father’s House are many dwelling places.  Do you hear that?  He is your Father.  You are not a stranger, nor simply a guest, but a child in His home.  His Castle is your castle.  For His own dear Son, Christ Jesus, by the way and means of His Cross, has prepared a place for you with Himself.  So, too, all the saints and the holy Apostles are your family, because you are of God’s household.

It is by His Cross and Passion that Christ Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you.  But you have also heard and received the testimony of Easter, this Queen of Seasons bright, that He has risen and returned from death and the grave.  He has come to you, in order to receive you to Himself — to gather you into the embrace of His wounded hands, to graft you into His riven side — so that you are, and ever shall be, with Him where He is.  In His own crucified and risen Body of flesh and blood like yours, He is your permanent Place in the House of the Father, both now and forever.

You know the Way to that Place, and even now, by faith, you live and abide in Him by the divine grace of the Holy Trinity.  For Christ Jesus, who is sent by the Father and laid upon your heart by the Holy Spirit, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the Path of Life, the Highway to Zion, the Road to God.  He is your Way to the God and Father in heaven.

Not just directions for you to follow and navigate.  He’s far more than a spiritual GPS.  He not only gets you where you’re going, but He is the Route, and He is your Destination.  In and with Him, you are in and with the Father.  So do you also live and abide, rest, and reside in the Holy Spirit.

It’s not a matter of getting from Point A to Point Z, but of being adopted as a son of God in Christ.  For the Place that Christ Jesus has prepared for you is not so much a new location as it is a new relationship with God, who is your true Father in Him.  It is in His own divine Sonship that you now live and move and have your being, your identity, your future, and your hope.  Your Place.

He is and remains your Place, no matter where you may roam.  You not only have it waiting for you, but you are living in that Place of Christ, even now, wherever you are in this body and life.  So shall it be all the more so in the resurrection of your body to the Life everlasting of Paradise.

As the Lord your God is your true Father, and you are His true child, you are always before Him, always in His sight and in His presence.  For discipline, yes, but not for condemnation.  He leads and guides you by His Word, by which He also teaches you to pray at all times and in all places.  He longs to be gracious to you, because He loves you.  At the sound of your cry He will surely have compassion.  Do not doubt that He will, but, as you long for Him, so call upon His Name.

From within your own flesh-and-blood life in this world, even from out of the depths of your sin and death, you are free and able to pray to your Father in Christ Jesus, to ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.  And His answer to your every prayer, His resounding “Yes” and “Amen,” is already sure and certain in the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus Himself.

You pray in the Name of this Lord Jesus, as you are also baptized in His Name, because it is in and with His Name that God the Father answers your prayer and bestows the Holy Spirit upon you.

Listen.  Your Teacher does not hide Himself from you.  It is true that, for now, He does hide Himself under the Cross, but He does so in order to reveal Himself to you in the grace, mercy, and peace of His Atonement.  By the Word of His Cross He opens your ears to hear His Voice, and He opens your eyes to see Him, even in the midst of sin and death, in the hope of the Resurrection.

This is the Truth of God Himself: The Truth of His Incarnation, the Truth of His own Cross and Resurrection, and the Truth of His Word and Spirit in the preaching of His Holy Gospel to you.

In the Person of Christ Jesus, the beloved Son, in His true Body of flesh and blood, you see and know His God and Father as your very own God and Father; and you are known and loved by Him.

You know the Father in Christ Jesus, and you know and love Christ Jesus by the gracious gift and blessed work of the Holy Spirit.  It is more than enough.  It is your full sufficiency and salvation.  It is no mere “consolation prize.”  It is divine and genuine consolation, comfort, peace, and life.

You might be tempted to think or say that, if only you could actually see Jesus with your own two eyes in the way the Holy Apostles were granted to see Him in their day, then you would be more content and at ease.  As the Holy Apostles were tempted to say that, if only they could actually see the Father, that would be enough for them.  But the Father is in the Son, the Son in the Father.  And as the Father has sent Him, so does He send the ministers of His Word to preach in His Name.  Whoever hears that apostolic preaching of Christ Jesus, hears Christ Jesus; and whoever receives the means of grace in the apostolic Ministry of the Gospel, receives the same Lord Jesus Christ.

There is nothing lacking here in the Liturgy of His Gospel, in His Divine Service.  Here He shows Himself to you, and gives Himself to you, and the Father and the Holy Spirit in and with Himself.

Indeed, the Holy Apostles, St. Philip and St. James among them, despite the fact that we know so little about them, performed even greater works than Christ Himself had previously done among them; though not they, but Christ worked in them.  The works are “greater” because, by His Cross and in His Resurrection, everything is accomplished and perfected in His own Body “for us men and our salvation.”  All things are made new.  Creation is completed, and Paradise is established.

The same is therefore true, also now for you, in the preaching and ministry of your pastors, who follow in the footsteps and stand upon the foundation of St. Philip and St. James and the other Apostles.  As Christ Himself is the Cornerstone who gives shape and stability to that foundation, upon whom the entire Church is firmly built and rests secure, so it is that all the members of His Body, all who believe and are baptized into Him, are joined together into one Holy Temple of God.

Therefore, not only is it most certainly true that, in the word and works of your pastors, you hear and receive the greater works of Christ Jesus Himself; it is also the case that, in your own callings and stations in life, as a beloved child of God in Christ Jesus, by faith in Him, you also do the “greater works” of God, and the Father is glorified in you.

Though you may be less than others, and little known on earth — though you may be forgotten in the world within a mere generation or less of your passing from this vale of tears — the Truth remains that Christ the Son of God abides in you, as the Father always abides in Him.  And He is surely accomplishing His purposes in you.  You are not forgotten by God, your Father in Christ, but you live and abide in His House and Home forever as a beloved member of His dear family.

Do not measure your life and your works by what you see in this old world, but consider your calling in the newness of the New Creation in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.  For you belong to His Body, and you are on the Way that He has gone — through death and the grave into Life with God.  He has gone before you, and He has already achieved the outcome, even the salvation of your body and your soul in Himself; but He also goes with you every step of the Way.

You have heard His Word and promise: He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  And He is yours.  He is your Way to the Father.  He is both your Journey and your Destination.  And already here and now He is your Place, in whom you abide in Hope and rest in Peace, unto the Life everlasting.  He is here with you, and so are you with Him where He is, forever and forevermore.

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