25 April 2013

For the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

Be sober in all things.
Endure hardship and bear the cross patiently.
Do the work that God has given you to do.
Fulfill your calling as a Christian.

For the Lord has poured Himself out as a drink offering, for you and for all people, even to the ends of the earth. And He pours Himself out for you here, and for the many, that you may be crowned with His righteousness, sealed with His blood, and live with Him in His Kingdom, in safety, peace and happiness forever.

By the baring of His holy arms upon the wood of the Cross, He has redeemed His people and the whole of His creation.

Now He bares His holy outstretched arms and His merciful hands by causing the Gospel to be preached to all the nations, to make known His salvation to all men and women everywhere, and to comfort His Church, His beloved Jerusalem, even in the midst of her suffering and sorrow.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the almighty and eternal Son of God, in flesh and blood like yours has fulfilled the whole Law, the Word and holy will of His Father. He has established faith and love, righteousness and holiness in Himself, as true God and true Man, perfectly united in His Person; so that all the sons and daughters of man might live the divine life and share the divine nature by His grace, and abide with this Christ Jesus in the bosom of God the Father.

To that end, He has broken down the wall of hostility and separation between God and man, which sin had erected. He has removed the accusation of the Law and every condemnation. For He has suffered the death and damnation of sin in His own body, and the wrath of God against all unrighteousness; and having done so in perfect faith and love, in holiness and innocence before His God and Father, He has been vindicated and raised from the dead on behalf of all mankind.

Because His bloody Cross and Passion atoned for the sins of the whole world, the death of Christ the Lord has defeated death forever and crushed the devil’s head.

His Resurrection is the Father’s Absolution of the world, which He has reconciled to Himself in Christ, His Son. All flesh and all creation have been restored in the flesh of Christ, in His body, crucified and risen. So God the Father beholds the world in Christ Jesus, and it is very good.

All of this the Lord has accomplished and fulfilled, not for His own benefit, but for you, and for all people; that you might live in this good and glorious New Creation; so that you might live, by faith in Christ, in the love of God forever.

It is into that life and love that God invites you and brings you by His Gospel, which is the Word of Christ, the proclamation of His Cross and Resurrection, the preaching of forgiveness in His Name and peace with God in His holy and precious blood.

As He brought creation into being out of nothing by His Word, so has He brought about the New Creation by His Word. And so does He bring you out of death into life, out of darkness into light, into His love, into His New Creation, by His Word.

It is by His Word that He has given you the new birth of water and the Holy Spirit; so that you are no longer dead in your trespasses and sin, but crucified with Christ and raised with Him, unto life with God. Outside of Him you are condemned, but in Him you are alive and shall be saved forevermore. Remain in Him, therefore, by returning daily to your Baptism through contrition and repentance, and by living the new life to which He has called you, in faith and love, according to His Word.

Do not underestimate the importance and necessity of His Word and the preaching of it. His Word separates the darkness from the Light. His Word raises you from death to life. And His Word saves you from every evil of body and soul, until He shall call you from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

It is when His people disregard His Word and turn away from it that His good creation falls into the curse and condemnation of sin and death. So, too, as it is by His Word that you abide in Christ, and He in you; it is when you turn a deaf ear to His Word and refuse to hear it, that you are found outside of Him and condemned.

Where His Word reproaches you for your unbelief and hardness of heart, repent.

Do not become angry or defensive; do not persist in your stubbornness and sin, but repent and believe the Gospel.

Do not refuse to hear the testimony of those who are the witnesses of His Cross and Resurrection, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Do not despise this preaching, but receive it with your ears, ponder it in your heart, believe it, and live.

Trust Christ, that He was crucified for your transgressions and raised for your justification. Live in Him, and do not allow the devil, the world, or your sinful flesh to rob you of that life.

Wherever in the world He has called you and positioned you, live there in the joyful confidence of His Gospel, and in the love that His Word directs you to have for your neighbor.

If you are a preacher, preach. But let none of you suppose that only preachers shall be saved or live by the Word of Christ. Rather, live in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus, according to His Word that has been preached to you, in your own vocation as a Christian, in your own proper station and office. Know that He works with you, and in you, confirming His Word to you by the signs of His grace, mercy and peace in your faithful service as a husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, sister or brother, student or worker.

Live such as you are, as one whose life is safe and secure in Christ Jesus, seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. That is where you live by faith, even as you live in love here on earth

And that, too, is very good, for Jesus’ sake.

The goodness of His creation — redeemed by His Cross and restored in His Resurrection — and the goodness of life in this world, is demonstrated by the ways and means with which He causes His Gospel to be preached to all the nations of the world, even to the ends of the earth.

Not angels, but men of flesh and blood like His own, He calls and sends in His Name to preach.

Men like St. Mark the Evangelist, whom we remember with thanksgiving on this day (rightly so). By his hand, the Word of Christ has been recorded and published in all the world. Surely by such proclamation was he useful to St. Peter and St. Paul; and he is useful to you, also, by the same. With mortal hands he wrote with human words on earthly parchment, and yet those Words he wrote are the Words of Christ, your Savior, alive with His Spirit and full of His forgiveness for the salvation of sinners; for you.

So do the preachers of Christ Jesus, even now, speak with new tongues, so that you may be healed of your sins, set free from your demons, and raised from death to life. The forked tongue of the serpent shall not deceive you or mislead you, and his deadly poison shall not hurt you; not while you are guarded and kept by this preaching of Christ and His Gospel of forgiveness. Not because you never fall, but because He has risen from the dead and raises you up with Himself.

With His Word He has made of ordinary water a Baptism for you, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of new birth in the Holy Spirit. Believe it, and be saved.

Believe, too, that the same Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose again, who called and sent St. Mark to preach and publish the Gospel, and who reclined at the Table with His holy Apostles, making Himself known to them in the Breaking of the Bread — that same Lord Jesus Christ, by the same Word of the Gospel, reclines here at His Table with you, and gives Himself to you, His flesh and blood for your body and soul, in the same Breaking of the Bread.

His Word sounds from heaven here in this place through the mouth of His servant, and His holy arm stretches out to feed you from His own hand. There is no poison in His Cup, but a medicine of life and immortality, such as He has brought to light through the Gospel.

By this precious Word, sweeter than honey, and by this holy Sacrament, He reigns as your King.

All praise and thanks to Him for His great salvation, and for the gift of His servant, St. Mark, through whom He has caused His Word to be heard even here and now.

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

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