06 June 2009

The Liturgy and Worship of God

The Holiness of God is this: He alone lives and is Life in Himself, from all eternity to all eternity, in a permanent relationship of three Persons in the perfect unity of mutual love.

The Glory of this Holy Triune God is this: For the sake of His own divine love, He willingly moves outside of Himself to create and give life to others, whom He deals with by His grace; He grants them the freedom to live and love, but saves them from their sin and death by His own voluntary Self-sacrifice.

This divine Glory of the one true God is manifested and exercised by His Word and by His actions, in and with and for His creation. Specifically, the Glory of God is manifested and exercised by the Word of Christ, the Word-made-Flesh: by His Incarnation and Atonement, His Cross and Passion, His Resurrection, His Gospel, His Church and Ministry.

This is the Divine Liturgy of the Holy Triune God: the Father's giving of His Son by and with His Holy Spirit, for the purpose and benefit of granting His own divine Life and Light and Love to man, His creature, in the flesh, for both body and soul.

This Divine Liturgy forms and fills the Church of Christ, on earth as it is in heaven. It begins for you in Holy Baptism, which is foundational to the Church and the means by which you enter the Kingdom of God within this Holy Christian Church.

The Divine Liturgy culminates in the Holy Communion. There God gives Himself to you in Christ, the Son, by His Word and actions, His flesh and blood, with His Spirit, for your body and soul. There the Father loves you and gives you life as His own dear child and heir. He forgives your sins and gives you His Life in place of your death, His Light in the midst of your darkness, and His Love in place of your selfishness and lust.

It is in this way that the Lord your God reigns as your King; not upon the throne of a dictator in a royal palace, but from the Cross of His own sacrifice in the midst of His Temple. Here in the Temple of His Church He serves you in love with the Priesthood of His Atonement and the Ministry of His Gospel. So does the train of His robe fill the Temple.

And in the royal priesthood of all the baptized faithful, in His disciples from all nations, in all times and places, His Glory fills the earth.

Corresponding to His Divine Liturgy is the worship of God for which you are created, and to which you are called by His grace.

Such worship is the Christian faith and life. It is your Christian priesthood. It is to receive and share the Life and Love of God, and to live in the Light of His Glory, in and with Christ Jesus, by His Holy Spirit. It is to speak as He speaks, by His Word, and to live with Him as He lives.

It is to prostrate your heart before Him in repentant faith, with fear, love and trust in Him above all else. And it is to prostrate your body and your life before Him, and for your neighbor in love.

This Christian faith and life, this true catholic religion, is manifested and exercised — and it is lived — in the worship of your words and actions; in the worship of your mouth and your body.

It is in what you say with your lips and what you do with your body that you worship the Lord your God by faith, and live in love toward Him and toward your neighbor. For with the heart you believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth you confess unto salvation. And your body also shall be raised unto the life everlasting; therefore, your body also participates in your faith and worship of the one true God, the Holy Trinity.

How can this be?

In your flesh, you have inherited the guilt and mortality of your parents, and to that deadly inheritance you have added sin upon sin from your conception onward, even to the present day.

In your flesh you find nothing but sin and death, the vile stink of a rotting corpse, even in its whitewashed tomb. You are a man or woman or child of unclean lips. You have not spoken as you should. Nor have you lived in and with your body as you should.

How then shall you worship the Holy Triune God with your mouth and with your body? How shall you take the holy body and precious blood of Christ, the Son of God, upon your unclean lips? How shall you eat and drink the Lord Himself, the Holy One, with mouth and lips and tongue that have lied and cursed and gossiped, borne false witness and profaned the Name of God?

How shall you ascend with your heart and mouth and body, with your thoughts, words and actions, unto God in heaven? And how shall you enter His Kingdom?

How shall you come out of the night into the day, out of darkness into light, and out of death into the Life of God? How shall you see Him, and know Him, and live?

Beloved of God, listen: His Word is near you, in your ears and in your mouth, in your heart and in your life; that is, the Word of faith and forgiveness, which is preached to you in the Name of Christ.

You could not ascend to Him, nor enter heaven, but He has come down from heaven to you. He has descended from the bosom of the Father to embrace you to Himself, and to abide with you in love.

He has become flesh, under all the curse and consequence of sin and death and hell, in order to atone for the sins of the world and reconcile all flesh to God. Thus, in His own flesh, with His own blood, He has cleansed your flesh from sin and set your flesh free from death.

As He is lifted up in death upon the Cross, He raises you up from death and the grave unto life with God in both body and soul, now and forever.

He is not simply a teacher sent from God, nor merely a means to some other end, but already in Him, in His Person and His Body of flesh and blood, God Himself has drawn near to you and dwells with you. Not only once-upon-a-time, back then, but here and now, in the earthly things of His Church and Ministry, in His means of grace: He reveals and bestows the heavenly things of God, preached and given and poured out for you.

As He has descended from the Father to you in love, so does He pour out the Holy Spirit upon you in peace; and so do you ascend, in and with Him, into heaven.

It is in and with Him that your worship of God in faith and life, heart and mind, body and soul, words and actions is gladly received in His presence. He delights in this worship, because He delights in you, for the sake of Christ Jesus, the only-begotten and well-beloved incarnate Son.

Behold the burning coal with which He touches your lips from His Altar of sacrifice: the Body of Christ which burns brightly with the Holy Spirit. This He places on your lips and on your tongue, not to condemn you or destroy you, but to cleanse you of all iniquity by the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

As this touches your lips, His Word opens your mouth to show forth His praise, to glorify His holy Name, and to sing with all the host of heaven, the angels and archangels and all saints:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, Yahweh Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of His Glory! Oh, come, let us worship Him in peace, because He has shown His mercy to us in Christ.

All glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1 comment:

sarahlaughed said...

Pastor, this was wonderful. Thanks so much for your preaching. We know it takes a lot of effort and my family is deeply grateful to you.