01 December 2013

Wake Up and Walk in the Light of Christ

Beloved, it is time to wake up, to rouse yourself and shake off your sleepiness.  Get up and pay attention.  Watch and wait upon the Lord, fully alert and constantly vigilant.  Open your ears, and open your eyes.  Can you not hear?  Do you not see?

Now is the appointed time.  The Hour is at hand.  Today is the day of salvation.

That is why you are here, and what you are here for.  There is no other point or purpose.  Here is the Lord.  He is faithful and just, and He has salvation for you.

Listen to His voice, and consider what He says.  Hear the words of His Prophets, and give attention to the doctrine of His Apostles.  Heed His preaching of repentance, and now, behold that your King is coming to you.  He is both David’s Son and David’s Lord, and He is here to save you, to redeem you from all evil, to grant you peace & rest in His Kingdom.

He is not a king like those who rule the nations of this old world.  His almighty power is manifest in His voluntary weakness.  He comes not with macho bravado, but with gentle compassion and tender mercy.  He rides no mighty stallion, drives no iron chariot, carries no weapons of war, but meekly mounted on a donkey He comes with only the Breath of His mouth, the sharp two-edged sword of His Word.

He comes to slay the wicked, that is sure, but He does it by the shedding of His own blood.  He disarms the enemy of God and man, the devil, by His self-sacrifice upon the Cross.  He gives Himself as the Propitiation for the sins of the world, to make atonement for everyone, to redeem us all from death and hell, and to reconcile us to His God and Father in heaven.

It is by the way of His Cross that He has come to give Himself a ransom for many, and by His Cross He comes to you now — at this Hour, on this Lord’s Day — in His holy Church.

This truly is the Lord’s House, the heart and center of His holy City, the New Jerusalem, on earth now, even as it is in heaven.  That is because He is here with you, with His Word, and by His Word the fruits of His Cross are here, which are indeed the first fruits of the New Creation, given and poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all sins.

He has established His Church on earth, and also on the corner of Milton and Dale here in South Bend, as a city on a hill, as the highest of mountains, in order to call and gather the nations to Himself: to the repentance of His Cross & Resurrection, unto the life everlasting.

Within His Church, He catechizes you in His ways — by His Word of the Cross, by His life-giving Holy Spirit — that you may walk in His paths of faith and love.

Therefore, walk properly, as in the day, and not as a nighttime carouser.  Put away the works of darkness, and all the lusts of your flesh.  Put away your pornography, your fornication and adultery.  Put away your gluttony and drunkenness.  Put away your love of money, your craving for material things, your hunger for entertainment, and every distraction that pulls you away from the needs of your family, friends and other neighbors.

Put away your toys, of whatever kind, when they prevent you from good works of service.

Put away your pursuit of pleasure, of whatever kind, when it prevents you from prayer.

Put away the selfish passions of your sinful flesh, of whatever kind, and walk in the light of Christ Jesus.  That is to fear, love and trust in Him above all other gods; and so to live in love for your neighbor — as Christ the Lord has lived, and ever lives, in love for you.

The Law of love is simple enough: Do no harm to your neighbor, but help him as you can.  Which is to do unto others as your dear Lord Jesus does unto you.  Therefore, dress yourself in Him.  Wear Him on your sleeve, as it were, so that your neighbors all around you might see His good works in you and glorify your God and Father in heaven.

Beloved, the Lord has need of you.  Not the “need” of any lack or deficiency on His part, but the need of His grace, mercy, and compassion for you, and for your neighbor.  He would have you bear the burden of His cross, as He has borne the Cross for you, that you would share His life and His glory — and that you would thereby also share His love for others.

Whatever your particular calling and station in life; whatever your age; whether you are still a student in school, actively employed or looking for a job, or living in retirement; whether you are a boy or a girl, a child or adult, married or unmarried — the Lord has good and worthwhile work for you to do.  He has a meaningful purpose for your body and life, even if you are unable to discern what good you are doing.  He calls you simply to do the duties of your place in life — to do so in faith toward Him, and in love toward others — and to be content with whatever He would thus accomplish in you and through you by His grace.

But the Lord Jesus also beholds that you are pretty tied up, entangled within yourself and in this world of sin.  You were conceived and born in bondage to another lord and master, and by your sinful nature you are frequently ensnared by that dark lord’s enticements and driven by that cruel master’s whip.  You cannot set yourself free, nor can you cover your shame.  You are found either naked in your sin or dressed in the devil’s prison garb.

So Jesus sends His disciples to loose you from your bonds.  He has seen you from afar, He has known you and loved you, before you ever knew Him, and He has sent His men to set you free from the ropes and chains that bind you: from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

He sends His two disciples, called and ordained to be servants of His Word, to bring you to Himself.  At His divine command, they clothe you in the garments of discipleship, by the catechesis of His Word and the washing of water with His Word in Holy Baptism.  They set the Lord Jesus Himself upon you — His sign of the Cross upon your forehead and your heart, His flesh and blood upon your body and soul — with the forgiveness of all your sins.

There are those disciples who thus go before Him, before His face wherever He Himself shall come.  And there are those disciples who follow after Him in faithful service, young and old, from nursing babes and infants to old men and women with grey hairs or balding.

Some are simply swept up in the crowd and carried along after Jesus.  Do not underestimate the power of positive peer pressure and the infectious attraction of sincere faith and love.

Your children and grandchildren are watching you, as well as your friends and neighbors, and they observe your enthusiasm for the Church and Ministry of the Gospel.  If they follow you in curiosity, Christ be praised if they get caught up in the crowd that praises Him.

Others may not heed the crowd, whether it is big or small, but in single-minded devotion they lay down their possessions, their bodies, and their very lives, in the way of the Cross of Christ.  Such holy martyrs are also an example for you, that you might consider what is of lasting value and importance, as compared to that which is fleeting and fading away.

But you do not become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ — and you do not enter with Him into His holy City — not by any choice or decision of your own; nor by any of your own works of love; nor by your own fulfillment of the Law.

In truth, your sinful flesh does not possess the faithful heart of a disciple.  You cannot choose what is good and right by your fallen reason or mortal strength.  Conceived and born in sin, you have no love in you that does not begin with an idolatrous love for yourself.  As such, far from fulfilling the Law, you cannot even begin to bear its weighty burdens.

The demands of the Law are simple enough, no doubt, and yet they are impossible for you.

No, it is not you, but Christ the King who has fulfilled the entire Law in His love for you and for all.  It is in that righteousness of His that He has come into His City and to His House, even here, having salvation for you.

This coming of Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, because He comes in selfless love for His neighbor.  In the fear, love, and trust of His Father, He comes in love for you.  So does He enter into His glory, and He becomes your King, by coming in humility and gentle obedience, and by submitting Himself to sacrificial death upon the Cross on your behalf.

He has suffered Himself to be your Beast of burden, who has borne both you and all your sins in His own body.  Your sins He has put to death by His Cross, but you He raises from the dead in His own Resurrection: by His Gospel.  Daily He does so, again and again.

This Gospel — which is the Lord’s forgiveness of your sins and His free gift of salvation — this Gospel is the Light of Christ that now shines forth within and from His Church on earth, from His holy Cross.  For, again, this surely is the Lord’s House in the City of our God, the chief of all the mountains, to which all the nations are called.

To which you, dear child of God, are called.

It is this call of the Gospel that rouses you and wakes you from your stupor, and raises you up from the sleep of death to the life of Christ, to live and walk in the way of His Cross.

It is this Light of the Gospel that shines upon the path, enlightening your heart and mind, so that you are not swallowed up by the darkness of the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh.  Not that you ever hit your stride perfectly in this valley of the shadow of death, but that He comes striding in, your King, who saves you by forgiving you, day after day.

The darkness that otherwise reigns within you and all around you is dispersed by the glory of this King and the brightness of His rising, which is the preaching of His righteousness.

For here He comes to you in love, no less so than when He came into Jerusalem to take up His Cross and suffer His Passion.  And here He gives Himself to you in perfect peace, so that you find your Sabbath rest and your everlasting joy in Him.

He comes to you here in gentleness and meekness, riding the donkey and colt of a chalice and paten, little more than a simple cup and saucer, but so to feed you with His own holy Body and precious Blood, as the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away all of your sins.

Rejoice, O daughter, O son, and welcome Him in faith.  Lay your old garments under His feet, for you are fully clothed and covered by His righteousness and holiness, by His grace.  And hail His gentle mercy toward you by loving your brothers and sisters in His Name, with whom you are here called and gathered together.

Here now, beloved, walk in the Light of Christ.  Form a procession up to His Altar, and lay hold of Him there.  For He is your gracious King, your one true God, your Savior and Redeemer, your benevolent Lord and Master.  He is the Son of David, who comes to save you now.  Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!

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

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