15 October 2011

Render to God the Things That Are God's

You have been created by the Holy Triune God — you are made in His Image and Likeness — to live in His Way, by His Word, according to His Will, in Spirit and in Truth. You have been given life, in order to live in harmony and peace with Him, by His grace, through faith in His Word. And you are called to be like Him in relation to His creation — to live in love toward your neighbor, and to grant life unto others — within the particular place where the Lord your God has put you.

As you thus live by His creative Word, by His divine grace and in His holy love, you are confident and content with who you are and what you have; you are compassionate and charitable toward those who live around you; and, because you are well cared for, you likewise care for others.

By such faith and love — for that is what your confidence and charity as a Christian are — you render your whole body and life as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You glorify His holy Name — the very Name which He has given to you in your Baptism: inscribed upon your forehead and heart, your body and soul, with the Cross of Christ.

In offering such a sacrifice (not of propitiation for your sins, but of thanksgiving for God’s grace), you do not lose your life, but you find your entire life in the Lord, your God.

Thus having your life in Him, you fear, love and trust in Him above all things. You listen to His Word, and you call upon His Name in peace and hope and joy. You love your neighbor as yourself — cherishing your own spouse, and not coveting your neighbor’s wife or husband — not hurting your neighbor, nor robbing him or bad-mouthing him, but helping and protecting him, speaking well of him, and serving him, however you can. And you honor your parents and other authorities, all the way up to governors, kings, and Caesar himself: you obey the laws of the land, you pay your taxes, and you pray for the powers that be (who are God’s ministers, appointed for your good).

In this way, also — that is to say, in rendering to Caesar what God has given and assigned to Caesar — you render yourself, your body and life, to God the Lord, your Creator and Redeemer.

For all things are His, and it is by Him, and from Him, and for Him, and unto Him that you live.

There is no either-or between God and Caesar: You honor Caesar under God, until such a time when Caesar demands that you sin against God, and then you must obey God rather than Caesar at that point. There is no dividing of your allegiance between God and man, but your obedience belongs entirely to God, also in submitting to those authorities whom He has placed over you.

So, too, where He has given you authority over others, you are to use that authority in the fear, love, and trust of Him who is the Author of all things. Therefore, children, obey your parents in the Lord. And, parents, love and serve and care for your children, as the Lord so loves and serves and cares for you. Feed and clothe and shelter them, sure, but, above all, teach them His Word.

But all of this requires the crucifixion of the old Adam in you, who would have you become a god unto yourself: not receiving all things and living by the grace of the one true God, but grasping and taking and striving and contesting for that which you would call your own.

The Lord shows no partiality, but, speaking the truth in love, He puts to death that sin and selfish-ness in you. He does so, not with any malice or hypocrisy, nor to trap and destroy you, but that you might know the Way of God, which is the way of life instead of death.

He brings you under His authority — rather than leaving you to your own self-governing autonomy — not to boss you around, but to bestow His Life upon you, and to glorify His Name in you.

You resent and rebel against the Word and work and authority of God, because you fear that you are being robbed. It seems as though you are losing yourself, and your freedom, and everything that is yours and is so precious to you. In the Cross you perceive only punishment and death, instead of forgiveness and life. In repentance you feel only humility and grief, embarrassment and shame, instead of rescue, redemption, and righteousness.

It is honestly not possible for you to see or understand the Cross and the authority of God, the Lord, until He has put you to death by that Cross and raised you to newness of life by the authority of Christ Jesus: as He has, in fact, done for you in Holy Baptism, and as He continues to do for you (as also for Ingrid and Mazzy), so faithfully and so patiently, throughout your life on earth, by the ongoing catechesis of His Word, by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of your sins.

He crucifies you, puts you to death and buries you, in order to give you a new birth and to make you His own child. He calls for your allegiance in all things, that you may live under Him in His Kingdom, and so that He Himself, and all that He has, may be yours by His grace.

Thus, you have and you live your life before God as a little child. And becoming an adult is not about getting an independent life for yourself, but it is properly an exercise of wisdom, reason and strength for others: to love and serve and give life to your neighbor in the Name of the Lord.

You have been (and you are) brought into this Way of Life in God, in Spirit and in Truth, by the Way of Christ, by His Incarnation, by His Body and Life, His flesh and blood, His faith and love, His Cross and Resurrection. For He is the Image and Likeness of God — true God and true Man, united in His one Person — the Son of the Father from all eternity, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary — the Word of God made Flesh — the Bearer of the Spirit in His Body.

And as God the Father has glorified this incarnate Son, Christ Jesus, in His Baptism, so has He glorified His Father’s Name by His holy Cross and Passion; whereon was written the Inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

He there submitted Himself to the authority of Caesar — and to Caesar’s governor, Pontius Pilate — in order to render Himself — in faith and love — unto God, His dear Father in heaven.

In this way, by His sacrifice on the Cross, the one true God is perfectly revealed in this true Man, and harmony and peace between God and man are perfectly realized. Faith and love are perfectly united, and real life is accomplished and established — for you and for all — in the midst of death.

For as Christ Jesus, your Savior, rendered Himself unto God (for you), so did God the Father raise this same Jesus from the dead, and bring Him to Himself, and exalt Him at His right hand.

Therefore, not simply Pilate, but God the Father Almighty has named this Jesus of Nazareth to be the King, not only of the Jews, but of the heavens and the earth.

As the true Man of God, the Lord Jesus uses His authority to love and to serve, to care for you, and to give you life. As He has already payed the poll-tax for you and for all, with His own Body and Life, the denarius He grants to you — the coin of His realm — is forgiveness. Such forgiveness you receive freely from Him, and with such forgiveness you love and serve each other in peace.

There’s an economic policy that you can live with!

Do not be amazed, and do not turn away and leave Him. This dear Lord and King, Christ Jesus, speaks the truth to you in love. He shows no favoritism, but He has given Himself for all, so that all the world has been redeemed and reconciled to God in Him.

In Him is your life, your light and your salvation. In Him you are safe and secure in body and soul. In Him you are rendered to God in peace; not for death, but for life, both now and forevermore.

It is in that confidence and certainty that He tells you to give Caesar his due: to honor your parents and other authorities; to serve and obey them, to love and cherish them.

It is in the same confidence and certainty that He calls you to live by faith — which is really to entrust your whole body and life unto God, who is your own dear Father in Christ Jesus — to fear, love and trust in Him above all things.

And it is by the sure compassion and certain charity of His own Cross — in the confidence of His Resurrection from the dead — that He grants you this very faith and life, this love and trust in Him, with His own Body and Blood, and with His forgiveness of all your sins.

Come here and see. Let me show you, and consider whose likeness and inscription this bread and wine shall bear: not outwardly, but inwardly, hidden from your sight, but not from your ears. Listen and behold — for the Son of God declares, and His Word makes it so, “This is My Body, given for you. This is My Blood, poured out for you. Take, eat. Drink of it, all of you, for the forgiveness of sins.” These are for you, because you are God’s own dear child.

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

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