14 January 2012

Come and See the Heavens Opened to You in the Body of Christ

Before you ever came to Him; before you were called to faith; before you were even conceived in the womb and borne from the body of your mother, Jesus saw you in love and mercy.

He purposed to come, by His grace, to seek you out and find you, in order to give you life.

And now He has called you to Himself, to follow Him: to come and find your life in Him, who is your Savior and your God, your Rabbi and your King.

He speaks. You, follow Him, first of all by listening to what He says.

He warns and admonishes you against sins that destroy faith and love and lead you to death.

He disciplines and instructs you in the way of faith and love, which is the way of life.

Best of all, He promises an open heaven to you, through His fulfillment of the Scriptures for you; as demonstrated already in His Baptism, and fully accomplished by His Cross and Resurrection.

By all means, search the Scriptures for Him, as Nathanael was doing under the fig tree; for that was a place for the study of Moses and the Prophets. The Scriptures speak of this Lord Jesus Christ, the One who is called the Nazarene. Therefore, catechize yourself and your family with the Holy Scriptures. Read and study the Bible, or listen to it being read by your parents or your siblings. Pray and confess the Catechism, which is a simple summary and teaching of the Holy Scriptures.

But so also hear and heed the Word of Christ, and follow from the Scriptures to the place where He is, that is, to His preaching and His Absolution, and to His Body of flesh and blood.

That is where heaven stands open to you: Not “up there, somewhere, over the rainbow,” but right here, right now, in His Body and His Blood, upon which the angels of God ascend and descend. Notice how the angels begin from below, that is, from here on earth, where the Body of Christ is found in His Church. For here in His Body is the House of God; that is to say, the true Beth-el. Here in His flesh and blood is the very gate of heaven.

It is His Body of flesh and blood that has broken the bondage of sin and death, by His atoning sacrifice upon the Cross. And in the Resurrection and Ascension of His Body, from the grave to the Right Hand of the Father, you also are raised from death to life, and seated with Him in the heavenly places. You and your life are hidden with Him in the bosom of His God and Father.

So, He sees you, and He comes to you, and He calls you to “come and see,” to find Him here in His Church. For the Altar of His Supper is the Ark of the New Covenant of Yahweh Sabaoth.

It’s easy to be cynical and skeptical, because of what you see and experience on the surface. The Church on earth is beleaguered, the pastors are fallible, and all the people are flawed, including the officers and leaders of the congregation. Everyone is so finite, frail and mortal. Resources are limited and stretched so thin. Can anything good come out of something so pathetic as all this?

Yet, the Word of the Lord is true, and even though heaven and earth pass away, and everything else perishes, His Word remains. The Lamp has not gone out, but He calls and sends His preachers to preach, and He does not allow their words to fail; for they are His Words. What you now hear by the testimony of the Apostles, you will see with your own eyes in the Resurrection at the last.

In view of the Resurrection, even now — for it has already appeared in His own Resurrection from the dead! — He calls you to come in body and soul; and He cares for you in body and soul; He unites Himself to you, body and soul, and anoints you with His Holy Spirit, also in body and soul.

Therefore, follow Him, confess Him, and manifest Him; not only in your soul, within yourself, but with your body in the world, and for your neighbor (also in his needs of both body and soul).

Your body is cleansed and forgiven by the Gospel, and set free from sin and death. Your body is given peace and rest in Christ Jesus, in His means of grace: Words in your ears; waters that have washed over your body; and real food and drink in your mouth, upon your lips and tongue, and down your throat. So shall your body also be raised in glory unto the life everlasting; like Jesus.

Take care, then, what you do with your body, which has been created, redeemed, and sanctified for the Lord, for life with Him. As your eyes now look upon the Cross, and as they shall finally and forever look upon the Lord in His risen and glorified flesh, be careful what else your eyes look at in the meantime. As your ears are granted to hear the Name of the Lord, and the forgiveness of His Gospel, be careful what else your ears listen to. And be careful what your lips and tongue speak, when they have also received and eaten the Body and Blood of the Son of God. Shall you curse, swear, lie or deceive with the same mouth that has confessed Christ and tasted His Supper?

Consider where your feet should take you, and where they should not go; and what your hands should do, and what they should not. Your body is free, no doubt; for Christ has set you free by His Cross and Resurrection, and by His Gospel. But do not use your freedom to rush back into the slavery of sin. Do not return to the bondage of death.

You are free, because you have been bought with a price, that is, the precious blood of Christ. Therefore, you are not your own; nor should you want to be, since you cannot give life to yourself! But you are the Lord’s; not as though you were His slave, but that you may have real life in Him.

Follow Christ Jesus, therefore, in and with your body — in the freedom of faith in His Gospel — in the way of life that has been given to you in your Baptism — in the hope and expectation of the resurrection of your body.

Follow Him by seeking out your neighbor and going to your neighbor, as Christ your Lord has sought you out and found you; and as Philip did in going to get Nathanael.

Follow Christ by speaking to your neighbor what Christ has spoken to you; by calling and inviting your neighbor to “come and see” what you have found, by God’s grace, here within His Church.

And follow Christ by worshiping Him with your body — along with your heart and mind, soul and spirit — in repentance, faith and love. Humble yourself before Him, as Nathanael was moved from his cynical skepticism to the reverent honor and praise of Christ Jesus.

So acknowledge your own sins and failures, your frailty and weakness,
but also the great glory of Christ’s mercy, His grace, His forgiveness and love.

Here, now, enter the heaven He has opened to you through His holy Body and precious Blood. For these great things are here for you, given and poured out, that you may taste and see His Glory.

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

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