08 April 2012

The Song of Christ and His Israel

Sing to the Lord, you friends of God, for He has triumphed gloriously. He has brought you out of darkness and death, by His strong arms and outstretched hands, through the Red Sea waters of Holy Baptism, into His marvelous Light and Life and Salvation.

Behold what He has done and accomplished for you! See how your foes have all been drowned beneath the waves, within the very waters through which Christ has brought you in safety and in peace. For He, the Lord, has gone into the depths, into the heart of the sea, and now He has also risen and emerged and returned to the Father for you. He has gone into the waters to defeat your enemies and deliver you from them, and He has come out to bring you to the Father in Himself, into freedom forever and ever.

Why are the waters red? They are permeated through and through with His precious Blood, as of the Lamb unblemished and spotless. For He has overcome the swift horses and fierce riders who pursued you by His own self-sacrifice, by laying down His life in love, by pouring Himself out.

The waters of your Baptism are truly a “Red Sea,” because they surge with the Life of the Lamb. By those waters you are saved. You are set free from every peril. You are cleansed and holy.

Do you remember how scared you were? How sad you were? How sure and certain you were, with Pharaoh breathing down your neck, hot on your heals, that you would perish in the desert?

And yet, the Lord has saved you, just as He has spoken. Know that He alone is God, and you are Israel, His Son, whom He has called out of Egypt. He has gotten glory over Pharaoh, but He has become your Salvation. Even now, and forever, He is your Strength and your Song.

Now, therefore, when Pharaoh and his chariots and horsemen still pursue you in the wilderness; when, day and night, they threaten to overtake you, to capture or destroy you, to enslave you once again; and when the old leaven of Egypt still clings to you, infiltrating your thoughts, words and actions with the world’s influence and idolatry; when you are empty, alone and afraid, so much so that you turn back your heart and mind, and sometimes, too, your hand and your mouth, to the fleshpots of Egypt; when you long for and try to reclaim the life that you knew there, although it was a living hell of slavery to sin and hard labor unto death; or when it seems “they” have taken your Lord away, and you don’t know where to find Him, because you are still searching for the Jesus you have known back in Egypt, in the house of bondage, under the whip, under the cross—

Then the crucified and risen Lord Jesus sings to you. He gently intones your own name, for He knows you and loves you dearly; and He sweetly serenades you with His Gospel of Peace.

He sings the story of the Scriptures, which He has fulfilled and accomplished by His Cross and Passion and in His Resurrection from the dead. He sings the forgiveness of your sins. He sings the daily and lifelong significance of your one Baptism into Him. He sings the true Passover, which is His Body given and the New Testament in His Blood poured out for you.

His Passover means that His Exodus is at hand. Not just once upon a time, but as often as He sings that precious Word with which He gives to you His Body and pours out for you His Blood. That is the verse and refrain that echoes through the ages, even in the desert wilderness, until He comes again in glory and calls you, in body and soul, to the never-ending feast of paradise, and to the everlasting song of God and of the Lamb, which surpasses even that of Moses and Israel.

With His Song of the Gospel, the Lord, who is your Passover Lamb, the firstborn Son of God, snatches you back out of Egypt again to Himself. He brings you through the waters out of bondage into freedom through repentance and forgiveness of all your sins. He brings you to and from the tomb, in and out of death with Him, into His Resurrection and Ascension to the Father.

In His rising from the dead, Christ Himself is your New Song. He not only teaches you to sing, as your Rabonni, but He sings for you, and with you, and in you, as your Kantor; so that you also learn to sing Him — not just about Him, but you sing Christ Himself — with your whole heart and soul; with body, mind and spirit; with all your words and actions, and with your whole life, in fact.

It may seem a frivolous thing to sing: a pleasant pastime, but not productive. Yet, to sing to the Lord is the first and foremost thing His people do, His Israel, His Church in heaven and on earth. It doesn’t have to be “productive,” because God the Lord has already delivered you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. What more has to be done, accomplished, or produced? But now, with the New Song of Christ Jesus, who has saved you by His death, you rise up with Him, and in Him, in His Resurrection and Ascension, into the Holy of Holies of heaven itself.

For He has gone ahead of you to His God and Father, and He has done so as your Brother in the flesh; so that His God and Father is now your God and Father. Therefore, you are welcomed and received, warmly embraced and at home with Him.

Whether or not you may feel like singing, on this or any other particular day, the certainty and substance of your Song, of your Salvation, and of your Sonship in relation to God the Father, is and remains the Body and Blood, the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus. The very thing that is given to you, into your mouth, into your body and soul, with His Word and in His Sacrament!

As often as He sings that sweet song of His Supper, He brings clarity and light into your darkness, wherever confusion, doubt and fear have reigned. He cleanses all of the accumulated leaven out of your life, day after day, week after week, and year after year, and He makes all things brand new for you again. For His mercies are new every morning, and He makes every day a new beginning.

Sadness may sometimes threaten to undo you; tears may blind your eyes. And your weeping may remain for a night. But there is new joy and gladness and feasting at the dawn: not only on this Easter morning, but at the dawn of each new day. For God raised Jesus from the dead, and nothing shall ever be the same again. It has not gotten worse, but much better. Indeed, it is very good.

Celebrate His Feast in this way, therefore: Not by clinging to the flesh of Egypt, but by receiving the Body and Blood of the Lamb. Do not return to the works of darkness. Do not leaven your lump with licentiousness; nor with legalism, either. But ascend with Christ to your God and Father in heaven — in heart and mind, body and soul — in the New Song of the Lamb.

Sing His Word and chant His holy Name. Let your whole life sing the Glory of His Resurrection. For He calls you by name, dear little lamb, and He sings His Gospel of mercy and forgiveness to you, in order to give you His whole Life and His whole Self.

Look, there, in the waters of your Baptism: Pharaoh and his chariots and horsemen have all been drowned and destroyed. They are defeated. All the leaven of your old man has been washed away. And here at the Lord’s Table is the Passover Lamb, who has been slain; who has been sacrificed for you; who has risen from the dead; who even now sings you to His Father in peace.

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

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