03 June 2012

Born of the Holy Trinity into His Kingdom

The genesis of the flesh is flesh.  The genesis of the Spirit is spirit.

The distinction is not material vs. immaterial; not tangible vs. intangible; not visible vs. invisible; nor between bodies of flesh and disembodied spirits.

But the contrast is between that which bears the Spirit of God, and that which does not.

Flesh that is filled with the Spirit of God is alive and living.

Flesh apart from the Spirit of God is dead and dying.  It returns to the dust, as we heard last week.  It goes down to sheol, to the grave, into the pit.  It decays, suffers destruction, and disintegrates.

Because flesh, without the Spirit of God, is idolatrous and covetous.  It hungers, not for the true and holy God, but for flesh (like itself).  It consumes flesh, but, in doing so, it is itself consumed.  It is cannibalistic, because sin is the ultimate flesh-eating virus.

Flesh feeds upon itself, but it cannot sustain itself.  It cannot survive on its own, nor live for long,  It cannot save itself.

By itself, apart from the Spirit of God, flesh is blind and stumbles around in the darkness, in a perpetual nighttime of ignorance and unbelief.  It cannot see God.  It cannot know God.  It cannot believe in God; nor can it go to Him.  It cannot ascend into heaven, nor can it enter the Kingdom of God.

More to the point, you do not and cannot know God by way of your own fallen flesh.  You do not and cannot know heavenly things, nor can you go to heaven, by any means of your fallen flesh.

Without the Spirit of God, your flesh is undone.  But if your fallen flesh is confronted by the Holy, Holy, Holy God, apart from His Gospel, then you are undone the more quickly; because you are not holy, but sinful and unclean.

However, God the Father has sent His only-begotten Son into the world, in love, in order to save the world through Him — to grant eternal life with Himself to those who have not known Him.

As in the beginning, the Father speaks His Word into the darkness — and His Word is Light and Life and Love for all of creation — for He speaks to you by His Son, Christ Jesus.

Thus, you see the Kingdom of God in Him, the Son of Man, who has descended from heaven for you.  In Him, God has become Man.  The Word has become Flesh.

How can this be?  It is by the Spirit of God, who came upon the Blessed Virgin Mary to conceive the Son of God in her womb, so that He has become flesh of her flesh, and blood of her blood.

Thus, the New Adam is conceived and born of the New Eve, by the grace of God, by His Word and Spirit; so that the fall into sin and the curse of all flesh are reversed in the flesh of Christ.

The Signs that He does, therefore — like the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, etc. — are signs of the New Creation.  These are the dawning of the eternal Eighth Day and the blooming of the New Paradise, which the incarnate Son works and accomplishes, first of all in Himself, but for us men and our salvation, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead.

For the New Birth is harder than the first; indeed, it is impossible for the flesh without the Spirit of God.  It is harder than the labor and delivery of fallen flesh, which are cursed by sin and death.  It is harder than entering again into your mother’s womb when you are old, as it is harder than putting a camel through the eye of a needle.

The birth pangs, in this case, are those of the Cross and Passion of Christ Jesus — the suffering and death of the Son of God in human flesh — the shedding of His holy and precious blood in atonement for your blood.

Ironically, these depths of His descent — into death and the grave, into the pit, into hades and sheol — coincide with His being lifted up.  For by His Cross, He offers Himself up to God as the Sacrifice for the sins of the world, and as the sweet-smelling Incense of peace and reconciliation with God.

In His own flesh, He has fully borne your sin and death.

But His Father has received and accepted His Sacrifice, and has raised Him up again from death to life, and has poured out the Spirit upon Him: upon His Body, crucified and risen; into His flesh and blood.

Therefore, His bodily Resurrection from the dead is the New Genesis, and He is the New Adam, from whom the children of God are born.

It is the Spirit who accomplishes this New Birth in you, by putting you to death and raising you up to new life, in and with Christ Jesus.  That is what repentance is — being turned inside-out, away from sin and death, unto His forgiveness of your sins — unto faith in Christ, by which you see God, and know Him, and love Him, and live in Him, now and forever.

The Spirit works this dying and rising in you by the earthly means of grace: by the Ministry of the Gospel, which is the Voice of the Spirit, by which alone you know His works, His gifts and graces.

He speaks by the cleansed lips of those who are called and sent (ordained) in the Name of Christ; so that the Holy Spirit is breathed into man — into fallen flesh — with Holy Absolution.

And by this forgiveness of the Gospel, by this breathing of the Spirit into you, you are no longer dead and dying, but alive and living; you are not undone, but cleansed, healed, and made new.

It is like the coal from the altar of incense — the coal previously taken from the altar of sacrifice into the holy place, to burn the incense before the Holy of Holies — the coal that touched Isaiah’s lips and cleansed him from iniquity, so that he could go and preach the Word of the Lord to Israel.

So the coal of the Cross, by which Christ was offered up for us all as an acceptable Sacrifice and as sweet-smelling Incense, is now also the Fruit of the Tree by which you are forgiven and live.

From the Altar of His Cross, He touches your lips with His Body and His Blood, and you are fully forgiven all your sins, cleansed of all iniquity.  You shall not die, but live.

So the administration of the means of grace — that is, the whole the Ministry of the Gospel — is now the lifting up of the Son of Man, of Christ the Crucified, by which you are brought to faith and life in Him.

Thus, by your Holy Baptism, you have been born again of water and the Spirit.  You have been put to death, crucified and buried with Christ, and raised with Him to newness of life; so that now you are a child of God, and you live as a child of God, by His grace.

As the Son of God was conceived and born of the Woman, in order to become true Man — as He was baptized with sinners, even unto His death upon the Cross in the place of sinners — and as He has risen from the dust of the earth, the Firstborn from the dead, the First Fruits of the New Creation — so, indeed, are you also born again from death to life, as a son of God in Christ.

Therefore, beloved of the Holy Trinity, you know the only true God; not as a doctrinal abstraction, but as your own dear Father: your true Father.

You know the Father in Christ Jesus, His beloved Son, who is your Brother in the flesh, and your Savior from sin and death.

You know the Father and His Son by the Spirit He has given you in Christ, who breathes in you the very Life of God.

You know the Holy Triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, here and now, in this holy place (which He sanctifies by His presence).  You know Him in the hearing of His Word, in the eating of the flesh of Christ, in the drinking of His Blood; for His Word and Flesh are Spirit and Life.

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

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