30 September 2012

Salted by the Cross to Be at Peace

It is the Gospel that casts out demons.  It is the Gospel of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen, which drives out the unclean spirit and pours out the Holy Spirit upon you; which guards and keeps your heart and mind, your body and soul, from the assaults and accusations of the devil; and which gives you life in place of death.  Because the Gospel justifies you with the righteousness of Christ.  It comforts your troubled conscience with the forgiveness of all your sins.  It soothes your sad and sorrowing spirit with the promise of the Resurrection and the life everlasting.  And, in all of this, it glorifies the Name of Christ, who is your Savior, and the Savior of the world, by His grace alone.

Those who live by His grace, are gracious to others for Christ Jesus’ sake.  Because they are at peace, set free from sin and death, from doubt and fear; they are confident and content with Christ, and so they are truly free and well-able to give themselves to and for the benefit of others.

But those who depend upon the Law, destroy others with the Law, and are themselves destroyed.

If you play with fire, you are going to get burned!  And the Law is a deadly fire and brimstone, which consumes the sinner altogether with its righteous demands and its strict judgments.

Insisting on the letter of the Law — as though anyone could keep the Law! — necessitates an objection to grace, and causes bitter and resentful jealousy of those who receive and live by grace.

Those who insist upon the righteousness of the Law, and who depend upon the keeping of the Law for life, despise the little children who believe in Jesus, who are welcomed and received by Him, by grace, because they do not seem capable of righteousness or worthy of such gifts and benefits.

Jesus blows that attitude out of the water, or, rather, He plunges you into the water, to drown out that false idea of righteousness, merit and worthiness, once and for all.  Before God, you are a child, anyway, and there is no righteousness of your own by which you will accomplish anything.  It is only as a little child — by grace — that you have any life at all, and that you live with God.

But, to be clear, the remedy for legalism is not licentiousness.  Trying to live by keeping the Law won’t work, because you can’t do it.  But a lawless life will simply damn you that much faster.

To sin causes both you and others to stumble and fall, as much as your self-righteousness does.

Egypt is enticing, but it is not the answer.  Pursuing the flesh leads to death and decay.  Riches rust and rot away.  Letting go of the Law to chase your own willful pursuits, is simply to exchange one taskmaster for another; neither of which can provide for you or preserve your life.

Therefore, let us carefully distinguish between a childlike faith in Christ, and childish behavior.  The former is a gracious gift of God, by His Word and Spirit.  The latter is a consequence of sinful unbelief and the fear of death.  Childlike faith is a matter of humility, dependance, and trust, by which you know your inability, your littleness, your weakness, and your need, and you rely upon the Lord your God to provide for you in love.  Quite different is the childish behavior of sinners, of whatever age, who presume, not only their own worthiness, but their own importance and centrality.  That sort of childishness is belligerent and greedy.  It whines and complains, is never satisfied, but always begs for more.  It charges ahead in reckless self-pursuits, heedless of the cost or the consequence to others.  Like the Children of Israel in the wilderness.  And like yourself.

But now, both legalism and licentiousness are scandalized by the Cross of Christ, which is the gracious Self-sacrifice of God for the sake of sinners.  This scandal of the Cross is the real remedy and the only true solution.  Because it is the scandal of divine Love, the scandal of forgiveness in the Name of the Lord, and the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, freely granted to the guilty.

The preaching of this Cross of Christ, against both legalism and licentiousness, is the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; that you should not go into hell and die forever in a fire that is never quenched, but that you should enter into life with Christ by the way of His Cross.

Repent, therefore, of both your strong sins and your weak sins.  Repent of your legalistic attempts to justify yourself and to condemn your neighbor under burdens that neither you nor he could bear.  And repent of your licentious chasing after all manner of flesh pots, which only stoke and do not ever sate your appetites.

Whatever it is in you that causes you (or your neighbor) to stumble and fall, cut it out and throw it away by repentance and confession, that is, by naming your sins of thought, word, and deed, for what they are.  Die to yourself, by doing without your false gods, and by doing away with the false god of your self.  Die to both your sin and your self-righteousness, and seek no other life than that of Christ: Follow Him by faith in His Word, by hearing and heeding His Word; by trusting His Word, and confessing His Word, and praying in accordance with His Word.

Live by His grace, by His forgiveness of your sins.  That is the Resurrection and the Life that come by the way of His Cross.  You die with Him, in order to live with Him.

And as you are forgiven by Christ Jesus, by His grace alone, so be at peace with your neighbor: Forgive your neighbor his trespasses against you, and love your neighbor, for the sake of Christ.

For the same Cross that sets you free from sin and death, by forgiving all your sins and cleansing your conscience of guilt and shame, also sets a way of life before you that is characterized by self-sacrificing love, even as the Lord your God has sacrificed Himself for you in His divine Love.

To be sure, the burden of your neighbor’s needs, and of your neighbor’s faults and failings, too, brings your own frailty and weakness to light; your own inadequacy and wretchedness, your own mortality and fast approaching death, and all of your own sins — it brings all of that to light.  And it humbles you to recognize that you can no more save yourself than you can save your neighbor.

What, then?

Call upon the Name of the Lord: for yourself, and for your neighbor.  For the forgiveness of sins, and for health and strength in body and soul, and for salvation, which is found only in Christ Jesus.

Such prayer is an exercise of faith, which finds patience and peace in the Gospel.  It is the practice of humility and trust in Christ, and, along with that, of love and forgiveness for your neighbor.  For you cannot come before the Lord your God in prayer, without realizing your own desperate need, and your own unworthiness, and, at the same time, the fact that your neighbor is in the same boat.  And so you bring yourself and your neighbor to the One who is your only hope, your only help.

Dear child of God, your hope in the Lord shall not be disappointed.  And even though you be faithless, He remains faithful: to Himself, and to His promises, and to you, whom He has called.  For Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, is merciful and full of compassion.

Though you may grow weary in the wilderness — and though the fire of the Cross may remove your hands and feet and eyes, and perhaps your goods, fame, child, and wife, as in the case of Job — thereby are you salted and seasoned unto repentant faith.  And all the while, the Lord who loves you graciously provides for you, and for your neighbor, in your vocations; as He did with and for Moses, and with and for the seventy elders of Israel.  He sends His holy angels to guard and keep you in body and soul, and He sends His human messengers to preach to you His Gospel of peace.

By the preaching of this Word, He pours out His Spirit upon you: for life, and for salvation.  For it is by this Word of the Gospel that He forgives you all your sins, and casts out all your demons, and cleanses you of all unrighteousness, and clothes you in the Glory of His Holy Name.

And it is with His Word that He also continues to feed you with a miraculous Manna from heaven, which shall not fail.  For this Manna is your true Meat, salted with the fire of the Cross for your redemption.  It is the sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the whole world.  And as it has been offered for you, to reconcile you to God the Father in this Lord Jesus Christ, so it is here given to you, to eat, and His Blood poured out for you to drink, that you should not die but live forever.

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

09 September 2012

The Children's Bread Is Given for You to Eat at the Lord's Table

The woman’s little daughter with the unclean spirit, and the deaf man with the speech impediment, are both entirely passive.  Neither of them does or says anything in this Gospel, and we are told nothing of their faith.

Yet, the little girl is cleansed, her demon is cast out; and the man’s ears are opened, his tongue is loosed.  Both of these gracious miracles are worked by the Word of Jesus, and, in the latter case, by the touch of His hand, by His fingers and even His spit.

This Lord Jesus has taken the initiative in coming near, and the Word about Him goes before Him, eliciting faith on the part of those who hear the proclamation and confession of His Gospel.

In such faith, the woman prays and intercedes for her daughter; and “they” (whoever they are) bring the deaf man to Jesus, to pray and intercede on his behalf.

This is the work of faith and love.  This exemplifies how you, also, are to live: To trust in the Lord Jesus, and to call upon His Name, not simply for yourself, but on behalf of your neighbor.  To pray and intercede for others in their need, and to bring your neighbor to Jesus, that is, to His Church, where He Himself is found in the preaching of His Word and in His Holy Sacraments.

But you don’t.  Not like you should.  Because you do not have “ears to hear,” and because you do not speak rightly in prayer and confession.  Because you are sinful and unclean.

Your spirit is turned inward, focused upon yourself, upon your wants and needs, your hurts and fears.  You are folded in upon yourself, and you are eaten alive by your own ravenous hunger.  You are consumed by your desires, by your covetous lust for that which is not God.

You give lip service to faith in God, but your heart is cold and hard, and your love for others is lacking and inactive.  Because, at heart, you do not trust the Lord Jesus Christ.  You don’t believe that He cares for you, that He is both willing and able to help you.  So you are anxious and afraid for yourself and for your life.  And real love does not proceed out of such anxiety and fear.

And yet, your God has come: in person, in the flesh.  Not only with the Law, with its demands and prohibitions, its threats and punishments.  But with the Gospel of salvation, with grace and mercy for you.  Because His love for you is not cold.  His faithfulness never ends.

He comes to you in peace, and His Word is preached before His face.  He says to your anxious heart, “Take courage!  Do not be afraid!”  He comes to help you, to save you.  He is here for you.

Your sin and death, your unbelief and unrighteousness, have separated you from Him, and cut you off from Him.  Like a gentile (a heathen).  Like a dog, a mongrel, underfoot.  A stranger and a foreigner — that is what you have been: Outside of the house of God, cast off, and far removed.

But the Lord has drawn near to you in peace and love.  That fact remains.  The Gospel declares it to be so, and His Gospel does not lie; nor does He deceive you.  This Christ Jesus desires to help you; despite the scary thunder of His Law, which dismisses you and sends you back into exile.

It would be so easy to turn tail and run.  After all, His Law reduces you to nothing.  It exposes all your sins and failings, and it makes painfully clear your unworthiness.  Who are you to approach Him or ask Him for anything?  Beggar.

But just there, in your unworthiness, recognize that He is worthy of your petition.  Knowing your need, know also His mercy and gentle kindness.  He would not have you go away, but He would have you pray to Him, and to rely on Him alone.  Therefore, as you kneel before Him, and as you lay yourself before Him, worship Him by faith, that is, by seeking all good things from His hand.

For this very purpose He has come.  And, not only does He come to you, right where you are — in the desert wilderness of this fallen and perishing world, and even in your pagan Tyre and Sidon — but He fully takes your predicament, your circumstances and dire situation upon Himself.

Because He is your merciful and great High Priest, He bears all your infirmity, weakness, and disability in Himself, in His own body of flesh and blood.  He carries all your griefs and sorrows, and all of your sins and iniquities, as well as the sins of those who trespass against you.  And He suffers all the assaults and accusations of the devil, which have been aimed at you and against you.

He takes the burden of the whole Law, in every point, entirely upon Himself.  He fulfills it all in perfect faith and perfect love, and yet, He also suffers all its punishments for each and every sin.

He offers Himself unto God on your behalf, as the Sacrifice of Atonement, to cleanse you of all evil, to redeem you from sin and death at the cost of His own life; and as the sweet-smelling Incense of prayer and intercession, by which you are reconciled and brought near to God in peace and health.

Thus, He has become your Savior from sin and death, and He is able to help you in every need: to give you life.  And this He does, indeed, by the Word of His Gospel, and by the touch of His hand, by His own flesh and blood.

He does it by His Christians, who pray and intercede for you, and who are His instruments, bringing Him to you, and you to Him.  (All of which you, also, are now called to do for others, for your neighbors in the world, and especially for your own brothers and sisters in Christ).

Do not underestimate, but give thanks for those Christians, who call upon the Name of the Lord for your faith and life and salvation.  As the Syrophoenician woman prayed for her daughter.  As St. Monica prayed for her son, Augustine.  As your own father and mother, sisters and brothers, and other family, friends and neighbors, pray and intercede for you.  Not as though the Lord must be badgered and cajoled into helping you, but that He delights to work in this way through His people, that they might participate in His own Life and Love.

So, too, by the Ministry of His Gospel, by His preaching and Sacraments, by His Holy Absolution, by His Body and His Blood — by the mouth and hand of His servants, in His Name — He casts out all your demons, and heals all your diseases.  He opens up your ears to hear — your mind to comprehend His Word, and your heart to believe His Gospel.

And by this same Word of His, He also opens up your lips to show forth His praise.

He sets your tongue free to confess His holy Name, and so also to pray, praise, and give thanks: To speak rightly to and about Him; and to speak in love, to and about your neighbor.

But not only with His Word in your ears and on your tongue, does He draw near to you, and help you, and abide with you.  He also lays His hand upon you in gentleness and peace.

He has washed you with water and His Word, in Holy Baptism, so that your body, soul, and spirit together are cleansed and sanctified.

He places upon your lips and your tongue His Body and His Blood, so that He dwells in you and with you, most intimately, and you live and abide in Him — here and now, and forever and ever.

Your body and mind, your heart and soul, and all your thoughts, words, and actions, thus receive and share the Life and Love of Christ.  That means bearing His Cross, in faith and love, to the glory of His Name, even unto death.  And it also mean rising with Him, unto the life everlasting.

This is most certainly true.  Not as though you had no sin, but because all of your sin is freely and fully forgiven by Christ through His Gospel.  And not as though you were not mortal, as though you were not dying, but because your body is raised up to newness of life in the Resurrection of the Body of Christ Jesus from the dead.

Therefore, you are no longer a stranger, an alien, or an outsider.  You are not a dog, but a beloved child in your Father’s house.  Here you are seated at your Savior’s Table — at the Lord’s Table for the Lord’s Supper, given and poured out for you: To take up the Cup of Salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.  To eat, not merely crumbs, but the Children’s Bread, and thereby to live.

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

04 September 2012

In Many and Various Ways, God Spoke to His People by the Prophet Moses

The Lord knew him face to face, and he was faithful in all God’s house as a servant.  There was no other prophet like him, who performed such signs and wonders in the Name of the Lord, with mighty powers and great terrors in the sight of all the people, and over pharaoh with all his hosts.

But what the Prophet Moses saw and spoke and wrote, he did not yet receive or enter into apart from you.  He longed to perceive and to know the fulfillment of the Word that was revealed to him, but it was veiled and hidden, even from that great and faithful man.

Not the one through whom the Law was given, but the One in whom grace and truth are realized, He is the One who brings the Israel of God into the promised Land.  For this Joshua, the Son of Mary, He is the High Priest and Apostle of our Confession, the Author and Perfecter of the faith.

He is the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the Land was promised.  He is the Seed of the Woman, of whom St. Moses wrote, to whom he testified in all that he said and did.  He, too, was drawn out of the water: From the waters of His Mother’s womb, an Infant at His Mother’s breast, He too escaped from a vicious king who sought to kill him, in and out of Egypt, as God’s Son, for the redemption of His people.  Then again, as an Adult, from the waters of Baptism He arose and emerged to open up the Jordan and all waters to you, to draw you out of death into life.

In those same waters, He has also been revealed as the true Passover Lamb, the Firstborn Son of the true and only God, who has been sacrificed for all the sons and daughters of man; who was crucified for your transgressions; whom God raised from the dead for your justification, as surely as both He and you have been drawn out of the waters of Holy Baptism, unto the life everlasting.

Now, then, as the Lamb who was slain (and yet, behold, He lives!), His flesh is your Meat indeed: His Body is your Manna in the wilderness, the living Bread from heaven, which His own Father gives to you by grace, that you should eat from His hand and live forever.  So, too, His Blood is your true Drink, which atones for all your sins and covers you from sin and death and every evil.

For He is the Rock in whom St. Moses was hidden on Mt. Sinai, wherein the great Prophet heard the preaching of the Name of the Lord: that He is gracious and merciful, long-suffering, patient, and slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love for a thousand generations.  He is the Rock in whom St. Moses was given a glimpse of the Glory of God, which is the goodness of the Gospel.

This Rock, which is Christ Jesus, accompanied Israel throughout the wilderness.  He is the Rock that was stricken, smitten, and afflicted by the rod and the staff of the Law, so that from His riven side there flow streams of living water in the desert; and the spiritual drink of His holy, precious Blood, which is poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

This is the Blood of the New Covenant, which all the blood of bulls and goats could not seal or secure.  With this Blood of Christ you are redeemed; you are sprinkled and anointed, within and without; you are cleansed and sanctified in body and soul, so that you behold the Glory of God.

For here you have come to a better Mountain than Sinai, to Mt. Zion; and to the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; and to myriad of angels; to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven; and to God, the Judge of all; and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to His sprinkled Blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

Here, then, the veil is lifted and removed, so that you are able to see the Light of the revelation of the Glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.  He stretches out His hand, not to strike you, not to punish or destroy you, but to feed you, to give you His Body and Blood to eat and to drink.

For all the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in Him, for you and for all; for Moses and Israel; for all the descendants of Abraham, that is, for all who share the faith of Abraham; for all who believe in Him, whom the Father has sent; and for all the nations, even to the furthermost ends of the earth.

He is the One who has kept the Ten Commandments in perfect faith and love.   For He has been a faithful Son in the House of His God and Father, even unto His death upon the Cross; so that, now, in His Resurrection from the dead, His Body has been established as the true Temple of God.  And you belong to the household and family of God, as you belong to His Body, the Church, by faith in His Gospel within this Holy Communion.

This same Jesus, to whom the Father testifies — this beloved and well-pleasing Son, the Lord’s Anointed — He has hallowed the Name of His God and Father, not only by His faithful preaching and teaching, but with His whole Body and Life.  Wherefore, He has received — also in His own crucified and risen flesh, in His human nature, which He shares with you as your Brother, as your Kinsman — He has received that holy Name, which is above every Name in heaven and on earth.

Thus He has done, that He might name you with His Name, as a Christian, and with His Father’s Name, as a beloved and well-pleasing child of God.

So has He also become your Sabbath Rest, in whom you are at Peace with God: Not by any works of your own, but by His keeping of the Law on your behalf and for your benefit.

He has honored His Father (and Mother), that you might have life and health and strength, and that you might live forever in the good Land He has promised you, which He gives to you by grace.

He does not hate or murder you, but guards you and keeps you, in body and soul, unto the life everlasting.  He does not run around or cheat on you, but He is your always faithful Bridegroom, who forgives you all of your unfaithfulness, and who freely reconciles you to Himself in love.  He does not rob you, nor withhold from you any good thing, but He has yielded His riches for you, and He has made Himself poor, that you might inherit all the treasures of His Kingdom.  He does not accuse or condemn you, but defends you, speaks well of you, covers all your shame with His own honor and glory, and justifies you with His own righteousness.

Thus, all that God spoke to His people of old through His servant St. Moses, the Prophet, He has accomplished for you in this Lord Jesus Christ, His own dear Son — through whom He now speaks to you through the Gospel in these last days.

He is the new and greater Joshua, filled with the Holy Spirit and the Wisdom of His Father in the waters of the Jordan, that He might bring you through those waters into Canaan: Into His Church, flowing with the milk and honey of His Word, and with the Meat and Drink of His Paschal Feast; and at last, in the resurrection of your body, into Paradise, where you shall know Him face to face.

What the Prophet Moses once saw from afar, from the cleft of the Rock on Mt. Sinai, and from the heights of Mt. Nebo outside the Promised Land, he has rejoiced to see fulfilled in the One of whom he wrote and testified.  On the Mountain of Transfiguration, he spoke with Him concerning that great Exodus, which the Lord Jesus was about to undergo and accomplish in Jerusalem.  For was it not necessary that the Christ should thus enter into His Glory through suffering?  Surely it was, and surely He has done it.

He has opened the way through death into life.  He has opened the Kingdom of heaven to all who believe and are baptized into Him.

As Moses carefully constructed the Tabernacle according to the sacred pattern that the Lord God showed to him, so has the true Image and Likeness of God been manifested in His Incarnate Son, Christ Jesus, who is the radiance of His Glory and the exact representation of His Nature, and who upholds all things by the Word of His power.  In Him, who has become Flesh and tabernacles among us, all the fullness of God dwells bodily.

And in the Resurrection of the Body of Christ Jesus, Moses has finally entered into the good and glorious Land of God: Into the heavenly places, into the holy City, and into the Tabernacle not made with hands — where you also, no less, and your life, are safely hidden with Christ in God.

Oh, come, let us sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!  The horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea.  But you He has drawn out of the water — into His gates with thanksgiving, into His courts with praise, and into the Most Holy Place by the flesh and blood of Jesus, who is your Strength and your Song, because He has become your Salvation.

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

02 September 2012

The Word of Christ Cleanses Your Heart

Given the way it all went down back in the Garden, it may seem odd for Jesus to say that what you eat does not effect the heart or defile you.  And, after all, it was the Lord God Himself who differentiated between clean and unclean animals, and gave specific dietary laws for His people in the Old Testament.  But the key is to be found, first of all, in the Word that God has spoken.

Sin and death are not found in food per se, as part of God’s good creation.  Neither food nor drink of itself can defile or cleanse you, damn you or save you.  Neither fasting nor feasting make you righteous before God.  But the way in which His creation is received and used — the way in which your food and drink are consumed — is measured by the Word of the Lord, whether in faith and love, or in idolatry and unbelief.

All things are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, and are to be received from the hand of God with thanksgiving.  All things are lawful to those who trust in Him, and all foods are clean to the one who eats and drinks in faith, as the gifts of God are regarded and used in accordance with His holy Word.

For faith is content, satisfied and happy with what God has given, be it much or little; and faith is happy for the neighbor, too, with whatever God has given him.  You are not afraid to enjoy what is yours in the freedom of such faith.  And you are not angered by what you do not have, as though your life depended on it.

By faith, you are neither angry nor afraid of anything, but at home and at peace in your Father’s world: a beloved child in His house, and a free citizen of His Kingdom.

So, what’s the problem?

Your enemy is not flesh and blood: not your neighbor’s flesh and blood, nor the flesh and blood of any critter, fruit or vegetable.  Not food and drink, but the devil is your enemy, with all of his assaults and accusations.  He tempts you to sin, then drives you to despair.  And your sinful heart is not only vulnerable to his attacks, but conspires with the devil and the sinful world against you.

As a child of Adam and Eve — who ate, not according to God’s Word in faith, but contrary to His Word in doubt and disobedience — your own sinful heart does not fear, love, and trust in God, nor heed His commandments.  You are not at peace, and you do not feel safe and secure, because you do not believe in Him; you do not believe His promises or trust His providence.

You cannot protect, rescue, or save yourself from this turmoil and unrest, because you are the problem.  Not the Lord, nor His creation, but you are your own worst enemy.

Because your heart is not right with God, your body and life in the world are not righteous and holy, either.  You do not receive and use God’s good creation rightly, but despise it on the one hand, and make an idol out of it and worship it on the other hand.  You also sin with and against your neighbor in your thoughts, words, and actions.  You hurt him and speak ill of him.  You take his stuff, or wish you could get away with it, and you covet his spouse and children.  You burn with envy and jealousy, hatred and lust, because you lack the wisdom and understanding of God.

Consequently, you do not know how to live, not really; and you are not able to “possess the land” or live in it, although God Himself has given you all good things by His grace.  You do not see or trust what He is doing for you, so you stumble about from one sin to another, finally into death.

Of yourself, you do not have ears to hear; nor can your heart or mind comprehend the Word of the Lord and His good gifts.

But, now, listen to Christ Jesus.  Hear what He says, even before it begins to make sense to you.

For His Word actually opens your ears — it gives you ears to hear, and opens them to His Voice — and opens your heart and mind to understand what He says, and to believe and trust in Him.

And here He has called you into His house to catechize you, in order to make you His disciple, His Christian, by grace through faith in His Word.  By this catechesis, as by your Baptism into Him, He has made of you a new creation, and behold, in Him all things are made brand new.  All things are cleansed and sanctified by the Word that He speaks to you.  So, listen to Him, and hear Him.

Out of your own sinful heart proceed all kinds of evil things.

But out of His great heart of love proceed grace, mercy, and peace, forgiveness, life, and salvation.

So has He come forth from the Father and become flesh and blood for you and for all people.  He has entered into and become a part of His Creation, by His conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (by His Word and Holy Spirit).  What is more, He has redeemed and sanctified all flesh, and all of creation, in Himself — in His Body, born of Mary, crucified and risen.

Not only has He atoned for all your sins, in order to forgive you, by His sacrificial death, by the shedding of His holy, precious blood; but in Himself, in His life in the flesh, and in His bodily Resurrection from the dead, He has established faith and love for you, and set things right with God and man, both inwardly and outwardly, now and forever.

All of this is what He gives to you, in giving you Himself, by and with His Word of the Gospel, and by and with His own Body and His Blood in this Holy Supper.

His Word thereby declares you to be clean: holy and righteous before Him, in the presence of His God and Father in heaven.

For He cleanses and sanctifies your heart and mind, body and soul, by the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.  As He has done by the washing of water with His Word, and as He daily continues to do by the catechesis of His Word and the preaching of His Gospel.

That is the Truth, with which you are girded: That all of your sins are forgiven.  That you are holy, innocent, and pure.  That your body, soul, and spirit are blameless in Christ Jesus, your Savior.

That is your righteousness, or, more precisely, His righteousness, which is credited to you, by which your heart is guarded from attack, so that the flaming darts of the devil cannot pierce you.

That is your perfect peace with God in Christ, in which you proceed in love for your neighbor, in your own place, your own proper vocations, so that you possess the land that God has given you.

So, then, by faith, take up this shield by giving heed to the Word of Christ: by listening to Him, and by confessing what He has spoken.  And wear the helmet of salvation by filling your head, your thoughts and conversations, including your internal “dialogue,” with your Savior’s Voice.

Do not simply attempt to shut your ears to the devil’s lies — as though you could stop him by sticking your fingers in your ears and wagging your tongue at him — but rather fill your ears with the Truth of Christ Jesus.  Soak up the Scriptures, the preaching, and the hymns of the Church.

And then take up that Sword of the Spirit by speaking as you have heard, and by the prayer and intercession of the Word of God.  Pray for the mercies of the Lord, for the gifts of the Spirit, and for the heart and mind of Christ.  Pray, knowing that your Father hears and answers your prayer, according to His Word and promise in His beloved Son.

And pray, too, for the ministry and preaching of the Gospel — and specifically for your pastors in Christ, that they might continue to wield the Sword of the Spirit for the benefit of the Church on earth, for you and for your neighbors.

That ministry and preaching of Christ come from outside of you, from the Lord your God, who loves you.  They come to you from Him, in order to set you free from sin and every evil; and to feed you with a consecrated Food and Drink, which are the flesh and blood of Christ Himself.

Here is a holy Food, which not only enters your mouth and your stomach, but into your very heart and soul, your mind and your body, in order to cleanse you within and without, to heal you and give you life, both now and forever.

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