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.

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