27 January 2013

Today, His Preaching Is in Your Ears

Today, in your ears, all the promises of God are fulfilled for you through this preaching of Christ Jesus.  For with His Word He breathes the Spirit of the Lord upon you, in order to give you life.

He is the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed, and it is precisely for such preaching that His Father has poured out the Spirit upon Him.  Not as an alternative to the Cross, but this preaching and the Cross are of one piece.  He preaches what He received in His Baptism, that is, repentance and forgiveness of sins, both of which are completed in His Cross and Passion.  His preaching, also, is both to and from the Cross: for Him, and for His hearers; for His followers, and so now for you.

He is anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to be the true King of Israel, and, as the King, the Savior of His people.  He saves the people for life with Himself in His Kingdom, by rescuing them from the devil’s kingdom, releasing them from the burden of sin and the curse of death; and He reigns over them in love and peace, by the Spirit of His own God and Father.

All of this He accomplishes in Himself, in His own Body, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead.  But now He makes it all yours — He gives it to you — by the preaching of His Word of the Gospel.  From His lungs, across His tongue, and out of His mouth, grace flows off His lips into your ears.  This is how He saves you from sin, death, and the devil.  This is how He reigns over you in love, as your King.

He is anointed for the Cross and Resurrection — as you, also, have been baptized into the same Cross and Resurrection of the Christ.  But so has He been called, ordained, and sent by His Father to preach this Gospel.  He is such a Preacher, first of all.  He who is the Word of God made Flesh, is the Preaching of the Father, by which all things are made and given life.

Do not despise this preaching of God’s Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.  For it continues to this day, and to this place, in the synagogue of His Church on earth.  As the Father has sent Him, so has He ever called, ordained, and sent His Ministers of the Word to preach in His Name.  The Spirit of the Lord is still actively present and at work in this preaching of His Word.  From these lips, sanctified by the Spirit with the Gospel that He places upon them, Christ Jesus preaches Himself into your ears, and through your ears into your heart and mind, body and soul.

That is what the Liturgy confesses and affirms, several times over, in the Salutation: That the Lord is with you in this preacher, because the Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach.  Which is to read, interpret, and proclaim the Holy Scriptures, as the priests and Levites did in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, when the Lord brought His people back from captivity to the promised land.  Only, now, it is the preaching of the promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, crucified and risen.  And, as such, the promise is fulfilled for you, in your ears, with this Word that is preached.

This preaching leads to and from Holy Baptism, as you have recently heard in the case of St. John the Baptist, and as you shall hear again from St. Peter and the other Apostles, from the Day of Pentecost onwards.  Indeed, there is no Christian Baptism apart from the preaching of Christ.

So, too, this preaching belongs to the right administration of the Lord’s Supper, that it might be given and received in the remembrance of Christ Jesus, in faith, and with thanksgiving.  Therefore, as often as we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, the Gospel of His Cross is preached.

This preaching of Christ is the forgiveness of all your sins.  Not simply news and information, but absolution.  With this Word, you are forgiven.  This preaching sets you free from your captivity to sin and death.  It releases you from the accusation of the Law, and from the devil’s oppression; because it delivers to you the Atonement of Christ the Crucified.  It justifies you, and reconciles you to God, with His Resurrection from the dead.  It grants you the true sight of faith, by the Spirit of Christ Jesus; because it bestows the Peace of the Lord upon you, by His gracious favor.

This is your freedom, that Christ your Savior, by this preaching of His Word, forgives you all your sins.  And, because your sins are thus forgiven, this preaching also promises the resurrection of your body, and the life everlasting of both body and soul.  That is not an empty hope, nor some “pie in the sky, by and by,” but this Word, which releases you from guilt and shame, and sets you free from sin and death, shall also raise your body up in glory at the last, and so forevermore; as surely as Christ Jesus is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.

What your ears now hear, today, is what you truly receive.  It is yours.

But what are you looking for, so expectantly, with your eyes?  What do you long to see?  Some proof of the promise?  Some tangible evidence of the truth that is proclaimed?

The Lord speaks such lovely words to you, and offers such a gracious and glorious hope.  Yet, everything continues, so far as you can tell, much as it has been before.  The way the Lord comes to you and deals with you is all so familiar and friendly enough, so far as it goes.  But is your heart content with words that you have heard so many times?  With a preacher who is no different and no better off than you?  With water, bread and wine, which is all that your eyes can see?

You also have heard of the miracles, signs, and wonders that Jesus of Nazareth has done for other people in other places: How He healed the sick, and raised the dead, cast out demons, opened blind eyes and deaf ears, quieted the winds and waves, and provided more than enough food for many thousands of men, women, and children.  If you, then, have found favor in His sight, does He offer you nothing more than wondrous words and pretty promises?  He made water into wine for the wedding in Cana, but where are His miracles for your marriage, or His favors for your family?

Have a care, now, that you do not reject the Preacher and His preaching.  In demanding something you can see with your eyes, you risk losing what is here being given into your ears.  There is nothing lacking in this Word of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, but if you harden your heart to it and refuse to receive it, He and His preaching shall pass through your midst and be on His way.  Then shall you suffer such a drought and famine of His Word, that you shall hunger and thirst for His preaching, but there will not be a crumb nor a drop remaining for you.

On the surface of it, so far as you can see, for now, the way in which He goes seems to confirm your doubts and fears and skepticism.  For His rejection escalates into His arrest, betrayal and brutal beatings, condemnation, and finally crucifixion.  He’s executed as a criminal, while most of His friends desert Him.  Though He promises to save others, He does not save Himself from suffering and death.  He walks into it willingly, and submits to it quietly.

So, if what you see is what you get, is this what you should want for yourself and for your children?  For this is where His preaching leads, as Christ Himself proceeds to the Cross.

It is, again, for this that He is anointed by the Spirit and sent by the Father.  His preaching not only points to the Cross, but draws its power from the Cross.  He is not overcome by sin and death, but at the right time, when His Hour comes, His Father hands Him over, and He lays down His life voluntarily, in order to atone for sin and conquer death.  His holy Bloodshed is the true wealth of the Gospel, which is distributed by the preaching of His Cross and Passion.

Recognize your real poverty, your real need, and repent of your sins, that you not perish in your unbelief and idolatry.  Whatever else you may have, or not have, in this body and life, your most serious sickness is sin, which deafens your ears and warps your sight, so that you don’t even know what’s true or false, and you can’t discern what is real.

Do not trust your own intelligence or instincts, nor your experience and feelings, but hear and heed the Gospel.  Hunger and thirst for the righteousness that is offered and given to you by this Word.  For here is what you need above all else: the forgiveness of your sins, and reconciliation with God in Christ Jesus, by His Cross and in His Resurrection, by His grace and mercy for you.

Do not despair over what you have been and what you have done, and do not doubt that this Gospel is for you.  For today, in your ears, the Lord Jesus Christ is preaching to you.  He has not slipped away and left you.  No, but in spite of your sins and failings, He has not removed His Word from you, nor has He withdrawn His Holy Spirit from you.  He has not abandoned this house, nor departed from this congregation.  As His custom has been for these past 90 years, He is still coming here and preaching His Gospel in this place.

While it is still day, then — while it is still “Today” — before the night comes, hear His Word of grace.  Not only with your ears, but also with your heart and mind.  Trust His Word.  It is Truth.  Receive and rest in His favor.  For in Christ Jesus, it is the acceptable year of the Lord, that is, the Year of Jubilee, in which you are released from captivity and brought home.

Your home, dear child of God, is with the Lord, in both body and soul.  And even now — though you look for the resurrection of your body, for the new heavens and new earth, the home where righteousness dwells — even now you are at home with the Lord wherever He is found: in the preaching of His Gospel, in the remembrance of your Baptism, and in His Body and His Blood.  For you belong to the Lord, not as a slave, but as a beloved brother or sister.  He is your Kinsman, in the flesh conceived and born of St. Mary, but also by His grace and Redemption.  He has called you and received you to Himself, and accepted you as His own, by the Gospel.  His Father is your Father.  His Land is your Land, now and forever.

Neither by genealogy nor geography, but by His Holy Baptism of water with His Word and Spirit, you belong to His one Body.  His wisdom and His strength are yours, and you are glorified in Him; for He covers your nakedness, your humility, and your shame, with His own honor and glory.

The same is true of your Christian neighbor, your brother or sister in Christ.  He cares for him or her as a beloved member of His Body, as He also cares for you.  Which means, too, that as you love and serve your neighbor in Christ, you are caring for a fellow member of the same Body.

It is in such loving care for one another that you see the gracious works of the Lord, already in anticipation of the resurrection of the body.  For your own mortal body of flesh and blood — and your Christian neighbor’s body, baptized into Christ — shall be raised from death and the grave, and glorified forever, like unto the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus, to which you belong.

As you suffer with and for Christ Jesus here, and as you bear His Cross in love for your neighbor, so shall you be glorified with Him, in body and soul, hereafter in eternity.  For already are you cleansed and sanctified by His Word and Spirit, unto the life everlasting.  And in your Baptism, your body also has been anointed — your ears to hear His Word and the preaching of it, and your lips and mouth to speak what you have heard: To confess the Lord Jesus Christ, to call upon His Name, and to praise His Holy Name, at all times and in all places.

Therefore, do not mourn or weep, dear Christian, but rejoice in the Lord.  For He, indeed, rejoices over you in holy Love.  As He forgives you all your sins, and has made you holy and righteous in His sight, so does He delight in you with great joy.  And His great joy in you is your true strength.

This Day — Today — is holy to Him, to the Lord your God; for it is sanctified by Christ Jesus, both by His Resurrection from the dead, and by His preaching of the Gospel to you now.

At His holy Word, then, eat of the Fat Portions with which He feeds you, and drink of the Sweet Wine which He pours out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  Have you not heard?  He sends and distributes these sacred Portions to you, who had nothing and were not prepared, because He has prepared this great Feast for you, for His Name’s sake.

Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness, by hearing His Word and receiving His gifts.  The Word that He preaches is true, and the gifts that He gives you are good.  Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, and Christ be praised!  For in Him, in His Body, you are lifted up to God in Peace.

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

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