08 March 2019

Fasting for and Feasting with the Bridegroom

Christ Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom, has come, and He is here with you and for you — with or without your prayers, and whether you fast or not.  But He calls you to repentance, to fast and to pray, in order that you might receive Him in faith and rejoice in His salvation.

He comes to seek His Bride, to woo her to Himself, and to make her beautiful in His love for her, adorning her with His own perfect righteousness.  He is, in this same respect, the Good Physician who does not avoid or keep His distance from those who are sick, but who draws near to them in their frailty and weakness, and exposes Himself to their infectious diseases, in order to heal them.

So does He also come to help and heal you.  And to that same end, He calls you to give up and leave behind everything that you have clung to and relied upon in the past.  But that has less to do with your possessions than with your self, your old Adam, your sinful flesh and covetous heart.

For you to be converted from the inside-out, heart, soul, body, mind, and spirit, is not a matter of self-improvement, but the Lord is the One who thus makes you brand new.  So also are all things in heaven and on earth made new for you in Christ Jesus.  Thus do you begin to share your bread with the hungry, you welcome the stranger into your home, you cover the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned.  Whether you have much or little, you begin to share your hospitality with Jesus and His disciples, even as He welcomes you into His Banquet Hall to share in His Wedding Feast.

That Christ Jesus comes to you and calls you to Himself in love — that He rescues you from sin, death, the devil, and hell, and brings you in and with Himself into the Kingdom of His God and Father — that is the righteousness of Christ which is credited to you by faith in His Gospel; and that is your life and health and strength in the presence of God, here in time and hereafter forever.

It is already accomplished and established in Him, who has perfectly fulfilled the Law, on the one hand, but has also borne and satisfied its condemnation and punishment of sin on the other hand.  In keeping company with sinners, such as yourself, He has taken all your sins, your sickness unto death, upon Himself.  So has He entered the badlands, the dead zone, the quarantine, in order to defeat the disease (and death and the devil) by laying down His Life and pouring Himself out.

Once-for-all He has done so.  But His call to repentance, to leave your sin and death behind and follow Him, to receive His righteousness by grace through faith in His Gospel, that is a daily and ongoing call.  Daily He returns you to your Baptism, to die and rise with Him to newness of life.

It is for such repentance that you now fast and pray, that you might also feast in the presence of your Bridegroom.  For He shall never leave you nor forsake you — but you are frequently pulled away from Him by the appetites of your fallen flesh for the fruits of the old evil foe.  That remains a constant temptation in your mortal life on earth, which you will not escape by your own efforts.

You shall not heal yourself, nor shall you justify yourself by your own piety.  Nor do you make things better, but only that much worse, when you flee from the Lord your God, from His Word and prayer, and indulge yourself in the spiritual adultery and fornication of your idolatrous sins.

For all of that, the heavenly Bridegroom has come and sought you out.  He calls you to Himself to be His holy Bride.  He cleanses you, within and without, with His forgiveness of your sins; and He clothes you for the Wedding — and for the Wedding Feast — with His own righteousness and holiness.  As He has done so in your Holy Baptism, so does He continue to do so, again and again, by His preaching of the Holy Gospel and by His spoken Word of Holy Absolution, free and clear.

Not only that, but He has saved the best Wine til now!  His holy and precious Blood has burst the old skins of the Law, and now He pours it out, for you and for the many, in this New Testament.

Here, then, is your great and joyous feasting, even in the midst of your fasting and repentance.  For here, indeed, your Bridegroom is with you — forever and always, unto the Resurrection of your body and the Life everlasting of your body and soul.

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

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