Here is Part XII of my ACELC free conference paper (16 April 2013).
The entire paper will be made available on the ACELC website.
In dealing with each other, among and within our congregations, and in approaching the Liturgy, we get our bearings, and chart our course, and take our cues from Christ at the Center: He is the Lamb upon His Throne, the One who was slain, and yet, behold, He lives; Who calls and gathers us to Himself, by the Spirit through the Gospel, in order to make us His own priestly people, and to share with us His own divine, eternal Life in body and in soul. He is the Preacher, the Celebrant, and the Liturgist of the Divine Service; and He is the Husband and Head of His Body and Bride, the Church
As we think very highly of Him, our Savior, so do we think highly of His Church and honor her in word and deed. She is, after all, the Bride of Christ, and she ought to be treated like a Lady. Not only that, but we (especially we pastors) should not take liberties with her, but ought to conduct ourselves with the Church in a manner becoming of gentleman with another Man’s Wife.
Make no mistake, the King’s royal Bride is truly a Queen, even when she may be outwardly dressed in beggar’s rags. But for that very reason, as we are so given the privilege and the opportunity to care for her, to wait upon her needs in this life under the Cross, and to serve and honor her dignity, we shall not deliberately clothe her in rags, but would surely delight to adorn her as the royal Bride that she is.
If we are thus restrained by appropriate decorum and propriety, it is for the sake of the Gospel, which retains its pre-eminence, priority, and predominance. It is for us a matter of self-discipline, in order to give pride of place to the Gospel. It is the Gospel that does and gives everything; because it is the Word and work of Christ, who freely and fully forgives the sins of the world, and who reconciles sinners to the Father. Therefore, the Gospel does not bind or constrain us, but glorifies Christ as our Savior and our God, and comforts terrified consciences with the gift of His Righteousness and Peace.
This Gospel is, and ever shall be, the true adornment and the real beauty of the Church, with which our dear Lord Jesus Christ, our heavenly Bridegroom, graciously covers and clothes us, day by day: within and without, in heart and mind, in spirit, soul, and body.
It is by this grace of God in Christ, by the life that is given to us freely in the Gospel, that we in turn adore Him, confess Him, rejoice in Him, give thanks to Him, and worship Him in faith and love.
As we are called and gathered by the Gospel unto Christ, unto the Lamb upon His Throne, “Let Solemn Awe Possess Us.” For we are brought into His presence in the humility of repentance, but so also do we enter His courts with praise, in the joyful confidence of faith. We kneel in awe of His Majesty, and yet, we find that His almighty power is chiefly shown in His tender compassion toward us poor sinners:
“The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious, patient and long-suffering, abounding in steadfast love, forgiving sin, and not counting trespasses.”
Here He has come to us: to open our ears, our hearts and our minds, our eyes by faith, and finally our mouths; to reveal Himself in the Breaking of the Bread, to feed us with Himself, His Body and His Blood, and to abide in us forever and ever. So do we abide in Him, and with the Father and the Spirit in His Flesh, in that Peace of the Lord which the world cannot give, and we could never have imagined, but He bestows by His Gospel.
To Him who loves us, who has freed us from our sins by His Blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to His God and Father: to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.