26 May 2019

To Worship the Father in the Word and Spirit

When God the Father opens His mouth to speak to you by His Son, His Word is not impotent or empty, nor does it return to Him fruitless and void.  His Word is the Seed, the Sunshine and Rain, by which He brings forth an abundant harvest to the glory of His Holy Name.

It is by His Word to you that He bears you up and brings you to Himself in peace and love, that you may live with Him and have true joy in His presence, both now and forever.

It is in this way that you come to the Father in Christ Jesus and worship Him in Spirit and Truth, as He has first come to you.  The true and only God has come to you in Christ, the incarnate Son, the divine Word made Flesh, who has borne your sins in His Body and sacrificed Himself for you.

This Word of God, the only-begotten Son, has come from the Father to live and abide with you here, to be with you in this world of tribulation.  And make no mistake, His life and experience here in the flesh have been no sham or clever charade, but He has truly suffered your tribulation, and He has died your death on His Cross.  What is more, in doing so, He has been abandoned by His friends, and He has borne God the Father’s righteous wrath and judgment against your sins.

And yet, even then, in His death upon the Cross, in His suffering the curse and consequence of sin, He is not alone, because the Father is with Him.  He experiences the fierce forsakenness of God, as He prays from the Psalter in His Passion, because He bears the full condemnation of the Law.  But that is not all!  For His Father is with Him, not only to crush Him with the Law and put Him to grief for the sins of the world, but also with the promise of redemption and rescue from death.

The Lord Jesus knows from the Scriptures, from the oath that God swore to Abraham, from the Covenant that He made with Israel, from the preaching of the Prophets and the Psalms of David, that His God and Father will not abandon His soul to Hades or permit His flesh to suffer decay, but will raise Him up in righteousness and holiness, in innocence and blessedness.  Therefore, He trusts and believes and relies upon His Father.  He calls upon His Name in the confidence that He will hear and answer.  In such holy faith, He worships the Father with His whole Body and Life, by His sacrificial death and by the pouring out of His own Blood upon the Altar of His Cross.

It is by this death of His that He, the Word-made-Flesh, tells you plainly of the Father.  For it is in the loving Self-Sacrifice of His Body and Blood upon the Cross that the very heart of God has been fully opened to you and made known to you.  And it is precisely in this way, as the Lamb who is slain, that Christ Jesus, the beloved Son in the Flesh, is the Temple and the Lamp of the City of God.  It is in His Body of flesh and blood, given and poured out for you, that God draws near and dwells with you, that He reveals and gives Himself to you, and that He draws you to Himself.

So it is that God the Lord is with you in midst of the great tribulation of this world — by and with the Cross of Christ, and by and with the fruits of His Cross, that is, by the Word of His Cross and with the Holy Sacraments of His Cross.  And so it is, too, by these same means of grace, that you come to God the Father in, with, and through the flesh and blood of Christ the Crucified.

The fact is that grace and every blessing, the Life of God, the Lord Himself, and the fullness of joy are all found in Christ Jesus, and only in Him.  For He is “God-with-us,” Immanuel, as you know.  Just so, He is also the true and perfect Man: He is Man-with-God, and God is with Him.  Which is really to say that a right relationship with God — for anyone — is found only in this Man, Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary.  If you want to know how to get right with God, it is in Christ that you are.

It is in your love for Christ Jesus that you find God the Father — and that you are found in Him — that you are with Him, and at home with Him, as a beloved child.  Whereas, to be scattered from Christ Jesus is to go your own way, to go to your own home, wherever you wander — wherever you make your own bed and have to lie in it — instead of going to the Father in and with Christ.

There is frequently such failure in yourself, such retreating into fear, such scattering from Jesus, as also in the case of the disciples then.  But take courage!  Not that you will somehow overcome by your own strength and willpower, but because He has prevailed for you, and He has overcome the world with all its toil and troubles, the devil with all of his temptations and torment, and the frailties of your own flesh with all its sin and death.  The Lord Jesus Christ has done it for you.

For Christ was not alone in His suffering and death.  He was with the Father in faith, and the Father was with Him in love.  Even in His forsakenness, bearing the sins of the world and suffering for them, God remains His Father — and the Father is His true and only God — who will deliver Him from out of death and the grave and bring Him safely back from the battle waged against Him.

So it is that Christ returns to the Father by the way of His Cross: First of all, as the Sacrifice of Atonement, offered up to the Father for the sins of the world.  Then also, as the perfection of that Sacrifice, in His Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father.

Thus are you now drawn to Him, and to the Father in Him, by the Holy Spirit, through His Cross.  For He has engaged the battle and conquered in the fight in order to become your Champion, to save you from your enemies, to snatch you out of the jaws of defeat into His own great Victory.

As He has been crucified, put to death, and buried — planted as a Seed into the ground — so has He emerged and risen from the ground; and His Cross has become the new and better Tree of Life, His crucified Body bearing good fruits after His own kind.  By the Word and Spirit of His Cross, you are planted with Him, and grafted into Him, to grow and live in Him: watered from His side, warmed by the sunshine of His Gospel, and well nourished by His holy flesh and precious blood.

You love Him, thus, because He first loves you; and He continues to love you now and always.

It is with such divine and tender affection that He woos you to Himself through His Word of the Gospel and draws you to Himself by the Spirit, that you should find your life and your self in Him.

It is in Him — in Jesus Christ the Crucified — in His flesh and blood, and in His Name, therefore, that you also go to the Father and are gladly received by Him.  That you are lifted up from death to life in the glory of His Gospel, to the glory of His Holy Name.  For as the Father is glorified in Christ Jesus, so is Christ glorified in you; and the Father glorifies Himself in you through Christ.

In this way, like Christ Jesus, you worship God the Father in Spirit and in Truth.  That is to say, you worship the Father by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of the incarnate Son.

You worship the one true God in Christ, as Lydia did, first of all by listening to His Word and the preaching of it: Not as a good work of your own doing, but as a gift of His grace, as the Holy Spirit lays Christ upon your heart and calls you to the Father in Him by the preaching of the Gospel.

It is the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins that puts you to death and raises you to newness of life.  That is what causes the Light of Christ to shine within your heart, so that, not you, but the darkness is scattered before Him.  The same preaching brings you to the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism, as it did for Lydia and her household in Philippi, and as it has recently done for Fredrick Bliese, Violet Rodriguez, Ruth Osbun, and Benedict Harrison.

As the Lord continues to baptize disciples into the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, you are not re-baptized, but you do remember your Holy Baptism and return to it each day: in which your name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and His Name has been written upon you, inscribed upon your forehead and your heart, upon your body and soul, by the stylus of His Cross.

Signed and sealed by the Spirit of Christ Jesus — as a Christian disciple, baptized and catechized in His Name — you worship God the Father in Spirit and in Truth by eating and drinking the Body and Blood of His Son, our dear Lord Jesus Christ, in repentant faith and with thanksgiving to God.

In this faith and love, by this Word and Holy Spirit, you belong to Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, and you belong to God the Father in Him.  You bear His Name as a beloved and well-pleasing child.  And so it is that you worship Him by praying to Him as your own dear God and Father.

Such prayer is the very voice of faith in Christ, in whom you cast yourself and your burdens upon the Father in heaven.  For by your Baptism into Christ Jesus, and by your eating and drinking of His Body and Blood, you enter the Holy of Holies and stand in the presence of God in Christ.  Thus are you bold to pray before that Throne of Grace with the Word of the Lord upon your lips.

As He has opened your ears and your heart to hear and believe His Word, so has He opened your lips and your mouth to pray.  And He Himself opens His ears and His heart to hear and answer your prayer in love.  Do not doubt that He is your true Father, and that you are His own dear child.

He delights to receive your petitions and requests, and He will surely give you all good things — He will give you nothing less than Himself and His Spirit — through Jesus Christ, His Son, who has been crucified for your sins and raised for your justification.  So shall you also be raised.

That is the bottom line: The Lord your God will rescue and vindicate you from all harm and danger.  Indeed, He will deliver you from death and the grave.  He will raise you up from death to life, because He has laid all your sins on Christ, and He has forgiven them all.  He has set things right between Himself and you in the raising of that same Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

By this Holy Gospel — by this powerful and living Word of forgiveness; by this sure and certain promise of the Resurrection and the Life everlasting; by this incarnate Word who tabernacles with you in the wilderness of sin and death — by this Gospel of Christ, the Father fills you with His Spirit and sustains you in the midst of the great tribulation.  And so shall He raise you up in Life.

He will never let the righteous fall.  And as a child of God, you are righteous in Christ Jesus.  Your Father will not let you fall.  That is your peace and joy, even now, and your courage in Christ, even as you are confronted by the frailties and failures of your mortal flesh and blood.  Your Father will not let you fall, but He will daily raise you up through His forgiveness of all your sins.

To be raised up by Him is also to worship Him in your pilgrimage of faith, here and now on earth.  Until, finally and forever, your worship of the Lord your God — of the Father in His Son by His Holy Spirit — shall culminate and continue in the Resurrection of your body to the Life everlasting of your body and soul in Paradise.  For the Father glorifies His Name in you by raising you up.

Already the down payment is being given to you in the Divine Service, from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, week after week throughout the year, and also here and now on this new day of His grace and salvation: In the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, which is the Lamp by which you see and know the one true God and believe in Him.  And in the Holy Communion of Christ’s true Body and true Blood.  For He is the Temple of God, also here on earth in His Holy Christian Church, as He is in heaven forever.  Here on His Altar is the Lamb upon His Throne, given and poured out for you.

As you feast upon Him here, so shall you enter the Holy City, New Jerusalem, which has come down from heaven to you in Christ Jesus, in which there will no longer be any trouble or fear, nor any night, nor desert heat, nor winter cold, but everlasting perfect Day, and peace and joy forever.

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

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