27 December 2013

Blessed Are Those Who Hear This Word

Blessed are those who read and those who hear the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, as recorded by His bond-servant St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist.  For by this Word, you receive the grace and peace of the One who was, and is, and is to come.  You walk in His Light as an heir of His Life and Salvation, clothed in His Blood and Righteousness forever.

Truly, for all of this, it is meet and right to remember St. John with thanksgiving unto God.  For the Lord has chosen to reveal Himself and give Himself to you by the hand of this holy Apostle.  Indeed, do not take lightly the significance and benefit of this apostolic Word, which is uniquely foundational to the Christian Church.

What St. John and his fellow Apostles saw and heard, and even touched and handled — the only-begotten God, the Word-made-Flesh, the incarnate Son of the Father, your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ — no less than He is manifested and communicated to you in the Word of His Apostles, written and proclaimed.  As the Father has spoken His Word to us in the Person of His Son, so is He now spoken to you in the apostolic preaching of the Gospel; whereby you have entered into the joyous friendship of the glorious company of the Apostles, and of the one Lord, Jesus Christ, and of His God and Father and the Holy Spirit.

You cannot separate your Savior, Jesus Christ, from this apostolic Word of His Gospel; nor can you have the One without the other.  Nor do you have God as your Father apart from this Word of Christ.  But none of us would have this Word, if not for the Apostles of our Lord, whom He called, ordained, and sent to preach His Word.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ; and by that Word, that is, by the Gospel, the forgiveness of your sins in His Name, you have believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, your Savior.  And by such faith, you live and abide in Him forever.  Not metaphorically, rhetorically, or theoretically, but actually and tangibly: for real.

In the apostolic Word of Christ that is preached to you, by His grace, through faith in that Word, you have received everything that the holy Apostles beheld and heard and grasped in the Person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate God conceived and born of Mary.  Which is to say that you, also, are a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ: a disciple whom He loves.  And you, also, are given to recline with Him at His Supper: cleansed and sanctified by one and the same Christ, by His washing of water with the Word; and fed from His own hand, His holy body and precious blood.

He who has come from the bosom of the Father, who reveals God to us, has taken you into His embrace, to rest upon His bosom, to find your shelter and protection, your life and your salvation, there in Him, in His own human Flesh.

As you have thus been called by His Word of the Gospel, by His forgiveness of all your sins, to live and believe in Him, so it is that you shall never die.  For so long as you abide in Him, by grace through faith in His Word of the Gospel, you shall continue to live, even though you die!  Not by any reason or strength of your own, but by the good and gracious will of God for you in Christ Jesus, your Savior.

The life that you now live, therefore, you live no longer for yourself, but for Him who for your sake died and was raised.  And you live that life, in Christ, in whatever office or station to which He has called you.  Whatever it may be, and however it may seem to the world (or to you), that is the place where you glorify the Name of Christ and serve your neighbor in faith and love.

It will be different for you than for your fellow Christian disciples; as it was different for St. Peter than for St. John.  Therefore, do not look back to see where you have been, and do not look around to compare yourself to your  neighbor, nor speculate about your neighbor’s life and service.  But, as for you, follow Christ Jesus wherever He shall lead you by His Word and Holy Spirit, whether in life or in death, knowing that your true life is now hidden with Christ in God, and that, when He appears in Glory, so shall His Life be fully manifest in you forevermore.

Take heart, dearly-beloved disciple.  Repent of your envy and jealousy, your coveting, your doubts and fears, your denials and betrayals, your haughty arrogance and faithless despair.  And in repentance, not only sorrow for your sins, but take heart in Christ; and do not be afraid.

The Lord Jesus Christ, by the Word of His Apostles — by the Holy Scriptures recorded by St. John, and by the preaching of that Word — He continues to fill the world with His gracious deeds of Life.  And so does He fill you.

When the bright Light of His Law exposes and condemns you, know that He remains faithful and righteous to forgive your sin and cleanse you of all unrighteousness.  For He Himself is the Propitiation for all your sins, and for the sins of the whole world; and the merciful Light of His Gospel shines yet more brightly upon you than His Law.

You are already clean, therefore, by this Word that has been spoken to you (this Holy Absolution of the Gospel): All of your sins are forgiven!

It is in that Light of Christ that you have fellowship with St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist, and with all the saints who have gone before us in the faith, and with one another and the whole Christian Church in heaven and on earth.  For at His Word, once heard and received by the Apostles, now spoken and delivered to you here, you have fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and, in Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  It is for the sake of this Holy Communion, and to this Holy Communion, this fellowship with God in His Word-made-Flesh, that these things have been written and are preached to the close of the age, unto eternal life in body and soul.

Come, then, to recline here at His Table, to lean upon His breast, to eat and drink the flesh and blood of that very dear Savior who loves you: to taste and see that He is good!

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

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