19 January 2014

Come and See

It is the Holy Spirit who gives life, whereas the flesh of fallen man returns to the dust in death.  Still, your own mortal flesh does not even know what it needs, what it longs for, and what you should seek, until the Lord God reveals and gives Himself to you.

He has put eternity in your heart, as He has fashioned you and formed you for Himself in both body and soul; so that you should not be content with what perishes and passes away, but that you should finally find your resting place, your home, and peace and life, in Him.

You shall, in fact, be restless, until you rest in Him.  Everything else that you chase after and set your hand upon shall fall short and fail you, if it does not actually hasten your own demise.  If you would be raised from the dust of the earth to live — really to live: the life which remains — and that your living should have meaning and purpose, joy and gladness, contentment and peace — then what you need, and what you seek, is the Spirit of God, the Author and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father in the Son.

The Persons of the Holy Trinity are a great Mystery, indeed, to you who are not God.  But the Holy Spirit is not simply an attitude or mind set, a point of view or feeling of the Father for His Son.  He is all of that, to be sure, but He is more.  He is not an “it,” an abstract quality or concept, but one of the co-equal and eternal Persons of the one true God: the personal and permanent Bond of Love between the Father and the Son, who was, and is, and ever shall be.  As the Spirit of the Living God, He not only lives, but He is Life in Himself, the One who gives life to all of creation; even as He is the One who sanctifies all things with the holiness of the Holy One of Israel.

You do not know the Father or His Son, except by this Holy Spirit.  But neither do you know or receive the Spirit, except from the Father in His Son.  And you cannot find your own way into that divine Life, but the Lord God comes to you, and reveals Himself to you, and gives Himself to you, in order that you might come and see, and stay with Him, and live and abide with the Father and His Son, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.   Thus do you become and remain a beloved and well-pleasing son of God the Father in Christ Jesus.

Come, then, to the water and the Word, and you shall see and receive the Spirit of God in the flesh and blood of the Christ.  For though His Body is made of meat like yours, and He has made Himself mortal for your sake, His flesh and blood are spiritual, divine, and life-giving.  That is to say, in the Body of Christ Jesus, God the Father gives Himself to you in the Person of His Son, and He pours out the Person of the Holy Spirit upon you, so that you have eternal Life in and with Him.  Thus do you have fellowship with God, by faith, in His own flesh; and by His Spirit, you share in His own divine Sonship.  Such is Life.

Come, and you shall see.  The Lord your God has sent His messenger to preach and point to Christ Jesus, and to baptize in water with His Word, so that He might be manifested to His Church on earth.  So that you may behold the Lamb of God, and see God in Him who forgives you, and live.

There is this one Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and it is by this one Baptism that even John the Baptist has recognized the Son of God and learned to know Him rightly.  He has been taught by God, as you are, in the washing of the water with the Word and Holy Spirit.

What, then, does it mean for the Christ to be the Son of God?  From the days of Father Abraham, at least, God has taught the connection and identification of the beloved firstborn Son with the sacrificial Lamb.  In the place of beloved Isaac, God provided for Himself the Ram.  So, too, in the Passover, the Lamb was given and sacrificed, His blood shed and His flesh eaten, for the life of the firstborn sons, and for the rescue and redemption of His Israel.

It was also then the case, that, every day, every morning and at sundown, the male Lamb was sacrificed, in order that God might remove the sins of His people and draw near to abide in their midst, not for destruction but with mercy; and that His people might draw near to Him with the incense of their prayers, petitions, and praise, and so abide in peace as His sons.

And now, in the Baptism of our Lord, St. John has perceived the fulfillment of this entire Old Testament in the Person of Christ Jesus.  For He is both the beloved Son and the sacrificial Lamb, who is given and poured out for all the sons of Israel.  In fact, He bears in His own Body, not only the sins of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their children, but the sins of the whole world, in order to atone for all the sons and daughters of Adam.

It is through this forgiveness of sins, which He obtains and bestows in His flesh and by His blood, that He establishes the fellowship of God and Man forever.  That is the fellowship of sonship, of faith and the fear of the Lord, and of the Spirit of God, who proceeds from the Father in the Son.

It is in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, that God and Man are perfectly united and remain together in harmony and peace; even though He has also taken the place of sinners and taken the sins of the world upon Himself.  It is sin that has separated man from God, and so brought death upon all the children of man, from the fall of Adam to the end of the world.  Yet, Christ has borne the sins of all the people in His own Body, even to the point of His sacrificial death upon the Cross, while remaining at all times steadfast and faithful in His relationship with His God and Father.

So does the Spirit rest and remain upon Him, upon His Body of flesh and blood, as He carries the entire burden of sin and death within Himself from the waters of His Baptism to the bloodshed of His Cross.  He perseveres in faith and love, bearing both the sins of the world and the Spirit of God, in order to remove the sins and their crushing weight from you and from all, and, instead, to bestow the Spirit and the Life of God upon you and all people.

It is in His sacrificial death upon the Cross that He bestows the Spirit upon His Church, and in the Resurrection of His Body that He breathes the Spirit into you through the Absolution of your sins.  And, as He is first of all baptized into that very death and resurrection, so it is in His Baptism, which is also now your Baptism, that He is revealed and recognized to be the Christ, and that the Holy Spirit is given and received.  For He is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit, and thereby gives Life in place of death.

He has been manifested to you in the waters of your Baptism, and in the preaching and catechesis of His Word.  Listen to Him, and learn from Him, and so follow Him as a disciple of this Lamb, as a sheep of this Good Shepherd.  See, now, that He is set before you in this preaching, in the Church’s visual confession and depiction of His Crucifixion, and in the administration of His Sacrament, as the true Paschal Lamb: He has taken your place under the curse of death; His blood cleanses you from sin and covers you with His righteousness and holiness; and His flesh feeds you and fills your body and soul with His own divine Life.

As the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, and brought you to Christ, and taught you to follow Him by faith, and has enlightened you by His grace, now stay with Christ Jesus, and live with Him, who has come to abide with you here.  Find your Sabbath Rest in Him, by hearing and heeding His Word; and eat and drink the Supper with which He feeds you here in His House.  For the Church is the Body of Christ, upon whom the Spirit remains, as surely as the flesh and blood of Christ are the Tabernacle of God among men.  This is the place where He is staying!

Do you recognize the Life that is here for you in the Word and Spirit of Christ, the Son of God?  Then follow the example of John, who pointed his disciples to the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.  And follow the example of Andrew, who found first his own brother Simon and brought him to this Lamb of God.  You, also, bring your siblings, your spouse, your parents and children, your neighbors and coworkers, your classmates and peers.  Bring them to the Christ, by inviting them and bringing them to church along with you.  Testify to what you have seen and heard in this place.  Do not be embarrassed by it.

Here is the Holy Ark of the Christian Church, to which the Dove has now returned and finds His resting place.  You have heard the witness of St. John, that the Spirit has descended and remained upon Christ Jesus.  It is therefore in His Body that the Holy Spirit is given and received: In the Ministry of the Gospel, in the means of grace, in the flesh and blood of the crucified and risen One.  This is where the Lamb who was slain — and yet, behold, He lives! — is given and poured out as the Feast of your Salvation.  His Flesh is your true Spiritual Meat, and His Blood is your true Spiritual Drink, in which you have fellowship with God and sanctification in His own holiness.

Here is the Christ, the Messiah, who has found you, and chosen you, and called you, and gathered you to Himself, so that you may stay with Him, and live with Him in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  And here is the Truth: In His Body you also have the Spirit of His God and Father, so that you also are a son of God in Christ Jesus, and you have Life in His Name.

This Life that you have is nothing less than the divine eternal Life of the Holy Triune God, who has given Himself to you and made you His own.  He is your Life and your Righteousness, as He has become your Rescue and Redemption and your very great Reward.  So is He your Strength and your Song, even in the face of sin and death, and in the valley of dark despair, because He has become your Salvation.  Neither injustice, nor unfairness; nor suffering; nor the sickness of your mortal flesh; nor even the grave, shall be able to undo you or to separate you from God.

For as you are crucified, dead, and buried with Christ Jesus, by your Baptism into His death, so are you raised up, justified, and glorified in the Body of Christ Jesus forevermore.  As Jesus’ little lamb, you die and rise with Him, the great Good Shepherd who has gone willingly as the sacrificial Lamb to the slaughter, to lay down His Life for the sheep, and to take it up again.  For His Father does not allow His Holy One to see corruption or suffer decay, but raises Him from the dead and pours out His Spirit upon Him.  And so does He pour out the same Holy Spirit upon you through the Gospel of this Lamb who is the Lord.

As you hear His Word, and as you follow after Him by faith in His Word, in order to see where He is staying, you follow Him through death and the grave into the Resurrection of the Body and the Life everlasting.  And you do remain with Him, where He is, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, safe and secure in the sacred fellowship of the true and only God, world without end.

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

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