25 May 2014

She Is His New Creation by Water and His Word

There is a powerful scene in The Passion of the Christ, when our Lord, on His way to be crucified, on the Via Dolorosa, stumbles and falls under the weight of the Cross. He has been beaten and whipped, scourged without mercy, crowned with thorns, and rendered a bloody mess. And the Mother of Jesus is there, following as best she can through the crowds of people watching the grisly parade.

As He falls, St. Mary rushes forward to her Son, to comfort and support Him, to help Him in some way, in whatever way she can. But He looks up at her, His face all bruised and bloody, almost beyond recognition, and He says to her, "See, I make all things new."

Such images and words do not seem to fit together. But that is also to the point. Your way of thinking and of processing experience is also made brand new by the Cross and Passion of Christ Jesus. Everything is undone, in order to be recreated and raised up in the righteousness and holiness of His crucified and risen Body. All of creation, the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, find their fulfillment, their purpose and perfection in Him, in His flesh and blood, given and poured out for you and for the many.

From heaven He has come to seek you out and to save you in this way, to betroth you to Himself in loving kindness and compassion, in mercy, and in faithfulness. He has come to woo you to Himself in tender love, to call you by His own Name, and to give you safety, peace, and rest in the place that He has prepared for you. He has come to make of you His holy Bride. And so it is that you also are His New Creation, by the way and means of water and His Word. You are made brand new by your Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection, and all things are made new for you by His preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Of course, there are lots of new things in your life at this point: For you, Kirsten, there's not only your marriage and new name, as of today, but also your graduation last weekend, and moving across the country to a new home in a new place. Lots of big changes going on, which is both exciting and stressful.

But the newness of your body and life in Christ Jesus is even bigger than all the rest of it put together. His New Creation includes and embraces all of these other things, but it is also far deeper and more comprehensive than that. Which is all the more exciting, in its own way, and all the more difficult, challenging, and stressful, too.

Honestly, there is no part of you, and no part of your life in body and soul, that is left unchanged by the Word and work of Christ the Crucified. By His preaching and Baptism of repentance, His Cross is putting you to death and calling you daily to the righteousness of an entirely new way of life, to brand new ways of thinking and speaking and acting, and, really, to a whole new way of being.

Marriage itself is like that, as it redefines your identity and all of your relationships; but even your marriage points beyond itself to the new identity and the new relationships that are yours in Christ Jesus.

Within this new vocation and station in life, He will be teaching you, Kirsten, to live by faith as a bride, a wife; and He'll be teaching you, Trevor, to live in love as a husband, to lay down your life for her. In both respects, He will teach the two of you, and your neighbors in the world, both married and unmarried, what it means and what it looks like to live and to love as faithful Christians, wed to Christ Himself as members of His Body and Bride, the Church. That is what this great Mystery of holy Marriage signifies; not only for those who are married or given in marriage, but also for those who are not. It is a high and holy calling, indeed.

You're not alone in this life to which the Lord here calls you. Not only because He gives you to each other, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to serve and support each other throughout your life together; but especially because He Himself is with you, who shall never leave you nor forsake you; and He gives to you the other Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth from the Father, who strengthens and sustains you in the faith and love of the same Lord Jesus Christ.

He cleanses and refreshes you with living water, and He pours out for you the good wine of His own holy and precious Blood, even as He feeds and nourishes you with His own Body in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, which has no end. These are not impotent or meaningless things, but genuine means of divine grace, and a medicine of immortality for body and soul, unto the life everlasting. There is nothing lacking in and with Him. Salvation and glory and power belong to Him, the true and only God; because His judgments are true and righteous.

Nevertheless, to do whatever He tells you will, at times, perhaps even often, be confusing and uncomfortable, like filling up huge jars with water as though it could ever take the place of wine at the wedding celebration. Learning to live as husband and wife, for example, is going to require adjustments in the way that you arrange your days and use your time, and in the ways that you think about your "privacy" and personal space.

As adults, you've gotten used to being on your own, taking care of yourselves, making your own decisions, and doing your own thing. Having a spouse, and reconforming your entire routine to orbit around that other person, is frankly even more demanding and consuming than being a child in your parents' home. Therefore, to live by faith in the Word of Christ within the vocation of holy marriage, in all of the particulars of your life together, is going to be among the foremost ways in which the Lord will crucify the flesh of your old fallen nature, and by which He will teach you to love and serve as He does, which is by self-sacrifice and suffering.

You cannot do this on your own. Not even the two of you together can manage to make all things new. As capable and competent as you both are, the fact is, that, as often as you rely upon yourselves and trust in your own finite and fallen resources, you really "have no wine." It is quickly consumed and spent, and then you are left with nothing but regret and sadness.

You may inebriate yourselves for awhile with pursuits of the flesh and the inferior pleasures of this old world, but eventually you'll sober up enough to realize how aimless and empty such pastimes are. They are not the fine wine they pretend to be, but dust and ashes.

But again, you are not on your own, nor left to your own futility. Not only your dear family and friends, but the Mother of Jesus is here with you, that is to say, His Holy Christian Church. For Christ Himself and His disciples are here invited to your wedding, that He might bless and sustain and abide within your marriage by and with His Word and Holy Spirit. Are we not all gathered together here in the presence of God to pray and intercede on your behalf, as you now enter upon this holy estate? And you, also, have been taught to pray, to call upon His Name in every situation. Do not doubt that He is with you, to guard and keep you in His grace, mercy, and peace, and to care for you in holy Charity.

Of course, you should not suppose that His place and purpose is to provide for all your creature comforts, plans, and ambitions in this life on earth. It isn't a nonstop party. This world with all its glory is perishing, along with your own mortal flesh and bones.

And the Lord would have you turn away from all your Baals, away from all the idols on which you rely for your happiness, contentment, and future hope. He would have you learn to fear, love, and trust in Him alone, and, forsaking all others, to find your perfect peace and Sabbath rest in Him, even when everything else, including your own body and life, your goods, fame, children, and spouse, are all returned to the dust of the ground. By such faith in Him, He would have you clothe yourself in fine linens, to adorn yourself as the Bride of Christ, not with lust or greed, but with the true beauty of humility and righteousness and love.

His Peace be with you. It is true wisdom to rely upon the Lord your God. For He does provide for all that you need, for both body and soul, for this life that He gives to you on earth, and for the life everlasting in Paradise in the resurrection of your body at the last.

He has, in fact, made all things new by His Cross and Passion. Indeed, His own Body, crucified and risen from the dead, is the Firstfruits of the New Creation, into which He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies you by His Word and Spirit.

Thus, for example, at His Word, simple water only has become the life-giving water of your Holy Baptism, by which you have been reborn and are daily made brand new; and by which the Lord Jesus Christ, your heavenly Bridegroom, has clothed you in the beautiful white wedding gown of His Resurrection and His Righteousness. So does He adorn you, by His Gospel of forgiveness, with His own glory, honor, and majesty, as He delights in you with steadfast love.

In the same way also, He provides and pours out for you His Good Wine in abundance, even in the midst of adversity; so that you may rejoice, give thanks, and sing to the Lord a new song, who has done such marvelous things. And as He has not withheld Himself, but given Himself for you, so surely does He not withhold any good thing from you, but He freely gives to you all that belongs to Him. As He has risen from the dead and lives and reigns forever, so does He raise you up in and with Himself, to the newness of eternal Life with God, both now and always, even forevermore.

Your confidence and certainty of this New Creation is not yet by sight, but by faith in His Word and promises to you:

The Word and promises of your Holy Baptism speak the Name of the Lord upon you, and, with His own Voice, like the sound of many waters, they openly declare that you are His beloved and well-pleasing child.

So, too, the Word of Christ shall here and now make of you husband and wife, and shall join you to each other as one flesh in Him. This Word of His adorns the two of you for each other with His own hidden majesty, and so shall it stand fast against all the threats and temptations of the world against you and against your marriage.

Even so, the Word of His Gospel also stands fast, even when you do not. By that Word of Absolution, the forgiveness of your sins, He raises you up from death to life, as often as you fail and fall short. So does He renew you, day by day, with His righteousness and holiness. And thus do you also give life to each other in mutual repentance and forgiveness, as long as you both shall live.

It is for this purpose, really, that He gives you to each other, and for which He sets the two of you before His disciples on earth as a sign of His Glory, as an icon of His Gospel. That we might behold in you the goodness of His New Creation, and believe in Him on account of His grace toward you, and so rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him. And that we should thus be invited, through the two of you and by the witness of your life together, to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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