02 November 2014

Exalted in the Humility of Christ

Christ is your Teacher, your Rabbi; and He is your Leader through life and death, into the Resurrection of the Body and the life everlasting.  His God and Father is your true God and Father, who has given you His Holy Spirit for the sanctification of your body and soul in Christ Jesus, for Life with God here in time and hereafter in eternity.

To this end, or, rather, to this divine eternal Life, the Lord Jesus Christ teaches you His Word, which is the good and acceptable will of God, both the Law and the Gospel.  He teaches you to live in love for God and man, as you heard from Him last Sunday.  And He teaches you that such life and love are yours by faith in Him, who is both true God and true Man, your Savior from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  In love for you, He daily and richly forgives you all your sins, and by such forgiveness you receive the Holy Spirit and learn to know your Father in heaven rightly.

To live by such faith in the forgiveness of sins is genuine humility, in which you know your faults and failures, your poverty and need, and, for that reason, you rely upon the mercies of the Lord instead of your own righteousness, reason, or strength.  The Lord humbles you with His Word to know and believe this, in order to exalt you by His grace, by His Word and Holy Spirit.

It’s not about intellectual achievement or hard work.  It is the fear of the Lord and a loving trust in Him alone.  There is, perhaps, a temptation to sinful pride in this business of “confirmation,” as though the diligent young Lutheran (but not too young!) could pull himself up by his bootstraps and exalt himself.  But, of course, that is not the point at all.  Confirmation embraces the promises of God and the confession of faith in His Gospel.  It clings to Christ for dear Life in His Ministry of Word and Sacrament.  It abides in the ongoing significance and meaning of one Holy Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and so promises to continue dying and rising through daily contrition and repentance.  It finds no life in yourself or in your flesh, but only in Christ Jesus.

It is to this humility of repentant faith that the celebration of All Saints and the commemoration of the faithful departed call you.  For here at the Table of the Lord in His House, in the face of death and the grave, we confess that those who have died in the faith of Christ are not dead and gone, but are alive and well in Him.  They are at peace with God, and at rest from all their labors.  Their bodies, although even now returning to the dust of the earth from which they were taken, await the Resurrection of all flesh in the sure and certain hope of the risen Lord Jesus.

They surely do not exalt themselves!  There is no pride in death.  For those of you who have watched your loved ones waste away and die, you know there is no boast in mortal flesh and blood.  There is only the Cross of Christ to cling to, and the Resurrection of Christ to rely upon.  Nothing else can save you.  Yet, there is that which He has done and accomplished for you and for all.

He is your One Leader, who not only shows you the way to go, but is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He goes before you and blazes the trail.  He enters into your sin and death, and He takes your place in the dust of the earth, in order to open up the way of life for you in His Resurrection from the dead.  He is the One who humbles Himself, even unto death on the Cross, who is exalted by His God and Father and given the Name above every name, with which He has also named you.

As He has died and risen for you in His own Body of flesh and blood, so have you died with Him and are raised with Him through Holy Baptism.  Which is all that your Confirmation confesses and relies upon: That you are baptized into Christ, God’s own child in Him, clothed in His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, anointed by His Spirit, and fed by His Body and Blood.

Because that is true, the life that you live in your body, even now, actually matters and means something.  The fact that all your sins are freely forgiven for Jesus’ sake is not a reason to go on sinning — God forbid!  Rather, excel more and more in faith and love toward God, and in love for your neighbor.  Flee from sin and every evil, and possess your own vessel, your body and life on earth, in the holiness and honor of the Lord.  Where you have fallen into temptation and sin, repent.  Lay hold of Christ and His forgiveness in the Gospel, and live again according to His Word.

Do not despair, but fear, love, and trust in God.  As He humbles you unto repentance, so does He exalt you in Christ Jesus by His Gospel of forgiveness.  Day by day throughout your life, He raises you up through faith in His Word and promises.  And on that great and final Day, He shall raise your body from the grave in the Glory of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  This is most certainly true.

This is what it means to be and to live as a Christian, as a child of the one true God.  And all who believe and are baptized in His Holy Name are brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of one Father, and members of His one household and family in heaven and on earth.  We mourn together with those who are bereaved, not without hope, but in the hope of the Resurrection.  And so do we also rejoice with one another as one Body in Christ Jesus.

The men and women we name before His Altar this morning, and the saints we remember with thanksgiving throughout the year — Apostles and Evangelists, St. Mary, and St. John the Baptist — they are all knit together with us, and we with them, in the Holy Communion.  Death has not severed that connection, nor is it even able to do so, since Christ our Lord is risen from the dead.

So, today, our confirmands affirm the pledge and promise of Baptism: They yet again renounce the devil, all his works, and all his ways, and confess their faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in whom alone true Life is found.  They would die before giving up that faith and confession, for there is no other God.  One is your Father.  One is your Teacher.  One is your Leader and Lord.

Even for these four young men, their day to die will come, whether sooner or later.  But, as also for those who have gone before us in the faith, even death wll not be able to end their gladness.

For now, they labor in love.  Then they shall enter their rest.  Either way, they are the Lord’s.

Their deeds do not lead the way, but Christ their Savior leads them; and their good deeds of faith and love quietly follow after Him.  Men are not impressed by such a life, but the Father in heaven is pleased with them and all His children for the sake of His Beloved Son.  Therefore, He gives to them the place of honor, to be seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenly places, even as they recline here at His Table in peace, and feast upon His Banquet, adorned with His garments of salvation.

So does He also wash your robes and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting.

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

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