18 January 2015

Heaven on Earth

Location. Location. Location.

It’s a matter of where to find God, of where and how you shall be able to see Him and know Him.  Not for the sake of idle curiosity, but for your life and salvation.  For the true and only God is not simply a helper or a means to some other end, but He is the point and purpose of your existence and of your place in the whole scope of creation.  To know Him and to love Him, to live with Him, and to worship Him with all that you are and have, that is why you are here and what it’s all about.

The dilemma is that you can’t see Him, know Him, or live with Him by any prerogative or power of your own, because you are utterly blinded by your sin and cut off from God by death.  And that is not unique to you.  It is the condition of the whole wide world apart from the Spirit of Christ.

The Word of the Lord is rare in these gray and latter days.  Visions of the Truth are infrequent, as they were in the days before the Prophet Samuel.  Eyes have grown dim, unable to see well.  There is a hunger for insight, for revelation, and for a kind of spirituality; a longing for security, which is met with lots of false and failing words, all making a pretense of wisdom, perhaps even piety and holiness, but presuming upon the Lord and offering lies.  For all of that, the fallen world and sinful man are unable to recognize the one true God.  He is hidden in, with, and under the Cross.

No one has ever seen God before, but the only-begotten Son who abides in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him to us by His Cross.  The Word of the Lord has been fulfilled, as He spoke by the mouth of His Prophets, in the Incarnation of the Son, who has come down from heaven and established Himself among us here on earth in His own flesh and blood.  By His death for our sins and in His Resurrection from the dead, His Body has become the Temple of God.

He has seen you and known you.  He has sought you out and found you.  And He now calls you to Himself, to come and see the Father in Him.  For He is the very Image and Likeness of God.

Neither you nor anyone else will ever be convinced of the one true faith by rational arguments, by scientific proofs, or by the logic of so-called common sense.  Rather, you are confronted with the Word of this Word-made-Flesh, and you are called to come and see the heavens opened and the Glory of God in the Body of Christ Jesus, which is to say, in His Church and Holy Sacrament.

The Body of Christ Jesus is the location, the real estate of God Himself, the very heart of heaven, and the center of gravity for all of Creation.  The Holy Spirit rests and remains upon His Body, and God and Father is revealed in the flesh and blood of this incarnate Son, in His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.  His Holy Sacrament is truly heaven on earth.  How awesome is this place!

For the one Lord comes and stands, and He calls to you in His Temple, where His Ark is located, that is to say, where His Word is preached in its truth and purity, and where His Body, conceived and born of Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, and risen from the dead, is given to you in His Name.  So does He remember you in love, with mercy and compassion and forgiveness of sins.

Hear and heed His Word, and come to Him, to find Him here, to see and know the true and only God in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to behold the Glory of the Father manifest (epiphanied) in Him.

Rest yourself in His Body, and live as a member of His Body in all your going out and coming in.

The Lord your God has come down from heaven and taken for Himself the same human nature as your own from His Mother Mary.  Thus, the very Son of God has a Body of His own, in which He lives and dies for you and for all, and rises and ascends and lives forever, for you and your salvation.  He is and remains your merciful and great High Priest in all things pertaining to God.

So it is that the same Lord Jesus Christ comes to you and stands before you in His Church: In the waters of His Holy Baptism; in the preaching of His Holy Gospel and in His Holy Absolution; and in His Body given and His Blood poured out for you and for the many in the Holy Communion.  Notice that all of these means of grace and salvation are given and received in and with the body.

The fact is that your body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for your body, as St. Paul has written.  Not in the way of carnal desire, neither the idolatrous passion of lust nor the gluttony and drunken-ness of perishable food and drink, but as the incarnate God who is your Meat and Drink indeed, whose flesh and blood are the truly Spiritual Food of eternal Life for both soul and body.  It is in and with His Body that you receive from Him and share with Him the Holy Spirit of the Father.

Flee immorality and sin, therefore, and follow Christ Jesus in and with your body.  Discipline your flesh and your behavior, your words and actions.  Not as though to justify yourself, which you cannot do, but to live as a Christian, as a child of God, in the righteousness of Christ your Savior.

Confess His holy Name; serve the Lord with gladness; worship Him in the beauty of holiness; and glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in His Spirit and His Truth.  Do it first of all by listening to and learning from His Word in the place where He is found, and then by serving your neighbor in your own place according to the Lord’s Commandments.  That begins with your own home and family, as a son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, father or mother.  It also includes your office and station within the life of our congregation, as well, whether you are an usher, a trustee, a musician, or an elder; in the choir, on the altar guild, or one of the youth.

As the Lord Jesus is your Rabbi, pay attention to His teaching, and put it into practice.  Believe and obey the Word that He speaks to you.  Live under Him as your true and only King.  Worship Him, the incarnate God, in His Body and His Blood; and worship the Father in Him.  Lift up your heart and mind to heaven by giving attention to the Word and Sacrament of Christ Jesus here on earth.

It’s not that you mentally and emotionally ascend to His Body up there, “somewhere over the rainbow,” or whatever, as if you could ever manage such a thing.  But, no, it is in His Body here with you in His Church on earth, that you ascend with Him in body and soul to God the Father in heaven.  So it is also from His Body, in which you are united with the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, that you descend, as it were, to your neighbor in divine and holy love.  Not that you look down on your neighbor, but that you bend down to serve and care for him or her in humility.

This is what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple, to be where He is, to go where He goes, and to live as He lives: in faith and love toward God, in love for your neighbor, and in the sure and certain confidence that you are safe and secure in the Body of Christ Jesus, both now and forevermore.

For as God the Father raised His Son Jesus from the dead, who was crucified for you, so has He forgiven you all your sin and justified you; and so shall He raise you from the dead unto the life everlasting in your body and your soul.  Your body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for your body, not only here and now, but forever and ever in the resurrection of your flesh to the Glory of God.

By His Sacrifice upon the Cross, and in His Resurrection from the dead, He has opened heaven to you: to pour out His Spirit upon you and to bring you to His Father by the preaching of His Gospel.

Come and see!  Hearken to the Word that He places in the mouth of His servant at His Holy Altar, the Word that He will not permit to fail or fall to the ground.  The Lamp of the Lord has not gone out, nor shall it ever be extinguished.  For Christ is risen from the dead, and here, by His Word, heaven stands forever opened to you in His Body and His Blood, the Ark of the New Covenant.

How wonderful is this Man, Jesus, whose holy Body is none other than the House of God, and whose flesh and blood are the very Gate of Heaven!

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


John J. Flanagan said...

Amen. Thank you for this message and reaffirmation.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thank you, John. I'm glad you found my sermon helpful, and I appreciate your kind and encouraging words. God bless you and yours in this New Year of Our Lord!