25 March 2015

Let It Be According to His Word

In the midst of the darkness and the barren wilderness of Lent, this Word of the Gospel comes — seemingly out of nowhere — to address itself to you, to shine the Light of Christ upon you and to give you Life in Him.  It is the very Word that proceeds from the mouth of God, which here gives to you the Bread of Life from Heaven: the very flesh and blood of the only-begotten Son.

And as a living icon of the Church, here stands the Blessed Virgin Mary with you, who embodies and exemplifies the holiness of faith in the hearing and receiving of this Word of God, which she ponders in her heart and keeps within her womb.

Even more so and more intimately than St. John the Baptist, St. Mary is the crux between the Old and New Testaments.  She is the recipient of all the many and various prophecies of old, which are now fulfilled and spoken to us by her Son.  For she has become the Mother of the Son of God, of Him who is begotten of His Father before all worlds — God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God — who is now also the true Man, because, for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.  As He is of one divine nature with God the Father from all eternity, so is He now of the same human nature as you and me, because He was conceived and born of this Woman, this daughter of Adam and Eve.

She has done nothing to bring it on, nothing to earn it or deserve it.  We are told nothing about her prior to this point, except that she was “a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David,” and that she was living in the city of Nazareth.  But the Lord is with her — as He is also with you, here in His Church, in His Holy Gospel.  He favors her with His grace; He blesses her with His Word and Spirit — uniquely so, of course; and yet, He also favors you and blesses you within your own vocations and stations in life.  Most glorious of all, the Lord speaks His Word to her, and God the Father gives to her His own dear Son.  And so does He also speak His Word to you, and through that Word He gives to you the same Son who was conceived and born of Mary.

Oh, the power and the glory of that Word of God!  That holy and almighty Word, which was in the beginning with God.  That Word which was and is God the Son.  That Word by which all things are made, apart from which there is nothing.  That Word which here in this Holy Gospel becomes flesh and comes to tabernacle with us, the bodily fullness of deity!  That Word of Life, which is Spirit and Truth.  That Word which, when He says, “Let there be,” then it is so, and it is very good!

All glory, honor, thanks, and praise be to that holy and precious Word of God which, even as it was sounding in the ears of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the same time was being conceived in her womb, so that, taking her flesh and blood to become His own Body, He thus became true Man.

Along with that, the same Word of God also brought forth that most amazing confession of faith from St. Mary.  It opened her lips to declare His praise: “Let it be for me according to Your Word!”

How often shall we praise that beautiful confession, and let those words ring in our ears!?  It could never be too often.  For Dr. Luther, this confession of the faith is actually even more wondrous than the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth.  That God should create such great faith in the heart and on the lips of this woman — in spite of her sinfulness; in the face of His seemingly impossible promises; in the sorrow and shame of all that she will have to suffer from the world around her; and finally in the shadow of the Cross of her dear Son — that she would believe His Word is, indeed, a miracle of His grace.

Against all the challenges and obstacles of this fallen world, there stands fast the Word of God.  And by that Word — full of the Holy Spirit and the Power of the Highest — there is also then the faith to bow before that same Word in humility, and to cling to that Word for dear life.

These things are true not only of St. Mary, but also of you, and of all the children of God in Christ Jesus.  For He has spoken His Word — and His seemingly impossible promises — to you, as well.

He has spoken to you, poor miserable sinner though you are, and He has declared that He is with you.  He has favored you with His gracious Word of forgiveness, and He has blessed you with His Holy Spirit unto repentance and faith.

In the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism, the Lord has called you by name to Himself.  What is more, He has named you with His own Holy Name!  He has said to you, that you are forgiven, and that your Baptism has now saved you.  For He has thereby anointed you with His Holy Spirit — the same Holy Spirit that over-shadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary and conceived the Son of God within her womb.  And He has united you with that same Son of God in His Cross and Resurrection.  So it is that you, also, are a child of the Father in heaven.

The same Word of God has spoken to you — again and again throughout your life — the Holy Absolution of all your sins.  And that Word still does and accomplishes whatever it says.  So, too, when that same Word of God says to you, “Take, eat; this is My Body, which is given for you,” and “Drink from this Cup, which is the New Testament in My Blood, which is poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of your sins.”  And it is so!

This is the Word of God that is spoken to you by your pastor.  It is no less sure and certain than the Word that was spoken by the Angel Gabriel to St. Mary.  It is no less full of the Holy Spirit and the Power of the Highest.  And it is no less able to call forth in your heart and from your lips the confession of faith.  For you are a servant of the Lord.  Let it be for you according to His Word!

When it seems impossible to believe that you are His child, that He loves you, that He has forgiven you, and that He will never leave you nor forsake you, “Let it be according to His Word!”

When it feels like the whole world is against you — and, frankly, all the more so when the whole world really is against you: Nevertheless, Let it be for you according to His Word!

When you are painfully aware of just how small and frail and helpless you are: Still, Let it be for you according to His Word!

When the Cross lies heavy upon you; when you can see and feel nothing else but pain and heartache and sadness; when you are reduced to lowliness and nothingness: Even then, especially then, Let it be for you according to His Word!”

Take it to heart, that, for all the ups and downs in your Christian faith and life, the Word of God will never let you down or put you to shame.  The Lord has not lied to you.  Nor does He deceive you.  His promises are not impossible.  The Father has spoken to you by His Son!

Fear not, therefore.  The Lord is with you!  And you have found favor with God.

Blessed are you that believe; for there shall be a fulfillment of those things which are told you from the Lord.

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

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