29 June 2015

Christ Has Built His Church Upon the Rock

The Wise Man has built His House upon the Rock.

The almighty and eternal Son of the living God has come down from heaven in the flesh to give His Life a ransom for many.  He has entered our pagan territory of sin and death, in order to slay and defeat our ancient enemy, that old dragon, the devil or Satan.

By His death upon the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ has atoned for the sins of the whole world, reconciled all of us to God the Father in heaven, and thereby destroyed death, released us from the fear of death, and removed all the power of the devil, namely, sin and guilt and accusation.

He has plundered the grave and Hades of their dead, and in His Resurrection He has opened the gates of heaven to all who believe and are baptized into Him, our Savior and our God.

It is by this precious Gospel of Christ — His forgiveness of sins, and life & salvation by His Cross & Resurrection — that He establishes, builds, and protects His Church unto the life everlasting.

Whoever lives and abides within His Church, even here on earth under His Cross, is safe and secure from sin, death, the devil, and hell, and shall live and abide forever with the same Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.  For He is indeed the Wise Man who has built His House upon the Rock.  The winds rage, the rains downpour, the floods rise and pummel that House, but it shall not fall.

Why, then, would you drown and die outside of His House in the midst of the storm?

The problem that confronts the flesh and blood of your old Adam and the whole sinful world in which you live, is that the Wise Man appears to be, not wise, but foolish; and the Rock foundation of His Christian Church appears to be, not solid and secure, but shifting sand.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, the “Son of Man,” appears to be no more nor less than a man like any other.  Extraordinary, yes; a great Prophet, perhaps; a good and righteous man, no doubt, and a powerful preacher; but surely not the Son of God.  No one is able to perceive or to believe who and what He truly is by means of mortal flesh and blood.

And when He is crucified, dead, and buried; executed as a criminal; hung upon a cursed tree in naked shame and humiliation, and laid to rest within a borrowed tomb, where is the divine in that?

Where is the power and might of the glory of God in His Cross & Passion?  Where is the promise of His coming?  And where do you ever see or feel or experience His Resurrection and His Life?

He says that the gates of Hades shall not be able to overpower His Church, but what then shall you say about the fact that you and your loved ones, your family and friends and fellow Christians, are all subject to death and finally buried in the ground?  Whether by disease, old age, or martyrdom.

Where is your hope, your life, and your salvation?  Where is the living God who can help you and save you from death and the grave, who will actually bring you out of Hades into His Heaven?

The Church appears to be a pitiful fortress indeed, little more than a fisherman’s shack upon the seashore.  After all, its so-called “Rock” foundation is nothing but the Ministry of the Gospel, that is, the preaching of repentance, the spoken word of forgiveness, the washing of water with the Word, and the administration of bread and wine in the remembrance of Jesus who was crucified.

And what sort of men are actually called and sent to preach and administer this Gospel?  Sinners, the lot of them!  Men like Simon Peter and Paul of Tarsus — the one a wavering denier of Christ, and the other a former diehard Pharisee, a persecutor of Jesus and His followers.

Pastors to this very day and age are likewise quarried from the same Rock.  They, too, are sinners, each and every one of them, in need of forgiveness for their own sins.  They are mortals, just like you, subject to death and the grave.  Finite, flawed, and frail creatures of flesh and blood.

And what keys do they bring, what instruments and means by which they are to help and save you?  With what do they come to set you free from the death-grip of sin and to open the gates of heaven to you?  By what power and authority are they supposed to keep you safe from the devil and hell?

They have nothing but the Gospel, which is the Word of Christ Jesus and His forgiveness of sins.  It is admittedly pathetic and pitiful to all appearances, and impotent in the face of all your needs.  Nor shall you perceive or believe otherwise about any of this, not by your own reason or strength.

The truth is that you cannot recognize the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is, nor can you come to Him, nor are you at all able to love and trust in Him, unless the Father reveals Him to you, and gives Him to you, and lays Him upon your heart by His Word and Holy Spirit.

But all of this the Father surely does for you, in grace and mercy and peace, according to His steadfast loving-kindness, by that very Cross of Christ and that preaching of His Gospel which appear to all the world — and to your own fallen flesh — to be so foolish and miserable and weak.

You could not possibly open your eyes wide enough to see it, but He has opened your eyes in faith by the Light of His Word, that is, by the Gospel of His forgiveness of all yours sins.

You could not even begin to open your heart or your head to accept it, but He has opened your ears to hear, your mind to understand, your heart to believe, and your lips to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, who has also become your Savior, your Strength, and your Song.

The Word of Christ that His servants speak to you in His Name, is His Word upon their lips.  The Sacraments they administer in His stead, in remembrance of Him, are His own works of life and salvation for you.  Their forgiveness of your sins is His forgiveness, as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ your dear Lord dealt with you Himself.  Truly, this is how He cares for you.

And this Word of forgiveness, this Holy Absolution, this free and full forgiveness of all your sins — although it seems like such a still small voice against the rage and roaring of the devil — it is a most solid foundation of a truly mighty fortress, which shall not fall nor fail to preserve your life.

Where sin is forgiven, the devil cannot accuse you, and even God’s own Law does not condemn you anymore forever.  There is therefore no condemnation for you in Christ Jesus.

Where sin is forgiven, death no longer has any rightful claim on you, but it must relinquish you, body and soul, unto Christ your Redeemer, who has purchased you with His very own lifeblood.

Where sin is forgiven — and your sin is forgiven by the Word of Christ — there is only life and salvation.  Come hell or high water against you, they cannot touch you, nor shall they reach you.

You shall not die but live.  The gates of Hades shall not prevail against you.  For you belong to the Body of Christ, His Church, and just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns forever in His own Body, so are you raised up by His Ministry of the Gospel to live with Him.

His death has been the death of death, the devil’s defeat, and hell’s destruction, and all of this on your behalf.  Therefore, His Resurrection from the dead is your resurrection, and His own life is yours eternally.  So has He spoken, and so shall it be.  His Word abides and stands fast forever.

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

28 June 2015

To Worship the Lord Your God in the Flesh

No one has taken a whip to her back, but a string of doctors have taken all her money without helping.  In fact, she has grown worse under their care.

Twelve years of bleeding from the inside out.  The curse of sin upon the first Woman has been multiplied in this daughter of Eve.  Her life is in the blood, but it won’t stop flowing out of her, slipping away.  And so she is left anemic and drained, low on energy, and tired in every way.

How many of her clothes has she had to scrub clean or discard in all that time?  How often has she broken down and sobbed in discouragement?  We do not know such details, but imagine yourself in her place, and consider the metaphorical whips that have fallen upon you over the years.

To pile insult onto injury, her burden is embarrassing, so that she is ashamed and wants to hide herself away from any attention.  Indeed, the Law of God is clear concerning her condition and its consequences.  She is unclean.  She is not to go out into public.  She is not even to be in church.

And yet, you have heard the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He was rich but for our sake became poor, so that, by His poverty, you and that woman and all of us might become rich.  Don’t imagine dollar signs here, but do look to Him for salvation, for life and health and strength and every good thing.  For here is the great Physician of body and soul, who does in fact make house calls.  He has come to help.  He will not take all your money and leave you still bleeding, but He pours Himself out for you, and gives Himself to you, in order to fill you up with His own Life.

Therefore, worship and adore Him: With your heart by faith; and with your lips by confessing Him and calling on His Name; and with your body, also, since your body shall be raised to eternal life.

To “worship” is to bow, to genuflect or kneel, to fall at the feet of Jesus, the Lord, and prostrate yourself before Him.  Such outward bodily “worship” will avail you nothing without faith, but where your heart bows before Him, there your mind and mouth and hands and feet and your whole body will follow suit.  Don’t worry, Jesus isn’t keeping score, and neither am I.  Don’t try to score each other, either.  But do worship the Lord Jesus and lay hold of Him where He is found.

What He has accomplished for you, in and with His Body and His Blood, He gives to you in the means of grace, in the Ministry of the Gospel, which you receive with your body.  Your ears hear His Word.  Your eyes see the sign of His Cross set before you, and they see the administration of His Holy Sacraments.  Your body has been washed with the water included in His command and combined with His Word in Holy Baptism.  And so do you eat His Body and drink His Blood with your mouth, with your lips and tongue and teeth and throat.

To receive these good gifts of Christ Jesus with your body, in faith, is to worship Him most surely. In this way, by these means, you seek Him out, and lay yourself before Him, and call upon His Name in the hope and expectation that He will hear you and help you.

That is what Jairus did.  For he was a leader of the local synagogue, and he knew the Scriptures, the Word and promises of God, and evidently recognized that Word made flesh in Christ Jesus.  In faith and hope he approached Jesus and fell at His feet.  He worshiped Him with his body, and with prayer and petition for his little daughter who was at the point of death.

Now she was only twelve years old, which seems a tender age at which to die.  You moms and dads, picture one of your daughters — or one of your sons, for that matter — wasting away before your eyes and dying.  If there’s anything worse than dealing with your own frailty, weakness, and mortality, it is the anguish and sorrow of watching your own child suffer and die, and realizing how utterly helpless and powerless you are to save her (or him).

By the grace of God you pray, as Jairus prayed, that Jesus would come and help.  And do you see how bodily all of this is?  Jairus prays, not only with his mouth, but with his body prostrate at the feet of Jesus.  He implores the Lord to come, to lay His hands on the little girl so that she will get well and live.  He’s pleading for her salvation, that is what his words imply, but his immediate concern and prayer are for her bodily health and well-being.  He wants her to go to heaven in the resurrection of the righteous, but right now he does not want her to die.  He loves his little girl and does not want to lose her.  So Jairus goes to Jesus and confesses that He is the Lord, the Author and Giver of Life, and that His flesh — the touch of His hand — is strong and powerful to save.

The Lord Jesus responds right away by going with Jairus, just as He also hears and answers all your prayers.  Indeed, He is God’s Answer and Amen to your prayers.  Before you have called, and while you are yet speaking, the Father in heaven has given this same Son, Jesus Christ, for you and for your children.  He has had mercy and compassion upon you, and He comes to save you.

But then there is this interruption, this intrusion and delay.  Pushing through the crowd, like trying to swim your way upstream, having appealed to the Lord and secured His promise of help, you’re anxious to get home, to see some results, to experience the blessed relief and the great joy of an answered prayer.  It’s your turn.  Your need is so great and the time is so short.  Yet, Jesus stops and turns and waits upon another.  He turns His body and His attention to someone else, and you are left waiting until it is seemingly too late, while not yours but your neighbor’s prayer is granted.

The woman has it right, of course, in knowing and believing that Jesus is the answer to her need, according to what she had heard about Him.  That Word and promise is all that she has, so that is where she puts her faith.  Her prayer is not with her voice but in the reaching out of her hand.  She lays hold of Jesus in faith by laying hold of His cloak, His garments.  For He is the merciful and great High Priest, and the hem of His garment is bound up with the Word of God.  That is how the Lord God works: He attaches His Word and His promises to external things which you can touch and take hold of.  That is where faith looks for Him, and finds Him, and receives Him.

You also lay hold of Him in faith according to His Word: in the waters of Holy Baptism, and in the bread and wine which are His Body and His Blood in the Holy Communion.  And power goes out from His Holy Body to the one who lays hold of Him by faith.  The crowd presses upon Him, but it is by faith in His Word that you discern and receive the Life that is in Him.

That is how it was for the woman in this Gospel, and so also for you.  Immediately, the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed.  After twelve long years, she was suddenly no longer broken and dying, but made whole and clean and filled with Life.  Because Jesus has borne our griefs and carried all our sorrows in His Body, and He has poured out His Blood for all of us.  He was whipped for our transgressions, and by His scourging we are healed.

Faith receives that healing, that forgiveness, life, and salvation in the means of grace, in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  It is here for you to have and to hold, so that you also may have peace and joy.

Which is all well and good for that woman, whom Jesus tenderly addresses as a “daughter.”  But what about the synagogue official’s little girl?  What about his daughter?  And what about you and your children and your hurts and desperate needs?

They came to Jairus with the news, like the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night.  It’s too late.  It’s all over.  “Your daughter has died.”  End of story.  “Why trouble the Teacher anymore?”

And yet, the Teacher has something more to say.  Even now, He teaches you: “Do not be afraid any longer.  Only believe.”  Sounds like Jairus was afraid at that point, as you can well imagine, just as you are afraid and tempted to despair.  But the story does not turn on what Jairus was thinking or feeling, or doing or saying.  Everything moves with Jesus.  He is the One who speaks and acts.

The woman with the twelve-year flow of blood went looking for Him and found Him where His Word said that He would be.  You also seek Him where He may be found.  And you call on Him, for yourself and for your neighbor, as Jairus besought Him in the first place for his little daughter.

By comparison, that twelve-year-old girl does absolutely nothing for herself in this case.  We are told nothing of her faith.  Besides, she’s already dead when Jesus shows up.  Do not suppose that her family, friends, and doctors have made some kind of medical mistake in thinking that she has died.  The Word of Jesus, that “the child has not died, but is asleep,” is not a second opinion or a different diagnosis, but a powerful Word of Life that makes all things new.

Of course the world regards the Word of Jesus as ridiculous.  So the people go from a wailing commotion to hysterical laughter, from devilish despair to the mockery of unbelief.

But for all of that, the Lord Jesus enters in and casts out doubt and fear and blasphemy and sin.  He takes hold of that little girl, and He calls her to “Get up!”  He speaks the Resurrection Word, and as surely as the death of Jesus swallows up death forever, so surely do His flesh and His Word raise up the dead in His own rising.  Immediately the girls gets up and begins to walk.  She lives.

You live, too, because the same Lord Jesus has done the very same thing for you.  Others have prayed and interceded for you, surely, but even when everyone else in the world has been silenced, Jesus enters in and saves you.  He comes into your room of death, and He takes you by the hand, in order to raise you up from death to life.

He has done it in your Baptism: by the hand and mouth of your pastor, with the water and the Word.  He does the same thing with His Word of Absolution: His forgiveness says to you, “Get up, and go in peace.”  Not only are you healed of your deepest affliction, but you are brought back from the dead.  Today, if you hear His voice, do not be afraid anymore, but only believe.

Wait upon the Lord, for He will help you.  If He delays in answering your prayers, He has not forgotten you.  If He causes grief, He will also have compassion.  He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons and daughters of men, and He will not reject forever.  His steadfast love never ceases, but His mercies are new every morning.  He forgives you all your sins, and He will save you from all evil.  He is faithful, and He will do it.

It is good and right for you to seek Him out, to lay hold of Him in His means of grace, to avail yourself of His Gospel, and to worship Him with heart and mind, body and soul.  But rest assured that His faithfulness is greater than yours.  Therefore He has borne the yoke for you, that you might be set free by His hard labor and by His patient obedience.  In silence before His accusers, He has waited upon His Father to vindicate Him and to deliver Him out of death for your justification.  He has given His cheek to the smiters and put His mouth in the dust, that you might have hope, even when it all seems so very hopeless.

In truth, as God has raised this same Lord Jesus from the dead, you have a sure and certain hope in Him.  Therefore, hang on to Him for dear life.  Grab hold of His garments here, in the preaching of His Word and in His Sacrament, and don’t let go.  Do so in the confidence that He holds on to you.  For the One who took you by the hand and raised you up through the waters of your Baptism, here also gives you something to eat.  He feeds you with His Body, and His Blood still flows for you, poured out from His Cup, that you might be filled with the power of His indestructible Life.

That fact stands fast and remains forever, even in the face of suffering, sickness, sin, and death.  For He has called you His daughter, His son, and He shall not let you go.  No one shall ever snatch you out of His hand.  If you can imagine the loving care and concern of Jairus for his daughter, so much greater is the love and compassion of the Lord your God for you, His own dear child.

In the death of Jesus Christ for you, your death is but a peaceful sleep and Sabbath rest.  And in His Resurrection from the dead, you also are made well, and you live in soul and body forever.

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

21 June 2015

Christ Orders His Creation in Peace

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep.  By His Word and Spirit He brought forth light out of the darkness, and He established a beautiful and brilliant order throughout His Creation.  It is still by His Word and Spirit that He creates and gives life and upholds all things in their proper place.  Whereas, apart from His Word and Spirit, creation collapses back into chaos.

Now there is such chaos in the world on account of man’s sin.  For the Lord God, who made the man in His Image, also gave the man dominion over the creation.  By the Word of the Lord, the man was to exercise authority over the earth, to govern it according to the good order that God had put into place, and to act as God’s own agent and representative.  Thus, for example, it was the man who gave names to all the animals.  So, too, the man and his wife were to fill the earth with children, and to subdue it, not as tyrants, but as a godly king and queen over God’s good creation.  When the woman and the man deviated from God’s Word and reversed the order of His creation, they opened the floodgates to the deep dark waters of chaos: Real storms that wreak havoc on land, at sea, and in the air, and a host of metaphorical storms that threaten you inside and out.

Even after the fall into sin, man still attempts to exercise dominion; and so you should, in keeping with your place in life, your office and station, according to the Ten Commandments.  The chaos of sin and death is undone by the right logic of the Word of God, by the keeping of His good and acceptable will.  When you fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and you listen to His Word and call upon His Name, and you honor your father and your mother, and you faithfully love and cherish your spouse, and you do no harm to your neighbor but help him in every way that you can, then the light shines in the darkness, and the chaos gives way to a beautiful order and form.

Yet, man attempts to exercise dominion, not by living under the authority of God’s Word, but by imposing his own will against his neighbor, and by pitting his own strength against the challenges and dangers of life in a fallen world.  He sets his own wisdom, ingenuity, and skill to the task of survival.  He takes on the chaos like an exhilarating adventure.  He thrills at the prospect of riding the storm out and forcing it to serve his purposes.  He harnesses the wind and dams the water.

It can be an invigorating contest, up until the point when it all goes horribly wrong and becomes life-threatening.  Then it’s no fun anymore, but scary.  Not only the danger that threatens your body and life, but the overcoming of your will, that is the most disturbing chaos.  The danger can be a thrill, but not the realization that you are powerless, that you are at the whim of wind and wave.  That is when the chaos rolls over you completely and drags you down into its depths of darkness.

The external chaos is bad enough, whether it be a destructive storm, an oppressive boss, unruly children, or financial calamity.  Those outside forces make you angry or afraid, or both, and they can fill your days and nights with anxiety.

Even more alarming and disarming than the outward turmoil is the chaos within you which drives your thoughts and feelings, your words and actions.  You would like to believe that you’re in charge of those things; that, whereas others may push you around and refuse to listen to you, at least you have your own mind, your own will, and that you’re still your own person.  Except that the storms inside of you are tossing you about and threatening to overwhelm you as much or more than anything that rages against you from without.  Even there, within yourself, you’re powerless to take control.  Lustful thoughts seize your mind, no matter how hard you try to resist them.  Envy and jealousy drive you to resent and avoid the very neighbor you are called to love and care for.  Bitterness and regret cast long dark shadows across your heart, no matter how pleasant your outward demeanor may be.  Failure and disappointment rob you of any confidence or ambition.

In the face of all such storms, within and without, the Lord Jesus has come to help you, and He is here with you.  He is the Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, who with His Word brings peace and calm to His Creation.  He undoes the chaos and orders all things rightly with His divine Wisdom.  Even the winds and waves obey Him.  For He is the Word-made-Flesh by whom all things are made, and He is the true Man who exercises godly dominion over God’s Creation.

But why, then, are the disciples even more afraid when Jesus has quieted the wind and stilled the waves than they were of the storm in the first place?  That is what St. Mark has written:  Before, they were afraid because they were perishing, but afterwards they are very much afraid.  Why?  And why are you so afraid of the good and right ordering that Jesus establishes by His Word?

Such fear is another aspect of the chaos inside of you.  It is the fear of sin and death, instead of the faith and love of God.  For in your fallen state, the power and authority and right ordering of the Word of Christ confronts you and challenges you with the force of the Law, with the imposing of His will upon whatever is contrary to His Word.  So, yes, all the chaos in the world that threatens you must obey Him and submit to Him.  But so is your own chaotic and sinful behavior confronted by the authority of His commands, and your own stubborn will is silenced and stilled before Him.

That recognition of the Lord and His authority, according to the power and judgment of His Law, is even more frightening than the chaos that rages all around you.  For it presses upon you and contradicts your will, and in a single stroke it undoes all of your self-righteousness and sin.

That’s what you hear when Jesus speaks and the winds and waves obey Him.  And that’s what you hear when the Lord speaks to Job in response to that poor man’s worries and complaints.  That’s what you hear in response to your own sufferings, your struggles and sorrows.  After all, who are you (a finite fallen creature) to call into question or complain about the judgments of the Lord?

But God is not backhanding Job with chastisement when He speaks.  He does not add yet another crushing blow atop the assaults and accusations of the devil.  He does not compound the chaos, and neither does He calm things down by constraining and compelling Job to “shut up.”  Rather, He quiets Job with comfort and consolation in his suffering.  The Lord reveals the mysterious truth that suffering is not a mark of His displeasure, nor is it foreign to His good and gracious purpose.

It is true that the Law reveals the good and right order of God’s world, as He intends it to be and to live.  But there is a deeper and different authority of the Law than its demands and prohibitions, than its threats and punishments.  All of these confront you and accuse you, and weigh so heavily upon you, but only because your heart and mind, your body and spirit, and the whole sinful world around you, are out of order and chaotic with sinful unbelief and stubborn disobedience.  At the heart of the Law itself, however, is the harmony of faith and love, the peaceful unity of the Holy Triune God, who lives in perfect freedom and acts in perfect love, who gives life to those who are His own creatures, to those whose very existence is brought about by His free choice of grace.

Which is also to say that the foundation and good order of Creation, as well as the fulfillment of the Law, is finally nothing else and nothing less than Christ the Crucified.  He is the Cornerstone, not only of His Church, but of the heavens and the earth and of all things, visible and invisible.  From before the foundation of the world, this Lamb was slain for the life and salvation of all flesh, and God’s good Creation is now completed and perfected in the Resurrection of this same Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.  His Self-sacrifice upon the Cross is the Self-giving Love of God, the divine grace by which and for which whatever is made has been made.

As the Lord your God established His Creation upon the dying and rising of Christ Jesus, so does He renew His Creation and bring it into peace and quiet, not by imposing His sovereign will upon it, nor by forcing and constraining it to obey the rules and behave, but by entering into it, becoming part of it, and establishing the good order of His Word and Will in Himself, in His own flesh.

The Son of God enters the waters of St. Mary’s womb, and He is born from those waters under the Law, in order to redeem those under the Law.  He then enters the waters of St. John’s baptism in the Jordan River, thereby submitting Himself to sacrificial death as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world, and from those waters He emerges to make His way steadfastly to the Cross.  So does He also embark upon the sea, in order to cross over with His people — through death into life — and He too is found on the boat in the chaotic storm, amid the raging winds and thrashing waves.

He is on board “just as He is.”  He has flesh and blood like you.  He sleeps because He is true Man.  That means, not only that He has gotten tired and must sleep, just as you must take your rest, but also that He lives by faith, as you are called to live.  Only, where you often cannot sleep but toss and turn at night, He rests in peace and quietness while the winds and waves toss the boat about.  It is neither exhaustion, nor laziness, nor a lack of care and concern for His fellows, but faith and trust in His Father which enable the Lord Jesus to sleep in peace even in the midst of chaos.

He lives as true Man by entrusting Himself entirely to His God and Father, in order to live entirely from Him.  This is how all of Creation, and man in particular, is created to live.  So that is how Jesus lives, and that is how He dies.  For not only does He lay Himself down to sleep in the peace of His Father, but so does He lay down His life, even unto death, in the confidence of His Father’s love and care for Him.  But consider the striking contrast between His peaceful sleeping and His panic-stricken disciples, who wonder whether He even cares that they are perishing.

And yet, it is in His sleeping, even unto death upon the Cross, that He fully sets Himself, His faith, and His love against the chaos of sinful unbelief.  His voluntary suffering and death, in faithful obedience to His God and Father, atones for all of man’s sin and remedies the brokenness of the Creation.  So, too, it is in His rising from the dead that all of Creation is fully restored in peace, as life and immortality are brought to light through the preaching of the Gospel.  When He wakes and rises from His sleep, He speaks, and all becomes perfectly calm.

It is in His dying and rising that Christ Jesus receives the authority to exercise a godly dominion of love over all of His Creation.  For He is the one true God, who has become true Man and given Himself for all mankind.  Because He has risen from the dead, the whole earth is full of His Glory.

Nowhere is that Glory of God more clear than in the Holy Communion.  There the Lord exercises dominion over His Creation by taking bread and wine and giving them to you as His own Body and Blood, crucified and risen, as Meat and Drink indeed for your own body of flesh and blood.  He uses His dominion to bless and sanctify Creation, to love and to give life by giving Himself.  And right there, in His Body and His Blood, is the heart and center of His Peace.  For the Peace of the Lord, the Pax Domini, is with you in this Holy Sacrament, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  With this forgiveness, the winds and waves are hushed and stilled.

This, then, is how He truly cares for you in all things, in body and soul, both now and forever.  Not by enslaving you, but by feeding you with Himself, with His own flesh, and by forgiving you with His own voice of the Gospel.  He speaks, and it is so.

As you hear this Word of His and receive His gifts, remember that you are baptized into Him; that you are in the boat with Him, and He is in the boat with you, that is, within the Holy Ark of His Church.  And here you are safe in the midst of the storm, even though you are sometimes so afraid, and even though it seems as though your Lord were sleeping and not very much concerned about you.  He has laid Himself down to sleep in flesh and blood like yours, so that you may find your peace and rest and quiet sleep in Him, and that He should raise you up with Himself in His rising.

By the authority of His Cross and the Resurrection of His Body, by the power of His indestructible life, He stills the storm, He quiets the waves, He calms your heart and mind with His Peace, and He brings you through the deadly waters into the safe harbor and salvation of His Kingdom.  For all of Creation is made brand new and beautiful in His crucified and risen Body.  And you are a member of His Body, here and now and hereafter in eternity, even as you eat His Body and drink His Blood.  So does He abide in you, and so do you abide in Him in perfect Peace.

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

10 June 2015

Thanksgiving to God for His Servant, St. Barnabas

Praise Christ, give thanks to God, and bless His holy Name for the gift of His servant, Barnabas: who supported the Apostles and the Church in Jerusalem, Antioch, and elsewhere, among both Jews and Greeks; who welcomed and supported St. Paul and served with him at the vanguard of the Gentile mission; who supported and assisted St. Mark and so encouraged that holy Evangelist from whose hand we have received the Gospel.  In addition to all of that, the same St. Barnabas was himself called and sent as a minister of the Word, a pastor and teacher of the Lord’s Church.

Learn from his example and be encouraged in your own vocation and stations in life.  For he was a Levite in deed and in truth, whose own body and life were dedicated to the service of the Lord.

He was born Joseph, from the island of Cyprus, but the Apostles called him “Barnabas,” that is, the son of encouragement, because of his generous assistance and support.  To begin with, he sold his property and gave it to the Apostles for the benefit of the Church, and then he devoted himself entirely to the Ministry of the Gospel and the care of his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Indeed, Barnabas exemplified, taught, and encouraged Christian charity, as in the case of Antioch where he gathered contributions for the brethren in Judea in the midst of a worldwide famine — not unlike his Old Testament namesake, Joseph, who provided for Israel and his sons and many others from the storehouses of Egypt.

You also, then, live your life as a true priest of God in Christ, in whom you have been baptized, and by whom you have received the new name of “Christian.”

Repent of all that is contrary to faith and love.  Turn your heart away from worldly wealth and the false wisdom of fallen man, and find your treasure and true inheritance in the Church of God.  Set aside all pride and selfishness in order to serve and support and encourage your neighbors, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and His Church and Ministry, all for the sake of His Holy Gospel.

You don’t have to sell your house or quit your job, but do go about your work and live your life in faith and love.  Find your identity, place, and purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His free and full forgiveness of your sins.  And in such confidence, pour yourself out in love for your neighbor, forgiving his sins against you and giving him life with whatever means the Lord has given you.

Do not despair or become discouraged where you have fallen short and failed in faith and love.  But repent of your sins and return to the Lord your God.  Where you have done wrong, cease and desist, and make amends wherever you are able.  And where you have neglected to do your duty and the good that you should, begin now to live according to God’s Word within your calling.

Consider again the way that St. Barnabas received and supported both St. Paul and St. Mark, and be encouraged by the same grace of God: Not only by the example of that good man, but by the word and work of those who, by the Holy Spirit, follow in his footsteps within the apostolic office.

Take to heart that Christ the Lord, your great God and Savior in the flesh, deals with you by the Ministry of His Gospel, by the ways and means of those men whom He has called and set apart for Himself and sent in His Name to preach and teach and catechize and forgive.  In receiving them, you receive the Lord Jesus Himself and His forgiveness of all your sins.

That is why St. Barnabas served and supported the apostolic Church and Ministry with his time, treasures, and talents, and why you are called to do the same in proportion as the Lord has enabled you: For the blessing and benefit of others, yes, but also for your own benefit and blessing in the preaching of Christ Jesus.

Hear, then, the new song of the Gospel, and behold by faith the new thing that God has done for you in Christ: Your sins are all forgiven, and you are daily raised up as a new creation in Him.  For the Lord who made the heavens and the earth has dealt decisively with sin and death by the Cross and Passion of Christ Jesus, and has made all things new in His Resurrection from the dead.

The same Lord bestows His Spirit upon you and breathes anew the Breath of Life into your body and soul through one and the same Holy Gospel of Christ Jesus, your Savior, which St. Barnabas also preached and administered in his day (and helped St. Paul to proclaim and St. Mark to write).

So it is that you are here on this night to receive these good tidings and these good gifts of Christ, to stand in the presence of God and kneel at His Altar, and to sing the praises of His Holy Name.  For His Name is everlasting, and Christ is given as a New Covenant to you in His Body and His Blood, and He shows compassion to you who are called to be His very own, both now and forever.

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