23 August 2015

To Worship the Lord with a Clean Heart

If you would honor the Lord your God and serve Him rightly, listen to His voice and obey Him.  He doesn’t need anything from you, but do what He tells you to the glory of His Holy Name.  And do not presume to flatter Him with your lips while contradicting His Word with your behavior.

So then, if you would honor the Lord your God, you shall honor your father and mother, whom He has set next after Himself in authority over you.  Do not despise or anger your parents, but serve and obey them, love and cherish them.  If you are a child, listen to your father and mother; gladly do as they tell you, and do not grumble or complain against them.  And if you are a grown adult, even then, honor your parents through whom God gave you life and cared for you, and now care for them in turn in their old age.

Likewise, if you would honor the Lord your God as a member of His Holy Christian Church, do not commit adultery, but love and cherish your own spouse and respect your neighbor’s marriage.  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  Husbands, love and serve your own wives, just as Christ Jesus loves His Church and gives Himself for her.  Be faithful to your wedding vows, not only in what you say but in all that you do.  Avert your eyes from temptation.  Guard your heart and mind against lust by the prayer and meditation of God’s Word.  And serve your own wife or husband with your words and with your body.

It is by such love for your parents and your spouse, and by loving your children and your other neighbors in all the ways that God has commanded you to do, that you honor Him and worship Him from the heart, not only with your lips but with your life.

To live and love in this way is to live by faith in Christ, in accordance with the Word of the Lord.

Without such faith in Christ, the Word of God remains a closed book to you, which you can neither read nor comprehend.  And apart from faith in His Word, you neither know the Lord your God nor can you come to Him or worship Him.  Nor can you love your neighbor as the Lord commands, not even your parents, your spouse, or your children.  Nor shall you live at all apart from Him, but without Him you die, both inwardly and outwardly, day after day, now and forever.

You cannot redeem yourself or save your soul from death, and there is no righteousness of your own by which you can obtain life for yourself.  No washing or wringing of your hands will do it.

True life is found only in the one true God.  It derives from Him alone by the grace of His Word.  He is the Potter, and you are the clay within His hands. It is only as His child that you live.

Do not harden your heart against Him, and do not attempt to hide your heart away from Him.  You will not live without Him, but neither will you bribe Him or trick Him, and you will not be able to force or constrain Him.  No outward pretense or charade will bring you to Him.  And He is certainly not within your power, that you should bring Him down from heaven to you.

If you dishonor your parents, if you curse them with your lips or in your heart, then you must die.  And if you commit adultery, whether with your body or by the lust of your eyes within your heart and mind, then you must die.  You are far removed from the Lord, and He is hidden from you.

Yet you are not hidden from Him.

And His heart is not far away from you, nor is it hardened against you.

He is and remains the Father who always loves His Son.  And for the sake of that beloved Son, the Father loves the Bride of Christ and all her dear children, including you whom He has called.

The same true God is the Son who always loves and honors His Father.  And in that fear, love, and trust, He comes down from His Father in heaven, in order to seek out His Bride and give Himself for her, to woo her and receive her to Himself, and to cleave to her in love forever and ever.

For He is the Husband who loves His Bride, the Church. He lays down His life for her, to save her from death; to forgive her all her sins; to cleanse her by His holy, precious blood; to sanctify her by the washing of water with the Word.  So is she made beautiful and glorious with His Glory, even as He takes her to Himself in love and gives to her His own Name.

So has He done for you, dear child of God.

He has given Himself for you, even unto death on the Cross, in order to redeem you with His own blood, and to clothe you with His own perfect righteousness.

In Holy Baptism, He has betrothed you to Himself and dressed you in a flawless white wedding garment.  There is no spot, nor wrinkle, nor any blemish in you, neither inside nor out; not at all in His eyes.  The Father has given you into His hands, and He delights in you with all His heart.

Now live by His grace.  If the world accuses you of sin and every evil, cling to your Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who is your Savior and your Head.  He bears your reproach and removes it.  There is no condemnation that shall stand against you, not ever.  His Father is now also your Father, who vindicates you and raises you up from affliction into ever increasing gladness; out of darkness into light; out of the silence of fear and doubt into the joyous singing of faith in His forgiveness.

Hear and heed the sound of His sweet voice, and follow the Light of His Word upon your path.

It is true that, bearing His Name, you also bear His Cross in your body and life, within your vocations and stations on earth.  You suffer and die with Him.  You are crucified, dead, and buried with Him.  But so too are you raised with Him, to live with Him forever.  And the fruits of His life-giving Cross are your daily Meat and Drink, which sustain you in all that He calls you to do.

Indeed, you are one flesh with Him, a member of His Holy Bride, and therefore a member of His Body, because you eat and drink from His own hand His Body and His Blood in this Sacrament.

But how is it possible that you should dare to eat this Bread and drink from this Cup?  Are you not sinful and unclean?  Are you not unworthy of the least of all God’s benefits?  Have you not broken His commandments, disobeyed His Word, and lusted after other gods?

Though all of that is true, and rightly does the Law expose your sin and condemn you, yet you are now clean because of the Word of Christ, who loves you and forgives you.  He has washed you in His innocence with the water, Word, and Spirit of your Baptism into Him.  And as often as your hands and feet are soiled with the dirt and sin of life in this fallen world, so often does He forgive you, day by day, with His Word of Holy Absolution.

He is and remains the faithful Husband who nourishes and cherishes His Bride as His own Body, with His own flesh and blood.  He has bound Himself to you, and you to Him, with His own Name.

He has carried you in His strong arms across the threshold into His own house and home.  Here He seats you at His Table and pledges Himself to you most personally and permanently.  He shall never leave you nor forsake you.  The One who promises is faithful; He will not falter or fail you.

By His grace and mercy toward you, so does He honor and worship and glorify His Father, and so does He love and honor His Bride in purity, in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness forever.

Here, then, dearly beloved, entrust yourself to Him.  Receive His gifts and rely on them.  Hear His Word and behold His Glory in the Gospel.

Do not be afraid, but rejoice in your Lord, who rejoices over you in love.

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


artaxerxes99 said...

It was a blessing to hear your sermon in person this morning in South Bend, where we paused on our way back to Canada.

It's unfortunate some people have gotten the wrong impression that liturgical guys are antinomians. While it's true that we can find all kinds of liberals who love liturgical play-acting, this doesn't establish a causal relationship in the other direction: from a liturgical outlook towards a preference for ignoring large chunks of Scripture instructing believers how to live.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thank you, Michael. It was certainly a pleasure to have you and your family with us at Emmaus yesterday, and I appreciate your kind and encouraging words. To be sure, there is no contradiction between a love for the Liturgy, in which the grace of God is given to us by His Gospel, and a faithful insistence on the good and acceptable Will of God, which is revealed to us by His Law and fulfilled for us by Christ our Savior. The contrast and tension between the Law and the Gospel are found only in us; in Christ they are in perfect harmony, even as righteousness and peace kiss each other in Him.

God's blessing of Peace be with you and yours.