18 October 2015

Remember the Sabbath Day

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.  Do not despise the preaching of God’s Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.  For it is by this way and means of preaching that God grants you peace and rest through the forgiveness of all your sins and the gracious gift of His life.  And in the receiving and trusting of His gifts, you worship Him by faith in Jesus Christ, His Son.  In fact, that is how you live and do not die: day by day here on earth, and hereafter in eternity.

The way that you live and work and go about the days of your week hinges on whether and how you keep your Sabbath rest.  Do you think of your rest as the due reward of your labor?  Or do you understand your work to be a way of living in the peace and rest that God gives you by His grace?

When you know your life to be from God — in God and with God — and you live your life before God, in His presence, turned toward Him in heart and mind, in body, soul, and spirit, then you have true peace and genuine rest, even as you work hard to do your job.  Even in your death.

But when you work as though to make life for yourself by your labors, and when you live for the accumulation of wealth and riches on earth, then you have no peace and no rest.  Not even when you call it a day and go to bed.  Not even when you’re on vacation, relaxing and living it up.

These are the chronicles of life and death and everything in between.  For the way your life begins, and the way that it will end, ought to inform the way that you live all of your days in between.

The fact is that your life comes entirely from God, and when you die He will be your Judge.  So consider that you were naked when you were born into this world, and even within your clothes and your coffin you’ll be naked before God in the end, when you return to the dust of the earth.  Whatever you may hold in your hands in your life on this earth in the meantime are gifts, not by merit, but by mercy.  And such things on earth are temporary.  So, what shall you do with them?

Ask yourself this question: Who or what is it that you worship with your life?  That is to say, who or what do you serve with your body, with your heart and mind, and with your words and works?

Do you worship the right God in the right way?  Do you fear, love, and trust in the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, by faith in His Word?  If so, then you are alive, and you are living by His grace, come hell or high water against you; and even though you die, yet shall you live.

But if you do not love the Lord, the one true God, and if you do not serve and worship only Him, then you are dead and dying in your false belief and sin, which is idolatry, even as you live.

Or, here’s another way to think about it:  What is it that rules your life?  And what, then, does your life look like?  For that is “the kingdom” in which you live, whether of God or the devil.

Real life in the Kingdom of God does not originate with your works, nor does it consist of your wealth, but it is received by faith in the Gospel, and it is lived in love for the sake of Christ Jesus.

To be sure, there are all sorts of wealth and riches in the world to which you are tempted and prone to cling, for which you hunger, strive, and fight, as though your life and happiness depended on such things.  But whether you “have” or “have not,” whether a lot or only a little, it is impossible for you to enter the Kingdom of God by your wealth and riches of whatever sort.

In fact, not only will your “wealth and riches” not get you into heaven; they present a temptation, a covetous desire that actually threatens to consume you, which makes it that much harder and all the more impossible for you to enter into the Kingdom of God at all.  Your stuff stands in the way.

Where, then, is the promise of peace and rest?  It is found only in Christ Jesus, in His Cross and Resurrection; and it is granted to you by His grace in the preaching of His Gospel.  Faith is born of that preaching, as it receives and trusts the promises of God in the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins and the free gift of life; and so does faith have rest and peace in the Lord Jesus.

Listen, then, and hear His Word to you.  He has already made Peace for you by the reconciliation of His Cross.  And He has established Sabbath Rest for you in His Resurrection from the dead, which is your righteousness in the presence of God.  All of this that He has done for you, He desires to share with you, and He does so here and now — Today! — with His voice of mercy.

In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was established with the finished completion of Creation and with the Exodus from Egypt, in order that the Lord might grant rest to His people by His works.

So did God, the Lord, create His people out of nothing, and redeem them out of death into life, out of slavery into freedom.  And He brought them through the desert wilderness, across the Jordan River, into the good land that He had promised, wherein He gave them peace and rest on all sides.

And all these things, which the Lord did for His people then, He has fulfilled in Christ Jesus for you and for all people.  By His Holy Cross and Passion, He has redeemed you from death and damnation, and He calls you out of your slavery to sin into the freedom of His forgiveness.  That is the Sabbath Rest that remains for the people of God, and so also for you, by faith in His Gospel.

And by His Resurrection and Ascension, He brings you and all His people through the waters of Holy Baptism into the heavenly Canaan, into the Kingdom of His God and Father, in His Body.

It was not easy for Him to accomplish this great salvation.  Indeed, how costly and painful it was!  And yet, He has done it gladly and willingly in divine and holy love.

And what He has done and established by His hard work, by His bloody sweat and labor, He grants to you as peace and rest in His means of grace, that is, in Holy Baptism, in the Holy Communion, and everywhere in the Holy Gospel; so that you have Sabbath Rest in Christ Jesus — even as you go about your works of love within your own stations in life — and even as you face your death.

As you have died with Christ and given up everything in your Baptism — renouncing the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh, and laying hold of life in Christ, in His Father and His Spirit — so do you now live and work on earth, in the place where God has stationed you, by faith in Him.

So, too, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ is your Peace and Rest, here in time and hereafter in eternity.  For all things in heaven and on earth are yours in Him, by grace, through His Cross.

Christ has finished His perfect work on the Sixth Day, Good Friday, atoning for the sins of the whole world and reconciling the world to God.  And He has rested on the Seventh Day, that Holy Saturday, the Sabbath, in order to sanctify your rest in Him, so that even your grave and the graves of all His saints are made holy by His own tomb.

In His Resurrection, His Body has become the first fruits of His New Creation, and His Flesh and Blood are the New Passover, by which He has accomplished the new and greater Exodus.  Indeed, all things are fulfilled, perfected, and made brand new in Him, in His Body of flesh and blood.

Therefore, do not harden your heart by setting it upon your own works or your own wealth, but worship the Lord your God by faith in the Person of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.  Remember His Sabbath and keep it holy unto yourself by hearing His Gospel, by receiving His mercy and grace, and by eating and drinking His Body and Blood at His Word in faith and with thanksgiving.

For He does remember you with His free and full forgiveness of all your sins, and He sanctifies your body and soul for the life everlasting, and He gives you peace and rest in Himself forever.

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

No comments: