28 March 2016

Led by His Word to the Body of Jesus

There is the truth of the matter, in accordance with all the Holy Scriptures, that by His Cross and Passion, by His holy, precious Blood and by His innocent suffering and death, the Lord Jesus, the Christ, has redeemed you from sin, death, and hell forever.

But then there is also what you see and feel and experience in the world, in your body and life on earth, which is often full of sadness, disappointment, sickness and suffering of various kinds, the pervasiveness of sin, and the constant press of death upon your flesh.

All around you, everywhere you look, bombarding your senses from the internet and newspaper, and then up close and personal, you see only the Cross and not the Resurrection.  You have heard about the empty tomb, which is intriguing and perplexing, but the risen Jesus you do not see.

The Body of Jesus is missing.  Did you happen to notice that yesterday?  The risen Lord makes no appearance in the Easter Sunday Gospel from St. Luke.  You’re left wondering and waiting.

He has vanished from your sight, and your eyes are prevented from seeing Him.  Even when He is standing right in front of you or walking alongside of you, He is hidden from your eyes and unrecognizable.  Your intellect and knowledge are unable to fathom the mystery of His presence.

He has acted as though He were moving on and leaving you behind.  And so it seems that, all the good news of Easter notwithstanding, your day in the sun is over and done; that night must be at hand, as the darkness of death settles upon you and threatens to drag you down into despair.

But, O foolish one, so slow of heart to believe the Word that God has spoken to you by His Son!

The Cross and suffering are not your defeat, but the Victory of God in Christ and the exercise of His divine Glory for your salvation from sin, death, and hell.  He has redeemed you by His Cross!

Not only that, but in the speaking of His Gospel — in the Word of His Cross, and in the promise of His Resurrection — the crucified and risen Lord Jesus is close at hand.  For by His Word and with His Holy Spirit, He draws near to walk the hard road with you, and to abide with you.

So, repent of your despair and unbelief.  Believe the Gospel, and receive the gifts of Christ Jesus.

Learn to pray as He has taught you, with all boldness and confidence in Him.  Not only when it all seems rosy, right, and good, but all the more so when it does not.  Heed not your senses, nor trust your own experience, knowledge, and wisdom, but hear and believe the Word of the Lord Jesus.

Call upon Him in every trouble.  Pray, praise, and give thanks to His Name, even before you have seen the evidence of His rescue and redemption.  It is sure and certain that, not only will He hear and answer your prayer, but that He is already aware of your need and is already acting to shine the light of His mercy upon you, to give you life instead of death, and to raise you up in Himself.

Only bear in mind that He enters into His Glory by the way of the Cross, and that He brings you into Glory with Himself by the fruits and benefits of His Cross.  He works repentance in you by His Cross and Passion, and He brings you from unbelief to faith by the forgiveness of His Cross.

Although He comes to you by this way and means — and as scary as the Cross truly is when you hear that your fellow Christians in the world, in these gray and latter days, are being shot, blown up, and crucified for bearing that same fair Name which you also bear as a disciple of Christ Jesus — nevertheless, pray that He would remain with you here in His Church under the Cross.

Pray, not with doubts and fears, but in the faith and confidence of His Resurrection from the dead.  Despite appearances and experiences to the contrary, He is a very present help in time of trouble.  He is here with His Cross, not to make things worse, but to save you; not to hurt, but to heal you.

We follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us on the Road to Emmaus.  We have invited the Lord Jesus to come and be our guest, to enter this house that our mothers and fathers in the faith have built, which we now care for and support with our dollars, time, and efforts.  We call on the Name of the Lord and ask Him to abide with us here on the corner of Milton & Dale.

But here we find ourselves in His House, as guests at His Table, and that He is our gracious Host, our divine Waiter, and the Banquet itself that He has prepared and now spreads before us in love.

Here is where Jesus is found.  Here is His Body, missing from the empty tomb but given in the Breaking of the Bread.  This is where the disciples of Jesus are gathered by His Word and Spirit from all the highways and byways of the world — with all their sins and griefs and sorrows, with all their baggage, quirks, and idiosyncracies — to recline at His Table, to be served by His hand.

This is where and how He reveals and gives Himself to you.  Not yet to your eyes, but to your heart and mind and mouth; that you should here behold Him at His Altar, by faith and not by sight.

He is not playing tricks on you or teasing you.  This is not cat-and-mouse or hide-and-go-seek.  He strengthens your faith and feeds you by His Cross to give you the Life of His Resurrection in both your body and your soul.  So do you enter, by His grace, into the Glory of Christ Jesus.

His Word declares the Truth, and by His Word and Spirit He opens your ears and eyes, your heart and mind, your lips and tongue to receive it, to believe it, and to confess it in this hostile world.

This Blood, which He pours out for you to drink, has redeemed you from all wickedness and evil; and this Body, which He gives you to eat, has conquered death and the devil.  See here how He loves you, and rejoice in His Salvation.  As He is risen indeed, so also do you live forever in Him.

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

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