07 June 2016

The Charity of the New Creation in Christ

This is how the Lord, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, works to accomplish His purposes, to open blind eyes and to bring the prisoners out of their dark dungeon into His marvelous light: He calls and sends men to preach His Gospel, and He gives them as gifts to His Church on earth with the authority to forgive sins in His Name.

He calls them to follow Christ in the way of His Cross, to suffer and even to die for His Name’s sake.  But He also cares for them in all their needs.  He provides for them, for this body and life, for the work that He has given them to do, and for the Resurrection and the Life Everlasting.

In all things they live by His grace.  And by faith they live in love, as He lives in love for them and for His Church in heaven and on earth.  Which is to say that, whatever they have received from Him, they also give to His Church.  And so it is for you, as well, that you give to your neighbor in love what you have received in faith from the Lord through the Word and promise of His Gospel.

But where you have been selfish, unloving, and unfaithful in your calling and station in life, repent of your sin and return to the Lord your God in the hope of His Resurrection and His Righteousness.

To that end, receive the gifts that He gives to you by the Ministry of His Gospel, lest you refuse His grace and bring judgment upon yourself by rejecting His mercy, forgiveness, and healing.

Rely upon His Gospel.  Seek the Lord where He is found, which is in His Word and Sacrament.  Receive and rejoice in His forgiveness of sins and His free gifts of life in His Liturgy.  And praise the Name of the Lord, the true and only God, through the incarnate Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

That means praying, confessing, and giving thanks with your words, with your lips and mouth and tongue.  It also means using your time, treasures, and talents to love and serve and take care of your neighbor in proportion as the Lord has blessed you and provided for you.  Whatever the particular percentage may be, whether 5 or 10 percent, 20 percent, 50 percent, or even more, give generously of the means that God has placed under your stewardship.  For you are called to be an instrument of the Lord’s mercy and providential care for others.  And of course that includes the support of His Church and Ministry on earth with those gifts that He has freely given to you.

Your stuff and your skills, your money, and your other means, are chiefly for such care of the Lord’s people to the glory of His Holy Name and to the praise of His grace.

So it is that, really, as in the case of St. Barnabas, your whole body and life are offered as a living sacrifice in faith toward God, and in love for Him and for your neighbors in the world, especially for your brothers and sisters in Christ, since they are fellow members of the Lord’s household.

Again, wherever and however you have failed to live in this manner, as a Christian, by faith and love, repent of your sins and do better.  Do not excuse your past behavior, but in the confidence of the Gospel, in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus, bear the fruits of His Cross and Resurrection in care and compassion for your neighbor.  Cease and desist doing what is evil, and begin to do what is good and right according to the Word of the Lord that He has spoken to you, that is to say, within your own proper calling and place in the world, in the keeping of His Commandments.

Live and work in this way, as the Lord so enables and directs you to do, not as though by your own wisdom, reason, or strength, nor by your own righteousness, but by faith in the righteousness of Christ with which you are clothed and filled in His Ministry of the Gospel, by the preaching and administration of His free and full forgiveness.  Rejoice in His mercy upon you, in His charity of body and soul, for now and forever.  And so live courageously in love for Him, for all His people, and for those whom He would yet call and summon to Himself in peace.

This is the whole point and purpose for which the Lord your God has called and set apart, ordained and sent His servants, such as St. Barnabas, even to the ends of the earth.  From the biggest and busiest cities, and from the remotest islands, to the mountains and valleys, to the coastlands and countryside, and even here and now to you, the Lord speaks the Gospel and gives and pours out His Body and Blood to deliver you from darkness and death and to bring you into faith and life.

By this New Thing that He does by His grace, you also are His New Creation.  So do you sing His praises, here and hereafter, in the New Song of Christ Jesus, the Lamb who was slain for your transgressions, who has risen from the dead as your Righteousness, Life, and Salvation, and who reigns forever and ever as your merciful and great High Priest in the beauty of His holiness.

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

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