24 June 2016

The Mouth of the Lord Has Spoken

Zacharias has been catechized, and he has learned to believe and confess the Word of the Lord: concerning things only barely unfolding, and concerning things not yet seen.  In the confidence and certainty of faith, he confesses these things as already accomplished before God in heaven.

After ten months of silence — which were the sign and the discipline given to Zacharaias when he doubted the Word of the Archangel Gabriel — now, in retrospect, when that Word concerning a son born to him and his formerly barren old wife, Elizabeth, has been fulfilled — he confesses the grace of God by naming his son “John,” according to the Word that he received from the Lord through the Angel.  And with that confession of God’s Word — by that very Word, and by the Spirit of God at work through that very Word — his lips are opened, and his tongue is set free, so that he speaks rightly and well, and his mouth shows forth the praises of God.

Though the occasion is the nativity and circumcision of his own son, John, he first of all gives thanks for the Infant Jesus, the Horn of Salvation that God has raised up in the House of His Servant David.  Zacharias gives thanks for the Infant Lord Jesus, who is there present in the womb of His Mother Mary, and for the Redemption and Salvation which are in the same Christ Jesus.

Everything is always about Jesus.  Everything from start to finish is centered in Him, the Lamb of God.  And everything else derives its meaning and significance from Him.  That is true of your life, as well.  It is true of your body and soul, your eyes and ears, your reason, and all your members.  It is true of your vocation, and your stations in life, your job, and your family.

It’s all about Jesus.  It all depends on Him and finds it real value and true purpose in Him, in His Body crucified and risen from the dead.  And in all things, in all that you do and say, you are called to confess Him and His Holy Name, which you also bear and carry by your Baptism into Him.

So also is it true in the case of St. John the Baptist, in a special and particular way, that everything is all about Jesus.  His whole life points to Jesus, already from the womb.  Remember how, when St. Mary first came to the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, as soon as her greeting reached the ears of her relative, Elizabeth, even then baby John, in the womb of his mother, leaped for joy at the presence of his Savior.

St. John’s whole life points to Jesus.  So do his nativity and circumcision point to the coming Nativity and Circumcision of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Likewise, his life in the desert wilderness, his preaching and Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and finally his martyrdom, his beheading — it all points to Jesus, to His Cross, to His Atonement, to His forgiveness of sins, and to His free gift of Life and Salvation in His flesh and blood.

St. John’s whole body and life are about Christ Jesus, but his mouth, in particular, is the focal point: The mouth with which he speaks the Word of God, as the Lord’s Voice in the wilderness, whereby St. John’s mouth is actually the Mouth of the Lord, which has spoken salvation in Christ.

As his father Zacharias’ mouth is opened by the gracious Word and promise of the Lord, so will St. John’s mouth also pray, praise, confess, and prophecy: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

It is precisely by that Word spoken by St. John, by that preaching, by that mouth and voice, that St. John the Forerunner, the Lord’s Messenger, goes before the Lord Jesus and prepares His Way.

This is how God speaks, also now to you, by the mouth and preaching of His servants.  And it is by His speaking that God works and does all that He has promised.

He speaks both Law and Gospel.  He instructs you in the way that you should go.  He calls you to live within your own place in life, trusting that He will also provide the necessary means by which to carry out the work that He has given you to do.

He lowers your mountains and raises your valleys, so that both your pride and your despair are done away with and removed.  He smooths your rough places, and He straightens what is crooked in your life.  He calls you daily to repentance, to die to your sins, and to live unto righteousness by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who has been crucified and is risen from the dead for you and all.

By the mouth of His servants, the same Lord speaks forgiveness, salvation, and Peace into your ears, into your body and life, unto the life everlasting.  Just think of that.  He speaks and bestows real Peace for your troubled heart and your troubled mind and your troubled life on earth.

God speaks Peace, and His Mouth, His Voice, and His Word do what He says, what He speaks.  For by and with that speaking, the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of the Father, visits you with His Redemption, even while yet hidden in the womb of His Mother.

He speaks to your heart, tenderly, and by that preaching the Holy Spirit lays Christ Jesus on your heart to comfort you with His forgiveness of all your sins.

Have you done wrong? You are forgiven.  Have you spoken harshly? You are forgiven.  Have you been lazy? You are forgiven.  Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm? You are forgiven.  Have you failed to love? You are forgiven by the Love of God in Christ.

He speaks such comfort to you, daily and richly, through the Gospel.  And by that Gospel He calls you to faith, and He lays you upon Christ Jesus, who is your Sabbath Rest.

Listen, therefore, to what the Mouth of the Lord speaks.  Listen to His Mouth, to your pastor and his preaching.  Listen with your ears, and listen with your heart and your mind, and listen with your whole body, soul, and spirit.

It is for the sake of such preaching and hearing that the Lord God formed your pastor’s mouth and your ears, even in the womb, before you were ever born.  And both mouth and ears are sanctified and consecrated for this purpose by the Word of the Lord that is spoken and heard in His Name.

It is not simply the word of man, but the Lord’s own Word on the lips and in the ears of His own people.  It is by and with His Word that He opens the preacher’s mouth to speak, and by and with His Word that He opens your ears to hear; and He opens your heart and mind to believe and trust; and He opens your mouth to pray, praise, confess, and sing.

You, no less than David, are a man or a woman after God’s own heart, when you are a man or a woman after God’s own mouth.  When you hear His Word, and pray and confess as He has taught you.  When you pray and confess, not only for yourself, but with and for your children, even from the womb; and with and for your spouse, your friends and neighbors; for your brothers and sisters, including your brothers and sisters in Christ; and for your pastor, that he also be upheld in Peace.

Do not suppose that such a Word, even upon your lips and from your mouth, is ever a pointless or powerless noise.  Do not suppose that, because you are not eloquent or confident, or as articulate as you would like to be, that you cannot speak the Word of the Lord, or by that Word bring comfort to your neighbor.  For it is the Voice of the Lord, the very Voice by which He rends the heavens and moves mountains; by which He wounds and heals, kills and makes alive; by which He gives life to all of creation; by which He forgives sins and rescues from death and the devil; by which He reveals Himself and His glory to all flesh; by which He cleanses your lips and does great things.

To be sure, you are not the Savior and Redeemer of God’s people.  You are not the Mother of God, as St. Mary was, nor the Forerunner of the Lord, as St. John was.  But you are a Christian, baptized into Christ Jesus, anointed by His Holy Spirit, and adopted by His Holy Father.

And, dearly beloved, you are spoken to by the Lord.  As your preacher is His Mouth, so do your ears become the cradle into which His Word is placed, that your heart, mind, and body might also receive and treasure Him.  And as you thus hear and receive the Word of the Lord, so do you also speak, and pray, and confess.  So do you praise, give thanks, and sing the New Song of Christ.

No, you are not the Savior and Redeemer.  Nor of yourself are you worthy even to untie His sandals; for He alone is able to redeem His people.  But by His grace you do speak His Word with His Voice.  And the same forgiveness, life, and salvation that are surely given to you and are yours by His Mouth of the Gospel, are given to your neighbor, also, by the Lord’s speaking through you.

So does the Lord, by the Voice of His preaching, come down from heaven and come to His Temple, and rise among us with tender mercy, the knowledge of salvation, and the way of peace.  So does He visit you here and now, and give you life, by the forgiveness of all your sins.  For the Mouth of the Lord has thus spoken, and so is it done.

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

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