19 June 2016

Who's Your Daddy?

So, who’s your Daddy?  Not simply the one who sired you, but who is it that gives you life and still takes care of it?  Who is it that names you and calls you by name?  Who is it that provides you with a house and home?  Not simply a building, or a room, or a bed to sleep on, but a place where you belong; a place of safety, peace and rest; a place of nourishment; a place of love.

Who is it that puts clothes on your body, so that you are not found naked or ashamed in the streets, but you are covered?  Who is it that shelters you from the winds and the rains, both real and metaphorical?  Who is it that guards and protects you from all evil?  Who is it that opens His hand to feed you, to satisfy your needs, and to strengthen your body and life?

And who is it that teaches you?  Who teaches you to listen and to think?  And who is it that teaches you to speak?  For that is one of the most important and fundamental things that a father does.  He teaches his children, his sons and his daughters, how to speak.  Not only to communicate, but to give yourself in love to your neighbor with your speaking and your words.  And above even this, to pray, and to confess.  To praise and glorify God, your Maker and Redeemer, who has also become your Father according to His mercy and love.

Surely it is the case that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has become your God and Father.  He has made you His own dear child by His gracious adoption, by the Word and Spirit of Christ, His Son.  So it is that He has taught you to pray to Him as your own dear Father.  And so it is that you receive all good things from His hand, all that you need to support this body and life, and the forgiveness of all your sins, unto the Life everlasting in Christ Jesus.

It is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who gives you life, who names you with His own Name, who has made you a part of His Family among the many brethren of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He provides you with a home within His Church, within His Kingdom, a place of peace and rest, of safety, and of great Love that has no end.

It is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has clothed you.  Not simply with fabric, but with Christ Himself, with His righteousness and holiness.  He has cleansed you from all of your sins.  And He feeds you, again with Christ Himself, with His Body and His Blood.  Thus do you abide in Christ, and Christ abides in you.

It is God who teaches you how to listen and how to speak by speaking to you.  The Father opens His mouth and speaks to you by His Son.  So does He open your ears, and He opens your mouth to pray, to praise and give thanks.  He teaches you to pray, and He teaches you to confess, to speak as the oracles of God.  Indeed, He has recreated you in Christ Jesus, in His Image and after His Likeness, to be His own, even here in the world under the Cross.

Christ the Lord has come to you in this foreign territory, in order to bring you home with Himself to the Father.  By the water, by the Boat of His Church, He has drawn near.  He has encountered you in Gentile territory, among the pagans.  Even among the tombs, He has come to you.

You did not ask for Him, but He has sought you out.  You did not seek Him, but He has allowed you to find Him, and He has found you.  All day long, from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, He spreads out His hands to you.  He comes to you, and He beckons you to Himself.

He forgives you all your sins with the authority of His Gospel.  For He has died, and He is risen.  He has atoned for the sins of the world.  He has atoned for all your sins; they are gone.  And as He was baptized, so has He baptized you.  Thus, all your sins and death are washed away.  Not just once upon a time, but as you have entered the waters of Holy Baptism, you live in those waters like a little fish of Jesus.  And all your sins are daily washed away by those living waters of Baptism.

Why, then, do you go about like a wild man?  Why are you so frantic?  Why are you driven into madness — by things that are forgiven, by things that people do to you, and by things outside of your control but not outside of your Father’s keeping?  Why is it that you are so out of your mind, when you have been given the mind of Christ and the Spirit of Christ?  Why do you shed the garment with which your Father has dressed you, and go about naked and unclothed?  Why is it that you live among the dead, and dwell among the tombs, and make your residence in graveyards, instead of dwelling in the House of the Lord where He has made a place for you?

It’s easy to tell that the man in this Gospel is crazy.  Insane.  Stark raving mad, and stark raving naked.  He hasn’t worn clothes for a very long time.  He doesn’t live in a home.  He makes his bed in the tombs.  A walking dead man.  A crazy man, possessed by many demons, and afraid of Jesus.

He’s not so different than you are.  For you have your own demons, visible and invisible.  You wear clothes, but how often do you feel yourself naked and exposed, before God and before your neighbor?  How often has it seemed as though a scarlet letter were written on your forehead, as though people could just look at you and see those things that you are so ashamed of?

You may not live in a graveyard.  Indeed, you may have a very nice home.  It may even be paid for, remodeled and decorated, safe and secure with adequate locks and a security system, and a manicured lawn, and a place for the children or grandchildren to play, on a nice street in a good neighborhood.  But if you put your trust in those things — which are perishing — then you also live among the tombs, and you reside in the vain monuments of this dead and dying world.

Such good things on earth are the gifts of your Father.  But they are His gifts; they are not your Father.  You dare not worship them as your gods.  They are part of the life your God and Father gives you, but they are not your life.  For life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.  And your true home is not of wood or brick, of glass or steel.  It is the Church, the Kingdom of God.  The Lord’s House, that is your place, where you belong, where your Father keeps you safe.

You may not be possessed.  If the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in your heart by the Gospel, and has laid Christ upon your heart by the Gospel, then you are not possessed by demons.  But do not suppose that the devil has given up and left you alone.  He’s foolish enough, and ferocious enough, and hateful enough, and murderous enough, to continue attacking you throughout your life on earth.  He speaks sometimes with fury, at other times with sweet words.  He tempts you to sin, and then stands first in line to accuse you.  And as the devil with his demons did with that poor man in this Gospel, he would drive you into the desert — away from the water, and away from Jesus.

Now, the Law would do its good work, according to the will of God.  It would serve as a tutor leading you to Christ, as St. Paul has written.  And understand that a tutor is not simply someone who helps you with your homework, and goes over the lesson with you, and helps you to prepare for a test.  A tutor in the ancient world was much more present than that.  The tutor would take you from your father’s house to the school where your father enrolled you.  He would make sure you sat at your desk and stayed for the lesson, and then bring you home at night.  He would discipline you as necessary with the authority of your father, in order to keep you on task.  He would not so much teach you himself, as he would make sure you went to school and listened to your teacher.

The Law is such a tutor.  It curbs you, and it guides you in the direction you should go.  It threatens you with a big stick, in order to force and compel you to that which you need, which your Father would have you hear and receive.  It commands you to love your neighbor, in order to love and protect your neighbor.  And it commands your neighbor to love and protect you.  But the Law also commands you to look to God, to look to Him for all good things, to listen to His Word, to call upon His Name, to pray, praise, and give thanks, to rest from your labors, and to be served by Christ.  The Law cannot accomplish any of these things for you, but it points you to the One who does.  The Law cannot forgive your sins, but it points you to the One who does forgive your sins.

The Law cannot bring you home, though it aims to restrain you from running further and further away.  For this reason, it has bound you, and yet you have broken its bonds.  It would chain you for your own safety and well being, but you have broken the shackles.

Therefore, Jesus comes to set things right.  And He is ferocious against your enemies.  He is your dread Champion in fighting the devil.  He has entered the fray, not simply to assist or stand at your side, but to take the lead, to bring down Goliath, to slay the dragon.  He sets you free from the unclean spirits that haunt you, by the cleansing Word of His Gospel.

The Lord Jesus speaks, and it is so, for all authority is His.  The demons hate Him, but they must listen to Him.  They beg Him to go away, but they know they cannot force Him.  They would go into the pigs, but they need His permission to do so.  They are not in charge.  And they are not the boss of you, either.  Not anymore.  For a stronger Man has come, and He binds the strong man who has held you captive.  And those chains with which He binds the devil will not be broken.

So, the Lord Jesus comes in love to save you.  But what, then, if you are still afraid of Him?

What if you are terrified, because you do not want to be found out?  You do not want everyone to look and see that you are so naked.  You would rather crawl back to the tombs and hide yourself away, and welcome even death, than to meet the One who comes to save you from death.

What if you are trapped by your addictions?  What if you are driven by temptations that constantly lead you back to the same sins over and over again?  What hope is there for you, if instead of swimming like a little fish in the waters of your Baptism, you wallow around in the muck and the mire and the mud like a pig?  Immoral.  Trashy.  Living for money.  Neglecting your vocations while chasing your passions.  Cursing your neighbors.  At enmity with your bothers and sisters, refusing to forgive them, and refusing to acknowledge or apologize for your own sins.

What if you are so driven by your desire for things which God has not given you, that you do not even attend to those things which He has entrusted to your care and stewardship?

What if your demons drive you away from the waters of your Baptism, so that you willingly wander into the territory of the devil and the night of sin and death?  Be warned that such a path, and such pursuits, will eventually drive faith and the Holy Spirit altogether out of your heart and soul, out of your body and life, and lead you finally into the abyss with the devil and his demons.

The Lord Jesus has come to save you.  But what if you run away from Him?  What if, instead of praying, you simply beg Him to leave and go away, because you are so afraid and so ashamed?

Even then, He would use the Law as your tutor, to bring you to the school of His Church, to the lesson of His Gospel, to the Life-giving Breath of His Holy Spirit in the forgiveness of your sins.

Consider what it means that He permits the demons to go into the pigs.  Why does He do that?  Why does He give the demons permission to do anything?  Why does He not send them straight to the abyss right away?

Beloved of the Lord, it is for the sake of His mercy and for your salvation that He does this strange thing.  For even the demons, death, and the devil must serve His purpose.  He permits the demons to afflict even you, whom He loves, so that by this means He would drive you back to the water.

If you live an unclean life, then do not be surprised that demons haunt you, and that the Law of the Lord pursues you.  But even then, understand that the Lord is at work, that He would drive you to the font, to be baptized, if you have not been, or to remember and return to the significance of your Holy Baptism.  He would drown and destroy the old Adam in you, with all your sinful lusts and desires.  He would put you to death.  To that extent, you are right in fearing that He has come to kill you.  For His Word is fierce, and among your enemies is your own sinful nature; your fallen flesh and idolatrous heart; your unclean spirit; and your own thoughts and feelings, which lie to you and deceive you.  He would put all of that to death, like those pigs, drowned in the water.

But remember that He has made Himself unclean with your sins and death.  Remember that He also has gone into the pigsty to rescue the Prodigal Son.  Remember that He has become sin and the curse, and guilt, and death, in order to redeem you, and to justify you with His Righteousness.  Remember that He also has been baptized, and by His Baptism into death He has made of those waters, not only a death-dealing flood, but a gracious water of Life.  For out of that tomb He has risen, and out of that tomb He raises you up with Himself to the Life everlasting in body and soul.

The Lord kills in order to make alive.  The devil promises life in order to kill, but Jesus comes to kill and make alive.  And He has been the first in line to die and rise again — for you and for all!

When He would permit even demons to torment you, He has not lost control, and He has not given up on you.  He does not turn His face away in anger.  All day long He stretches out His hand to a rebellious people.  All day long.  And in the night He does not sleep, so that you may rest in peace.

Return, therefore, to the waters of your Baptism.  Find again that right mind which is yours in Christ, so that you may think the things of God and not of sinful man.  Such things as these: Though your sins are many, they are forgiven.  Though you have sinned and gone astray, your Good Shepherd has brought you home, and He rejoices over you in love.  Though you have not loved the Lord as you should, and you have not loved your neighbor as yourself, your Father loves you still.  And though you have not prayed as you ought, He speaks to you in peace.  He clothes and covers you in Christ, His Son, so that you are not found naked and unclothed.

Your sins are forgiven.  Though you have been sinful and unclean, you are not a pig.  You are a child of God.  You are God’s own child, I gladly say it.  You are baptized into Christ.  And He who has named you, the Father who loves you, He shelters and protects you.  Though you have made your home among the dead, and dug your own grave, and made your bed in the dirt, your Father brings you into His House and Home, and here He feeds you well at the Table of His Son.

Who’s your Daddy?  The God and Father of your dear Lord Jesus Christ, He is your Daddy, who has taught you to pray and promises to answer.  For you are His, and He is yours, now and forever.

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

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