15 August 2016

The Lord Raises Up the Humble in His Glory

What is to become of you?  What hope do you finally have?  What shall be your life’s end?  And what shall be your life after death?

The answer to all of these questions is most assuredly in Christ Jesus, your Savior and your God.

It is by the grace of God in Christ that He has spoken His Word of the Gospel to you.  Not just as good news or information about some historic fact, but as the very forgiveness of your sins, and as the gift, the bestowal, of divine life in Christ.  And this not only for your soul, or for some kind of disembodied spirit, but for who you really are, as God created you, body and soul, one person of flesh and blood, of heart, mind, and spirit.  It is for all of you that your hope is in Christ Jesus.  For God has called you by name to be His own dear child, a beloved and well-pleasing son.

In Holy Baptism, He has given you the new birth of water and the Spirit.  He has recreated you there in the Image of the heavenly Man, the second Adam, the One who came down from heaven, even unto death, who has risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father.  Who has done all of this for you, in flesh and blood like yours.  It is for His sake that you have been  conceived and born anew of the Church, a new Mother, to be an offspring of the Lord by His grace.

But all of this has been accomplished for you by the way and means of the Cross, by the innocent suffering and death of God in the flesh.  It is by the sacrificial shedding of His holy and precious blood that you have been redeemed, bought back, and saved.

So the life that you have in Christ, both for now and forever — it is by faith and not by sight that you receive it and believe it.  You cannot see it.  You do not feel or experience it in this world.

No, what you see to begin with, is a teenage girl who has gotten pregnant before getting married; whose husband, according to the Law, could rightly stone her to death.  And then what you see is her little baby Boy when He is born, an ordinary baby Boy.  He needs to be diapered.  He needs to be fed.  He needs to be cleaned and taken care of and carried about, like any other little baby boy.  And what you see is that little Baby growing up, like any other little boy, and becoming a grown man — who is hounded by the powers that be in church and state throughout His life, until He is finally executed in shame and humiliation as a criminal, cursed by God and man.

Likewise, what you see and experience and feel in your own body and life, is sin and death, weakness and infirmity, and a wobbly faith that fluctuates from one day to the next, sometimes from one moment to the next.  And what you receive from the world is mockery for your faith, as though you were the greatest fool in all the earth.

Meanwhile, the whole world itself seems to be going crazy, spiraling into chaos and confusion all around you.  Eruptions of violence left and right.  Nay sayers and pessimistic gloom casters.

Where is your hope?  What shall become of you?  Where is your life in the midst of all this death?

The answer doesn’t sound like much or seem too promising.  It might not even seem pertinent.  But the truth of the matter is, that the Blessed Virgin Mary, that young daughter of David in Nazareth, she was chosen by God, the Lord almighty.  Not according to any merit or worthiness in her, but according to His mercy.  For He has remembered His mercy toward her and toward us all.

He has not forgotten His Covenant.  He has not forgotten His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.  He has not forgotten the Oath that He swore to David, that He would set a Son upon His Throne forever and ever.  In His mercy He has remembered.

And, remembering, He has come, and He has chosen to act.  According to His divine Wisdom, though it is foolishness to man, He has chosen to come to this young lady, to this dear St. Mary.  To conceive in her womb, that she would give birth to a Son, the only-begotten Son of God.  And this, not by the will of man, nor by the work of any man, but by the Word of Spirit of God.  By the powerful and gracious overshadowing of the Most High — His Name be praised forevermore.

In this most miraculous of Words, He who is true God — Light from Light, God from God, very God of very God, the almighty and eternal Son of the Living God — He has taken the flesh and blood of St. Mary to be His own flesh and blood, to become true Man.  To begin as an Embryo, a little Fetus, a tiny Human Being.  To live as the smallest of God’s Creatures, and to grow and develop in the womb of His own Mother.  To be given birth from her body in the fullness of time.

He is conceived and born of this Woman, and He is born under the Law, in order to become like you, both in your flesh and in your infirmity.  To bear your sin, to be your Savior.  To redeem you from the Law, from its burden and its bondage, from its accusation and its judgment.  To atone for your sins.  To reconcile you to God the Father.  To establish Peace in place of your warfare and unrest.  To give you the Holy Spirit and the Life everlasting in place of your death and damnation.

He has become like you in every way, save only without any sin of His own, so that you would become like Him: a son of God in Christ Jesus by His gracious adoption.

By His death, He has broken the power of death, and He has set you free from the grave’s dark prison.  In His bodily Resurrection from the dead, He has opened heaven to you, both your body and your soul, so that you shall not perish anymore forever.  So that you not die but live.

Though you are humbled, downtrodden, and brought low, He raises you up, and He exalts you by His Gospel.  He clothes you in the beautiful garments of His righteousness and His everlasting salvation through the full and free forgiveness of all your sins.  Daily and richly, for His own sake.

Though you may hunger and thirst now, and languish in poverty and want for the time being, He feeds you from His own hand with His own Self.  He places into your mortal body, into your hand, into your mouth, into your stomach, into your flesh and blood, His own holy Body and precious Blood.  The same flesh and blood conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, buried, and raised, and ascended to the right hand of His Father in heaven.

Where He is, there you shall be.  You go with Him.  For in giving you Himself, in giving you His Body and Blood, in speaking His Word to you and forgiving your sins, He has bound Himself to you, and you to Him, as one flesh, as one body, of one blood.  You are a member of His holy Bride, and you are all-glorious in your holy wedlock to Him, who is the Lord.

Though your body grow weak and sick and die, though it decay and return to the dust from which it was taken, your body belongs to Him who is your Bridegroom.  You are not your own.  You were bought with a price, the precious blood of Christ, the Son of God.  Redeemed and purchased to be His own, not as a slave, but as a beloved Bride, and as a son of God the Father in Christ.

He shall raise you from the dead at the last, as He raises you now by His Gospel of forgiveness.  And you shall indeed be glorious in Him, immortal and imperishable.  You shall live with Him in His Kingdom, both body and soul, in His everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

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

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