06 November 2016

The Meaning of Life in the Resurrection of Christ

Your life, and everything in your life — who you are, all that you have, and all that you do — all of it does have meaning and significance in relation to God, the Lord, who has created you for life with Himself.  It has meaning and significance for you because of Christ Jesus, your Savior, the incarnate Son of God, who in His mercy has become like you in every way, save only without sin.

Your life has meaning and significance, especially in view of the Resurrection of your body to the life everlasting in Christ.  If that were not so, everything would be different, and everything would be meaningless.  But now, Christ has been raised, and in Him you also live.  You live now by faith, and you shall be raised incorruptible, imperishable, and immortal, to live forever with Him.

In the case at hand in this particular Holy Gospel, for example, He teaches you that those most fundamental and foundational aspects of life on earth, marriage and family, have meaning and significance in the presence of God.  They are established for the sake of Christ, the Son of God, with a view to the Resurrection, when you shall not even die anymore forever, but you shall be like the holy angels; more than that, you shall live forever as a child of God in Christ.

From the very beginning, marriage and family, husbands, wives, and children have always been all about Christ and His Church.  When God created Adam, and then crafted Eve from his side and brought her to him, and gave her to him, He was preaching the Gospel.  He was preaching His good intention to give life.  He was preaching Christ.  And He was preaching the gift of His Bride, the Church, to whom you belong as a dearly beloved member by His grace.

Even after the Fall, marriage remains as a bulwark against the devil’s destructive temptations and influence, and as a bulwark against the curse and consequences of sin, death, and damnation.  For here stands the institution of holy marriage, under attack by the world, but nevertheless upheld and sustained by God.  It is a living icon of the One who is our heavenly Bridegroom, and we His Eve, taken from His side, brought to Him by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, and given to Him by the Father, that He would have us and hold us forever.  That He would have and hold you and not allow sin, death, the devil, or hell to snatch you from His strong and loving embrace.

Again, even after the Fall into sin, God promised a special significance to the bearing of children.  The Seed of the Woman would crush the devil’s head.  He would atone for the sins of the world.  He would reconcile the man and his wife to God, that His purposes for them, the life He intended, would not be thwarted.  With that promise in place, every mother’s son was a kind of promise.  Every daughter born might be the Woman whose Seed would be the Savior.  Every son might be Him.  And though sons and daughters came and went, and they were not yet the ones, God was still giving life even in the midst of death, in the sure and certain hope of His promise.

That promise was for all the grown-ups, for the moms and dads and all their children, until that day when the Son of Mary came in the House and Lineage of David, the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Son of Adam and Eve who would redeem Adam and Eve and all their children.

With His coming in the flesh, the bearing of children has not lost its significance, but its meaning and significance have been fulfilled and made all the greater.  For every child conceived in every womb is a child whose life has been given by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Every child conceived in every womb is an object of His grace and mercy.  Every child conceived in every womb is one for whom the Son of God and of St. Mary has shed His blood and given His Life.  Every child ever born, and a nation of children yet unborn, are the objects of His Love.  They, too, are called out of sin and death into the Life everlasting with God through Jesus Christ.

Consider, too, the blessed privilege that you have, mothers and fathers, to teach your children the Word of God, to deal with them as your Father in heaven deals with you.  To pray with them.  To sing with them.  To bring them to Holy Baptism, and to bring them to the House of the Lord for as long as they are under your care.  To bring them to catechesis, and to bring them to the Lord’s Supper, that they should receive the Life that He alone can give them in body and soul forever.

So it was that all of those sons and daughters who were not the Savior or His Mother were yet called by the Spirit through the Word to become the children of God, by His grace, through faith in Him.  So it is that all who come after, who hear and receive that same call, who fear, love, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be with us in heaven, even as the entire company of heaven is already gathered with us here and now around the Lamb upon His Throne.

This is what God desires for your children, also.  And this is why the Holy Scriptures give such a different sense of marriage and family than the world and your own sinful heart would assume.

The Fall into sin has made marriage seem like a burden, as though it were the curse.  At the same time, the world says that marriage is chiefly about your own fulfillment, about your own happiness, and about making your way as best you can to your own advantage.  And because the world and your fallen flesh see no greater significance than that, because they do not see Christ and His Church, the argument is that you can take it or leave it.  Try it out, and, if it doesn’t work to your liking, walk away and let it go.  That is how the world looks at it, but it’s a damnable lie.

Then there’s the whole matter of children.  Most of us have grown up in what is, for all intents and purposes, the birth control generation.  Families are now smaller than ever before, because children are chiefly avoided rather than welcomed and received.  Whereas, in the Holy Scriptures, children are understood to be a blessing from the Lord and the recipients of His inheritance of mercy.  So much so that there is this Law, which seems so strange, perhaps, that if a man dies childless, his brother should marry the widow and raise up children for the deceased.  It is because the Lord our God is the Author and Giver of Life in the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus.

If you do not live in view of His Cross and Resurrection, if you do not live in the presence of God by faith in Christ, then you’re always going to misinterpret, misunderstand, and misuse the things that God has entrusted to you here and now in your life on this earth.

You are to love your husband or wife, to cherish, protect, care for, and serve him or her in faith.  If you are a wife, you are to submit yourself to your husband in the confidence of Christ, the Lord, who has given you to him in love.  And if you are a husband, you are thus to love and serve your wife in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus, in the way that He cares for His Church in peace, with mercy and forgiveness, and has given His own Body and Life to save her from sin and death.

How, then, is your marriage confessing the Gospel of Christ and His Church?  And in what ways does your marriage deny and contradict that Gospel and the hope that is in Christ Jesus?  Be done with blaming and accusing, and forgive.  Be done with selfishness, and sacrifice yourself to serve.  Be done with anger and bitterness.  Exercise gentle compassion and tender affection, not only in the best of times, but also in the worst, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.  For Christ Himself is with you always, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Likewise, if God has blessed you with children, bring them up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord.  Discipline them, not in anger, but in love.  Teach them the Bible, and bring them to church.

The care and catechesis of your children is a sacred stewardship of your time and energy, and of your own life, every bit as much as your finances and abilities are.  The Lord entrusts them to you, not to advance your personal agenda, but that you should return them to Him in faith and love.

None of this here on earth is forever.  You know that concerning your own life, or at least some of you have become aware and realize that.  As you get older, you begin to feel it more and more in all the bones and muscles of your body.  You know that you are dying.  You’ll not live forever in this present world, which is perishing and will not last, even if it does outlast you and yours.

Marriage is not forever, either.  It is not to end in divorce, but it is permanent only until death.

Those who attain to the Resurrection of the body and the life everlasting are neither married nor given in marriage anymore.  Rather, our faithfully departed Christian spouses, along with all of the faithful departed, whether or not we have known them here, will be our brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, sons and daughters of one God and Father in Him.  Whereas it is sobering to realize that our loved ones in this body and life, whether spouse, parents, children, or siblings, if they die apart from Christ, outside the fellowship of His Body, they shall be forever separated from us.

In any event, your children will not always be your children.  An illness or accident may strike them down while they are yet in your care, and all your best efforts cannot save them.  Else they will grow up and move away.  Your daughters will take on the names of other men.  Your sons will become the heads of their own families, with their own cares and occupations to concern them.

Those painful, tough transitions are actually a good and necessary thing for your faith and life and salvation in Christ.  They call you to repentance.  They remind you of where your hope and your life are really to be found.  Not in your spouse, nor in your children, but only in your Lord Jesus.

If you are despairing because the Lord has not give you a spouse, or because He has not given you the spouse you would like to have, repent.  Do not give yourself over to hopelessness, which is unbelief.  Trust that, if you do not have a spouse here in this life, you do have your heavenly Bridegroom, who is yours forever.  You are called to live as a member of His Bride, the Church.

If you have desperately wanted to have children, but God has not given you that particular gift and blessing, then look for ways in which you can help and serve your neighbors in caring for their children.  Look for ways in which you can help the household and family of the Church to rear up the children of God in the fear and faith of His Word and Spirit.  And be thankful that you and your life, your body and soul are in the Lord’s hands, and so shall they always be.

Apart from Him, there would be for you only death and damnation.  Those who do not live unto God are dead even while they seem to live.  Walking dead men, that is what they are.

Such is the irony in the Sadducees’ question.  In their denial of the Resurrection, they are as good as dead already, even while they walk about and ask their smart aleck questions.  But Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they are not dead and gone.  Moses, he is not dead and gone.  Joshua and David, and all of those who have gone before us in the Word and faith of God, they all live, as do you.

You live by faith in Christ Jesus.  For He has called you to Himself by the Word of His Gospel.  He has wooed you, courted you, and proposed to you by the preaching of His Word.  He’s gotten down on His knee, given you His solemn pledge, and taken you to be a member of His Holy Bride.  He’s dressed you in the beautiful wedding gown of His own perfect righteousness.

By the washing of the water with His Word and Holy Spirit, He has given you the new birth, so that you are a son of God in Him.  As such, your life has real meaning.  Your body and life have meaning even now, although your life on earth is ending.  Your life in Christ shall never end.

Your poor, decrepit, falling apart body will be raised from the dust of the earth and glorified, like unto Christ’s own glorious Body.  Then He shall be your all in all, and you shall behold Him as He is with your own eyes.  Him you shall see, and not another.  And everything will make sense.

There are days when it doesn’t.  And sometimes it is the Cross itself that makes it seem as though there were no point or purpose to your life.  Don’t you believe it.  You see the point and purpose of your body and life in the Cross of Christ, who gave Himself for you.  And you see that point and purpose manifested for you, and for your family, and for all the world, in His Resurrection from the dead.  As He lives, so do you live by faith in Him, and so it is that God is your God.  For He is the God of the living, and you shall dwell in His House and in His presence forever and ever.

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

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