The Kingdom of heaven has drawn near to you in Christ, in His Word and in His Flesh and Blood. And now, by His preaching, He draws you to Himself and brings you to His God and Father.
He has seen you from afar and beheld you with compassion, and so has He come down from heaven to lay hold of you in love. And then, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, He has gone up the Mountain of God; He has risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father, so that He might gather you up in Himself and bear you in His Body into the Kingdom of heaven.
He has come down in order to raise you up. So it is that His Baptism — in and out of the water, in and out of His death — has fulfilled all righteousness and established justice for you and for all the sons and daughters of man. He has accomplished for you, in His own Body and Life, the right relationship of sons to God the Father in heaven. Thus are you beloved and well-pleasing to God in Christ Jesus, and you live with Him in faith toward God and in love for God and your neighbor.
The Sacrifice of Christ is your Atonement and the forgiveness of your sins; so that, first of all, what was broken and out of sync between you and God has been repaired and rectified in Him. As you are baptized into Him and live by faith in Him, His rising from the dead is now also your resurrection and your righteousness, and His Ascension into heaven means that you live with God in Christ in the heavenly places, even as you live by faith a holy and heavenly life on earth. For you follow after Christ Jesus, through death into life, bearing His Cross and sharing the fruits of His Resurrection. And within His Body, you live and abide with God the Father in the Holy Spirit.
It is for this great salvation, that you should live with God in body and soul, that the Lord Jesus comes to you and preaches repentance, forgiveness of sins, and the Kingdom of heaven into your ears, into your heart and mind, into your body and soul. And the Holy Spirit calls you by this preaching of Christ Jesus into the gathering of His Body, the Church, into the Life of the Lord in the Liturgy of His Gospel, in order that you should be with Him where He is, both here and now and forever hereafter. Indeed, you are with Him even now, because He is with you here in mercy.
He is here with you, and He calls you to bear His Cross and follow Him. He calls you to live with God by grace within His Body. He calls you to do as He does, within your own office and stations in life, and to suffer with Him in your own place, for His Name’s sake, in holy faith and holy love.
It is with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus that you are called to do justice for others. Not as a social warrior, but by coming down from the heights of yourself in order to care for others, to raise them up in peace, and to bring them to God by the confession of Christ and His Gospel. To bear the blessed Cross in love for your neighbor. To forgive those who sin against you. To defend and protect those who are under attack, especially those who are so weak and small and helpless.
The Lord would have you value kindness over power, and to be kind. Not with mere sentiment or empty words, but to sacrifice yourself and your pride, your time and energy, your ambitions, desires, money, and possessions, in order to serve and support your neighbor in his or her need. For His own Name’s sake, your Lord Jesus Christ calls you to give yourself in love and gladly to do good, not only to friends and family, but even to those who have failed you or let you down. Not to condone or participate in sin, but to bear with your neighbors in mercy and with patience; gently but firmly to speak the truth in love, as necessary, and so also to instruct by your example.
As Christ Himself has done, walk quietly and patiently with God. For though He was rich and powerful and had no sins of His own, He made Himself poor and weak and bore your sins in order to become your Savior in holy faith and perfect love. Recognize your own poverty, weakness, and genuine need. Acknowledge and confess your sins and your unworthiness. And yet, in the peace and promise of the Gospel, rest yourself in the grace and forgiveness of Christ Jesus. Hold His Word sacred, and so make every effort to hear and heed the preaching of it. Find your life and salvation in His means of grace, in the significance of your Holy Baptism, in Holy Absolution, and in the Holy Communion. In the humility of repentance and the confidence of faith, give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and glorify His Name by the prayer and confession of His Word, and by the way that you live with the people around you, including the most difficult.
Turn away from your sins and your pursuit of death, and return to the Lord your God, to your Creator and Redeemer, to the Author and Giver of Life. Live according to the Word that He has spoken to you, and rely upon His Gospel even in the teeth of death and the grave.
That is the foolishness of God which is wiser than man: To rejoice and be glad in the Cross of Christ, and in the bearing of His Cross, in the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection. It is to hunger and thirst for His righteousness, above and beyond the daily bread that your mortal body craves and requires; and to be satisfied in body and soul with the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.
Does such a life seem challenging, idealistic, and naive? Are you already making excuses as to why you can’t and haven’t lived as you should, and consoling yourself with rationalizations and the promise of grace, as though the gracious Word of God promoted sin and a carefree easy life?
In fact, the blessed life with God to which you are called is impossible to the fallen sons of Adam and their children, and it is utterly foolish to this fallen and perishing world. But you are not only a child of Adam. You are a new creation, a son of God in Christ Jesus, anointed by His Spirit, upheld by His living and life-giving Word, and a citizen of His Kingdom on earth as in heaven.
The life to which you are called is the Life that is given to you by the grace of God, and it is yours in Christ Jesus. His Word does not condone your sin, nor does He overlook it, neither the wrong that you do nor the good that you fail to do, but His Word does forgive your sin and call you from your idolatry and unbelief to repentance, faith, and love. That Way of Divine Life in human flesh and blood has been opened to you in the Body of Christ the Crucified, in the New Creation of His Resurrection from the dead, and in the ongoing Ministry of His Gospel within His Holy Church.
By the life of Christ, from His cradle to His Cross; by the faith and love of Jesus, even unto death; by the hope and promise of His Resurrection, know and believe that the wisdom and greatness of God are not found in worldly power and strength, in wealth or popularity, in luxury or leisure, but in dying to yourself, to your sins, and to the world, and relying absolutely on the Charity of God.
The Kingdom of heaven is thus at hand in the midst of sin and death and deep darkness. And it is given to you by the grace of God in the Word and Spirit of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. He is the Light of the Revelation of the Glory of God, who has become flesh and tabernacles with you. He feeds you with His own Body and Blood. He forgives you all of your sins. He guides you by His Word in the Way of life, which is the way of faith and love in His Cross and Resurrection. He anoints you with His Spirit and preserves your relationship with His God and Father in heaven.
In Him, in His Body of flesh and blood, your eyes behold His great salvation; because, in this Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, you are reconciled to God in true Peace and Joy. No longer are you at enmity with God. Nor are you a slave any longer, shackled and chained by the Law’s demands and Satan’s accusations. You are called a blessed son of God in Christ; and so you are, born again by your Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection. The world cannot rob you of that, because it is given to you by Christ. He has opened His mouth and spoken. It is so.
So it is that, by His Word and Holy Spirit, you now live and love like Christ in relation to God and man, on earth as it is in heaven. You are comforted in the face of sin and death by His forgiveness and His righteousness. And with the courage and strength of faith, hope, and trust in that Gospel, you are merciful to others, as He is merciful toward you. You are gentle, kind, and pure of heart. You are slow to anger, patient and long-suffering, abounding in love; quick to apologize where you have done wrong to your neighbor, and quick to forgive and let go of the wrong that others have done to you. As the Lord your God has made peace with you and all the world by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, so are you at peace with God and with all people, for His sake.
You live righteously; which is to say that you live by faith in Christ, the Son of God, in whom His God and Father is your true God and Father, and you are His true child. Although your faith and love are not what they ought to be, and it is still the case and your experience that you daily sin much in your thoughts, words, and deeds, for which you deserve nothing but punishment, yet the faithfulness of Christ and the love of God in Christ remain and prevail for your life. Even though you die, yet shall you live. Though you are poor and miserable, yet the heavens and the earth are your inheritance. The One who feeds you here and now with the Fruits of His Cross, will feed you forever with Himself in the Resurrection, and you shall be satisfied. So shall you see God and live.
Blessed are you, indeed, who bear the Cross of Christ and the Name and Spirit of God by your Baptism into Him. For in Him all things are yours forever, since He has gone up the Mountain for you, and has sat down at the Right Hand of the Father, and by His grace you follow after Him.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.