29 October 2017

On Christ All the Law and the Prophets Depend

By the washing of the water with His Word, Christ the Lord has cleansed you and sanctified you in Holy Baptism.  He has clothed you in His own righteousness and holiness.  He has anointed you with His Holy Spirit, and He has named you with His Holy Name.  You are therefore to be holy, as the Lord your God is holy.  But, whereas the Holy Triune God is holy in Himself, by His nature as God, you are sanctified by His Word and Holy Spirit to be holy in Christ Jesus, by His grace.

In calling you to be holy, the Lord God calls you to share His divine Life, to rest yourself in His divine Love.  He calls you to live your life in Him, in harmony and peace — to be loved by Him — and so to love the Lord your God above all things, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, is to entrust and submit all your thoughts and feelings, yourself, and your entire life to Him, so that all your words and actions are governed by His Word, and your every breath glorifies His Name.

And to love your neighbor as yourself is to love and serve your neighbor, and to give life to your neighbor, by and with and for the Love of God.  In short, you love your neighbor as the Lord your God loves you.  Receiving and sharing His love, you manifest His holiness in your love for others.

See, when you fear, love, and trust in the one true God above all things, then you are not afraid of anything else in heaven or on earth, and so you are not afraid to give yourself in loving service to your neighbor.  Rather, you delight to be like God in your love for others.  You desire to know and to follow His good and acceptable Will in all things.  And His holy Will is summed up in love.

Again, what is natural for God, is for you by His grace alone.  You dare not rely upon your own wisdom, reason, or strength to know what love is, or to know the way of love.  But you hear and heed the Word of God, and you rely on His Word.  Consider the example of Christ Jesus.  As true Man, He relied upon and so confessed the Holy Scriptures in resisting every temptation, and in answering all questions.  For all things in heaven and on earth are sanctified by the Word and Spirit of God, who creates all things, gives life to all the living, and establishes what is good and right.

The holiness of God, and so also the holiness of His people, abides in the certainty of God; and it is manifested in the charity of God.  What I mean is this: The Lord your God — the Holy Trinity — He alone is fully alive, fully complete, fully realized, and fully sufficient in Himself.  He alone is Love; which is to say, not only that He is loving in His attitude and actions, but that He is Love in Himself, in His very Being and Identity, in the Love of the Father for the Son in the Holy Spirit.

You have such divine certainty and charity, and such holiness of God, not from within yourself, but from outside of yourself: from the Holy Triune God, who reveals and gives Himself to you for the sake of His divine and holy Love, that is, for His own sake, because of who and what He is.

Because it is by and with His Word that God reveals and gives Himself to you — by the preaching of His Prophets and Apostles, and above all by the Person of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus — and because it is by and with His Word that He names you with His Name, and sanctifies His Name in you by the generous outpouring of His Holy Spirit through your Savior, Jesus Christ — so it is that your holiness as a child of God depends entirely upon His Word.  That is your certainty, your confidence and hope in Christ, which is expressed and exercised in a godly life of holy charity.

Within your own calling, in your own place, it is for you as it was for the Apostles, who trusted the Word of the Lord and preached that Word faithfully, even unto death.  They did not lord it over those to whom they were sent, but they loved them and took care of them with tenderness, like that of a nursing mother for her newborn infant, and with the strong and steady kindness of a father for his own dear children.  Not only did they deliver the Gospel–Word and Sacraments in the Name and stead of Christ, but they gave their bodies and poured out their lives in love for His Church.

So are you also called to sacrifice your body and life in love for your neighbor, in the charity and certainty of the Holy Triune God who has called you by His own Name in Holy Baptism.  That is a serious commitment for the entirety of your Christian life on earth, unto the life everlasting.  Even for a newborn infant like Guinevere, Baptism stations you on the front lines of a fierce battle, armed and armored with nothing else — and nothing less — than the Word and Spirit of God.

Thus have you confessed, as Guinevere has confessed this morning, that your entire life and your salvation are found in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, in the Church and Ministry of His Gospel, in His Word and Sacraments.  And so have you and Guinevere categorically renounced and rejected the devil, the world, and all the sinful lusts and desires of your fallen flesh.  You have died to all of that, and you live unto God alone.

What, then, does that look like, practically speaking?  What are you supposed to do and say, and how are you supposed to live?  The Lord has not left you without clear guidance and instruction in this regard.  His Law for you is summed up in Love for Him and for your neighbor, as Christ has stated forthrightly this morning.  And that Love for God and man, on which all the Law and the Prophets depend, is spelled out for you as the Ten Commandments are brought to bear upon your own particular place in life, in much the way the Lord has done for His people in Leviticus.

It is to that same end that Dr. Luther wrote his Catechisms, so that pastors and parents, fathers and mothers would be assisted by the Word of God in fulfilling the duties of their callings, in training up their children to fear, love, and trust in God and to love their neighbors in the peace of Christ.

Bear that in mind, Nicholai & Hannah, Kelvin & Melissa, Nathaniel & Sarah, and all of you other fathers and mothers, no matter how old you and your babies may be — that love for God and for your children requires, above all else, that you give attention to the Word of the Lord and teach it to those entrusted to your care; that you be faithful in going to church and bringing them with you.  As surely as a nursing mother feeds her infant, and as surely as a father clothes and shelters and protects his family, all the more so must you bring up your children in the fear and faith of God.

Thus are you and your children catechized by God to pray and confess, to call upon His Name, to praise and give thanks to Him.  He calls you to hear and heed His Word, and to hold it sacred in all that you say and do.  He teaches you to remember your Baptism, as we will teach Guinevere to remember her Baptism; which is to examine yourself with the Word of God, to confess your sins, to avail yourself of Holy Absolution, and to hunger and thirst for the Body and Blood of Christ.

So are you and your children also taught that love, which is the fulfilling of the Law, does no harm to the neighbor.  But love does not simply refrain from doing harm; it actively strives to help and serve, to protect and defend, to support and strengthen the neighbor in his body and life, in his family, his property, his name and reputation.  And not only do you honor and obey your parents and other authorities, but you love and cherish them; you reverence your father and mother, and you submit to them in the Lord.  And when you are married, you fully invest yourself, your time and energy, your heart, mind, and body, in self-sacrificing love for your own wife or husband.

This is what your holiness as a child of God looks like in practice.  This is how you are to live in faith and love, according to the Word of the Lord, to the glory of His Name which you now bear.

But do you?  Do you live a holy life, as the Lord your God has commanded?  Or how often do you expect Him to stand in line and wait behind your legion of idols — your work and your play, your hobbies and other interests, your money, your music and sports and other entertainments?  And how often do you neglect your neighbor in favor of yourself, even when the neighbor in question is your own spouse or child, your own dear father or mother, your own dear brother or sister, or your fellow Christian?  How often do you trust your own wisdom over and above God’s Word?

When you examine yourself rightly, honestly and truthfully, according to the Word of God, you are silenced by His Law — no less than the Scribes and Pharisees, the Sadduccees and Lawyers, who were not able to answer Jesus anything, and who did not dare ask Him any more questions.

The Law of God leaves you with nothing to say but to confess your sins.  Indeed, it exposes not only your ignorance and weakness, and not only your sins and failings — what you have done wrong, and what you have failed to do right — but also your inability to do any better on your own.  Not only your failure, but your impotence to fear, love, and trust in God.  You cannot do it.

But there is another Word of God — the Gospel of Christ Jesus — which gives to you a voice, a confession and a prayer.  From the waters of your Baptism and throughout the Holy Christian Church, this Word of the Gospel forgives your sins, rescues you from death and drives out the devil, sanctifies you with the Spirit of Christ Jesus, and gives to you eternal life and salvation.

That is so, because great King David’s Lord has indeed become King David’s Son, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and the same Son has been anointed in His human flesh and blood by the Holy Spirit to be the Christ, your Savior and your King.  What He has given Himself to do by submitting Himself to St. John’s Baptism of repentance in the waters of the Jordan River, He has fully accomplished in faith and love, for you and for all, by His Sacrifice upon the Cross.

So has He loved His God and Father with all His heart, with all His soul, and with all His mind; with all His strength, with His whole body and life, with His holy and precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death.  He has given Himself fully and without any reservation, in the fear, love, and trust of His Father above all things, and with divine and holy love for you and for all people, for Guinevere Glenda Marie, and for all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

His relationship to the Law is much like His relationship to David.  He is both Lord and Son.  He is both the Author and the Fulfiller of the Law.  On Him do all the Law and the Prophets depend.  In Him the great Commands are realized.  In Christ, you are loved by God and Man; and as you learn to love Christ Jesus in return, you are taught to love both God and your neighbor in Him.

He has fulfilled and perfected all the Law and the Prophets, not only in your stead and on your behalf, but for you, and for your benefit, in order to save you, and to sanctify you, and to give you life with God forever in Himself.  He does you no harm, but He helps and supports you in every way, in both body and soul, in this life on earth, and for the life everlasting in heaven.  He takes nothing from you but your sin and death, and in exchange He gives you Himself, His holiness and righteousness, His innocence and blessedness, His Name, His Holy Spirit, His own dear Father to be your God and Father in Him, and all the wealth and riches of His eternal Kingdom.  He does not divorce you; He forgives your unfaithfulness, woos you to Himself in tender peace, cleanses you of every blemish, spot, and wrinkle, and cherishes you as His own beloved Bride.  He does not testify against you, but with His Gospel He defends you, speaks well of you, and justifies you.

And as the great God and Father of this same Lord Jesus Christ has highly exalted Him, and has raised Him from the dead, and has given Him the Name above every name, and has seated Him at His Right Hand forevermore — in the same human flesh and blood that He received from His Mother Mary and shares with you — so has God the Father raised you also from death to life, and given you the Name of Christ Jesus in your Holy Baptism, as He has here done for Guinevere.  He has seated you with Christ in the heavenly places.  Your life is safely hidden with Christ in God, even as you go about your life under the Cross, living by His grace through faith in His Gospel.

This is a faithful saying, and it is most certainly true.  For the surety and certainty of your faith and life are not found in yourself, nor in your frail mortal flesh, but they are fixed for you, and secure, in the crucified, risen, and ascended Body of Christ Jesus.  He is not far away from you, but He is here for you in His Church on earth, in His Ministry of the Gospel, in the preaching of His Word, in the Holy Absolution of all your sins, and in the Holy Communion of His Body and His Blood.

So, then, with King David and Queen Guinevere, in the Spirit you also call Jesus “Lord.”  For He has entered in to save you, to ransom and redeem you, to set you free from the bondage of Satan, sin, and death, and to bring you into His glorious Kingdom.  He is not ashamed to call you His brother, His sister, His friend, but all that belongs to Him He freely shares with you forever.  Recline here at His Table, and receive from His right hand the pledge of His undying love, the gift of His indestructible life, while He puts all your enemies, your sin and death, beneath His feet.

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

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