22 November 2017

Giving Thanks with Body and Soul in Christ Jesus

There is a deep link and unity between your body and your soul.  Together they constitute the one person you are, in much the way that God and Man are one Person in Christ Jesus.  So there is likewise a profound connection between the health and well-being of your body and your soul, though it is not always obvious on the surface or right away.

It is the sin which permeates your soul that brings your body of flesh and blood to death and the grave, because it separates you from the Lord your God, who is your life and your salvation.  But so do the sins which you commit with your body, your words and actions contrary to the Word of the Lord, confirm and deepen the sinful unbelief and idolatry that reside within your soul.

You cannot live and persist in your sins without driving faith and the Holy Spirit out of your heart, mind, body, and soul, and thus bringing your body and soul into eternal death and damnation.

But so is it also the case that, as your heart and soul, your mind and your conscience are cleansed and sanctified by the Word and Spirit of God through the Gospel of Christ Jesus, so is your body also made brand new.  And that shall be made evident in the Resurrection of your body at the last, when the Lord Jesus returns in the glory of His own crucified and risen Body.

Though you continue to sin in your thoughts, words, and deeds, in doing what you should not, and in failing to do what you should, nevertheless, the Lord who has forgiven your sins and brought you to faith and life in His Spirit, has begun His good work in your body, as well, which He shall bring to completion at the Day of His appearing.

Thus do you bear the good fruits of faith in love for God and for your neighbor.  You speak as Christ speaks to you by confessing His Word and by calling upon His Name in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  And by the works of your body, you love and care for your neighbor in his body.

It is this deep link between the spiritual and the physical (to speak in common terms) that stands behind the infirmity of leprosy and the indictment of the Law against those who suffered from it.  Though it seems unfair that those who were sick and suffering were also then separated from the fellowship of God and His people, it belongs to the fact that God Himself is the Holy One, and His people are likewise to be holy in body and soul, both inwardly and outwardly.  So did the Lord require the sacrificial lambs and goats and bulls to be healthy and whole, without any defects.

The infirmities of your fallen flesh, including the outward and obvious defects and imperfections that mark you, simply demonstrate that all of us children of Adam and Eve are sinful and unclean from the inside out, and that you have been subject to death and the grave from the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb.  You were cut off and separated from God by your sin.

But now Christ Jesus has come with His own Body of flesh and blood.  He is the very Son of God who enters in, not only with His life-giving Word and Holy Spirit, but as true Man with a body and soul like your own.  He is the Word of God made Flesh, by whom all things in heaven and on earth are created and sustained, whom God the Father speaks in mercy in order to make all things new.

He comes by the way of His Cross, as your merciful and great High Priest who suffers and is tempted in every way that you are.  And He bears the full burden of your sin and death within His own Body, in order to release you from bondage and bring you into His Kingdom alive and well.

While He takes upon Himself all the consequences of your sin, your mortality and death, He also bears and brings within Himself, within His flesh and blood, all the life and health and strength of God for you and for the many, for both your body and your soul, for now and for ever.

He enters in and comes to you, in order to have mercy upon you.  He comes to heal you and cleanse you, within and without, by His Sacrifice upon the Cross, and by His Word of the Gospel which He speaks to you from the Cross in His Resurrection from the dead.  He reconciles you to God and justifies you in His sight, and He calls you to faith in His mercy by forgiving your sins.

Therefore, as He speaks to you in love and gives you life by His grace, so believe and trust in Him, and so live by faith in accordance with His Word and promises.

It is for you in Christ as it was for Israel, to whom He promised the Land and gave it to them by His grace.  As they entered in to lay hold of it in faith, you lay hold of Christ within His Church in the Ministry of His Gospel, and you are called to live within His Kingdom in faith and love.

So did He send those ten lepers to go and show themselves to the priest; and in their going at the Word of Christ, they found themselves to be healed and cleansed, that is to say, both in their bodies and in relation to the Lord and His Church.  The miraculous healing of their leprosy was to be confirmed through cleansing by the priest with the rites and ceremonies appointed by God, which involved both atonement for their sins and thanksgiving for the healing they had received.

Thus, those men who had been lepers, who had been separated from the fellowship of Israel by their leprosy, were restored to that fellowship through the Old Testament means of grace.

Except in the case of that one man, a foreigner, who was cut off from the community of Israel by more than his disease.  Even healed and cleansed of his leprosy, he was still on the outskirts, out in the cold, on the outside looking in.  Yet, by the grace of God, he was able to recognize the Atonement to be found in the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus; and so it was that he also returned to give thanks, and to praise and to worship the Lord his God, in the Person of Christ Jesus.

Indeed, he came back and worshiped Jesus with both his voice and his body, with both his words and his actions, which is to say, with the rites and ceremonies of thanksgiving, faith, and love.

What, then, does this mean for you?

It means that you also receive and lay hold of the promises of God in Christ Jesus by proceeding in accordance with His Word.  You go to the priests He has provided and appointed for you, that is, to your own pastors, in reliance on the Ministry of His Gospel.  And you live in the way that He has given you to go.  Within your own vocation and stations in life, you do as He commands.

What is more, as you are baptized into Christ Jesus, our merciful and great High Priest, so do you also pray and intercede for all people in His Name: for the Church and for the world; for your brothers and sisters in Christ; for your family, friends, and neighbors; for the president and the governor, for your senators and congressmen, and for all those in authority.  And in the confidence of His mercy, you also give thanks and praise to God the Father through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Like that Samaritan who was healed of his leprosy, you also worship the same Lord Jesus Christ as your great God and Savior in the flesh.  You worship Him with your voice by confessing His Word and calling upon His Name.  And you worship Him in His Body — with your own body — from the waters of your Baptism and the reception of His Body and His Blood in the Sacrament to the way you live and serve with your body in the world to the praise and glory of His Name.

Being raised up from your sin and death by the free and full forgiveness of His Gospel, cleansed and healthy in body and soul by the working of His Spirit through His Word, live now by His grace through faith in Him, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and soul in Christ Jesus.  Trust what He says to you, especially His Word of Absolution, in spite of what your senses and experience may be telling you at any given time.  Rely upon His Sacraments, remembering your Baptism and receiving the Lord’s Supper in faith and with thanksgiving.  And from His Altar, let your whole life be a great doxology of praise.

As the Lord feeds you in body and soul, even giving you His own Body to eat and His own Blood to drink, so then, you likewise feed your neighbor in sacrificial love; not with your castoffs and leftovers, but at your own expense, giving up and going without what you want but do not need.

And as the Lord gives you clothing and shelter — adorning you with His Righteousness in Holy Baptism, and welcoming you into the household and family of His Church, on earth as it is in heaven — so then, you likewise clothe and shelter your neighbor in grace, mercy, and peace.

As the Lord has given you parents, and to some of you a spouse and children — and, above all, as He has made you His own dear child and heir — so then, you likewise welcome the stranger and foreigner, care for the widows and orphans in need, and love your brothers and sisters in Christ.

And realize, at all times and in all places, that you shall never be able to live in any of these ways except through Jesus Christ, your Lord.  It is only by His mercy, by the Sacrifice of His Cross, by His Resurrection from the dead, and by His forgiveness of your sins, that you are able to live at all.

Therefore, do not keep your distance from Him, and do not be thankless or ungrateful.  Rather, meet Him here at His Pulpit, Font, and Altar, here within His Church, where He enters in and comes to meet you in peace and with salvation.  Do not be afraid to lift up your voice in prayer and petition, to call upon His Name, as did those ten lepers: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us!

And as surely as He does hear and answer your prayers, so also lift up your voice in worship, thanks, and praise.  Confess the Word that He has spoken to you in the confidence that it is true.

And even as you lift up your voice in thanksgiving to Christ, so also bow your head and bend your knees, as you are able, in order to worship and honor and glorify Him with your body.  Not that your outward actions could ever make up for the sinful unbelief in your heart, but that your faith in Christ is confessed, not only with your words, but also with your hands and feet, and with your entire body and life.  And as you honor Him with your body and humble yourself before Him here at His Altar, so also honor Him with your body by humbling yourself to serve your neighbor.

To be sure, the outward charity of your body and life necessarily follows upon your own reliance on the Charity of God in Christ Jesus.  This also belongs to your sacrifice of thanksgiving to your God and Father in heaven — by faith in His incarnate Son and in the love of His Holy Spirit.

Would you not live in this way, to the praise and glory of His Name?  Come, then.  Here there is healing for your body and cleansing for your soul in the Word and Sacrament of the Lord Jesus.  For He is your merciful and great High Priest.  His crucified and risen Body is the Temple of God.

Indeed, His Body and His Blood are the Sacrifice of Atonement, offered on the Cross once for all; but so are they given and poured out for you here, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  Whatever may afflict your body in this life under the Cross, and whatever alienation you may face among your neighbors on earth, here you are fed with the true Manna, with the true and living Bread from heaven, which not only sustains you on your journey but is your fellowship with God Himself.

The same Lord Jesus Christ — in and with His Body of flesh and blood — He is the Eucharist, that is to say, your acceptable Sacrifice of Thanksgiving unto His God and Father in heaven.  For just as He was lifted up in death upon the Cross for the forgiveness of your sins, so has He been raised for your justification, and so has He ascended to the Right Hand of the Father as your own dear Brother in the flesh, and as your Champion and Savior, so that you might live with Him there.

Eat and drink His forgiveness, then, with your mouth and with your body, with your heart, soul, mind, and spirit.  Eat and drink Thanksgiving — not only for His flesh and blood, but in His flesh and blood.  And as you have eaten and are satisfied, bless the Lord who saves you by His grace.

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

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