24 December 2017

Living in the House That Jesus Built

Remember that the Lord your God has named you with His Name in your Holy Baptism.  He has named you His own dear child, a member of His household and family.  He has done great things for you, and because the Name is holy with which He has named you, you also are holy in Him.

Through the waters of your Baptism He has brought you out of Egypt.  He has freed you from the bondage of sin and death.  He has called you to be His very own, His chosen possession.  You are a member of His Church, His royal priesthood, His holy people.  And He will not abandon you.

Remember what He has done, for He remembers you, His holy Covenant, and all His promises.

He has brought you out of Egypt into freedom through the waters.  And on your journey through the wilderness, He never fails to care for you.  He feeds you, and He clothes you, both your body and your soul, with His gracious good gifts.  Already in His Church on earth, He has brought you into the safety and peace of the Promised Land, which is yours by faith in the Body of Christ.

The Lord has established this place for you, already here and now on earth, and by His grace He has established you within this place.  Here you are at peace with God.  You are reconciled to Him by the Blood of Jesus Christ, His Son.  And here you are given rest from all your enemies round about, and from your enemies within, through the free and full forgiveness of your sins.

He has provided this place for you, He has planted you in this place, and He shepherds you here with the preaching and catechesis of His Word.  He raises up shepherds after His own heart to speak His Word into your ears, that you might be strengthened and sustained in the true faith unto the life everlasting.  He speaks to you in love, with tender mercy and deep, divine compassion.

The Lord thus calls you to Himself, but not as though He needed something from you.  He does not look for you to care for Him; He does not look for you to build Him a house, to shelter and protect Him, or to provide for Him.  It is rather that He would give Himself to you, with all good things, in Christ Jesus.  He calls you to Himself that you might have life and salvation in Him.

It is true that He does call you to care for your neighbor, as the Lord your God cares for you.  To shelter and protect your neighbor, and to provide for the needs of your neighbor in body and soul, relying on the means that God has provided, especially the Word that He has spoken to you.

So, then, love your neighbor.  That is not an optional program.  It is the Lord’s commandment, and it is fundamental to the Christian faith and life.  Shepherd whatever portion of His flock the Lord your God has entrusted to your stewardship in this body and life.  Honor and help your parents.  Serve and support your own spouse.  Teach and take care of your children.  Love your neighbor.

Do all of that in faith and love for God, to the glory of His Name.  But do not suppose that you will now build a house for God.  You will not be the one to make a place for Him.  Nor will you earn His favor by your efforts, no matter how heroic.  But neither do you need to earn His favor; it is already yours in Christ.  It is by grace that He loves you, and He will not turn away from that.

You do what you are given to do, because He has called you and given you to do it.  But His favor is already yours before you have begun to work and to serve.  And when you fail and fall short, it is in love for you that the Lord calls you to repentance, which is to call your heart back to Him.

In calling you to Himself, He has already drawn near to you in peace, and He abides with you in flesh and blood like your own.  As He provided the Tabernacle and eventually the Temple in the Old Testament — not because He needed a place for Himself, but to give His people a place with Him — so has He become your Place and established Himself as your Place in the Body of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, crucified and risen from the dead.  It is in Him that you are at peace with God.  It is in Him that you are given rest.

Since your life is therefore safe with God in Christ, do not despair on account of the trouble all around you in this fallen and perishing world.  And when you look at your own life, and you see how many and great your sins are, repent of your sins and begin to do better, but do not despair.  For the Lord is with you, and He is for you.  He is your Champion, and your place is with Him.

Fear God, yes, but fear not when He comes to you.  He comes, not with vengeance against you, but with mercy for you.  He comes not to punish but to redeem you, to declare you righteous for His own sake, and to set you free from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  Therefore, do not be afraid.

Fear not when the Lord comes to you, and do not be afraid to go to your neighbor in love.  Even if your neighbor is ungrateful, ambivalent, or grouchy in return.  Remember that the Lord is with you in your callings and good works.  To live and love as He loves you is to live and abide in Him.

The Lord goes with you all the way.  He strengthens you and helps you in that which He has given you to do, to the glory of His Name and for the good of your neighbor.  He has befriended you, and He will not leave you alone.  He has come in the flesh.  He has made Himself like you and borne your sins and sorrows in His own Body to the Cross.  He has lived your life, even from conception and childbirth, from youth to adulthood.  And He has died your death in order to give you His Life.

By all that He has become in His conception and birth of St. Mary, and by all that He has done in His Body of flesh and blood, He has established Himself as the House and Temple of God for you.  And now in His Body — from His Cross and in His Resurrection — He reigns over you in love.

It is with forgiveness, righteousness, and peace that He lives and reigns forever as the true King over the household and family of God in heaven and on earth.  He is the true Son of David who has taken His seat at the right hand of His God and Father in order to serve His whole Church.

He pours out the Holy Spirit upon you.  And by the power of the Most High He brings you into His Kingdom, He shelters and protects you, and He bears the good fruits of faith and love in you.

Such great things He does for you — the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and the power of the Most High overshadows you — by the ways and means of His grace, by His Word and Sacraments: By the waters of your Baptism, by His Word of Absolution, and by the gift of His Body and Blood.

The One who is with you in these means of grace — the Child conceived and born of St. Mary, the Man crucified under Pontius Pilate — He is the incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus, who saves you from your sins and gives you everlasting life with Himself and with His Father and the Holy Spirit.

He has made His place with you, even to the depths of your sin and death, that you might have your place with Him and share His Resurrection and Ascension.  He tabernacles with you here in His own flesh and blood, that you might live and abide with Him in body and soul forevermore.

His crucified and risen Body is the Ark of the New Covenant, and His Cup is the New Testament in His Blood.  In such frail tents of flesh and blood He dwells with you and all His people, from the rising of the sun to the place of its going down.  He is in and with His Church under the Cross.

St. Mary was under the Cross in that which the Lord called her to be and to do.  But the Lord was with her there.  When her husband doubted her, and her neighbors gossiped about her, and there was no place for her to give birth except a stable, and her sovereign (King Herod) chased her and her Child down, hunting them to kill them, even then the Lord was with her and preserved her life.

The life of the Lord Jesus was likewise under the Cross from the very beginning and throughout His years on earth.  He was not welcomed by His people.  He was mocked and despised.  He was beaten and put to death.  And yet, by His death He has conquered sin, death, the devil, and hell.

So it is that His Cross, which is now also laid upon you — given to you in your Baptism, given to you by His Word — His Cross does not destroy you.  Even under the Cross — especially under the Cross — you are His own, and you are kept safe.  You have peace and rest with God in Christ.

Believe that to be so.  And believing His Word, live as He has called you.  Whatever He has given you to do, do it with confidence.  Do it with joy, even in the midst of suffering.  The world is full of sin and death, but it cannot rob you of that which is yours in Christ Jesus.  All of its many and devious lies cannot destroy the Word of Christ which He has spoken to you, which is the Truth.

Let it be for you according to His Word.  He has named you with His Name, and you are His own.  Your sins are all forgiven.  This is most certainly true.  The Lord your God loves you, and He will never leave you or forsake you.  He is the Savior of sinners.  He is your Savior and your King, that you might live with Him in His Kingdom, in the House of His God and Father forever and ever.

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

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