25 March 2019

The New Creation of Man in the Image and Likeness of God

Your life depends entirely upon the Lord God Almighty, the Maker and Preserver of the heavens and the earth and of all that is in them.  He is your Creator, and He is the One who sustains you in His mercy.  He daily and richly provides you with all that you need for this body and life on earth.

For all that, in spite of all that, your sin has separated you from God.  Not only the sin that you have inherited from your parents, all the way back to Adam and Eve, but the sin that you have yourself committed in thought, word, and deed throughout your life.  Your sin has set you upon a downward spiral of death and damnation, from which you cannot set yourself free.  It has turned your heart and mind away from God and cut you off from the life with Him for which you have been created.  And there is nothing you can do about it.  You cannot sustain your body and life or save yourself.

As you get older, you begin to feel it, even if you would rather deny it.  The pain in your muscles, in your bones, and in your body cannot be denied.  As a teenager you may have thought you would live forever, but the older you get, the more aware and fearful you become of your mortality and coming death.  For the fact is that you are dying.  From the moment you were born, indeed, from the first moment of your conception, you have been returning to the dust.  And you cannot stop it.

But the Lord your God, who created the heavens and the earth in divine and holy love, who created the Man and Woman in His Image and Likeness, who brought you into existence and breathed life into your body and soul, He has taken every initiative to save you from your sin and death by His divine grace.  He takes action on your behalf.  He moves to save you, prompted solely by His love for you, because He Himself is Love.  He accomplishes your salvation for you from start to finish.

What that entails, first of all, is that He has obtained the forgiveness of all your sins.  He has dealt with them and taken them away, making Atonement for them at His own expense.  Furthermore, His great salvation entails calling you back to Himself in repentance, and restoring you to Himself in faith and love.  He woos you to Himself and joins you to Himself forever.  It is for this union and fellowship that He has created you, that you should live in and with Him forever.

It is this divine, eternal life and salvation that the Lord has begun to accomplish and set into motion with the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that daughter of David in the city of Nazareth.  As the Angel speaks the Word of God into St. Mary’s ears, she receives into her womb the very Son of God, and He receives a Body for Himself from her flesh and blood.

So it is that, by His Word and Holy Spirit, the Lord God Almighty brings about a New Creation, this time not starting from scratch, not out of nothing (ex nihilo), but from St. Mary’s womb, from her own flesh and blood, which she herself received from Adam and Eve and so shares with all of us children of man.  In her womb the one true God becomes true Man, a Human Being, a Person of the same flesh and blood — just like you in every way, save only without any sins of His own.

In Him, therefore, God and Man are perfectly united and permanently joined together.  In the Child conceived and born of St. Mary, in the Person of the incarnate Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ — already as a tiny little Fetus in His Mother’s womb — God and Man have become one.

So it is in the one Lord, Jesus Christ, that your life and fellowship with God are forever to be found.

For your part, however, your sin would still separate you from God and prevent you from coming to Him, prevent you from finding your life in Him, and prevent you from abiding in communion with Him.  The fellowship of God and Man is perfectly established and permanent in Christ Jesus, the Son of God and Mary’s Son.  But the brokenness of the fall yet remains in your mortal flesh, in your sinful heart, mind, body, and soul.  That breach must be remedied and repaired, and you must be recreated and renewed in the Image and Likeness of God, if you are to live in Him.

To that end, the Son of God has not only become the true and perfect Man, but He was born under the Law in order to redeem those who were under the Law; and He subjected Himself, His flesh and blood, to the curse and consequences of sin and death, not by compulsion but in love.  Thus did He become and offer Himself as the Sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the whole world, in order to reconcile the whole world of lost sinners to His God and Father.  He received a Body for Himself, in order to offer His Body into death.  There is Blood running through His veins already in His Mother’s womb, that He might shed that Blood for you and all upon the Cross of Calvary.

It is there on the Cross, by His innocent suffering and death, and by His holy and precious Blood,  that He redeems you for Himself, for life with God in the righteousness of His Resurrection from the dead.  He has both suffered and repaired the brokenness of the fall into sin in His own Body.

All of this He has done for you, and for all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, because He has done so in human flesh and blood like your own, that which He received from His Mother Mary.  This isn’t science fiction!  Women have no other sort of babies than real human babies, as you once were.  That is what your Mama bore, and that is what your Lord became, who offered Himself on the Cross, bearing in His Body all of your sins, all of your iniquities and transgressions, all of your frailties, failings, weaknesses, and shame.  He has borne them all and dealt with every one of them.

It is by and from His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, by the Ministry of His Word, that He now calls you to repentance, to die and rise with Him as a new creation, reconciled to God by grace through faith in His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.  That is the great salvation which He bestows upon you by His grace alone.  For His Word of the Gospel sounds forth from the Cross to the ends of the earth — even here and now to you — calling you to faith, calling you to life, calling you out of the darkness of your sin and death into the marvelous Light of His Love.

The truth is that, by and through the Ministry of His Gospel, He approaches you with a salutation much like the Word with which He greeted the Blessed Virgin Mary in Nazareth.  He has sent His angel (His messenger) to you, to announce His gracious favor upon you, to speak Himself into your ears, into your heart, mind, soul, and spirit, and to give His own flesh and blood into your body.

By this Word of His Gospel, by this preaching of Christ and His forgiveness, the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and the Power of the Most High overshadows you, to bring forth faith in your heart, to give you new life in Christ, and to recreate you in Him who is the Image and Likeness of God.

So it is, in all that transpires within this Holy Gospel, that St. Mary is set before you as an example of faith — a beautiful example of faith by the grace of God — and as a living icon of the Church, the Bride of Christ and the Mother of all the children of God.  For as St. Mary conceived and gave birth to the Son of God, so does the Church give birth to sons of God in Christ by the same Word and Spirit of God, by the preaching and catechesis of His Word unto repentance and faith in His forgiveness of sins, and by the Sacrament of Holy Baptism in His Name.  It is by these ways and means that you also have been conceived and born again as a son of God in Christ Jesus, the Lord.

And in this holy Christian Church, in the Sacrament of the Altar, as again this evening in this very Feast, you are fed with the same flesh and blood of St. Mary’s holy Child, the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, who thereby comes to make His dwelling in you, in your mortal body.

This Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High — who has become the Son of His father Jacob, the Son of His father David, the Son of His blessed Mother, St. Mary — He comes to you as the true God and the true Man, to reign over you forever and ever in love and mercy, grace and peace.

But how can this be?  How can it possibly be true?

There is so much in your life, both within and without, in the world around you, and in your own day-to-day life, which seems to contradict and deny this Word of the Gospel, so that it makes no sense at all.  Above all, your sins and the stark fact of your mortality threaten to undermine your life with God in Christ.  All of your senses, your reason and experience scream that you are still dying, that you are still a sinner, a child of the dust, and that God must surely be angry with you, or else there is no God at all.  That is what your intellect and intuition argue and insist.

And of yourself, to be sure, there would be no hope.  For without God, nothing is possible.

But His Word is not only true, it is powerful; it does and gives exactly what He says.  His Word and promises to you are as sure and certain, as solid and real as the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself the very Word of God made Flesh for you and your salvation, who has been crucified for your sins, who is risen from the dead and lives and reigns forever as your righteousness and holiness in the presence of His God and Father.  His Word and His Work are established for you in His Body.

The New Creation in Christ Jesus is not “out of nothing.”  For the Lord in His mercy has not done away with the sons and daughters of man and started over, but He has redeemed His good creation from the inside-out, in and with His own humanity, which He received for Himself from St. Mary.  So, it is not “out of nothing.”  But it is no less majestic and mysterious.  For His Word still does all things and makes it so.  His Word establishes what is.  You are who and what He says you are: God’s own child, baptized into Christ Jesus, adopted by His Father, anointed by His Holy Spirit.

It is not what you do, but what He does, that determines your identity and righteousness.  It is not what you think or feel or experience, but what He says, that establishes your life and salvation and your place in the household and family of God.  It is His Word that has recreated you in the Image and Likeness of God in Christ Jesus.  It is His Word that has given you the new birth of water and the Spirit in your Holy Baptism.  It is His Word that feeds your flesh and blood with His, though what your senses see and smell and taste is only the bread and wine.  It is His Word that sustains your body and life in this world, and His Word that daily and richly forgives you all of your sins.

Against all odds and all expectations, in the face of human knowledge and modern know-how, and contrary to all the threats and assaults of sin, death, the devil, and hell, the Lord Himself is with you.  He loves you, and His favor rests upon you, so that you might rest in His grace, mercy, and peace by faith in His Gospel.  He speaks, and it is so!  Your sins are all forgiven.  You shall not die but live in Him, both body and soul, now and forever.  Even so, let it be to you according to His Word!

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

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