20 March 2019

To Speak the Truth of God, as You Are Spoken To

Words are inherently powerful, for God Himself is Verbal.  Indeed, the Son of God is the personal Word of God the Father from eternity, and it is by and through the speaking of that divine Word that all things in heaven and on earth are created and sustained.  That same Word of God in the Flesh is the very Image and Likeness of God in whom you are created, and for whom you exist.

The Lord your God does all things by and through His Word.  The Father speaks the Son as the full gift and revelation of Himself, and with that speaking of His Son the Father breathes and bestows the living and life-giving Holy Spirit into His good creation.  That is who God is, and that is how He works, from all eternity within Himself, and from the beginning of all time and space.

So has the Lord created you by His Word.  He gives you life by His Word, and He sustains your body and life by His Word.  More than that, He reveals and gives Himself to you by the speaking of His Word.  For all that, the words that you speak and use are likewise powerful.  They have the potential to serve and sustain life.  But so do they also have the potential to damage and destroy.

You know the significance of words, although you often speak without considering the impact or consequences of what you say to others.  You know the energizing comfort and healing balm of kind and supportive words, and you know the sting and shame of insults and accusations.  You know that words, be they true or false, can make all the difference; they can make or break a life.

All of this is true within the context of this world, in this body and life on earth, and in all of your personal relationships.  From infancy, even from the womb, to your death bed and final breaths, words constitute and define your connections and interactions with family, friends, and neighbors of all kinds.  And words are no less vitally important and necessary to your spiritual life and well-being.  Your relationship with God, your righteousness before Him, and your life within His Holy Church, the Body and Bride of Christ Jesus, all depend upon the hearing and speaking of words.

Not just any words will do, nor simply words that happen to be true, but the right words rightly spoken, the right words at the right time.  You are capable of speaking such words, because you are created in the Image and Likeness of God, the Word-made-Flesh.  But such words and such speaking do not originate from within yourself, far less from within your fallen flesh.  They come to you from the Creator, the Author and Giver of Life, who speaks to you by Christ, the Son.

Do not presume to know or understand the Word of the Lord by your own reason, wisdom, or instinct.  And do not suppose that your zeal and passionate enthusiasm will carry the day and see you through.  Apart from the knowledge of Christ and His righteousness everything will crash and burn and come to ruin.  But such knowledge is bestowed solely by His Word and Holy Spirit, by the preaching and hearing of His Word, by the faith and confession of the Word of Christ Jesus.

The Word that you are given by your Father to confess — the Word by which you call upon His Name in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving — is the Word of Christ, the Word-made-Flesh who has drawn near to you.  It is the Word that is preached to you by the grace of God in this place, from this pulpit, week by week throughout the year.  It is the Word that you fathers and mothers are given to speak in turn to your children, to pray with and for your children, in order to teach your children what is good and right and true, and to catechize them in the way of life and salvation.

It is not only the little children or the confirmands who need to be catechized (and are catechized), but you also are catechized by the preaching and teaching of the Word of the Lord throughout your Christian life.  It is by that ongoing catechesis of His Word that you are and live as His disciple, as you are given His Word and taught by His Spirit to keep His Word at all times and in all places, that is, to believe and trust His promises, and to live according to all that He has commanded you.

You are catechized to and from the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism, and daily by His Word He returns you to the content and significance of that one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins in His Name.  The Creed is basic and fundamental to this ongoing catechesis.  Not only as an ancient and beautiful summary of the Church’s faith and confession of the Holy Triune God and His great salvation in Christ Jesus, but also because it is so deeply rooted and embedded in Holy Baptism.  The Creed originated in the most basic baptismal rites, confessing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in whose Name you are baptized, and the Life that is from that one true God alone.

The heart and center of both the Creed and Holy Baptism is the Word-made-Flesh, crucified and risen from the dead.  He is the One who preaches to you and catechizes you by His preaching, even as He Himself is the Word who is preached to you by His called and ordained servants.  It is not simply the once-upon-a-time of His life and ministry, His teaching and miracles, His dying and rising, though the history is solid and true, factual and real.  But the preaching and teaching here and now, to and from the Font, to and from the Altar, convey to you the Lord Christ Himself in the present tense, along with all the fruits and benefits of His Cross and Resurrection from the dead.

Consequently, because your crucified and risen Lord Jesus is actively present in the catechesis of His Word, it calls you and brings you daily to repentance and faith.  It puts you to death by the Law and raises you to newness of life by the Gospel.  It thereby also teaches you and trains you in the way of confession and absolution, not only with your pastor according to his office as a minister of Christ Jesus, but so also within your home and family and with all of your neighbors.  It is by His Word that you examine yourself and acknowledge your sins, and by His Word that you fear, love, and trust in Him, hope in His mercy, and actively rely upon the promise of His Resurrection.

It is easy to be afraid as the Word of the Lord has its way with you, as it exposes your sins and calls you to be honest with yourself, with God, and with your neighbors.  It is a scary thing to say out loud what you would prefer to keep hidden in the dark, the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of which you are ashamed.  The Law of God not only threatens but actually does put you to death for your sins, it crucifies and buries you in the dust.  He has the authority to condemn you forever.

Even so, do not be afraid.  Fear the Lord your God, to be sure.  But do not be afraid of Him; that is to say, do not cower in terror of Him.  Rather, repent of your sins in the confidence of His grace.  Confess your sins in the certainty of His forgiveness.  For His Word has revealed His mercy and opened His great heart of love to you in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, who has been given into death for your sins, and who is risen from the dead and lives forever as your Righteousness and Holiness, your Innocence and Blessedness.  He is true God in the flesh, the Author and Giver of Life, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, not only to condemn you for your sins, but to forgive you all your sins, to raise you from the dead, and to save you for eternal life with Himself.

As God the Father has spoken to you by His Son, so by His Spirit and with His Church you confess “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  That is the sure and certain hope and the promise by which you find the courage to face up to the fact of your own sin and to brave the assaults and accusations of the devil, the world, and your own flesh against you.

It is not your own word that you speak, it is not your own work that you perform, but it is the Word and work of God that you cling to and confess by faith in Christ Jesus.  To “confess,” as you do in the Creed and in your Christian life, is to “speak together” and to “say the same thing.”  With the Creed, in particular, you speak together with and say the same thing as the Holy Christian Church of all times and in all places.  But so do you also speak together with and say the same thing as the Lord your God.  You echo back to Him and say to the world what He has said to you.

You speak as the Lord has spoken to you, because His Word alone is sure and certain and true.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of God in Christ will never pass away.  The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.  It is that very Word which is preached to you, which opens your lips to show forth His praise in the confession of His Name.

Thus, you confess what is true concerning yourself according to the Word of the Lord, the Law and the Gospel; that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and salvation, and that you are redeemed by Christ the Crucified, baptized and absolved in His Name, and fed from His hand at His Table.

And you confess what is true concerning God according to the Self-revelation of His Word; that He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, that He has become Flesh and tabernacles with you in His Church, that He daily and richly forgives your sins and cleanses you of all unrighteousness, and that He shall raise you from the dead in glory at the last, as surely as Christ Himself is risen.

It is by such confession of His Word that you offer right sacrifices, the fruit of lips that praise His Name in the Spirit and the Truth.  So, too, by the confession of His Word you exercise fear, love, and trust in the Lord; you strengthen and sustain your faith in Christ; you serve and support your neighbor with that which matters most; and you catechize your family and friends in the true faith.

That is why you keep His Word in your ears and before your eyes; you bind His Word to your body and soul, within your head, and upon your heart; and you speak His Word daily to your children.

Do not be afraid of what anyone else might think or say or do in response to your confession.  But fear the Lord your God, with whom there is forgiveness, and so confess His Word no matter how unpopular it may be.  For His Word is Spirit and Truth, and it is by His Word alone that you have life in body and soul, here and now and forever hereafter.  But to deny and contradict His Word is to cut yourself off from His Life and His Salvation, and thus to condemn yourself in unbelief.

Bear in mind, again, that words are inherently powerful.  They not only express what is already in your heart and mind, but they shape and strengthen your thoughts and feelings, either in the Truth or in falsehood.  Even those private conversations that you have in the dark or in your own head have a way of taking over your whole outlook and perspective, your thinking, and your actions.  Therefore, do not allow your sin to control and direct your speaking, but remain silent, and do not speak at all, until you have first of all listened to the Lord, that you might then speak His Word.

Do not rattle on with your own vain words, nor spew forth the lies that proceed from out of your own sinful heart and head.  Do not echo what is evil, nor persist in hypocrisy, but rehearse what the Lord has spoken, and let your life demonstrate the love of God that you profess with your lips.

Do not be anxious or afraid, and do not wonder and worry about how or what you are to speak.  The Lord Himself teaches you to confess and pray, and the Holy Spirit gives you the very words to say.  Not by some sort of strange osmosis, nor by any mysterious download from the clouds, but by the preaching and teaching of Christ Jesus, by the daily catechesis of His Word and prayer — at home within your family and here within the House of God — from infancy, even to the grave.

That Word of the Lord is living and active, it does what it says, and it gives what it promises.  As it opens up your ears to hear, so does it open your heart to believe and your mouth to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Thus are you justified by faith in His Word, and so do you call upon His Name according to the promise of His mercy, unto the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.

That Word of Christ is very near to you.  It is in your ears right now, and by His grace it is in your heart and on your lips, as well.  He’s by your side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit!  And with His Word He guards and keeps your body and soul in His grace and loving-kindness.  He causes you to live and abide in safety, and to lie down and sleep in peace.  For you are more valuable to Him than many sparrows, and you are not forgotten but remembered before God.

Has He not redeemed you by His mighty arm and outstretched hand?  Not with gold or silver, but with His own holy and precious blood, with His innocent suffering and death; that you might be His very own, and live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him without fear in righteousness and holiness forever.  So has He brought you in by the way of His Cross and Resurrection in the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism.  And so does He bestow upon you by His Word and with His Word-made-Flesh in all the testimonies, statutes, and judgments which He speaks to you, which you by His grace and Spirit confess in the presence of His God and Father.

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

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