28 April 2019

The Peace of the Lord Be with You Always

Here is Solomon’s Portico, where the King of Peace, the Son of David, reigns over you in love and bestows His abiding Peace upon you — such Peace as this world does not know and cannot give.

The world knows peace only as a cease fire, an uneasy truce, a delicate balance between competing interests and conflicting parties.  It is little more than the patching of that which remains broken.

The brokenness is not only in the world around you but in your own heart, mind, body, and soul.  It is a deep and deadly wound within your self, which you cannot fix or repair on your own.  Nor is there any true or lasting peace to be found in trying to deny or run away from your brokenness.

Genuine Peace is not something you can have all by yourself in isolation.  It is a relationship of love and trust and communication.  It is not a balance of power but an exercise of real fellowship, a community of persons living together in harmony and cooperating in common cause.  Even if you may long for personal “peace and quiet,” there is no true peace apart from God and your neighbor.

You have no peace, therefore, so long as you are at enmity with God.  And you are at odds with Him, separated from Him by your sins and unbelief.  So you are plagued with doubts and fears, and you are anxious and restless, because you do not fear, love, and trust in the Lord as your Savior.

As a consequence of your enmity with God, to the extent that you are at not at Peace with Him in your heart, mind, body, and soul, you are at odds with your neighbors in the world, as well.  You are not at peace with the people around you but nervous, uneasy, and always on your guard.  Even with your nearest and dearest kin, there are conflicts, frustrations, misunderstandings, and stress.

Those first disciples struggled with the same things.  Do not suppose those men were superhuman or all that different from yourself.  Their Office is according to Christ’s Call, but their flesh is like your own.  Their hearts also trembled with anxiety, apprehension, and their own doubts and fears.

But so, too, for you now as it was for the disciples then, it is the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ that reconciles you to God and your neighbor, strengthens and sustains your faith, and gives you rest.

The Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the Church have therefore taught you to pray for that Peace of Christ.  Consider how often the Liturgy places on your lips a prayer for Peace — and then also how the Lord answers that prayer with His Liturgy: “The Peace of the Lord be with you always.”

Here in your midst, in this gathering of His disciples in the Upper Room of His Church on earth, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus stands before you in His flesh and blood.  He opens Himself and gives Himself to you, forgives all your sins, and breathes His Holy Spirit into your body and soul.

See how patient and how gentle He is with you.  He does not scold you.  He does not lecture you.  Though He admonishes you with His Law, even this He does in love for you.  He does not harden His heart against you, although you have hardened your heart against Him.  Rather, with that same grace and mercy by which He came down from heaven and humbled Himself unto death, so does He come to love and serve you here within His Church.  He speaks Peace to your troubled heart.

He speaks His perfect Peace to those fears that haunt your mind, disturb your dreams and give you nightmares, and complicate your relationships.  He speaks His Peace into those circumstances in which you are so afraid of speaking, lest you be misunderstood and hurt.  And He speaks His Word of Peace in response to all those difficult and hurtful things that others have said and done to you.

He speaks His Peace in the face of that terrible weight of sadness that otherwise threatens to drag you down into the darkness of despair and death.  He thus addresses the fearful insecurity and the nagging paranoia that would drive you away from your brothers and sisters and cause you to retreat and flee from your Savior and your God.  He calls you back from the brink of despair to Himself.

Take note of this fact, and bear it in mind as a cautionary warning: The only thing that separated Thomas from the other disciples is the fact that he was not there where the disciples were gathered.

Over this past week we have heard again the various accounts of the Resurrection from each of the four Evangelists, and it is so striking that, over and over again, all of the disciples were doubtful and unbelieving.  They refused to believe the reports of the Resurrection from those who had seen the Lord.  And even when He stood in their presence, they could not believe it because it seemed too good to be true.  They repeatedly supposed that Jesus was a ghost, a disembodied spirit.  They did not know what to think, so they stood there gaping, open-mouthed, until Jesus did the same thing for them that He did for Thomas on the Eighth Day: He showed them His hands and His feet and His side.  He opened up His wounds to them, and in that way He called them to rejoice.

It is by those holy wounds of Christ that He has mended and made whole what was broken in you.  He has taken your brokenness upon Himself, He has gathered it up into His own Body of flesh and blood, and He has suffered it all.  But it has not broken Him.  Not a bone of Him was broken, nor His faith in God, nor His righteousness and trust, not even in His death.  He bore that brokenness in Himself, in His Body on the Cross.  And yet, God raised this same Christ Jesus from the dead.

So, if your own heart is not at peace, know this, that God’s heart is at peace toward you.  If you are afraid of Him, if you are troubled by your sins, if you do not know where to turn, if you are lost and lonely, if you are in conflict with your neighbor, take it to heart that God the Lord is at peace with you.  He has reconciled you and all the world to Himself in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son.

The Lord Jesus has borne the weight of all your sins and all of their deadly consequences.  He has borne the weight of those sins which you commit and those sins which are committed against you.  And He has not allowed those sins to prevail or triumph.  Nor has death prevailed or triumphed.

In His own Body (just like yours), and with His own holy and precious Blood, by the wounds that He suffered — by these means of Christ you are made whole.  Your iniquities are forgiven.  Your sorrows are soothed.  Your sicknesses are healed.  For Christ has atoned for all your sins.

The holy and precious Blood of Christ Jesus is the very life of God — which He has given for you.  The Lord your God has done it willingly.  He has made Himself weak in the strength of His mercy.

The incarnate Son of God has atoned for all your sins and reconciled you to His God and Father.  And now, see here what a foolish thing this same Lord Jesus does.  He gives Himself to these men, these disciples, these flawed and trembling men.  He opens up His wounds to them.  And He sends these weak and weary, wounded men to preach a Word the world despises, a Word that sounds so utterly insane.  It is a Word that stands fast against sin, death, and hell — a Word that rescues you.

They are weak and weary men.  They are doubtful and afraid.  But Jesus rescues them and sends them in His Name.  Thus, by the hands of His Apostles many signs and wonders were performed among the people.  All those who were sick or sorrowful, who were filled with unclean spirits and with illness in their bodies and their souls, all of them were healed by the Word of Christ.  So did the Apostles preach, and so did they write what they have written that you may believe and live.

Such are the signs which Jesus has performed, and which He still performs now.  The Acts of the Apostles are the acts of Jesus.  They are what Jesus continues to do and say to His Church on earth.  By the Words of His Apostles, even to this day, the signs of Christ are performed in your midst.

Now, there are many other signs which Jesus has done among His disciples, many of which belong to other times and places.  But there are these Signs which are done here and now for you in His Name, at His Word, that you may have faith and life in Him, and Peace, and health, and strength.

See the signs which He performs, which He gives to you from and with and in His Holy wounds.  See how, as He breathed His last and gave up His Spirit on the Cross, here He breathes His Spirit into you.  Christ breathes into your nostrils, and you become a living being in both body and soul.

To begin with, there is in this Holy Gospel that means of grace and forgiveness which the Small Catechism has called the Office of the Keys and Confession.  So, then, consider why it is that Jesus gives this special authority to His Church on earth, that His called and ordained servants should hear your confession of sins and speak His personal Word of forgiveness into your ears and life.

Why does He do this thing?  It is because there is special comfort in laying your sins before God and hearing His Word of Absolution, and receiving the comfort of those shepherds whom He has given to care for His sheep.  It is by and with the Word of Holy Absolution, spoken in His Name and stead, that your dear Lord Jesus Christ breathes His living and Life-giving Holy Spirit into you, so that all of your sins, all of your sicknesses and sorrows, your anxieties, doubts, and fears, are assuaged and removed.  Thus are you strengthened and lifted up in faith, just as Thomas was.

In response to his audacious request, Jesus invites Thomas to go ahead, to stick his fingers into the nail wounds, to stick his hand into the spear wound.  And the same Lord Jesus does no less for you.  In the waters of your Holy Baptism, by His Word and Holy Spirit, you also have been tucked into His open side, grafted into His Body as a new branch of the true Vine.  Warts and all, wounds and all, you are grafted into Christ Jesus.  And in Him you have Peace with God and Sabbath Rest.

And here, too, at His Altar, He opens up His hands to you, to give you His own Body to eat, to pour out His Blood for you to drink.  And again, in this New Testament of His Body and Blood you have Peace with God in Christ — Peace that surpasses anything this world could ever know.  For in the fellowship of His Body, by the Atonement and cleansing of His holy, precious Blood, you are reconciled to His God and Father through the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

It is in that Peace with God in Christ that you have real joy and gladness, even in the midst of sin and death all around you.  So are you also able to live in Peace with your neighbors in the world, because you live in Christ.  Confident and courageous in Christ Jesus, you are able to comfort your weary, weak, and wounded brothers and sisters, and to forgive those who trespass against you.

It is in the Peace of Christ that you are able to bear reproach, knowing that God will vindicate you.  You speak Peace to those who hate you, and in patience you pray for those who persecute you, with love and mercy and compassion.  You do not harden your heart against others, because God does not harden His heart against you but deals with you in long-suffering patience and in Peace.

You have this Peace and comfort in Christ Jesus; and so you are able to do for your neighbors the same thing the other disciples did for Thomas after that first day of the week when he was absent.  They spoke to him the Gospel: “We have seen the Lord!”

And you can do the same.  Not as an eyewitness of the Resurrection, but as one who has heard and received the mercies of God in Christ Jesus in the Liturgy of His Gospel, in His Body given and His Blood poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins, unto Life and Salvation in Him.  So, by all means, proclaim these good things of the Lord to your family, friends, and neighbors, and bring them with you into the Lord’s House, to be here in the Upper Room on the Lord’s Day.

Encourage them to come with you, and bring them along, not as a work of merit, but in order to find and receive mercy in the Lord who loves both you and them.  Here there is Peace and Sabbath Rest — and how could you not share that with your neighbors?  Even if they seem incredulous, cynical, and skeptical, don’t despair, and don’t give up.  Who knows how that first week was for Thomas and the other disciples?  But he was there with them on the Eighth Day.  And in spite of his doubts, he was met by the Lord Jesus and raised up from his unbelief to the holiness of faith.

The same Lord Jesus meets you here in His mercy.  And these things have been written that you may believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God; that by such faith you may have life in Him.

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

26 April 2019

He Has Risen, Just as He Said

The Word of the Lord has been fulfilled, and the purpose of His good creation has been perfected, in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.  He has obtained and established Sabbath Rest for the people of God, sanctified the graves of His saints, and opened up the eternal Eighth Day of everlasting Life for both the soul and the body of His Christians.

So, what’s the problem?

There is not simply doubt and unbelief, but an outright refusal to believe on the part of so many people.  Even the disciples of Jesus, though they love Him, they still go looking for Him in all the wrong places.  And you are no different and no better.  You also look for Jesus in the grave, among the dead, that is to say, in the dying things of this fallen world.  But you will not find Him there.

There is also a persistent fear, as much or more than anything else, in response to the Resurrection of the Lord.  And in that fear is found the height of sin and the utter perversity of unbelief.

Such hardness of heart and debilitating fear belong to the curse and consequences of sin, which are at work in your heart and life, in your body and soul, as well.

You are doubtful, despairing, and afraid, even in the face of the Resurrection, though your sin is forgiven and death has been defeated.  And you keep on looking for help in all the wrong places.

Thank the Lord that He does not leave you to wallow in your misguided misery and fatal attempts at self-medication.  Instead, He deals with your sins, and He saves you from them by His Gospel.

The Cross of Christ has atoned for all of your sins, and the Resurrection of the Crucified One is your Righteousness and Life with God.  So, then, by the preaching of His Cross and Resurrection in His Name and stead, He calls you to repentance and to faith in His forgiveness of your sins.

It is likewise the Word and preaching of His Gospel that points you to Christ Jesus and gives Him to you.  Not so much that it gives you directions for finding Him, but that He Himself finds you!

He has gone ahead of you, in order to blaze the trail and open the way for you, through death and the grave into the Resurrection and eternal Life.  But He has not left you alone and lonely, helpless and afraid.  He meets you on the way, and He speaks (again and again) His gracious Word to you.

And as the Cross and Resurrection were accomplished and fulfilled, just as He said, so the Words and promises that He speaks to you by the Gospel are full of the Spirit, the Truth, and the Life.

Thus, you can be sure and certain of the “Galilee” to which He sends you, where He meets you:

It is the Church of His Gospel–Word and Sacraments, on earth as it is in heaven.

It is the washing of the water with His Word and Holy Spirit in your Holy Baptism, which remains in effect and saves you, not only here in time, but for eternity hereafter in body and soul.

So, too, it is the spoken Word of Holy Absolution, by which He forgives you all your sins.

And it is the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus in the Holy Communion, given and poured out for you, that you may eat and drink, and abide in Him, and He abide in you, unto Life everlasting.  Behold, that is where He is with you always, and where you lay hold of Him and worship Him.

Do not be afraid!  Here is the One who is your Righteousness and Holiness, your perfect Peace and Sabbath Rest.  Taste and see that the Lord is good, and that He has risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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

24 April 2019

Come and Eat What Christ Has Provided and Prepared

The Lord Jesus Christ has loved His own, even to the end.  He has sacrificed Himself for them, for you and all the world, and has finished His good work of Redemption by His Cross and Passion.

And now, in the New Creation of His Resurrection from the dead, He manifests Himself to His disciples, to His Church on earth, by His own ways and means of the Gospel: By the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name, by the washing of water with His Word and Holy Spirit, and by the Holy Supper of His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you.

Even so, the pattern we have begun to see continues, and you see it in yourself, as well.  That is to say, the very ones who should know better — the disciples of the Lord Jesus, who have been so well-catechized and fed by His Word, and who have already witnessed His Resurrection — they fail to recognize Him, and they do not know Him, though He appears to them and beckons to them.

It’s not simply a case of mistaken identity, nor is it a matter of appearance and familiarity.  But, no, there is too much that clouds their hearts and minds and veils their sight, as though they were still trapped and wandering in the wilderness of Lent.  That is why they do not know the Man.

It is, therefore, a call to repentance: from ignorance to acknowledgment, and from unbelief to faith.

In the present case at hand, even after the Lord Jesus is identified, there are multiple echoes and reminders of Simon Peter’s denials, which are not unlike your own foibles and failures, your own sins and transgressions of which you are ashamed.  Consequently, there is a restless tension in the air, extending from that little boat out on the water to the place where Jesus stands on the shore.

What’s going to happen?  What will Jesus do or say?  And where will Simon Peter go from here?

There is a powerful temptation, for pastors and people alike, to suppose that Easter is now “over,” and thus to go back to your own works and occupations, to business as usual.  Oddly enough, that is typical of the way that all of us poor sinners avoid the truth and its uncomfortable significance.

Like Simon Peter jumping out of the boat, swimming to shore, and then hauling all those fish all by himself, you throw yourself back into your routines and schedules, and you work like mad to catch up on your to-do list, trying to prove yourself, and acting as though the Resurrection never happened, or as though it made no practical difference to life, the universe, or anything at all.

Which is not to say that your earthly occupations are wrong, nor even that rest and relaxation and good-hearted fun are somehow misplaced or sinful.  All of those things belong to the good gifts of God, which you are given to receive and use in faith and love to the glory of His holy Name.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, work or play, or whatever you do, whatever your pursuits in this life may be, live as a citizen of God’s Kingdom and as a stranger and pilgrim here on earth.

In your vocation as a child of God, as a baptized Christian, a disciple of Christ Jesus, and in all of your various stations in life, wherever the Lord has placed you, let all of your days and your deeds be guided and governed by His Word to you.  Otherwise you labor in vain and catch nothing.

Apart from the Word of Jesus, you cannot even recognize Him; you do not know Him, far less do you “have” Him.  And apart from Christ Jesus and His Word, you are not able to do or accomplish anything of significance or value.  All of your own works and efforts will add up to a big fat zero.

Thanks be to God, and Christ be praised, therefore, that He manifests Himself to you in peace.  For that is what the Lord Jesus does in response to your doubts and fears, your denials and failures.

He comes to make Himself known to you in mercy and compassion, to reveal Himself and give Himself to you by the Gospel.  He calls out to you, and He calls you to Himself.  He catches you in His net by His preaching of repentance unto faith in His forgiveness of sins; and so does He bring you aboard the Boat of His Church, the Holy Ark of Christendom.  Not only once upon a time, but day by day throughout your life, as often as you fail and fall short, He recalls you to the significance of your Baptism, and He raises you up in His Resurrection to a new life in Him.

The One who turned the water into wine, who fed the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, who fed the disciples and washed their feet, and opened His wounds to them, and breathed His Spirit upon them — He is the One who also washes you and cleanses you with His forgiveness of your sins.

So, too, this crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ invites you to recline here at His Table, to be fed from His own hand the Meal of His Body and His Blood, which He has provided and prepared for you by His own hard work and efforts, by the sweat of His brow and His death upon the Cross.

He was crucified for your transgressions, and He has been raised for your justification.  And look, He makes all things brand new in the Resurrection of His Body from the dead.  He has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, with which He blesses you in both soul and body.

Of yourself, you have nothing to eat, do you?  Nothing of your own that will satisfy your hunger.  But come, eat and drink what Jesus has prepared for you.  All things are now made ready in Him.

Lift up your heart and mind to Christ here at His Altar, which is for you the shore between heaven and earth.  It is the very Paradise of God.  For here you are freely and fully forgiven.  Here you are fed and given Life with God in Christ, who knows you and loves you in mercy, now and forever.

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

23 April 2019

The Resurrection of All Flesh in the Body of Christ Jesus

On the one hand, you are tempted and prone to idolize, worship, and serve your flesh, whether as a child craving toys, candy, or dessert, or as an adult craving food and drink, material possessions, fancy cars, fine clothing, or creature comforts of whatever kind appeal to your personal tastes.

On the other hand, you find out early on just how fragile, fleeting, and unreliable your flesh is.  As a child you experience hunger and thirst, discomfort and pain.  You know accidents and ouchies, punishments, weaknesses, and inabilities.  And as an adult you have to deal with your various inadequacies, failures, aches and pains, wounds and scars, fading glories, and lost opportunities.

Your fleeting and fickle relationship with your own flesh and that of the world around you is the evidence and outcome of the fall into sin, and of your own sinfulness and mortality.  Descended from Adam and Eve, you were conceived and born in sin, and death has stalked you ever since.

The irony is that, in your sin, you still desire and pursue that which is perishing and cannot give you life.  You invest yourself, your time, attention, energy, and money, in serving your fallen flesh and seeking that which is flesh, even though you already know that none of it will last forever or even for very long.  It does not and cannot satisfy you, but only increases your longing for more and more in a pointless pursuit that continues until it has driven you into the ground.

You love the flesh and long for it, even though it dies.  So you are driven by this constant appetite and hunger — of the flesh for the flesh — and yet, you do not trust the flesh, neither your own nor that which you idolize.  So you resent the hold that it has over you and your dependence on the flesh, because you know that it is going to fail you and that you are going to fail and fade with it.

I suppose that addicts and alcoholics know the feeling more acutely than most, but the problem is common to all the fallen children of Adam and Eve.  You make a false god of the flesh, and you spend your whole life worshiping the flesh, all the while it is dying and taking you along with it.

It therefore seems the height of piety and spirituality to disavow and avoid the flesh; to swear off the things of this body and life, and to discipline yourself to do without them; to deny and deprive your own flesh of pleasure, and to despise and demonize the good things of creation.  That attitude and approach seems good and right and spiritual, because it seems to be what the Law requires.

To be sure, the Word of the Law is harsh, and it threatens you with deadly fire.  It would strip you of all things, consume your clothing, and destroy your flesh.  So fierce is the Law that no one can draw near to it without being killed.  So it was that Israel cowered in fear at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  And so were those valiant and mighty warriors who cast Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego into the midst of the fiery furnace slain by its blazing heat.

But the curse and condemnation of the Law is not aimed at your flesh per se, nor at any flesh in particular, inasmuch as it is the creation of the Lord your God.  For all that He has made is good and right, to be received in faith and with thanksgiving, and sanctified by His Word and prayer.

No, what the Law condemns and puts to death is the sin that dwells within your members, that is, within your flesh, infecting and permeating your body and soul with unrighteousness.  That is the wickedness of idolatry and unbelief, which originates within your heart, abides within your will, and prevents you from living rightly in the flesh and receiving God’s good creation as He intends.

But now, all that has been written in His Law, all that He demands and requires, has been fulfilled and satisfied by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.  He has suffered and died in the flesh, cursed and crucified for the sins of the world.  And yet, God has raised Him bodily from the dead.

Not only in His Immaculate Conception and Holy Nativity, but also in His Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father, He possesses a body of flesh and bone, with blood and sinews, lips and teeth, tongue and stomach.  He is and remains forever a true Man, a Human Being just like yourself.  For He is the Word-made-Flesh who tabernacles with you.

He bore all of your sins, and the sins of the whole world, in His own Body on the Cross, even unto death; but, again, God raised this same Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, bodily from the dead.

His Flesh, therefore, did not suffer decay.  For His Flesh is Spirit and Life.  His holy Body and His precious Blood are immortal, imperishable, and glorious — as are you and your body in Him.

The  crucified and risen Lord Jesus is the Christ, anointed in His Flesh with the Life-giving Spirit of God.  Genuine piety and true spirituality thus derive from, depend upon, and live in His Body.

In Him, all things are pure, and all of Creation is made brand new; for the resurrection of all flesh has been accomplished in His Body.  That is why you are now able to receive the good gifts of God in faith and with thanksgiving, also for this body and life, and to sanctify them to yourself by the Word of Christ Jesus.  Indeed, all the earth with joy is sounding in His Resurrection from the dead.

He has entered the fire with you and for you, this Son of God in the flesh, so that you are spared from death and suffer no harm.  The Law cannot touch you or have any effect on you, because it is already satisfied by Christ.  He is your God in the flesh, who has conquered death forevermore.

And as you eat and drink with Him — the Meal of His Flesh and Blood — you are begotten of God in body and soul, and you live in Him, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting.

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

22 April 2019

The Word of Christ Brings You Home to His Body

Disciples of Emmaus, you know the things that have happened in these days, the things concerning Jesus Christ of Nazareth, His Cross and Passion and His Resurrection from the dead.  By His Cross He has redeemed you, forgiven all your sins, and conquered the power that death held over you.  And in His Resurrection, He has opened up heaven and eternal life to you and to all who believe in Him, for which He has poured out His Spirit generously upon your body and your soul.

How is it, then, that you are still so often sad?  Why should you be so angry or afraid of anything, discouraged or depressed, when Christ your Lord, the Son of God, has suffered these things for you and entered into His glory?  Knowing and confessing all that the Scriptures of the Prophets and Apostles have told you, why are you so foolish and slow of heart to believe the Gospel?

Here and now, in this body and life, you are making your way and muddling forward without a clear sense of where you really are or where you’re going.  The days and hours fly by, seemingly relentless, but you are living in a time between, restless and uncertain on a journey to your true home, which you can’t yet see or perceive.  Your heart, mind, and spirit are tossed about by the turmoil of this perishing world, and you are torn between death and life, between sin and faith, and between what you can and cannot see with your eyes.  You are caught between earth and heaven.

Here your senses too easily trick you and fool you, so that earthly things seem powerful, glorious, and heavenly, whereas heavenly things seem ghostly, ghastly, and hard to comprehend or bear.

You live by faith and not by sight along the way, and as such, your only real recourse is the Word of God: The Holy Scriptures of the Prophets and Apostles; the Holy Gospel of your Lord Jesus Christ, as written by His Holy Evangelists; and the Word of Christ Himself, the Word made Flesh.

Avail yourself of that Word.  Speak it to your neighbor, and ask that it be spoken to you.  Confess it and pray it as you go about your days, as you rise up in the morning, and as you go to bed again each night.  In particular, give attention to the preaching of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins.

I realize that it can seem pointless and useless to “talk about Jesus” in the face of all the hurts and disappointments that wear you out and weigh you down.  If that sounds impious to say, or even blasphemous, still, you know that it can feel that way, and that you often live as though it were so.

Consider how easily you are caught up in the maelstrom of this world with all of its anxieties and countless distractions.  Think about your daily routines, and how the duties and demands of your job, your classes, your house and home, your family, and all your neighbors roundabout, consume your attention and your energies, so that you end up living and acting as though the Resurrection never happened or did not matter — even now, when Holy Week has ushered you into Easter!

There are those days when you can barely keep yourself going, one foot in front of the other; and you may not feel like talking anymore, and you really don’t want to hear it, not even about Jesus.  That’s one of the main reasons that you dare not go it alone, lest you spiral into a silence of the Word of God and give yourself over to the constant buzz, nauseating static, and deadly white noise of your own inner dialogue, which does not believe but doubts and denies the Word of the Lord.

In spite of your nagging and persistent sadness, and no matter what you may be thinking or feeling at any given point, it is in the speaking of His Word — in the conversation about Jesus — that the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Himself draws near and travels right along with you.  In and with His Word, by and with His Holy Spirit, He is actively present and opens the Scriptures to you.

He opens up your ears to hear, and He opens up your heart and mind to comprehend and believe the Holy Gospel — to hear and receive the forgiveness of all your sins, which is the solution to all your doubts and fears, the remedy to every infirmity of your heart and mind, body, soul, and spirit.

What is more, it is by and with His Word of the Gospel that He brings you home, that is, to your true home, which is the household and family of God, the Body of Christ.  On the surface it may appear that He is coming to be your guest, but then it quickly turns about that He is actually the Host who takes you in, and cares for you, and serves you at His Table with His own hand.

With His Word and Holy Spirit, in His own Body of flesh and blood, He comes to make His home with you here — in order to make a home for you with Him — already now in His Church on earth, and so also in the resurrection of your body to the life everlasting in the Kingdom of heaven.

Here then, at His Altar in His House, is the lavish Table at which He tenderly invites you to recline and take your rest, to receive and feast upon the Meal that He has prepared for you and for the many.  He takes the bread, He gives thanks, and He gives to you what everyone is looking for and needs: Not the empty tomb, and not only the news and information of the Resurrection, but His own crucified and risen Body in the Breaking of the Bread, the Holy Communion of His Supper.

That is where the whole Christian Church on earth recognizes, receives, and worships her dear Lord Jesus Christ.  And that is where you also are at home and at rest: In the Body of Christ Jesus.

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

21 April 2019

Death Is Defeated and Life Reigns in the Body of Christ Jesus

In this life, in this fallen and perishing world, there is suffering and finally death.  Consequently, there is the pain and sorrow leading up to death, surrounding it, and following afterwards.  There is sad disappointment and bitter loss.  The best laid plans go awry, and too often they backfire.

You labor in vain.  You bear children for calamity.  You plant, but you do not reap or eat of it.  You build your house, but you do not dwell or live in it.

As a Christian, you hope in God, and you look to Him for good and better things.  You rightly pray to Him and cry out to Him for mercy.  But you wonder if you are heard, and whether your prayers will be answered.  For the fact is that even Christians die, and their children die.  They also suffer losses and disappointments.  Whereas those who are not Christians often seem to prosper.

Now, then, hear the proclamation of Easter, and remember the Word and promise of the Lord Jesus Christ.  For your God and Father in heaven has already answered your prayers and provided for all your needs, before you ever thought to pray to Him or even knew how.  In Christ He has already acted to help you, to rescue and deliver you from death and the grave, and to give you life forever.

Both the prayer and the answer, along with everything else, depend on the Lord Jesus.  Everything in heaven and on earth, all of creation, hinges on Him, on His crucified and risen Body.  For in His Body of flesh and blood God has created new heavens and a new earth, and He has recreated Man in His own Image and Likeness.  In the crucified and risen Christ Jesus, all things are made brand new.  In Him God has established the New Jerusalem, His holy Church, in heaven and on earth.

So, where are you supposed to find and receive the Body of this one Lord, Jesus Christ, and all these good things that are in Him alone?  Where and how are you enabled to enter into and abide within the glorious New Creation of His Resurrection from the dead?  Those are the big and urgent questions set before you in this Easter Gospel from St. Luke, in which, ironically, Jesus does not yet appear (it is later, on the Road to Emmaus and in the Breaking of the Bread, that He does so).

It is by the way of His Cross that you enter into the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.  And it is in His Holy Christian Church that you find and receive His crucified and risen Body.  Not in the empty tombs of this old world, but in the Liturgy of His Gospel, in the Holy Communion.  That is where the Church receives and eats the Body of Christ Jesus, and so becomes the Body of Christ Jesus.

Certainly, the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus, to which the Gospel testifies, is evidence that He has risen from the dead, just as He said that He would.  In this sign of the empty tomb we greatly rejoice, and for it we give thanks and sing.  Nevertheless, it is still a tomb.  And it is still empty.  So you will not find the Living One, with His life and salvation, there in the place of the dead.

Do not be deceived, perplexed, or dumbfounded.  What the world calls life is really death.  And what the world perceives to be death — in the Cross and Passion of Christ — is really life indeed.

The Word of His Cross may appear to you as nonsense, but if you would find Jesus, His Body, and His Life, then hear and heed the testimony of His two men, His messengers, clothed in dazzling garments.  They are dressed in the Glory of Jesus’ Resurrection, as you also have been clothed in your Holy Baptism, whereby you have entered into His tomb and returned with Him to life.

The glory of your Holy Baptism — the dying and rising of repentance and faith in the forgiveness of your sins — is the manifestation of the heavenly life in Christ Jesus, which the Church on earth confesses before the world, even though it is for now still hidden under the Cross and suffering.

Do not search for it with your eyes, far less with your fickle emotions, prideful intellect, or human reason.  But hear the preaching of Christ Jesus in His Church, in the midst of His New Jerusalem, and so receive His crucified and risen Body here at His Altar from the hand of His servants.

Why should this appearance of heaven on earth terrify or frighten you?  And why should it cause you to flee and go away?  Why do you regard the Liturgy of the Lord as a burdensome obligation?

It is because of your native sin and unbelief that you are so afraid of His Cross and Resurrection and His indestructible Life.  For your sinful heart deceives you and beguiles you, and it turns you away from life with God — to sin, death, the devil, and hell.  And you settle for that judgment and demise, because you know that you deserve it; because your heart and your conscience and the devil accuse you and condemn you with the Law.  So when you are blinded by the dazzling light of Christ, you know that you are not worthy.  It is too beautiful and wonderful and high for you.

But now rejoice, dear Christian disciple of Jesus, and do not be afraid.  All your sins are forgiven.

God has raised His Son, Christ Jesus, from the dead.  He is the First Fruits of all those who sleep.  In Him, therefore, all the sons and daughters of Adam are raised from the dust to newness of life.

This Son of Man, the dear Lord Jesus Christ, was delivered into the hands of sinful men, and He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, for this very purpose: that sinful men and women, boys and girls, should be redeemed from sin, death, and hell, and on the Third Day be raised up with Him.  For His Cross is the Atonement of the world, and His Resurrection is the Absolution of the same.

As surely as Christ Jesus is risen from the dead — the very One who died bearing your sins and the sins of the world in His Body — so sure and certain is the forgiveness of all your sins.

Rejoice, therefore, in what the Lord your God creates.  For He recreates you in Christ Jesus by the proclamation of this Gospel, by the free and full forgiveness of your sins in His Name and stead, and by His Body given and His Blood poured out for you to eat and to drink in this Holy Supper.

He freely gives you such good gifts and manifold blessings, because He rejoices over you!  The Lord your God celebrates Easter with you and all the company of heaven, because He rejoices in your Salvation!  As the Father rejoices in His beloved Son, so does He rejoice in you, because you are baptized into Christ Jesus, and you are a member of His Body and Bride, His Holy Church.

Here then, in this Feast, is the Body of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead, the First Fruits of the Resurrection and of the New Creation.  It is given to you here, not for this life only, but for the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and soul in Him.

And as Christ Jesus your Savior gives Himself to you here and now, His Body into your body, so are you also crowned with His Glory and Honor and presented to His God and Father in Peace.

The last great enemy to be abolished is death, which does linger for a time in this fallen world, but it is already defeated, and there is no doubt that it is trodden beneath the feet of Christ.  Therefore, just as He is risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of His God and Father, so are you also raised from death to life in Him, and so shall you live forever with Him in His Kingdom.

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

20 April 2019

Easter Proclamation of the Resurrection

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

It is the beginning of the New Creation, the dawning of the eternal Eighth Day, in which there is no longer any night, nor is there death anymore forever.

The Creator of the heavens and the earth, who caused the Light to shine out of darkness at His Word, has brought forth the true Light, Jesus Christ, out of the darkness of death and the grave, to shine upon you in grace, mercy, and Peace.

That true and living Word by whom all things are made — who for you and your salvation became flesh, and bore your sins in His own Body on the Cross, and suffered death in your place — He has risen from the dead.  And now He makes of you a new creation in Himself by the Voice of His Gospel.

As by one man, Adam, all men died, so by this New Adam, Jesus Christ, all men are made alive.  He is brought forth from the dust of the earth in righteousness, and He breathes the living and Life-giving Holy Spirit into your nostrils, into your dry bones, by and with His forgiveness of all your sins.  Thus do you live!

The waters of the Flood have overwhelmed you and covered you, drowned and destroyed you.  Yet, the Lord Himself has entered those same deadly waters along with you, and He has emerged and arisen victorious.  Out of the water He comes, and you are with Him, anointed by the Spirit and blessed by the Father.

Thus do you pass through the waters on dry ground, out of Egypt, out of the bondage of sin and death, out from under Pharaoh’s bitter yoke, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land of milk and honey with Jesus at last.

The waters that have drowned and destroyed you in Adam, and put the old Adam to death in you, have lifted you up in Christ Jesus, and Christ has risen in you, so that you are now kept dry and secure within the Holy Ark of Christendom.

Here there is the foretaste of the Feast to come.  Here there is Christ, your Manna in the wilderness, the true and living Bread from heaven.  From Him flow streams of living Water, even here and now, in the desert of this sinful world.

He pours out His Spirit generously upon you.  Therefore, you shall not die but live.  For the Lamb has been given in your stead.  His Blood covers and protects you from all evil.  And He is your Meat and Drink indeed.  Even in the fires of trial and temptation, He is yet your cooling shade.  He shelters you round about.  Whether for death or life, you are the Lord’s.  You are hidden with Christ in God.

Let no fear or trembling seize you now, for sin, death, and hell cannot have you.  The devil and his chariots and horsemen are defeated.  They cannot harm you anymore, for they are all undone.  And though you are up to your neck in trouble, know that Christ is with you even there, and that you shall rise and live with Him.

Gracious and merciful is the Lord forever.  He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  His Word and Spirit have called you to repentance and to faith in His forgiveness of all your sins, and knit you together in the Body and Blood of Christ.  Where He is, there you shall be also, body and soul, forever and ever.

He has died your death, and you are now raised up in His mighty Resurrection.

You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  It is meet and right that you do.  But He is no longer in the tomb.  He has risen.  He lives and abides for you, also in His flesh and with His precious blood, before the Father in heaven.  For He is your great High Priest, who is with you always in the waters of your Baptism.  He is in the Gospel of forgiveness, the Word of Absolution.  He is set before you at His Altar to eat and to drink.  He is in your ears, and in your mouth, and in your heart, and in your body.  For Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

19 April 2019

The Willing Self-Sacrifice of God the Son

It is clear throughout the Passion of our Lord that none of these events happen by accident.  None of these things unfold or transpire apart from the Will of the Father and the Son.  Each of the holy Evangelists has made that clear in his own way, but none more so than St. John, not only in the way that he has described these events, but in the Words of our Lord Jesus throughout the Holy Gospel and in the course of His Passion.  It is made clear, as Jesus Himself says at one point, that no one takes His life from Him, but He lays it down willingly, and He will take it up again.

It is not simply that He knows ahead of time what is going to happen.  He wills what is going to happen.  His Father hands Him over for the salvation of mankind, and the Son of God — in love for His Father, and in love for you and for all people — willingly hands Himself over to death.

Which is not to say or suggest that it was easy for Him.  It surely was not.  And it is certainly not as though any of this were necessary for His own benefit.  He lacked nothing.  He needed nothing.  There was nothing that He had to do for Himself.  There is only what He chose to do in His divine and holy love, that He should save you from your sins and death and give to you eternal Life.

That is why all of these things happen.  It is the fulfillment of God’s creative purpose, God’s good and gracious will, His holy intention from the very beginning.  So is it also the fulfillment of all that God has spoken and promised throughout the Holy Scriptures — as He promised to our first parents in the Garden of Eden following their fall into sin, and as He repeated by the mouth of His Prophets throughout the ages, even down to us — that God and Man should be perfectly united and brought together in harmony with one another, in faith and love, in peace and reconciliation.

That union of God and Man is already perfectly accomplished in the Person of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, who is both true God and true Man.  In Him God and Man are perfectly one.  But this He has accomplished in Himself, in order to open the way for you, to make it possible for you to live in harmony with God, for you to be united with God in peace, in faith, and in love.

When God first created Man in His own Image, when He shaped Adam out of dirt from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the Breath of Life, it was in the likeness of this Man, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, begotten of His Father from eternity, but also conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of time — He is the Model after which Man is created.  He is the Image of God in whom you have been created and given life.  So it is that you live as a son of God by grace when you are conformed to the pattern of this Man, Jesus, by faith in Him.

Now, suffering and death were not a part of God’s original Creation.  It was not His desire that any of His creatures should suffer and die, but that all should live by His grace.  It is rather on account of man’s sinful disobedience that God uses suffering and death to accomplish His true purposes.

Although He did not desire man’s suffering and death, it is yet by His own suffering and death that He exemplifies the true divine life of faith and love within the context of this fallen world.  That is to say, it is with perfect faith in His God and Father, and with perfect love for both His Father and for all the children of men, in steadfast faithfulness even to the end, that the incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus, willingly submits Himself to His innocent suffering and death, to His Cross and Passion, in order to atone for the sins of the world.  In order to conquer death.  In order to reconcile Man to God in Himself.  In order to save you and give you life.  And all of this He has done.

So, if you want to know what the one true God is really like, and if you want to know what Man is truly supposed to be like, then look to Christ on the Cross.  There you see God opening His great heart of love to you, revealing Himself to you, giving Himself for you.  And there you see true Man living by perfect faith, living in perfect love, dying in the confidence that He will live with God.

The Jews actually have it right, therefore, in spite of their malice, when they declare that according to the Law of God this Man must die.  Not because He has broken the Law; indeed, He has not, not in any part.  But it is according to the Law that He must die, precisely because He, being the Son of God, the very Word made Flesh, is the fulfillment of the Law.  And it is precisely by His innocent suffering and death that He fulfills the entire Law for the salvation of all mankind.  It is by His death that He fulfills the Law and the Prophets and all the Words and promises of God.

It is in this same way, and in this same sense, therefore, that He is also the true King.  So in that respect, it is Pontius Pilate who gets it right — in the ascription that he assigns to the Cross.  And his soldiers likewise get it right, although they do so in mockery of Jesus.  Even if they don’t get anything else right, they are correct in calling Jesus the King of the Jews.  He is more than that.  He is the King of the world, the King of all creation.  He is your King, because He is your Savior.

Jesus is not the cruel taskmaster, the slave driver that Pharaoh is.  No, He is a kind and gentle King who saves His people from death, who serves His subjects with His own body and life.  On your behalf He is a mighty Champion, He is a Warrior against your enemies.  And yet, at the same time, He is a kind and gentle Shepherd who cares for His subjects like sheep, who feeds you and waters you, who guards and protects you.  He is the perfect King.  He is the true King.  And He reigns in love and mercy for you from the Tree of His Cross, crowned with thorns and pierced with nails.

And as your King, by His Cross and in His Resurrection, He has brought you out of the kingdom of the devil, in which you were enslaved and trapped, into the Kingdom of His God and Father, wherein you now live by grace through faith in Him, as a free citizen, as a royal priest of God.

In this respect, not only is Jesus a far better King than Pharaoh, but He is Himself the firstborn Son who is slain; and He is also the Passover Lamb who is sacrificed on your behalf, in order to set you free from sin and death — in order to give you life with God forever.  For He is sacrificed once for all upon the Altar of His Cross, that the Angel of death should pass over you.  You shall not die, you shall live, because this Son of God has given Himself and suffered and died in your place.

And even to the end of the age He remembers you.  He remembers you in love.  He remembers you by acting.  He remembers you from the Altar of His Church by feeding you with the Fruits of His Cross, with His own holy Flesh, His holy and precious Blood.  As the true Passover Lamb of God, He is not only sacrificed for you, in your place, but He is also given and poured out for you as your Meat and Drink indeed, as the festival Meal of all the children of God within the Father’s House.

In eating this Lamb who has been sacrificed in your place, you are brought out of death into life, out from under Pharaoh and his bitter yoke into the Kingdom of your gracious Lord and Savior.  No more are you held in bondage.  No more are you subject to the fear of death.  No more are you a slave to your own sin, enticed, ensnared, and led about by the temptations of the devil.  No more are you condemned by Satan’s accusations.  No more are you trapped under the curse of the fall.

You are set free.  Your bonds are burst asunder by the willing Sacrifice of this Man, this Lamb of God, your Savior, Jesus Christ.  His Blood has atoned for all your sins, and His death has defeated your death and the devil.  The Son of God has set you free, and you are free indeed.

In feasting upon His Body, which is the true Manna from heaven — in drinking His holy Blood, which is your true spiritual Drink from the side of this Rock, who is Christ — in eating this Food and drinking this Drink, you are strengthened and sustained in the true faith on your pilgrimage through the desert from Egypt to Canaan, even into Paradise, where you live with Jesus forever.

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

The One Who Thirsts for Your Salvation

It was also about the sixth hour when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and asked her to give Him a drink.  And of course, as that story unfolded, it was not that He was seeking to get something from her, but that He was teaching her to seek the gift of living Water from Him — Water that would become a fountain springing up to everlasting life in her and in all who would hear and heed His Word.  For so does He bestow the free gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father.

Indeed, at the Feast of Tabernacles a few chapters later in St. John’s Holy Gospel, Jesus declares to the crowds in Jerusalem, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”  For as the Holy Scriptures have said, “From out of His innermost being will flow rivers of living Water.”  And this He said concerning the Holy Spirit, who would be freely given to all who believe in Christ Jesus; though the Spirit was not yet given, then, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Now the Hour has come, when the Son of Man is glorified by the way and the means of His Cross and Passion, the atoning sacrifice of true God in the flesh.  And so it is from this very Hour that He pours out the Holy Spirit generously upon all those who believe and are baptized in His Name.

It is by the voluntary suffering and death of the incarnate Son of God that forgiveness of sins is obtained, and that sinners are redeemed and reconciled to God the Father in Him.  Apart from that forgiveness and redemption, the fallen sons and daughters of Adam could neither receive the Holy Spirit nor ever hope to abide in the presence of God, far less to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  Apart from the Atonement of Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit would be for sinners a deadly Flood and a consuming Fire, but not the Breath of Life and the Living Water that He desires to be for you.

But Christ the Lord, the Son of God, has given Himself into death upon the Cross as your merciful and great High Priest in all things pertaining to God.  And by way of that willing Self-Sacrifice, in His Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to the right hand of the Father, He has become the true Temple of God.  In His own Body, crucified and risen from the dead, God tabernacles with His people in the flesh; and through His flesh and blood you come to the Father in the Spirit and the Truth, that is, by faith in the Word and Spirit of this one Lord, Jesus Christ.

So it is that, by and from the Cross of Christ the Crucified — from His innermost being, from the depths of His Body, pierced and wounded for you and your salvation — the Holy Spirit is poured out generously upon the Church on earth.  The Spirit flows from the open heart of Christ as a River of living Water and as a Fountain springing up, even in the desert, unto everlasting Life.

As St. John will write in his Book of the Revelation, this pure River of the Water of Life flows from the Throne of God and of the Lamb — from the Body of the Lamb who was slain, and yet, behold, He lives.  That River flows into all the world with healing and refreshment, that all who thirst might drink freely, without cost, and live.  And again, that living and Life-giving Water is the Holy Spirit, who is freely given to all who thirst in the Ministry of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, bestowing life and health and strength to His disciples from all nations.  Whoever drinks of that living Water (by faith in the Gospel) shall never thirst again, nor shall he die anymore forever.

With that in mind, consider what it means for the Lord Jesus Christ — the very Son of God who freely bestows the Holy Spirit from the Father — consider what it means for Him to thirst, as He dies upon the Cross in fulfillment of the Scriptures, completing your Atonement and Redemption.

There can be no doubt that His battered, bruised, beaten, bloody, and beleaguered human body was genuinely thirsty for something to drink, to moisten His parched lips and soothe His dry throat.

But far more important for you and your salvation, the Lord Jesus thirsts for the Spirit of God, for the Kingdom of His God and Father, and for the righteousness by which He justifies and saves the nations.  He hungers and thirsts to do the will of His Father in fulfillment of the Holy Scriptures, in order to bestow the free gift of the Holy Spirit upon dead and dying sinners: To pour out the Spirit generously upon you through His Word of the Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins.

When you are thirsty, it is for yourself, for your own benefit and comfort, for your own pleasure and satisfaction, your own refreshment and hydration.  Not that it is wrong for you to receive and benefit from the good gifts of God for your body and life, but your thirst is for your own needs.

By contrast, the Lord Jesus Christ is thirsty, not for Himself and His own needs, but for the good and gracious will of God, for the life and salvation of all the fallen children of Adam and Eve.

Jesus does not thirst for anything that you might provide Him or give to Him.  Instead, He thirsts to provide for you and give to you all that you have lacked and needed in both body and soul — Atonement for your sins, Redemption from death and the devil, Reconciliation and Peace with God, and the Life everlasting in His Kingdom.

To that end, His thirst is not quenched with the cool, clear, and refreshing water of life, but with the last dregs of that bitter Cup which the Father has given Him to drink, the sour wine of God’s righteous wrath and anger against the sins of the world — that the thunder of God’s wrath against you and your sins should be quieted, and that you should be righteous and holy before Him.

It is in His perfect fulfillment of the Righteousness of God, by His suffering and death upon the Cross, that Christ Jesus hands over the Spirit — that you might receive the Holy Spirit from Him.  He thirsts, in other words, that you might drink freely of His Spirit and never thirst again; that you should not die but live forever with Him, body and soul, in the presence of His God and Father.

So it is that Christ Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit upon you in that sacred Fountain of Water and Blood that flows from His innermost being on the Cross.  For these holy things of which St. John adamantly testifies are all connected: The Spirit, the Water, and the Blood are all in agreement.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, your merciful and great High Priest, He drinks the sour wine, the vinegar with gall, the poison in the Cup, in order to pour out the Water and the Blood from His Body as the good and best Wine for you and for the many — which you are now given to drink with Him in His Kingdom, in the royal wedding Banquet of the Lamb and His Wife.

So has He filled His Font and His Chalice with the life-giving Fruits and Benefits of His Sacrifice upon the Cross.  He gives you not only Himself but the gift of the Holy Spirit from God the Father in heaven; not for condemnation, but in and with His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

And so it is that, in the waters of your Holy Baptism, to which you are daily returned by the Word of the Law and the Gospel, by repentance and faith in the forgiveness of your sins — and in the Cup of the Holy Communion, which is the New Testament in the very Blood of Christ Jesus — you are given to drink freely and deeply from the River of Life.

Thus are you redeemed and justified, cleansed and sanctified, body and soul, both now and forever.  Thus are you rescued from the bondage of sin, the fear of death, the power of the devil, and the punishment of hell.  And thus are you given the Spirit of God, by whom you have Life everlasting.

It is likewise by these gracious gifts of God in Christ that you worship the Father in Spirit and Truth: By hearing and receiving the Divine Service of His Gospel in faith and with thanksgiving, and by confessing His Word and calling on His Name in prayer and praise.

So also do you worship the Lord your God by loving your neighbor in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ — not least of all by giving drink to those who thirst, since Christ the Lord has also thirsted for you and them.  You live and love as He does, because the Spirit of God wells up in you as a Fountain of life for your neighbor, and because Christ Jesus Himself lives and loves in you.

Though the Lord does all things for you, provides you with all that you need, and has no need of anything from you, He would have you love and serve your neighbor as an exercise and expression of your faith and gratitude.  It is in your thirsty neighbor, as Christ Himself has taught you, that you are given the opportunity to give your Lord a drink, to quench His thirst, even with a cup of cool water.  And He has promised that all who do so in His Name shall by no means lose their reward.

Even so, for all those ways in which you find yourself still parched and thirsty in the desert, so spent upon yourself that you have nothing left for anyone else, ask of Him who has thirsted on the Cross in your place, who has fulfilled the Scriptures and accomplished the will of God the Father, and who has opened the Kingdom of God to all who believe and are baptized in His Name — ask, and He will pour out for you such living Water as will satisfy your deepest thirst.  For He forgives you all your sins and remembers them no more; He fills you with His Spirit and commends you to His Father in peace; and He raises you from death to life in His own righteousness and holiness.

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

18 April 2019

The Newness of Love in the New Covenant of Christ

It is said that, in his later years, the preaching of St. John the Apostle could be summarized simply as, “My little children, love one another.”  That is not hard to imagine.  St. Paul often writes of love in his Epistles, but it is St. John who has recorded the New Commandment of the Lord Jesus, the “mandatum” for which this day has been named: “Maundy Thursday.”  St. John likewise writes of this New Commandment in his Epistles, and he there repeats the point with emphasis.  Hence, the “beloved disciple,” who knew the love of Jesus well, has also become the Apostle of Love.

Not only St. John and St. Paul, but the Lord Jesus Himself teaches you that Love is the summary and fulfillment of the Law: Love for God above everything else, and love for your neighbor with the same affection, care, and dedication that you have for yourself.  This is what the Lord requires of you as a child of God, as a disciple of Christ Jesus, in all that you do and say.

In faith before God, to the glory of His holy Name, you are called and commanded to humble yourself in service to your neighbor.  And your “neighbor” is found in all those people whom God the Lord has stationed alongside you in this life on earth.  You are to sacrifice and give yourself for others, to cleanse and feed your neighbors in the world, even those who trespass against you.

How, then, shall you wash your neighbor’s feet?  Little children, how shall you love one another?

And with that, you fathers and mothers, how shall you teach your own children to love, as Christ Jesus and His Apostles have taught you and commanded you to love?  Or, if you have no children of your own, how shall you teach your students to love, or anyone else entrusted to your care and oversight?  The answer is obvious enough.  In the first place, you are to love them.  For you cannot expect or suppose that your children (or students) will love any differently than you love them.

Parents, do you want your children to love each other?  To be polite and respectful to you and to other people?  To be considerate, kind, and gentle?  To put the needs of others ahead of their own?  You should desire all of these things.  And so should you love your children as Christ Jesus loves you, and serves you, and gives Himself for you, as He forgives you, cleanses you, and feeds you.

Jesus does not ask you to do anything more or anything else than what He Himself does for you and gives to you by His grace.  He rather commands you to be like Him, and to do for others as He does for you.  As we have heard from St. Peter earlier this week, the Lord Jesus Christ has left you an example in the bearing of His Cross and Passion, that you should follow in His steps.

Your feet are to walk in the way of Christ Jesus, which is the way of faith before God, and the way of steadfast love for one another (as Dr. Luther’s post-Communion Collect summarizes so well).

But where is the Gospel found in all of this?  For the Gospel is not a law, it is a gift.  The Gospel does not tell you what to do.  It proclaims what Christ has done, and it freely delivers His good things to you.  So where is the Gospel in the Lord’s good example and in His New Commandment?

Is the “newness” of the Lord’s command an even higher and holier Law than God had previously given through Moses in the Old Testament?  Has He just upped the ante even more?  For the whole Law of Moses was already summarized in Love — for God and for the neighbor — whereas now you are commanded to love both God and man in the perfect way that Christ Jesus does.

But in fact, the perfect love of Jesus — for His Father, for you, and for all people — is precisely the fulfillment of what the old Law demanded.  So that expectation is not the “newness” at hand.

In any event, you could not do it — not of yourself or by yourself.

You love God and your neighbor only as the Lord Jesus first loves you.  You learn from Him to love, not only by His good example and instruction, but as He serves you in love, and cleanses you by grace, and makes you brand new in Himself, recreated in His divine Image and Likeness.

Would you presume to wash your own feet and cleanse yourself and become your own savior?  You know better than that!  Be humbled before the Lord who humbles Himself to love and serve you, and so receive His grace.  Be cleansed and fed by Him who is your Savior.  You bend your knee in reverence before Him, and rightly so.  You meekly bow your head and fold your hands in His presence, and that is truly meet, right, and salutary.  But here, too, humble yourself by giving Him your dirty feet to be washed, and by opening your mouth to eat and drink from His hand.

There is something remarkably new in that.  Among the Jews, it was unusual even for a servant to wash the feet of his own master.  A Jewish servant could not legally be required or compelled to do so, although he might choose to do so for a beloved master.  But here it is the Lord who strips Himself to serve, who gets down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples, including one who will betray Him and one who will deny Him, as He well knows; and all of them will run away.

In this humble service of Christ Jesus — the great Lord who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for the many — in this you are brought to the heart of the matter.  For the “newness” of His Commandment is the newness of the New Covenant in His Blood.

It is in Him that all things are made new, including you.  In His own Body of flesh and blood.

The newness is found in His keeping and fulfilling of the Law — not only God’s commandments, but also His promises — including the divinely given rites and ceremonies of the Lord’s Passover.  So has He kept and fulfilled the Law of God from His conception, birth, and childhood, from His Baptism in the Jordan River, and throughout His life and ministry on earth.  But it all culminates and is completed — even as it continues — on this night, in this Hour, in His Passion unto death.

In humility He comes down from the Father in heaven into the very depths of your sin and death.  He lays down His life for you, as He lays aside His garments and kneels down to wash your feet.  It is something that a master would never do for a slave; and yet, the Lord Jesus does so for you.

The waters with which He cleanses you flow from His wounded side together with His Blood.  So you are cleansed by His Blood in the waters of Holy Baptism.  And you are cleansed by His Blood from the Cup of His New Covenant, which He pours out for you in His Sacrament of the Altar.

When the Israelite fathers sacrificed the Passover lambs at twilight, they did so in the doorways of their homes.  At the threshold was a basin, an impression dug into the floor, which would normally be useful for preventing water from washing into the house.  The blood of the sacrificed lamb was poured out into that basin, and then painted onto the doorframe at its top and each of its sides with a brush of hyssop — thus making the sign of the Cross!  In like manner, the Blood of the true Passover Lamb, Christ Jesus, is poured out from His sacred wounds into the “basin” of His Baptismal Font, and into the “basin” of His Holy Communion Chalice, at the foot of His Cross.

Here is the Love of God with which He loves you: His own Lifeblood, shed for you and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  And with that, you have Christ Jesus, and life and salvation in Him as a member of His Body, the Church, His own beloved household and family.

You know well enough, even from everyday life, how important and significant meals are, not only for the nourishment and sustenance of your body, but also for fellowship with your neighbors.  To eat and drink together is a fundamental bond of family and friends, and the dinner table is, or ought to be, a regular gathering place for parents with their children, and for brothers and sisters with one another.  The husband and father who provides the meal, whether by farming, by hunting and fishing, or by paying for the food, thereby loves and cares for his wife and children.  Likewise, the wife and mother who prepares the meal and serves it to her family, thereby loves her husband and children and cares for them.  Such works and service are not incidental; they are among the cords of love that bind the members of a household to each other and actually make them into a family.

Similarly, Jesus here “presides” over the Meal of His Household and Family, as a Husband to His beloved Bride, and as a Father to His dear little children.  In gathering you to Himself in this Feast, He includes you in His Family, His Church.  He gives you a part in Himself, in His Body.  All the more so because He has not only provided for this Feast and paid for it with His own Life; He has not only prepared it by His death; and not only does He Himself serve you, as your Waiter, through His Ministry of the Gospel; but He is the Food and the Drink with which He now feeds you.

Consequently, you are “bodied” and “blooded” together with the Lord Jesus Christ.  You are what you eat, that is, a member of the Body of Christ, truly flesh of His flesh and blood of His blood.  And in Him you are “bodied” and “blooded” together with each other.  You are all one Body in Christ, as you all eat of His Body and drink of His Cup.  Thus, you belong to each other, and you are given to love and serve and care for each other, as the Lord Jesus Christ loves each of you.

To be sure, you are “bodied” and “blooded” together with Christians of all times and places.  But this congregation is your immediate family.  The Christians who sit and stand and kneel beside you here in this place are your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  And you all have one Father, who gathers you right here to love you and to feed you with His beloved Son.  So this is your family, and this is your home.  And this is the Table where you eat and drink together in faith and love.

Where then shall your feet take you, as they are cleansed by the Lord who loves you?  Let them bring you here to share this Meal with your family, which Christ in mercy has prepared for you and gives to you.  And then let your feet take you from this Altar to love and serve your neighbors in the world.  Learn to know the needs, the hurts and hopes, the heartaches and joys of your brothers and sisters, and do not run away from them and their pain, but walk beside them with compassion.

Little children, love one another.  For love is of God, and you are beloved of Him.  He loves you, even here in the midst of sin and death, even to the bitter end.

Not only that, but “the end,” it turns out, is really the beginning of abundant life with God in Christ Jesus.  For the One who has laid aside His garments to cleanse you by the shedding of His Blood, by His innocent suffering and death, and by the washing of water with His Word, has also taken them up again, in order to clothe you in His garments, richly wrought, and to adorn you in His righteousness like a beautiful bride or a handsome prince, made good-looking by His love for you.

The One who has laid down His life for you has taken it up again on His journey back to His God and Father in heaven.  And as He has come down from heaven for you and your salvation, so does He bring you, in and with Himself, to the One who is your own dear God and Father in Him.

The Son of Man has glorified the Father in Himself by His sacrificial death as the Lamb of God, bearing the sins of the world in His own Body on the Cross.  And His Father has glorified Him by raising Him from the dead, never to die again.  So it is that all things are made new in Him, in His crucified and risen Body; and all flesh is cleansed and made alive by His holy and precious Blood.

His Blood marks the threshold of His Church in Holy Baptism, sealed with the sign of His Cross from the basin at His feet to the beam and lintels above His thorn-crowned head and on His right and on His left.  His Blood has likewise signed and sealed you with His Cross in the waters of your Baptism, so that you are clean and made ready for this Feast, which He has made ready for you.

In your eating of His Body, in your drinking of His Blood, you pass with Him through death into life, and you enter with Him into the Most Holy Place.  For here at His Table you are united with your whole family in heaven and on earth within your Father’s House.  And here you are kept safe and sound.  The destroyer and death and the devil must leave you alone and cannot touch you here, because Christ the Lamb lays hold of you in love, that He should abide in you, and you abide in Him, body and soul, unto the Life everlasting.  This is Love.  And this is your Life forevermore.

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

16 April 2019

Glorified with the Glory of God in Christ Jesus

It is the Glory of the Son of God to do the will of His Father for the salvation of the world.  It is no weakness on His part, but the exercise of His divine strength, steadfast faithfulness, holiness, and righteousness, that the incarnate Son says and does nothing of His own initiative but speaks as the Father has spoken and does what the Father has given Him to do.

The Lord Jesus loves the Father perfectly with His whole being and life, and He trusts the Father fully and completely, even in the midst of sin and death.  He proceeds in the bold confidence that His Father will honor Him, vindicate Him, and glorify the holy Name of God in Him.

It is therefore in such perfect faith that Christ Jesus comes to the Hour of His Cross and willingly lays down His life, in order to bear much fruit.  That is to say, He dies in order to save the world and to raise up sinners from death unto eternal life.  He comes down from heaven into the depths of the earth, knowing that His Father will raise Him from the dead — and so raise all men in Him.

Having accomplished all things in accordance with the Law and the Prophets, and having glorified His God and Father by His voluntary suffering and His sacrificial death upon the Cross, now the Christ is lifted up in the preaching of His Cross and the administration of the Fruits of His Cross — in the proclamation of His death until He comes again in the open glory of His Resurrection.

In His Passion, the condemnation of sin and the judgment of the Law have been fully laid on Him; so now the whole world is judged righteous in His faithfulness, in His innocence and holiness.

The tyrant who has ruled the world with his assaults and accusations and the terrifying threat of death is silenced and cast out, because Christ Jesus, the beloved Son, has borne the accusations and suffered the death of all men.  He, the Lord Himself, true God in the flesh, has made Atonement for the sins of the world, satisfied the Law forever, and broken the power of death and the grave.

That great Salvation of the Son of God is the Light that now shines for you here, by which you live and walk in faith, although it is hidden under the painful sign and foolish weakness of the Cross.

Do not shut your eyes to the sight, nor stop your ears to the Word of the Cross.  Do not harden your heart against the Crucified God by loving your life in the world and craving the approval of men.  But look to the One who is lifted up for you in the Gospel, to the One who is elevated and highly exalted here at His Altar, and hear His Voice in the preaching of His forgiveness of all your sins.

His forgiveness is as sure and certain as His Cross and Resurrection, as tangible and real as His own Body of flesh and blood, and as powerful and permanent as His own indestructible life.

It is by this Light of His Gospel that you see and believe the Glory of God in the Cross of Christ.  And so it is that you now walk, no longer in the darkness of your sin and death, but as a child of God in Christ, as a child of the Light in whom the Name of the Lord your God is glorified.

Therefore, draw near to Him here, where He draws near to you in love and mercy for you.  For in the Ministry of His servant, in the preaching and administration of His Gospel in His Name and stead, you hear and see your Savior, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, given and poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins unto life and salvation.

The God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ honors you with this Gospel, He glorifies you in body and soul with His divine and holy Name, and He raises you up from death to life by His Word and Holy Spirit.  And as surely as the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus, was crucified for your sins, raised for your justification, and remains forever at the right hand of His God and Father in heaven, so do you live and abide with Him where He is, here in time and hereafter in eternity.

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

15 April 2019

Come Up to Worship at the Feast of Christ

If you wish to see Jesus, come up to worship at His Feast.  For the Hour has come in which the Son of Man is to be glorified.  It is for this purpose that He has come into His Holy City: to be lifted up and glorified in death, and thereby to call the whole world to Himself, both Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female, young and old, even the living and “the dead.”

So it is that He will be handed over to the chief priests, scribes, and pharisees, crucified under Pontius Pilate, put to death, and buried in a tomb.  None of this comes upon Him by surprise.  Nor do suffering and death thwart His purposes; by His Cross and Passion He fulfills His purposes.

In all of this, He does not become discouraged or despair.  He does not wail and complain.  He does not revile or strike back against those who betray, revile, and hurt Him.  But entrusting Himself, His Body and Life, entirely to His God and Father, He enters the Holy City as it has been written of Him, and He proceeds in faith and love to sacrifice Himself upon the Cross.

It is in this way that He becomes the true Passover Lamb, who is given into death in place of all the sons of man, for the life and salvation of all the daughters of Jerusalem.  And because He is thereby given and dies for all the people, the Victory of His Cross and the free gift of His great Salvation are likewise for all people of all times and places, for all the children of Adam & Eve.

The Atonement of His Cross, His Resurrection from the dead, His Ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His Life everlasting — all of this He has accomplished in His own Body of human flesh and blood, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in order to redeem and rescue His own human creatures and reconcile them to God in His own perfect righteousness.

All of this is yours, as He is yours and you are His.  For by and with His voice of the Gospel, He has called you by name from death into Life, from out of your darkness into His marvelous Light.

In your Holy Baptism, you have indeed been crucified, put to death, and buried with Christ Jesus.  So are you also raised with Him to newness of life.  Not only that, but those whom He has raised from the dead are also given to recline here at His Supper Table with Him, here within His House.

The fragrance that fills this House has the odor of death about it — the smell of the Cross — which the world hates and sinful people abhor.  But the sacrificial death of Christ is a sweet-smelling aroma to His God and Father, who thus delights in you, as well, and gladly receives your worship.

Your presence, then, at the Table with Jesus, is a testimony to His Cross and Resurrection, by which some will be called to faith and life, and for which others will hate you and seek to kill you.

But either way, do not be afraid.

If you would see Jesus and live, come up to His Feast and worship.  Worship Him by receiving His Gifts with thanksgiving.  Worship Him, also, by serving within His Church, and by serving your neighbor in the world as you can.  Worship Him in the confidence that you have been raised with Him to recline at His Table forever.  Abiding here with Him, although you die, yet shall you live.

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

14 April 2019

The Heart and Mind of God in Christ Jesus

This is what Christianity is all about.  The real heart and soul of the matter is the Cross and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, handed over by His Father to His innocent suffering and death, to the voluntary shedding of His holy, precious Blood for your Salvation.

This is therefore also what defines and shapes your Christian faith and life.  This is how you are to live as a disciple of Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes upon Himself the sins of the world, bears them in His Body to the Cross, and lays down His life to atone for all the children of men.

This is what Christianity is all about, never mind what pundits and politicians may presume and pontificate in the public square.  No doubt you are aware of many alternative views on what it is and means to be a Christian, as popular opinion would reduce it to being “nice” and tolerant to a fault.  Your own sinful heart likewise has its own erroneous ideas and opinions, all of which come down to whatever is most pleasing and acceptable to your flesh.  And there are plenty of would-be preachers who prey on those desires, peddling a feel-good religion of peace and prosperity.

On the one hand, the Son of God prays in the Garden that His Father’s will be done, even though that necessarily means He must suffer great agony and anguish of body and soul, unto His death on the Cross.  On the other hand, you tend to pray that the Lord would help you accomplish your own willful pursuits and achieve your own selfish purposes, as though He were your Lackey.

But getting what you want and doing whatever you feel like is not the Christian faith and life.  It is surely not what Christ, the Son of God, has given, done, and suffered for you and for all people.

The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is centered in the Cross and Crucifixion of Christ Jesus, in His willing Sacrifice for sinners.  With St. Paul, therefore, the Christian Church knows nothing but Christ the Crucified.  This is what the Church is all about, and what she is to be about, because this is most truly who God is, and what the one true God is like, the One who lays down His life in love for His wayward creatures, though they have been embittered and hostile to Him.

It is certainly not that God has some masochistic fascination with suffering and death.  He does not willingly afflict the children of men.  He created you, as He created Adam & Eve, not for death but for life and joy and peace with Himself forever.  It is your sin that has brought suffering and death upon your body and life.  You suffer and die with Adam, yes, but your own sin condemns you.

Yet, Jesus willingly suffers and dies, not for His own sins but for yours.  He dies in your stead, for the sake of His divine and holy love, in order to save you.  Even though you have brought suffering and death upon yourself by your sins and unbelief, by your rebellion and disobedience, in pure, unselfish love He gives Himself entirely for you.  He pays the wages of your sin with His death.

And it is there in His innocent and voluntary suffering and death, in His holy Cross and Passion, that God reveals Himself most clearly as He is, and He opens His great heart of Love to you most fully and faithfully.  He thereby identifies Himself with His fallen and sinful creatures, in order to give Himself for them, and to give Himself to them, that they should have life with Him forever.

So that is where and how your Lord Jesus reigns over you in love as your King: from His Cross.

So, then, what does it mean for you to be a Christian?  What does it mean, and what does it look like in real time, in daily life, for you to be a disciple of this Lord Jesus Christ, this holy, righteous, and innocent Man, who humbles Himself and becomes obedient even unto death on the Cross?

If you hail Him as your King, and if you would live with Him in His Kingdom, in what does your citizenship in that Kingdom consist?  How are you to live?  How are you to act?  And how shall you relate to your God and Father in heaven, and to your brothers and sisters in Christ on earth?

If you are to live in Him who gave Himself for you and all the world, and if you are to abide in His presence forever, then how shall you conduct yourself already here and now under the Cross?

If you share the life of God in Christ Jesus — if you are to have the same heart, mind, and attitude in yourself as there is in Christ Jesus — then where and how shall you humble yourself in this body and life?  In what callings and stations will you become obedient to your God and Father, even unto death?  Where and how are you given to serve your neighbor, and to suffer with and for your neighbor, in self-sacrificing love — not for your own fame and fortune, but for the glory of the Lord your God?  Where and how are you taught to pray, “Abba! Father! Thy Will be done,” in the face of the Cross that He lays upon you?  With what sort of love shall you gladly do good to your neighbor, though he or she smites and reviles you, and beats you, and puts you to death?

Of course, you dare not compare even your best and brightest righteousness to that of Christ Jesus.  Of yourself, you cannot even begin.  But do not presume to compare your righteousness to that of your neighbor, either, no matter whether you proudly suppose that you are doing better or sadly perceive that you are falling short.  You are not measured by your neighbor (nor he by you), but by the Word of God in Christ Jesus.  Not that you compare yourself to Christ, as though to achieve for yourself what He has done and accomplished for you; but that you live by faith in Him.

What, then, is your hope?  Where, then, is your life?  It is and remains, always and only, in Christ Jesus, in His Crucifixion, in His humility, in His obedience, in His suffering, in His servanthood.

You will never become your own savior.  You will not fully attain the heart, mind, and attitude of Christ until He has raised you perfectly in the Resurrection.  Your life always depends upon Him.  And though you sin every day and surely deserve nothing else but punishment, He loves you still.  And He remains among you as One who continues to serve.  For He comes as a Beast of Burden, Himself, riding the “donkey” of His Word and Sacrament in order to save you now by His grace.

It is by His sacrifice and humble service, it is by and from His Cross — by the ways and means of His Holy Cross in the Ministry of His Holy Gospel — that you are raised up in faith and love, day after day, in and with Him.  Not with any righteousness of yours, but with His own righteousness.  For you are cleansed and forgiven by His Blood; you are forgiven by His Word of the Gospel.

It is by the preaching and catechesis of His Word of the Cross, and by your Holy Baptism in His Name, into His Cross and Resurrection, that He puts you to death in order to raise you to new life.

It is by His Law and His Gospel — by way of repentance, confession, and forgiveness of sins — that He wounds you, in order to heal you; that He crushes you, in order to gather you together in His Body, in order to raise you up from the death of your sin to the life of faith and love in Him.

Like the grain that is borne from the death of a single seed — grain that is harvested and gathered, crushed and ground into flour, and baked into bread — so are you gathered and baked into the one Body of Christ Jesus, even as you eat of that Bread which is His Body given for you.  And like the grapes that are grown and gathered on a thousand hills — grapes that are squeezed and crushed into wine, poured out for the many — so are you gathered from the four winds into the Marriage of Christ and His Church, to drink from His Chalice in joy, and to be poured out with Him in love.

It is with the Fruits of His Cross and Passion, with His holy Body and His precious Blood, that He forgives you all your sins, cleanses you of all unrighteousness, gives to you His life in both body and soul, and seats you at His Table in His Kingdom.  It is here at His Altar, at His Table on earth as it is in heaven, that He bids you to recline and take your rest while He who is your Lord and Master girds Himself to serve you.  And here, indeed, His great heart of love is still opened wide to you, as it ever shall be open to you, in His grace, mercy, and peace, unto the Life everlasting.

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

12 April 2019

Sanctified by the Sacrifice of Christ for the Life Everlasting

It should be clear from this account that you dare not underestimate the depravity of man and the wicked perversion of his sinful heart (nor that of your own fallen flesh).

The chief priests and the pharisees, the religious leaders of God’s people, bearing holy office and zealous for the Law, observe the many signs that Jesus performs, and for these they seek to seize Him and put Him to death.  Jealous of their own position, they choose violence against the Lord.

He healed the sick, made the lame to walk and the blind to see; and now, His most recent crime, He has raised the dead from out of the grave to newness of life.  Sweet injuries, indeed!  Yet, for these the Law and the Priesthood must put Him to death for the benefit and salvation of the people.

And do not suppose that your own sinful heart is free and clear of such depravity and perversion.

To take seriously who Jesus is, what He says and what He does, threatens your comfortable status quo, your “comfort zone,” and your own place and position in this world.

Consider, then, what you are called to drown and destroy in yourself, in your body and life.  Take to heart that, in being called to repentance and discipleship, you are called to die with Christ Jesus.

In setting before you the life of faith and love that He has fulfilled by His Cross and Passion, the Law of the Lord is constantly exposing your sins for what they really are and condemning you for them.  But the Law is powerless to forgive your iniquity or to save you from death and the grave.

Though the Law of God is holy, good, and righteous, you are not.  Therefore, it cannot purify your conscience; it cannot set right your body and soul, your heart, mind, and spirit, with the Lord your God.  The Law can only expose your depravity, and make it worse, and so condemn you for it.

But now that same Law of God dares to lay the same judgment and condemnation upon Christ Jesus, because He has come to fulfill the will of God by the offering of Himself once for all.

Born of the Woman, and placing Himself under the Law, He redeems those who are under the Law.  He does it by the self-sacrifice of the same holy body in which He has lived in perfect conformity with the entire Law of God.  And this seeming contradiction, this travesty of justice by any normal standard, is yet the satisfaction of God’s Law, the fulfillment of His justice and righteousness.

In this Sacrifice of Christ the Holy Priesthood also finds its perfect fulfillment and completion.  For Christ Jesus is the true Passover Lamb, who is also your merciful and great High Priest.

Does He not go up to the Feast?  Indeed, He is the Feast!

He has offered Himself up to God in order to atone for the sins of the whole world; to reconcile you and all people to God in Himself; to purify you and all of creation by His innocent suffering and death, by His holy and precious blood, and by His bodily Resurrection from the dead.

Therefore, also, He now feeds you with the same holy Body and precious Blood that He offered for you on the Cross, so that you are spared and saved from death and sanctified for life in Him.

Here, then, the true Passover of Christ is at hand, here at this Altar.  By this Feast, as by Your Holy Baptism, you are purified forever.  And so do you enter with Christ Jesus, body and soul, through His sacrificial Cross and Resurrection, into the Life everlasting with His God and Father.

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