19 May 2019

For Now You Sing, Not by Sight, But by Faith in His Word

Christ is risen indeed.  (Alleluia!)  And if Christ is risen, you also shall rise.  For He is the Alpha and the Omega, He is the Beginning and the End.  He is the First, and He is the Last, the One who remains forever.  He has become the Firstborn of many brethren, and you are among them.

He is the Firstborn from the dead.  And in His crucified and risen Body, His saints also are raised — even now, by faith, and hereafter forever in the Resurrection of the body unto Life everlasting.

Where you are, Jesus is also.  And where He is, there you shall follow after.  But you have grief for now because, for a little while, you cannot see the Lord Jesus Christ.  You do not perceive Him.  You do not feel Him.  You do not experience His Resurrection in your day-to-day life on earth.

You do not see Him for a little while, and so you weep, and you mourn, and you grieve, while the world laughs at you, and mocks you, and rejoices over you at your expense.

You have such grief for now, for this little while, because you do not see Jesus.  But then again, after a little while, you will see Him, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy will never end.

He speaks here of His Cross and Resurrection.  But He speaks of these, not only historically, but theologically and pastorally; not only for His disciples there and then, but for you here and now.

He speaks of His Cross and Resurrection, not only with reference to those days when He was led to His Passion and crucified under Pontius Pilate, when He was dead and buried, and when He then arose from the dead according to the Scriptures.  Everything else depends on those events, but He speaks here of the way His Cross also forms and shapes His Church on earth.  And He speaks of the way He comes to you and deals with you by the ways and means of His Cross, even now — that is to say, by ways and means that you cannot perceive with your eyes, but only by faith in His Gospel, by the gracious working of His Holy Spirit through the Word He preaches into your ears.

It is not what your eyes see, nor what your flesh senses, nor what your emotions feel in the world, but the preaching of the Word of Christ, that reveals to you where He is, and conveys to you His gracious forgiveness and life from the Sacrifice of His Cross and His Resurrection from the dead.

You do not see Jesus as He is, because He comes now in that glorious Cloud, His means of grace, hidden within the womb of His Church in such simple and ordinary means.  You do not see Him for a little while, because He reveals and gives Himself to you in the Breaking of the Bread.  And having given you that revelation of His grace and His glory in the Sacrament of the Altar, He is for now hidden from your sight.  You know Him only by the Word He speaks.  Thus do you behold Him by faith in the Breaking of the Bread, in the Holy Communion, and in His Body, the Church.

You do not yet see Him as He is, and you do not see Him in your neighbor, either.  You do not see Him in His many brethren with which you are surrounded.  In them you see frailty and weakness.  In them you still see sin and death.  You see and perceive their irritability, their laziness and greed; and it is a challenge not to focus on those flaws, because for now you do not see Jesus in them.

And yet, you hear His Word declare that these also are His little ones, these baptized brothers and sisters who are so dear to Him, for whom He has given His body and life and shed His own blood.  You hear Him say that, as you love them, you love Him; in serving them, you serve Him.  You hear His command that, just as He forgives you, so are you to forgive your neighbors their trespasses against you.  Though you see none of this, you see your neighbors by faith in the Word of Christ.

You do not see Him in yourself, either.  You hear the Word of God in Christ Jesus, that you are a beloved and well-pleasing child of the Father in heaven.  You hear the Word of Christ declare that you are a member of His Body and Bride, the Church, and that He will never leave you nor forsake you.  You hear that He rejoices over you in love; that He delights in you and cherishes you.  And you hear His promise, that He does not seek to harm you but to give you all good things.

But for all of that, you do not see Him or perceive Him in yourself.  In yourself, in your flesh, in your body and life, you find nothing else but sin and death and all manner of evil.  In yourself you experience hurt and pain, disappointment, scars, and regrets.  In yourself you see all that is lacking.  You do not perceive yourself as a child of God, but as a wretched sinner and a dying mortal.  You do not appear good looking but disgraceful; neither loved nor lovable, but forsaken and forgotten.

But Christ Jesus speaks to you concerning both His Cross and His Resurrection.  And by His grace, by the power of His Holy Spirit, you rejoice, give thanks, and sing of both.  You sing and give thanks even for His Cross and Passion, knowing that His voluntary Sacrifice is His Victory, and that His Resurrection is the outcome of what He has purchased and won for you by His innocent suffering and death, by His holy and precious Blood.  Although for now you cannot see Him, you sing and rejoice in both the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ Jesus, because His Word is true — and because His Spirit helps you in your weakness, that you might pray and sing in holy faith.

These Mysteries of God are great indeed.  They are hidden from your eyes, and they confound your old Adam with all your sinful hungers and perverted passions.  It seems more than strange that by His Cross He raises you up, and that He brings you through suffering and death into His Glory.

But it is most certainly true.  And so it is that, by His grace, by His Word and Holy Spirit, you sing.  For it is by His Cross that He makes all things new: First of all in His own Body, crucified and risen from the dead; but so also, now, in your body and life, baptized into His dying and rising.  Thus are you a member of His Body and Bride, and a beloved child of His own God and Father.

It is by and from His Cross that He adorns His Church with His own righteousness and holiness, as a Bride made ready for her Husband.  By the Word of His Cross He pours out the Holy Spirit on Jews and Gentiles alike, cleansing them by His grace and sanctifying them in body and soul.

The animals and the people that St. Peter saw were unclean, but God declared them to be clean and holy by His Word.  So also for you.  As God has declared you to be clean, do not regard yourself as unholy.  As God has declared your neighbor to be clean, do not regard your neighbor as unholy.  But rather, with the eyes of faith, see in yourself and in your neighbor that which Christ sees and that which Christ says: That you are dressed beautifully, and that you are a gorgeous Bride, and that you have such a Husband who is so happy with you and so eager to receive you to Himself.

It is by the way and the means of the Cross, by His Word of the Cross, that He begets children of God also through you and through His Church on earth.  By His Cross and Passion, by that painful labor and delivery, He brings forth sons and daughters for the Father, and fruits of righteousness, of love and joy and peace and gladness.  And it is by His Cross and Passion that He conforms you to His own Image, that you might abide in the Image of God.  For it is by His Cross that He works in you the repentance which leads to life.  And it is by His Cross that you live as a child of God.

Such are the fruits of His Cross, the good fruits of Christ Himself, which the Holy Spirit discloses to you, bestows upon you, and produces in you by the preaching of the Gospel, by that forgiveness which comes to you from the Body of Christ the Crucified — which is poured out into His Font and Chalice — which is preached into your ears — which is fed into your mouth and your body — which is surely yours, as Christ presses it into your hand and gently declares, “This is for you.”

It matters not what you have been or done.  It matters not what others have done or said to you.  It matters not what you see or perceive in yourself, far less what the world perceives in you.

What does matter is what Christ Jesus says and does and gives to you.  For His Cross, which is His Victory over death and the grave — His Cross, which has atoned for the sins of the world — His Cross, which reconciles the world to God — His Cross also bears fruit after its own kind in you.

So it is that, in a little while, you also see Jesus in yourself, in the fruits that He produces in you as a branch of His Tree.  In the righteousness that He causes to be at work in you through His Holy Spirit.  In the comfort of your heart, and in the comfort that you give to others.  In that compassion which He has for you, which you in turn have for your neighbors who are hurting and afraid.

It is by the Cross that He begets children, and so also through your speaking of His Gospel.  If you are a father or mother and you teach your little children the things of Christ, know what a glorious good work that is.  And if you have failed in that responsibility, do not despair but repent now, and rejoice that in a little while you will see the Lord Jesus.  If you have not done what you should, begin to do so.  Bear the fruits that Christ produces and brings forth in you by His Word and Holy Spirit.  Rejoice in His Cross.  Rejoice also in His Resurrection and His Life.  For these are yours.

If you have no children of your own, you may yet speak the Gospel to your parents — whereby the child becomes a parent and gives birth to the children of God through the comfort and confession of the Gospel.  So it is when you forgive your father and mother where they have sinned against you, and when you are patient with them and honor them, as Christ has commanded for His sake.

Or if you speak the Gospel to your brother or your sister, whether he or she is younger or older, the Gospel that you speak is that of Christ Jesus.  And by that speaking the Spirit discloses Christ Jesus to your brother and sister and grants them joy and gladness in the salvation of the Lord.

If you have no family at all, you are yet given to speak the Word of the Gospel to your neighbor.  And if you are cut off from everyone, still you may confess the Gospel before your God and Father in heaven.  And you can sing with and for His Church, even when all else and all others are silent.

Rejoice, give thanks, and sing.  For that is one of the fruits of the Cross: To sing of the Atonement, to sing of the Resurrection of Jesus, to sing of His Gospel, and by your singing to confess and pray twice over.  You sing the New Song of the Lamb by virtue of His Cross and Resurrection.  You sing the New Song of the New Heavens and the New Earth.  You sing the New Song of the New Jerusalem, which is the Song of Christ Jesus.  For having become His, and He being yours, what you speak and sing is the Word of Christ.  And though you cannot see Him, yet you love Him.  And though you cannot see Him, yet the Song that you sing is true, and it is full of the Holy Spirit.

Consider St. Paul’s Epistles to the Church at Ephesus and Colossae.  He urges you to comfort one another — and to give the Holy Spirit to each other! — by the singing of Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs.  That is the singing of Christ Jesus, whereby He is heard upon your lips.

For a little while you do not see Him, not in Himself, nor in your neighbor, nor in yourself.  And yet, your life in Him is as sure and true and certain as Christ Himself, crucified and risen from the dead for you.  For now you have grief, but your grief shall be turned into joy, and your joy shall not be taken away from you.  It shall not.  You shall never be snatched out of the Lord’s hand.

It is through trials and tribulations that you enter the Kingdom of God.  It is through the narrow passage of the Cross that you are conceived and born of Christ and His Church.  And so it is by the Word and Spirit of His Holy Cross and Passion that you in turn beget other children of God.

But for the joy of Christ, for the Glory of His Resurrection, and for the Peace and Comfort of His forgiveness of all of your sins, you forget the grief, and you leave the pain behind.  Not as though you were already done, but knowing that your life is in Christ; that He is yours; that where you are, He is also; and where He is, there you shall be, both now and forever.  For He is the First, and He is the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega, and He has made you His own.

What He sees, already now in you, is a beloved child of His God and Father and a member of His own beautiful Bride, in whom His heart rejoices and is glad, and over whom He sings in love.

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

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