11 May 2019

The Ministry of the Word of Christ

As He called and gathered the disciples to Himself, to follow Him on His journey from the waters of His Baptism to His Holy Cross and Passion in Jerusalem, so does He appear to them and reveal and give Himself to them in His Resurrection from the dead.  Not only for their own faith and life and salvation in Him, body and soul, but that He should also send them as ministers of His Word, that His fulfillment of the Old Testament should be written down and preached to all the nations, even to the ends of the earth and to the close of the age.  That you also, here and now, should hear and believe the Word of Christ Jesus, in order that, believing, you should have life in His Name.

As God the Father intended from before the foundation of the world, His Son, Christ Jesus, has perfectly fulfilled the Holy Scriptures by His becoming flesh, by the ministry of His preaching and miracles, by His Sacrifice upon the Cross, and by His bodily Resurrection from the dead on the third day.  This work of God in Christ is what the whole Bible is really all about.

So, too, by the preaching and teaching of the Holy Scriptures, by the Ministry of His Word and Sacrament — as also here and henceforth in the words and works of His servant, Pastor Gadbaw — Christ Himself is actively present within the life of His Church on earth, and He is powerful to save all those who hear and receive Him in the preaching of His Holy Gospel.

The Lord is merciful to all who call upon Him in truth, that is, by faith in His Word; for it is by His Word that you know His Name, that you know the Father and receive the Spirit in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, and that you fear, love, and trust in the Holy Trinity by divine grace and mercy.

And yet, for all of that, life within the world and in your own skin is a daily challenge.  It is a troubled world, challenging and difficult, chaotic and discouraging.  Everyone is dying, everything is perishing.  Suffering and sorrow, anger, hatred, and violence are pervasive on all sides.

The Cross looms large over a fallen and perishing world, and it cannot be understood rightly apart from the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus.  But there are so many voices, so many words, and so many competing agendas, all of which threaten to drown out the preaching of His Gospel.

In the face of terrorist attacks on a daily basis and Christians being martyred all around the globe, the Lord’s Church appears to be powerless, subject to the capricious whims of this sinful world.  Certainly, there is open and growing hostility toward the Lord’s Word of Truth.

Even within the life of the Church, there are doubts and fears and difficult times.  You are tempted  to second guess or reject your pastors, to control them, or simply to ignore them; all because your sinful heart and mind refuse to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ in His Ministry of the Gospel.

Examine yourself.  Allow the Word of God to have its way with you.  And consider how it is with your heart and mind, with your spirit, soul, and body.  Are you at peace with God in your thoughts, words, and deeds?  Are you confident of His forgiveness and salvation?

Do you live as though the Cross and Resurrection of Christ made any difference in your life?  Do you lie down and go to sleep each night in the faith and comfort of the Cross?  And do you wake up each morning in the joy of the Resurrection?  Or do you drag yourself off to bed, exhausted by another day, with a mind full of worries and fear?  And do you get back out of bed to face another day with something more like grim determination than cheerful hope and expectation?

If you would know and love the Lord Jesus and abide with Him in Peace by faith in His mercy, then remain here in His City, in the midst of His Jerusalem, that is to say, within His Church on earth.  For here you are clothed by His Father with the Holy Spirit through His Word of the Gospel.

It is by the preaching of His Cross and Resurrection that He comforts you and lifts you up from your doubts and fears to hope and joy and gladness in Him.  That is the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of all your sins in His Name, that you should believe and trust in Him, and live in Him by faith, with peace in your heart through the hope and promise of His Resurrection.

Such repentance, faith, and life with God are accomplished in your body and life by the preaching of the Cross and Resurrection, because it is by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus that He has accomplished everything for you.  His dying and rising are your repentance, faith, and life.

So, then, because the Lord your God loves you and does not want you to perish forever in the darkness of your sin, despair, and unbelief, He sends His servants to proclaim Christ Jesus to you.  And just so, Pastor Gadbaw is sent by the Lord to preach to you here at Trinity, to comfort and sustain you in the Word and faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You receive and embrace the Lord Jesus in this preaching, not by your own reason, wisdom, or strength, but only because the Lord in mercy opens your ears, your heart and mind, to understand the Scriptures.  And to understand the Scriptures is to understand Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead.  For the whole Bible is the Book of Christ, and He is the One who opens that Book to you.  Not to make you smart, but to make you alive, and to make you His own.

The preaching of His Cross does crucify you.  It puts you to death and buries you with Him.  But at the same time, His Word of the Cross also removes all of your sins and raises you up with Him.

And Christ Jesus preaches this Word to you in flesh and blood like your own.  For He was not only crucified in the flesh, and not only did He shed His precious blood for you upon the Cross, but He is also risen from the dead forever in His own Body of flesh and blood.  He has known the curse of your sin and death, He has suffered your blood, sweat, and tears in His Body, that you might receive and know His Life and His Salvation in your own body of flesh and blood forevermore.

On your own, you are blind and lost and frightened.  Only Jesus can open your eyes to His Gospel of peace and forgiveness and eternal life.  First He must show you how real your sin is, and how desperate is your situation and your need for a Savior.  And then He must lead you to recognize Him as your Savior and to know the glory of His Cross as the fulfillment of the Holy Scriptures.

That is how He works to save you.  By His Word of the Gospel, proclaimed in His Name, your sins are freely and fully forgiven.  And by that Word of Holy Absolution, you are rescued from your fear of death, from your uncertainty and superstitions, and brought into the confidence of faith.  You are taught by His grace to trust and rely upon Him, and to receive all good things from Him.

He is here with you in His Church, and He addresses Himself to you.  He speaks from His great heart of love to your own heart and mind, to your body, soul, and spirit.  In the midst of your pain and confusion and difficulty, He’s here talking to you.  And by His Word to you, He removes your burdens; He grants to you the peace and hope that are found in His Resurrection from the dead.

From within His Church and Ministry on earth, His Cross and Resurrection are preached to all the nations — unto repentance and faith in His forgiveness of sins, unto life and salvation in His Name — until you are gathered to Him in glory in the Resurrection of all flesh on the Day of Judgment, when you shall be clothed with Power from on high, glorious in body and soul, like unto Christ.

His Word does and gives what it says, just as the Holy Scriptures of St. Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets preached Christ in days of old and were perfectly fulfilled with His coming in the flesh.  The preaching of the apostolic witness of His Cross and Resurrection truly delivers the goods.

Just as Jesus was present in a bodily and personal way for His disciples, so is He present for you in the life of His Church, in the preaching and administration of His Holy Gospel.  That is what it’s all about.  Christianity is not a disembodied “spirituality,” or a superstitious “ghost story.”  It lives and abides in the flesh-and-blood real presence of the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth.

That is what it meant for the Twelve to be sent as witnesses of the Cross and Resurrection.  And that is what it means for Pastor Gadbaw to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins “in the Name of Jesus.”  For when the called and ordained servants of the Word of Christ thereby deal with you in His Name, in accordance with His divine command, it is your dear Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is thereby caring for you, granting you His Peace and His forgiveness of your sins.

And for you, Brother Gadbaw, as from and in your Baptism, in your vocation as a child of God, so also from your ordination to the Office of the Holy Ministry, and now in your Divine Call to Trinity, in your station as a servant of the Word of Christ Jesus, the Promise of the Father rests and remains upon you and accompanies you in all that He sends you to do and say in His Name.

It is not an easy work that you are given to do.  Humanly speaking it is often a thankless task, and you may not be able to see or perceive that you are doing any good or making any difference.

The preaching of repentance is not fun for the preacher or the hearer.  It crucifies and puts to death the sinful heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit.  But it accompanies and aims at the preaching and bestowal of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins in the Name of stead of Christ Jesus.  And it is by that Word that all the people of God, pastors and laity alike, live and abide in Him by His grace.

The Word that you are called and sent to preach is the Word of Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.  It is for the nations, but it is proclaimed from within the Church, on earth as it is in heaven.  It is to and from the Church, the City of God, His true Jerusalem, that you preach — to and from the Font, to and from the Altar, the Breaking of the Bread, wherein the Lord Christ is with you.

And as the Lord has bestowed His Spirit upon Pastor Gadbaw, and as He continues to sustain him in the Office to which He has called and ordained him, so does He bestow the same Holy Spirit, the Promise of His Father, upon all of you through this Office and Ministry of His Holy Gospel.

He causes His Word to be preached to you here in this place, in this city, that you may know Him and receive Him in the Breaking of the Bread, and that you may know and love the Gifts Christ freely gives you by and with His Word.  So that, hearing and receiving, trusting and believing, you may abide in Him, and be purified in Him through His forgiveness, and raised up to newness of life in Him, both body and soul, in perfect health and strength, at peace with God forevermore.

Rejoice, therefore, give thanks, and sing.  Even from the waste places of Jerusalem, the City of the Cross — under duress; in the midst of destruction; assaulted by the devil, all his works and all his ways; tempted to despair — sing for joy and praise the Lord, confess and call upon His Name in the sure and certain hope and promise of the Resurrection, which is yours in Christ Jesus.  For the One who calls you is faithful, and He will surely continue to fulfill all that He has spoken and promised, to the praise of His glorious grace, for the life and salvation of His beloved children.

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

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