28 August 2019

Put to Death, Buried, and Risen with Christ Jesus

St. John the Baptist has risen from the dead in Christ Jesus, in His Word and miraculous works.  For both the baptizer and all the baptized have died and risen with Him who is our Head.

So it is that the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Word and His works, testify to your resurrection.  And your life, in turn, now testifies to His fulfillment of the Law in faith and love, and to His completion of Holy Baptism by His Cross and Resurrection from the dead.

St. John’s preaching and his baptizing, his life and his death, all confess and point ahead to Christ the Crucified.  His beheading is not simply an injustice on the part of Herod; nor is it an accident of fate, a punishment of God, or a failure of the divine will.  It is the culmination of St. John’s holy and righteous work, according to the plan and foreknowledge of the Lord.  As the Forerunner of the Christ, his suffering and his death precede and point to the Cross and Passion of the Lamb.

And as the baptizer is maligned and put to death, so are all those who are baptized into Christ Jesus.  But such a death is one of repentance, unto the Resurrection and the Life that are in Him.

To that end, St. John the Baptist — in the spirit and power of Elijah — still goes before the Lord to prepare His way by the preaching and Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Therefore, whatever is not lawful in your life, put that sin to death, and die to that idolatry in you.  Repent of all your sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, and begin to bear the fruits of repentance.

Where you are harboring grudges, whether against the Lord, His servants, or your neighbors in the world, repent of your hardness of heart, humble yourself under the Lord your God, and forgive as you are forgiven.  Be reconciled to God and man in Christ Jesus, lest the sin that is crouching at the door of your heart devour your body and soul in death and damnation.

If you are sorry for what you have said or done, do not be afraid to apologize, to make amends, and to do better.  Submit to the Word of the Lord, and trust Him to preserve your life, and even to raise you up from death and the grave.  Whether you suffer the consequences of your own sins, or suffer the sins of others against you, do not doubt the faithfulness of the Lord who loves you and who saves you by His grace, by His own innocent suffering and death, by His holy and precious blood, and by His catechesis and His preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Do not simply listen to His Word as though to some kind of passing entertainment or amusement, but hear it and heed it as divine and certain Truth, and live by it in faith and love, patiently bearing the Cross in life and death.  To be sure, the Cross of Christ is perplexing.  But do not be afraid.

Is it not amazing that Herod was afraid of John, though he was held in Herod’s prison and subject to his whims?  Whereas St. John, however fearful or discouraged his mortal flesh may have been, had the courage, peace, and confidence to continue preaching, even in prison, even unto death.

St. John sets a good and faithful example for you, as well, even if it does end in a gruesome death.

“But, how long, O Lord?  How long?”  Is that not the cry and prayer of your heart?

And are you not also sorely tried and tested in your own place — whether in a prison or a palace?

Yet, the Lord has given you a white robe in Holy Baptism, as He has done for Fredrick, Violet, Ruth, Benedict, and Philippa already this year.  So has your Father clothed you in the righteousness of Christ, His beloved and well-pleasing Son.  And He invites you to rest yourself here, to find your perfect peace and joy under the Holy Altar of the same Lord Jesus Christ.

This is where your heart and soul recline in safety, even while your body labors in love, and suffers for the sake of love, for the sake of the truth, for the sake of the Gospel.  For here your body also finds its Sabbath Rest, reclines, and eats and drinks in peace, in the forgiveness, life, and salvation of Christ Jesus, your Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away your sins.

It is to and from His Altar that you live — by the grace of God through faith in His Word.

Your life in Christ is truly a Sacramental and Eucharistic life.  It is rooted in your Holy Baptism.  It rests and resides at the Lord’s Table in the Holy Communion.  It abounds in gratitude and gives thanks for the grace of God in the Liturgy of the Gospel.  And all of this is eminently practical.

Just think of it!  You have already died and risen with Christ Jesus by the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism.  So, then, what could Herod or anyone else really do to you?

And as your life is hidden with Christ in God under His Altar, your whole body and life are freely offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the One who feeds you with His Body and His Blood.

These gifts of God in Christ are your confidence and courage in the face of all harm and danger.

And know this, that your life, your death, and your resurrection are precious to the Lord your God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth.  You are precious and pleasing to Him, because you are robed in Christ, and you are in Christ, and Christ Himself is in you, and with you, and for you.

He is your Head, truly, as He is the Head of His Body the Church.  And as your Head has gone before you — through death and the grave into Life everlasting — you can even “lose your head” for Him and for His Gospel.  That is no pun, it is the Truth.  And so shall you rise in your body to live forever in glory with Him, immortal and imperishable, like unto Christ’s own glorious body.

In that same confidence, and with that same courage, love and serve and care for your neighbor’s body — in both life and death — in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the body!  Just as the disciples of St. John lovingly buried his body in the hope and promise of the Resurrection.

Bear in mind that, when you love and serve your neighbor in his or her body, you are loving and serving the Body of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead for your salvation.

In such faith and love, the life that you live from your Baptism to and from the Altar is a proper and beautiful dance for the one true King.  And He is pleased with you, not by sensual seduction, but because He regards you by His grace, according to the mercy and forgiveness of His Gospel.

Living your life as a long, slow, beautiful dance for your King, the Lord’s Anointed, Jesus Christ, take to heart His solemn oath and gracious promise, that He gives to you His Father’s Kingdom.

Even now, as a gift, guarantee, and pledge of that promised Kingdom, He who is the Head of St. John the Baptist gives to you His Body on a silver platter and pours out for you His Blood from a silver chalice, that you might live and abide in Him, even as He thus lives and abides in you.

Dear baptized child of God, not only St. John but you also are risen from the dead in and with Christ the Crucified.  And as He lives and reigns forever, so shall you live in both body and soul.

Even now, find your rest and be at peace here under His Altar, until you are vindicated in the final judgment when the full number of the baptized shall be completed, openly declared before all of creation, and glorified in the new heavens and new earth, where righteousness abides forever.

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

25 August 2019

Through the Narrow Door of Baptism and the Cross of Christ

He’s making His way to Jerusalem.  St. Luke has made that plain already, and here the steadfast journey continues.  The Lord Jesus has set His face toward His Holy City and the Sacrifice that He will offer there.  He has fixed His eyes upon His Cross and Passion, upon His Passover and His Exodus, by which He will bring His people out of death into life.  For by the offering of Himself once for all, He returns to His Father and opens the Kingdom of God to all who follow after Him.

It is a narrow door through which He passes, blazing the trail for you and Philippa and whoever believes and is baptized into Him.  It is like being born from your mother’s womb, in which the curse of sin and death contends with the promise and gift of new life.  And it is like a camel being drawn through the eye of a needle.  It seems impossibly small, and it is ludicrous to suppose that anyone could do it.  But what man could not do, the Lord Jesus Christ does for you and for all.

He first entered that narrow door when He entered the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized by St. John; and from those waters He passes through His crucifixion, death, and burial, into His Resurrection and His Ascension to the Right Hand of His Father.  It is all about sonship and what it means to be and to live as a child of God, even and especially in the midst of sin and death.  He bears and suffers the curse of the fall into sin, by taking His place at the head of a long line of sinners, in order to open the door and lead them through it, to bear His Bride over the threshold.

He gives Himself to be squeezed by the pressure, the tightness, the weight of the world, and the entire burden of the Law, and through it all He remains faithful.  He relies upon His Father, come hell or high water against Him.  When He is reviled, He does not revile in return, but He simply keeps on entrusting Himself to the One who will rescue Him from out of death, and raise Him up from out of the tomb, and bring Him finally through the narrow door into the breadth, and height, and depth of divine Glory.  He thus receives the inheritance of the Father’s Son, who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven into our flesh, and bore our sin, and was disciplined in our place, in order to make a place for all the sons and daughters of Adam in the Household of His God and Father.  That is what He has done for you, and that is what He gives to you by His Word.

He calls you to follow Him to Jerusalem, to His Cross and Passion, and to enter with Him through that narrow door of His death into His Resurrection and the Life everlasting in His Kingdom.

Because He has already done it, now is the acceptable and opportune time, now is the day of salvation.  He has opened the door by the sacrifice of His own Body and by the shedding of His holy and precious Blood; and now by the preaching of His Word He brings you safely through that door, albeit putting you to death and raising you to life again in Himself.  It is by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, which both kills and makes alive.  It is by your Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection, as it is for Philippa henceforth.  That is your Exodus, your going out and your coming in, which brings you to the Passover of the Lamb within His Father’s Kingdom.

You “strive to enter” through that narrow door, as Jesus urges you to do, not by the futile striving of self-righteousness, but by the striving of contrition and repentance.  That is the very opposite of relying on yourself and trying to enter by your own effort.  It is, rather, to be crucified and put to death and buried to yourself, and to find your righteousness, life, and salvation in Christ alone.

Apart from Christ Jesus — which is to say, apart from the Ministry of His Gospel and faith in His Gospel — all of your works, from the inside-out, and all of your thoughts, words, and actions, even at your very best, are all works of unrighteousness.  Indeed, the harder you try to impress the Lord your God with such behavior, the further you wander from His Kingdom and His Righteousness.  But if you want to be saved, if you want to live, abandon all that sort of striving and fix your hope on the Cross of Christ.  His Cross is the Sign that He has raised up in the midst of His people, to which He calls you, and by which He crucifies you, in order to raise you up to a brand new life.

So, He is not talking about simple proximity, simply being in His presence, in the right place at the right time.  Sitting in the pew for the sermon, and even kneeling at the rail for the Sacrament, that will not get you through the narrow door.  Don’t congratulate yourself that you are here, and do not presume that Christ must let you in because you’ve done your bit and paid your dues.  If you imagine that you are doing the Lord a favor by coming to His House and hearing His Word, eating His Food and drinking from His Cup, then you are still too full of yourself, and you surely do not have the fear of God in your heart and mind.  Name dropping isn’t going to work with the Head of the House, and if all you’ve got is your personal pedigree and good attendance card, then you’re not getting in.  But why would you even want to enter, if it seems like such a chore to you?

Now, to be sure, it is exactly right that you should want to enter through the door into the Lord’s House, for your Salvation is here.  Simply coming to church, in itself, is certainly no guarantee of righteousness and salvation, that is true.  But not coming to church at all is even worse, and is absolutely not the remedy or solution to sin, death, and hell.  Instead, you are called to the Cross at the center of the Church’s life in Christ.  Not to be a passive observer or a listener only, but to worship the Lord Jesus Christ by repentant faith in His Word; to hear and heed His preaching, and to eat and drink His Supper in the holiness and righteousness of faith in His forgiveness of sins.

To worship the one Lord, Jesus Christ, is to stop worshiping yourself and all your false gods in the world.  It is to deny yourself, to take up His Cross and follow Him; to drown and destroy the old Adam in you, and to live as the New Man lives, in faith toward God, in fervent love for Him above all else, and in genuine love for your neighbor as yourself.  It is to be at peace with God, and in so far as it depends on you to be at peace with all people, in the confidence that God is at peace with you in Christ Jesus.  And in such peace, hope, and love, you worship Christ in righteousness by pouring yourself out in service to your neighbor, strengthening the weak and healing the sick, and pursuing harmony with everyone, rather than harboring bitterness toward anyone.

That is the life of repentance, faith, and love to which your Baptism has called you, into which it has ushered you by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  It is the ongoing life of righteousness and holiness to which the Lord has called Philippa by His Word and in her Holy Baptism this morning.

But the hard and solid fact is that you can’t achieve any of this by your own power or volition.  The door is too narrow, and your ego will not fit through it.  That is why your ego must be sacrificed upon the Altar of the Cross, upon the Whole Burnt Offering of Christ Jesus, if you are to enter in.

But that is not your work.  It is the Service of your merciful and great High Priest, that is, the same Lord Jesus Christ.  You begin to worship Him, in other words, as He comes to you and gathers you to Himself, in order to bear you to the Father in His own Body of flesh and blood.  He is the Clean Vessel in which you are borne, who offers you up to His God and Father as a grain offering, acceptable and well-pleasing in His sight, and as a sweet-smelling aroma in His nostrils.

You are consecrated to the Lord your God by Christ Jesus and by His Sacrifice.  Not that you must offer Him, but that He offers you to the Father in Himself; and the Father reconciles you to Himself and receives you to Himself in His beloved and well-pleasing Son.

And so it is that Philippa has been consecrated to the Lord, the one true God, justified by His grace and sanctified by His Spirit.  Not by any work of hers, but by His sacred work for her, as for you.

As Christ passed through the cities, towns, and villages on His way to the Cross in Jerusalem, so has He come here to your town, in order to gather you to Himself and take your sins upon Himself.  He calls you by the preaching of repentance unto faith in His forgiveness, and He bears you in His Body through death into life.  Following after Him through Holy Baptism, you have entered the narrow door that He has opened by His Cross and Resurrection.  And what that means for the rest of your life is the daily dying and rising of contrition and repentance, confession and absolution, until your Baptism culminates and comes to rest in the death and resurrection of your body, unto the life everlasting of your body and soul in the Kingdom of God.

This daily dying and rising of repentant faith is the way of the Cross by which you live.  But again, your striving and suffering, and even your sacrifices, are not meritorious works by which you save yourself and your own skin.  No, this is the discipline of your God and Father, who teaches you and trains you to live as His dear child and heir.  He does not leave you alone to be a passive observer or a listener only, but by His Word and Holy Spirit He lays the Cross of Christ upon your heart and mind, your body and soul, in order to conform you to the Image of His Son.  He does so in love, in order to give you life, lest you perish forever in your works of unrighteousness.  And so it is that He brings you through the narrow door to Himself.

Even now, by His grace, you live by faith in His Word and promise, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did in their pilgrimage on earth, in the midst of frailty and weakness.  And here you are seated with them, with Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles and Evangelists, with the holy martyrs and all saints, at the Table of Christ Jesus in the Kingdom of God.  Not simply “in His presence,” nor eating and drinking His Body and Blood unto condemnation, but receiving the Food and Drink with which He feeds you in repentance and faith, with gratitude in your heart and thanksgiving on your lips.  Here the Lord your God receives you to Himself in peace, even as He gives Himself to you in love, with mercy and forgiveness for all your sins.  If you would enter His Kingdom and be saved at the last, then here receive these gifts Christ freely gives to you, the Fruits of His Sacrifice for you.

Beloved, you are not a spectator or an “innocent bystander,” but a recipient of these good things and a participant in the very Life of God in Christ.  It’s a matter of your death and life in Him.  And this is your Father’s House, where you belong, where you now live as His own dear child.  He knows your name, for He has named you with His own.  And He knows where you are from, for He has called you from the ends of the earth, from the four corners of the compass, to Himself.

As you have heard His call and come at the sound of His Voice, rejoice and be glad, for that is the gracious gift and good work of the Holy Spirit through the Word and preaching of Christ Jesus.

As your Holy Baptism is the narrow door by which you have entered the Kingdom of your God and Father in Christ Jesus, so is the Altar His Table, at which you are invited to recline within His house and home.  For the Holy Supper of Christ’s true Body and true Blood is the heart and center of the Church’s life and salvation, already here in time and hereafter in eternity.

Here you have come, not to the fire and brimstone of Mount Sinai, but to the beauty and grace of Mount Zion, to the holy City of the living God, to the true Jerusalem, on earth as it is in heaven; to myriads of angels and archangels, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect; because here you have come to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to His sprinkled Blood, with which He cleanses you and sanctifies you, and by which you see God and live.

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

18 August 2019

Baptized with the Spirit and with Fire

As our dear Lord Jesus Christ continues on His Way to Jerusalem — on His Way to the Cross — He reveals the significance of His Holy Baptism — for Himself, first of all, and so also for you.

It’s not what you might think or expect from your compassionate and loving Savior.  Popular images of Jesus envision Him as tender to the point of being soft and weak; easy-going and good-natured enough to wink and nod at sin; by all means friendly, tolerant, and above all, nice.  But those who insist on “peace and unity” at all costs are missing the mark where Jesus is concerned.

The Baptism of our Lord is a matter of deadly seriousness.  It does not deal gently with sin.  It does not look the other way or tolerate the contradiction of God’s will or disobedience to His Word.  It is clearly black and white and leaves no room for shades of grey.  Thus, Baptism means death and destruction for the sinner.  It is both fire and flood.  It is crucifixion and burial.  And it requires the division of all people, no matter how closely related, on the sole criterion of the Holy Cross.

From the moment our Lord first entered the Jordan River to be baptized by St. John, His Life and His Ministry were one, long, continuous Baptism into His death, even His death on the Cross.

And so it is that your entire life, as well, as a Christian disciple of Jesus — from the font to your grave — is one, long, continuous Baptism into His death.  As you have been taught to confess, it signifies that your old Adam should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all your sins and evil lusts; and again, that a New Man should daily emerge and arise in you, in and with Christ Jesus, to live before His God and Father in righteousness and purity forever.

Thus, in either case, for you as for Christ Jesus, it is a Baptism into His Cross.  Only what is Law and sin and death and judgment for Him is for you the Gospel of forgiveness and life and salvation.

In the first place, you know that Baptism gives or profits the forgiveness of your sins.  But you receive that forgiveness in your Baptism because Christ has received your sins in His Baptism.  It is the place of that great exchange, whereby Christ Jesus goes into the water holy and sinless and perfect, but He comes out drenched in your sins, burdened by your death and damnation; whereas you go into the water saturated with your sins and dressed in filthy rags, but you come out dressed in the beautiful white robes of Christ and His perfect righteousness.  Your sin, death, and hell in exchange for His heaven, His life, and His great salvation.

Remember, when Jesus came to St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River, how St. John confessed that he was not worthy of the Lord; yet, Jesus humbled Himself before John and submitted to his Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  But how could that be?  And what could it possibly mean?  Does the Lord Jesus have sins to be forgiven, for which He must repent?

Yes!  That is the very point.  He has no sins of His own, to be sure; for He is holy and righteous, the perfect Son of God.  But as the Lamb of God, He takes upon Himself the sins of all the world, including yours.  So it is for those sins that He repents, for those sins that He suffers and dies, for those sins that He receives forgiveness — not for His own sake, but for you and your salvation.

You see, therefore, that everything Christ Jesus does and suffers from the waters of His Baptism to His death upon the Cross is all for your sake; and He receives all things in heaven and on earth on your behalf. The Word of Blessing from the Father, “You are My beloved Child, with whom I am well pleased,” and the anointing of His Holy Spirit, are both given to you in Holy Baptism.

It is in His Baptism that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, was anointed by the Word and Spirit of the Father to be the Christ, your Savior.  And it is by and from His bloody Cross and Passion that He bestows the same Word and Spirit of God upon you by the way and means of your Baptism.

This Word and Spirit of God are the “fire” that Christ casts upon the earth, which He first of all calls down upon Himself — from His Baptism to His Cross — and which He now pours out, for you and for all — from His crucified and risen Body, in and with His holy and precious Blood.

He baptizes you with the Spirit and with fire, having been baptized with the Spirit and with fire, Himself, in His own Body of flesh and blood.  He bears and suffers the Cross for the sins of the world, but so is He risen from the dead for your justification, for the sanctification of your body and soul unto life with God forever.  So you are put to death through contrition and repentance, but you are raised up to newness of life through faith in the forgiveness of all your sins.

As the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, has given Himself for you and for all upon the Cross, so do you follow after Him as a disciple in the Way of His Cross, unto the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.  That is the life which He now gives to you in the Holy Sacraments, as you are baptized in His Name and continue to live the daily and lifelong significance of that Baptism, and as you receive the very Body and Blood that He sacrificed for you upon the Altar of His Cross.

It is by these Means of Grace, by the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism, and by the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Communion, that you are purified by the “fire” of God’s Word and Holy Spirit.  That “fire” has a two-fold purpose and effect, corresponding to the work of the Law and the Gospel.  It is the wrath and judgment of God against sin, on the one hand, convicting hearts, crushing the old Adam, and calling to repentance; and on the other hand, the merciful cleansing of forgiveness, which gives rise to Life and Salvation with God in Christ.

Such is the decisive work of that sharp, two-edged Sword, the Word of God.  It divides between even the soul and the spirit, between your joints and marrow.  It cuts you to the quick and exposes your sins to the righteous judgment of the Lord.  But so does it also call you to repentance, which is to say, not only away from your sins in contrition, but to the Lord in faith, to the new life that is yours in the mercy and forgiveness of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  It is Cross and Resurrection.

That you should be well-prepared for this confrontation with His Word, God makes it clear that He will not tolerate false prophets, nor any false teaching or preaching in His Name.  That is most reprehensible to Him.  But the true Prophets of God (like Jeremiah) preach His Word faithfully, even though it brings them grief and pain, suffering and persecution (as it did for Jeremiah).  It brings the Cross, because the Word of God — specifically the hard Word of His Law — is not a coddling, permissive, and gentle word, but a consuming fire and a fierce hammer that smashes rocky hearts into pieces, in order that the Gospel might recreate those hearts in the Image of Christ.

Like any loving father — only perfectly, without any sinful anger or impatience, always fair and always consistent, always striving for your good — the Lord chastises you and disciplines you through His Word of the Law and through the temporal consequences of your sin.  He does so that you should be healed and strengthened in body and soul, and trained to find your life in the Cross of Christ instead of in the pleasant enticements of sin, death, the devil, and your flesh.  Thus are you returned to the death-dealing, life-giving waters of your Baptism and its daily significance.

Of course, this ongoing and continuous work of the Law and the Gospel, day-by-day throughout your Christian life, brings about a constant division within you — within your heart, mind, body, and soul.  It is a struggle and a battle which those outside of Christ do not undergo, because they remain naive and content (for now) in their sinfulness and spiritual death.  But St. Paul describes that war which rages like a fire in the flesh of those who live by faith in the Body of Christ Jesus:

You know by the Word and Spirit of God what is good and right and true and best, and by the grace of God you sincerely desire to live accordingly.  But time and again you fail and fall short!  By the Spirit of God you know and despise your sins, and you struggle against them.  And yet, they so often gain the upper hand in your words and actions.  So are you divided throughout this life.

And as there is such division within yourself, so is there a similar division between you and the sinful world — sometimes even within your own family and among your friends and coworkers.

I am well aware how greatly some of you struggle with those divisions of family over matters of religious faith and commitment, for all sorts of different reasons, in all sorts of different ways.  And I sympathize, as well, because of similar situations within my own extended family.  But I’m sorry to say, there is no easy solution for any of us.  We rather teach and confess by the example of our Christian lives, and by speaking the Word of God as we are given the opportunity. And we pray for reconciliation and unity in Christ — but only in Christ, and not by way of compromise.

Over against the increasing wickedness and falsehood of this fallen world, Christians rightly insist that the God-given bonds of marriage and family are sacred and significant.  How doubly-blessed are those families who are united in their Christian faith and life.  Even so, the household and family of God, the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church, far and away surpass and must take precedence over any and all ties of merely human flesh and blood.  Not that you disdain or despise your family, but that you always defer to Christ and His Word and live by faith in Him.

From the standpoint of eternity, the waters of Baptism are “thicker” than the blood of family ties.  Whereas the Blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, which cleanses you from sin, is likewise thicker and more permanent than all other bonds.  So, then, where a family is divided by religious faith, confession, and practice, as a Christian you are bound to give precedence, priority, and preference to Christ and His Church — over and above, and even in opposition to, your parents and children.

Even so, in spite of such painful divisions (inevitably brought about by the entrance of Christ Jesus into this sinful world and into your sinful heart), there is nevertheless a true and lasting Peace for you in Christ Jesus, and a new and more permanent family — created in Holy Baptism, where you were born again as a child of God — and strengthened and sustained, now and forever, in the Holy Communion.  This is where the division of your soul and spirit, the destruction of your old Adam, and the enmity of the world against you, are replaced with the Love and Unity of Christ in His Spirit, the steadfast confession of His Word and faith in the face of all opposition, and the joyful confidence that He is not ashamed to call you His brother or sister, a child of His own Father.

Because you are a member of this household and family of God — the Lord’s own son or daughter — united with Christ Jesus in the unity of His Holy Spirit as a beloved and well-pleasing child and heir of the Father in heaven, you do find peace and strength in Him, even here and now on earth.

For the joy that was set before Him, for the sake of your salvation, He endured the Cross, despising its shame; wherefore He has been exalted in His Resurrection and Ascension to the Right Hand of His God and Father.  In considering Him and all that He has suffered on your behalf, you are able to endure by His grace and bear His Cross without becoming weary or discouraged.  Not only by way of His good example, but especially because the Baptism of His bloody Cross and Passion has been poured out upon you — by and with His Word and Spirit — as a Baptism of forgiveness, a rich and full washing away of sins, and a gracious water of life and salvation; and because the Cup of God’s wrath against your sins, which Christ Jesus drained to the dregs for you, is now given to you as the Cup of Blessing and Salvation, the New Testament in His Blood, poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins, and for life and salvation in Him.

Come, therefore, and be kindled by the fire of His love for you.  Cling to Him by the grace and power of His Holy Spirit, even (and especially) when all hell breaks loose around you and you are cut to the quick within.  Hear again His gracious Word, as you are called to feast on Him in the righteousness and holiness of your Holy Baptism: “Take, eat, this is My Body, given for you.  Take, drink, this is My Blood, poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.”  So shall you abide in Him, and He in you; and nothing shall ever divide you from His one Body forever.

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

14 August 2019

The Remembrance of His Mercy

Here, then, is how the Lord comes to you and deals with you: In grace, mercy, and peace. In humility and meekness.  By His Word and Holy Spirit, He greets you and embraces you in love.  The Father gives to you His own beloved Son, in flesh and blood like yours, for the forgiveness of your sins, for the resurrection of your body, and for the life everlasting of your body and soul.

He sends His messenger to you, to go before His face, to prepare His way by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  To point to Him who is the Lamb of God, and to give you that Lamb in the flesh.  He preaches Christ into your ears, into your mouth, and into your body.

Believe the Word that He speaks to you and the promises He gives to you.  For all these things are fulfilled for you in Christ.  And they shall be fulfilled and accomplished in you, forever and ever.

In St. Elizabeth and St. Mary you are given beautiful examples of such faith in Christ, the Lord.  They hear His Word, and they trust it.  They rejoice in it gladly, with both humility and confidence, even though it remains hidden under frailty and weakness.

But there is more to these two women than example.  St. Elizabeth is a new Sarah, who conceives a promised son in her barren old age, as the mouth of the Lord has spoken.  Better still, St. Mary is the new and greater Eve, the Mother of all the living, because she conceives and bears the very Son of God in her womb, the Seed of the Woman who crushes Satan under His wounded heel.

St. Mary is a daughter of the first Eve.  So, too, she is a true and twofold daughter of Abraham; for he is the father of all who believe and trust the Lord, and she does.  She is also a faithful daughter of the Patriarch Judah and of King David; and now, in her, all the promises of God the Lord to those men and their children have come to pass.  For as her father David once brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, where the Lord caused His Name and His Glory to dwell among His people, so now has St. Mary herself become a new and better Ark of the New Covenant in the flesh and blood of her Son.  She carries in herself, not signs or types of good things to come, nor simply shadows and promises, but the Reality, the one true God Himself, in His own flesh and blood.

It is in this way — by the means of this dear woman, who is blessed above all others — that the Lord not only comes to you, to visit you in peace, but He has become like you in every way, save only without sin.  Conceived and born of St. Mary, He is the true Man, the new and better Adam.

He comes in this way, in human flesh and blood, in order to save you from your sin, to redeem you from death and from the tyranny of the devil, to reconcile you to God and bring you to Him as a dear child to your dear Father in heaven forever.  Thus, by His Spirit, you pray: “Abba, Father.”

Has Jesus not taught you to pray in precisely this way?  “Our Father, who art in heaven.”  With these words He tenderly invites you to believe that God is your true Father, and you are His true child, so that you may come to Him and pray to Him as a little child asks her dear father on earth.

It is for this purpose that the incarnate Son of God, the blessed Son of St. Mary, Jesus Christ, has taken all your sins upon Himself — indeed, He has taken the sins of the whole world upon Himself — and has borne those sins in His Body to the Cross.  There, by the shedding of His holy, precious Blood, He has made propitiation and atoned for all those sins of the world, including yours.

And having thus atoned for sin, His death is surely not His defeat but His great victory.  So it is that He is raised from the dead.  And in His Resurrection, those who have been burdened and put to death by sin are raised up to newness of life.  For just as He became like you, even to the point of death, so do you become like Him in His Resurrection through His forgiveness of all your sins.

This forgiveness and new life He grants to you, and to His whole Church on earth, by the Ministry of the Gospel.  He does it by the preaching of His messengers — as Gabriel announced the Word of the Lord to St. Mary — and as St. John the Baptist, while yet in the womb, proclaimed the Lord Jesus Christ.  Likewise, by the washing of water with the Word and Spirit of Christ, which is the new birth of Holy Baptism, you are brought to life in the household and family of God.  Indeed, as St. Mary once conceived and gave birth to the Son of God by His grace and power, so does the Church give birth to the sons of God in Christ by the same Word and the same Holy Spirit.

And He gives to you, also — into your body — the same Body and Blood of the same Lord Jesus Christ, which were conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary; which were crucified under Pontius Pilate; which were dead and buried; which are now risen and ascended, alive forevermore.

As He unites His flesh to yours in this Holy Sacrament, so are you bound up with Him and united with Him, both body and soul, in His Cross and Resurrection and in His Life everlasting.

This is most certainly true.  But it is also true that, for now, it is hidden in the dark and secret place, in the womb of the Church, in the theology of the Cross.

Your life and salvation as a beloved and well-pleasing child of God are perceived only by faith in the Word and promises of Christ, in the midst of much hardship and sorrow, gossip and slander, persecution and death.  But you live in the hope of the Resurrection, which is not yet seen.

St. Elizabeth did not see it.  When she greeted her young cousin as the Mother of her Lord, and she praised that same Lord God concealed in the womb of St. Mary, that girl was barely in her first trimester, not even showing.  Nor do we have any indication or reason to believe that St. Elizabeth ever saw the Christ Child, as Simeon and Anna would see Him in the Temple.  She did not live to see her own son, St. John the Baptist, grow up to fulfill his calling as the Forerunner of the Lord. Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias were already well advanced in years when St. John was conceived.  But had she lived, she would have seen her son imprisoned and beheaded by Herod.

St. Mary did live to see her own dear Son, Christ Jesus, crucified under Pontius Pilate.  There, at the foot of His Cross, she saw Him suffer and die, and the great sword of sorrow pierced her soul, as Simeon foretold.  She was a witness of His Resurrection and of His outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost; but so did she also see the Church on earth suffer persecution, as she herself suffered in her life under the Cross.  As she was taken into the home of St. John the Apostle, she would have seen the martyrdom of his elder brother, St. James, who was put to death by Herod.

Already long before, St. Mary had suffered for her faith and because of her great blessedness.  When she returned from visiting St. Elizabeth, she was at first suspected by St. Joseph, who would have divorced her quietly for her presumed unfaithfulness; and though he took her to be his wife by faith in the Word of the Lord, one can well imagine what the rest of Nazareth would have thought and said about her and her condition.  She had to flee the murderous threats and violence of Herod, who would have destroyed her Son from the start.  She had to live in a foreign land, a stranger and alien on earth, although she was highly favored by God and blessed among women.

The great reversal of which St. Mary sings in her Magnificat — the humbling of the proud and the exaltation of the poor and lowly and despised — is accomplished by God through the Cross and Passion of His Son and hers.  And it is fully realized only in the Resurrection of the dead, which you do not yet see.  For now, what you see and experience are persecution, suffering, and death.

For now you live under the Cross.  But of course, it is and remains the very Cross of Christ which saves you.  Live, therefore, in the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection, in the faith and confidence of His mercy.  That hope will not disappoint you, nor will His mercy ever fail you.

Even now, there is the remembrance of His mercy.  Not simply your remembering of His mercy in the past, your remembering of His Word and promises, but His remembrance of you and His promises to you, and His remembrance of His holy Covenant in the flesh and blood of Christ.

Here, indeed, is where and how He remembers you in mercy, not just in His head but in His flesh.  Here is the Body of Christ, born of St. Mary, given to you.  Here is the Blood of Christ, shed for you upon the Cross, now poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Where there is such forgiveness of sins, there also is life and salvation.  As you hear and believe His Word, and as you receive Him into yourself in faith, it is for you as He has spoken: Your sins are forgiven, and so are you raised up from death to the Life everlasting in your body and soul.

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

11 August 2019

Not to Worry: The Lord Is Faithful!

When the Lord Jesus Christ tells you “not to worry,” He thereby takes away one of those things that you do best.  Indeed, He takes away everything that you might presume to do for yourself, by your own ingenuity and effort, as though to gain some treasure of your own desire and devising.

It is one thing to maintain a godly concern for others, and to serve faithfully within your God-given calling and stations in life.  But to worry, to be anxious, is to suppose that everything depends on you.  As though you were the one to feed the ravens and clothe the lilies.  As though you were the one to make the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good.  As though you were capable of opening your hand to satisfy the wants and needs of every living thing.

So, as a Word of the Law, “do not worry” exposes your pride and self-righteousness, as well as your doubts and fears, your desperate anxiety, and all the other symptoms of your unbelief.

But this Word of your dear Lord Jesus Christ does not simply bring your sin to light.  It is also His call to repentance and faith — both of which are His work, not yours.  That is to say, He calls you away from yourself and your sin to your Father in heaven, to His grace and mercy and forgiveness, and to His gracious providence of all that you need for your body and soul, for now and forever.

Christ Jesus calls you to fear, love, and trust in the Lord — the one true God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — because He loves you; and He is willing and able, eager and active to care for you in all the many ways that you cannot care for yourself.

To demonstrate that point, He offers you the familiar example of the birds and the flowers, which do not work or worry in all the ways that you do, yet God takes care of them beautifully, just as He daily and richly sustains His whole creation (even for the wicked, despite their lack of faith).

So does the Lord your God feed and clothe your body throughout your life on earth, solely out of His Fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, for Jesus’ sake, without any merit or worthiness in you.  For you are far more precious to Him than the birds and the flowers!  Has He not created you in His own Image and Likeness for life with Himself forever?  Has He not given Himself in His Son, in flesh and blood like yours, to die for your sins and to rise again for your justification?  And in your Holy Baptism, has He not given you His Name, His Spirit, and His Kingdom as your own?

Indeed, He has done all of this and more, according to His steadfast loving-kindness, His grace and mercy toward you.  And it all depends on Him.  None of it depends on you.  It is His good work and His good gift, for the sake of His own divine and holy love.  What is more, He remains faithful in all things, and all that He has promised and pledged to you in the Word and Flesh of Christ, He continues to do and give, not only here in time, but hereafter in the Resurrection to eternal Life.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has chosen gladly to give you the Kingdom in and with His Son.  Through the free and full forgiveness of all your sins, He pours out the Holy Spirit upon you and lavishly bestows His divine life and eternal salvation upon your body and soul.

Therefore, Jesus comforts you this morning: “Do not be afraid, little flock.”  Such beautiful, sweet, and tender words of grace and mercy and compassion.  Not empty words, but full of peace and life.

Yet, even in these comforting words of the Gospel, there is the implicit reminder of the Cross and suffering — which the Church on earth, and all the disciples of Jesus, are given to share with Him.

Consider, for example, what a little flock our own Emmaus congregation is, over against the big and boisterous world all around us.  And you know that many of our sister congregations are as small or smaller than we are.  Beyond that, the entire Church on earth is under duress, and often under attack on all sides, outwardly outnumbered and outgunned, surrounded by hostility.  Such temptations the little flock of the Good Shepherd faces, both individually and collectively, to give way to fear and anxiety, or else to resort to desperate activism or to frantic marketing strategies.

But in the face of it all, in the very midst of adversity, hardship, and persecution, you are called — and the entire Church is called upon — to fear, love, and trust in our God and Father in heaven: All for the sake of our one Lord, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead for our salvation.

Christ Jesus is the Lamb of God, the little flock reduced to One, who by His voluntary suffering and death has destroyed death, conquered the devil, tread hell beneath His gloriously wounded feet, and gotten forgiveness for the sins of the entire world.  So, that is your great value to the Lord your God — and that is your great victory — this Lord who has given Himself to save you:

He, too, has been small and frail and beleaguered, surrounded by His foes, crucified, put to death, and buried.  But His God and Father in heaven has given Him the Kingdom, the Resurrection and the Life, and all authority in heaven and on earth.  And these He gives to you.  For though His holy Apostles were also few in number, weak by all the standards of the world, a little flock of sheep in the midst of wolves, He sent them to preach His Word, to baptize and absolve in His Name, and to feed His lambs and sheep around the world with His Body given and His Blood poured out.  Though they were martyred for His Gospel and His Name, their labors were not in vain.  His holy Christian Church has survived and spread throughout the world, also here to you.  Do not think, because you are such a little flock, that your Shepherd has forgotten you.  Not once.  Not ever.  He is always with you.  And wherever He is with His Word, there is the Kingdom of God for you.

It is for the sake of this Lamb who has been slain, who has risen from the dead, who was and is and is to come, that the little flock, so poorly regarded by the world, is regarded with the Father’s good pleasure and established as the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  Take that to heart, and do not be afraid.  Only remember that everything begins with and centers in Christ Jesus, in His Body of flesh and blood, crucified for your sins, and risen from the dead as your righteousness.

It is by His Cross that He has obtained and opened the Kingdom of God for you and for all who believe and are baptized in His Name.  And it is likewise from His Cross that He feeds and clothes you with Himself: in the waters of your Holy Baptism, and week after week in His Holy Supper.

There is no greater treasure than those good gifts Christ freely gives.  Not even close.  Nowhere in all of creation, neither on earth nor in heaven.  And being given Christ Himself, the incarnate Son of God with all His fruits and benefits (freely bestowed in the Ministry of His Gospel), there is nothing else that you need, and therefore nothing at all for you to worry or be anxious about.

It is within that gracious freedom from all fear and anxiety, in that divine comfort and eternal life which are yours in Christ Jesus (by grace through faith in Him), that you are able to dedicate and use your entire life on earth, and all of your possessions, to serve your neighbor in loving charity.

The Lord your God freely provides you with all that you need and more, with all good things, and He still takes care of you.  Your hope and confidence, therefore, are not in this perishing world or any of its temporary things.  Whatever you have in this body and life is from the hand of God, for which you rightly give Him thanks.  It comes and goes according to His wisdom and His grace, not for your salvation, but for the exercise of faith and love to the glory of His Holy Name, even as you live in the hope and promise of the Resurrection, in the confidence of the Holy Gospel.

As you eat and drink from the hand of God, as you are clothed and sheltered in body and soul by His grace, so do you love and serve your neighbors in mercy with whatever means the Lord has provided within your own place in life.  That is the stewardship of your life itself, whereby you invest yourself, your body and soul and all that you have, in the Kingdom of your God and Father.

That does mean feeding the hungry, as you are given the means and opportunity to do so; clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and welcoming the homeless, as your Lord Himself has surely taught you to do.  It also means sharing His Gospel, His love and forgiveness, with your neighbors in the world.  Speaking the truth in love.  Turning the other cheek to those who hurt you, and forgiving the sins of those who trespass against you.  And it means supporting the Church and Ministry of Christ with your prayers and intercessions, with your time and talents, as you’re able, and with your offerings.  All of this belongs to the fabric of your faith and life in Christ Jesus.

But none of these works of faith and love are undertaken as though you should thereby “earn” or “deserve” anything.  On the contrary, it is because the Father has already been pleased to give you His Kingdom by grace, that you serve and support His Kingdom with all that in you lies, and you extend the grace of His Kingdom to others as you are given the blessed opportunity to do so.

In contrast to the rich fool, who worked so hard to provide for himself and store up treasures for himself on earth, only to lose them in his death (and his soul with all the rest), all good things are yours in Christ Jesus, all the treasures of heaven, freely given by the grace of God.  Thus are you free to be generous and giving with your treasures here on earth, unafraid of sin, death, and hell.

That is what Jesus means when He speaks of selling your possessions and giving to “charity.”  He teaches you to hold on loosely to the things of this world, and to use them in mercy to serve and care for those in need.  Just as you are so poor and needy in the presence of God, who deals with you and cares for you in mercy and compassion.  And as you rely upon and live by His mercy and forgiveness and love, so does He expect and require that you should exercise that very same mercy, forgiveness, and love in relation to your neighbors in the world — to the glory of His Name.

Where you have, rather, invested your heart and yourself in treasures that will rust and perish and fade — where you have placed your hope and confidence in money bags that will grow old and fall apart — Repent!  Trust your God and Father in Christ, and live no longer for yourself but in love for God and man.  For the Lord your God in His good pleasure gives to you His Kingdom with no strings attached: the Gospel of His forgiveness, and the Body and Blood of Christ for life and salvation.  These precious gifts cannot be taken away from you by any thief on earth.  They cannot rust or fade or be destroyed.  They cost you nothing, and yet, they give you everything.

These gifts of the Gospel — and the faithfulness of the Lord in giving you these gifts — call you again and again to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.  Not to worry, but to believe in Him and to live by that faith in His mercy.  Knowing that, regardless of what you may or may not have to wear in this body and life, you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ from the waters of your Holy Baptism unto the Resurrection of your body.  Knowing that, regardless of what you may or may not have to eat and drink, you are fed with the Body and Blood of Christ.  And knowing that, in spite of your sinful worries and anxieties, you are forgiven by His Word of Absolution.

As you are gathered here and now, together with His little flock, around the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who has such tender mercy and compassion for you, so are you granted His peace and hope and confidence and a treasure in the heavens that does not fail or fade away forever.  Lift up your heart and mind to Him who loves you, to Jesus Christ, your Savior, who has risen from the dead and ever lives to make intercession for you before the throne of God.

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

04 August 2019

Laying Hold of Life in the Gifts Christ Freely Gives

Beware, and be on your guard, against every manner of greed and covetousness.  That is the sober and serious warning from your Lord Jesus Christ and from His servants, the Apostles.  St. James records and reveals that covetousness is the fountain out of which all temptation flows, which conceives and gives birth to sin; and that sin, when it is fully formed, brings forth death.

St. Paul has likewise stated forthrightly that covetousness is idolatry.  It is forbidden by the Ninth and Tenth Commandments, but it is really no less a sin against the First Commandment.  When you lust after that which God has not given you, when you hunger and thirst for that which He has given to your neighbor, and when you are obsessed with the things of this world, as though your life and happiness depended on them, then you make of those things your god and worship them as idols.  It is a false worship of that which is not God but His own creation.  You thus accuse the one true God of being unjust, as though He were withholding from you something you deserve.  For though He blesses you with all that you need, you crave and demand what He has not given.

If it is not so easy or obvious for you to recognize and understand that your covetousness and greed are idolatrous, I suspect that you may be more aware of and familiar with the way that greed and covetousness destroy love and fellowship, even among friends and within families.  How often are people set at odds and torn apart by squabbles over stuff, including the enmity of adult siblings bickering over their parents’ legacy and inheritance, like little children fighting over toys.

When you are driven by your lust for what you do not have, it cannot help but lead to envy and jealousy, to bitterness and resentment, to hatred instead of love.  Then, not only do you fail to fear, love, and trust in God; and not only do you fail to love and serve your neighbor as yourself, as the Lord your God commands; but you are consumed and destroyed by those hungers of your flesh.

You make false gods out of what you do not have but covet; and you make false gods out of what you have been given.  You horde stuff to yourself, while living in fear that it will be taken from you, that something will happen to it.  You look around jealously to see how you’re doing in the great competition.  Who has the most toys?  Who has the most ability?  Who has the most prestige?

But your life does not consist in your possessions, no matter what kind they may be, and no matter how many of them you may have.  Whether it’s money, or power and position, intelligence and knowledge, or charisma and lots of friends — whatever the false gods you fear, love, and trust in (anything other than Christ Jesus) — all of those idols will fail you, and you will die forever.

There is nothing of this temporal world that can save your life.  There is nothing of this temporal world that will forgive your sins or satisfy your covetous greed.  The more you have, the more you want; and all the while, everything but Christ and His Word is perishing and passing away.

In contrast, the Lord your God does not withhold any of His riches from you, not even His greatest Treasure.  The Father gives to you His Son; and the Son, who has given Himself for you, now also gives Himself to you in love; He pours out the Holy Spirit generously upon you and gives you life.

The Lord Himself and His Word to you are your only sure and certain hope.  For He is your Life and your Salvation, and there is no other help or hope in heaven or on earth.  He has prepared and established for you a home — a true and lasting home — where thieves do not break in and steal, where moth and rust do not destroy.  The Son has made a place for you with the Father in heaven.

Your dear Lord Jesus Christ has saved you from your sin, from sure and certain death, and from all the power of the devil.  He has delivered you from your false belief, from your terrible despair, from all your other great shame and vice, and so also from your greed and covetousness.  He has called you by His Word and Spirit away from your idolatry — away from your false gods, which cannot save you — back to Himself: To be reconciled to God the Father in Him, and so also to be reconciled to each other, to all your neighbors — to your family and friends, and even to your foes and enemies.  To be reconciled in the Peace of Christ by faith in His forgiveness of all your sins.

Now, it is true, and make no mistake about it, that He has put you to death by His preaching of repentance, and His Law continues to do so day after day after day.  He crucifies you with Himself by way of contrition and repentance.  His Word of the Law does not pull any punches.  It does not simply gnaw at you.  It does not just cajole and chide you to try harder.  It puts you to death.

But the Lord thus puts you to death with His Law, not to destroy you or damn you, but in order to resurrect you by His grace of the Gospel.  He does it to save you.  He kills you to give you life.

In Holy Baptism, you have died.  You have died to yourself, you have died to your sins, you have died to the world.  You have died there with Jesus Christ the Crucified, so that, having shared His death, you also share His Resurrection from the dead, His eternal Life, and His great Salvation.

What on earth can harm you, then?  Why are you so afraid?  You are already dead to the world!  And the world is dead to you.  There is nothing anyone can do to you.  Fear not those who can hurt the body but cannot hurt the soul.  Rather, fear the Lord your God, the Lord of both body and soul.

By the same token, what on earth can save you?  Why do you persist in the sins of your flesh, in which there is no life?  Why do you go after the things of this world, as though they could save you and give you life?  They cannot.  This earth with all of its pursuits, with all of its stuff, is passing away.  All of it will be destroyed.  If you put your hope in that perishing stuff, you will be lost.

What, then?  Your life — your real life — your never ending life — is hidden with Christ in God.

It is hidden.  It is under the Cross.  From day to day you often cannot see or feel or experience it.  It appears to be, not life, but death.  And yet, that Life which is yours in Christ Jesus is not a joke.  It is more real, sure, and certain than the world you see and feel all around you.  It is more solid than any of those things you are so convinced will make you happy.  It is sure and certain, because it is in Christ Jesus.  It is in the one true God, who loves you, and who will never fail you.  Even when you are faithless, He remains faithful.  He cannot deny Himself.  He does not renege on His promises.  All that He has spoken, He does.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Not ever.

With fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, He daily and richly provides you with all that you need.  Which is what?  What is it that you actually need?  The Holy Scriptures have taught you rightly:  “With food and clothing, let us therewith be content.”  And for all of your greater greed, Repent!

Stop fretting, and consider that your Father in heaven knows your needs and well provides them. He feeds you and clothes you and shelters you.  He does take care of you.  All because He loves you.  Not because you are so nice.  Not because you pray.  Not because you are sincere.  He does it all for the sake of His own Love.  And He keeps on doing so, day after day throughout your life.

But what is more and greater than even that, He feeds and clothes and shelters you, not only for your body and life here on earth, but for both your body and your soul unto the Life everlasting.

He withholds no good thing from you.  If you do not have all that you want, you actually have far more than you need.  Indeed, He gives you far more than you could ever have hoped or imagined.  And He gives you more than you are able to see or feel or experience with any of your finite senses here in the midst of this present perishing age.  For everything is yours in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As St. Paul has written in his letter to the Church at Rome: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also, in and with Him, freely give you all good things?”

Indeed, He does — by and with the free and full forgiveness of all your sins — again and again and again.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, you know, there is also Life and Salvation.

Your Father in heaven feeds you with the very Body and Blood of His incarnate Son, Christ Jesus, your Savior, given and poured out for you in the Holy Communion.  He puts that living and Life-giving Body of Christ into your mortal and perishing body.  Whatever ails and afflicts it, whatever is amiss, He feeds and heals you in body and soul, He forgives you all your sins, and He gives to you His own imperishable Life.  He gives Himself to you, that you should thus abide in Him.

So does He likewise pour out for you His holy and precious Blood.  “This is the New Testament,” He says.  It is for you.  Thus does the Lord your God bind Himself to you, and you to Him.

It is by these good gifts of His grace that you are truly rich toward God, wealthier than you can even imagine.  For His Kingdom and His Righteousness are yours in Christ Jesus, forever and ever.

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