27 October 2019

Going Up to the Temple as the Children of God in Christ Jesus

Fathers, teach your children to pray, to worship the Lord, and to sacrifice themselves in faith toward Him, in love for each other and for their other neighbors in the world.  Do not wait to do it, but teach them to pray already while they are yet little babies — even in the womb and at their mother’s breast — by praying with them and for them.

Teach your children to worship the Lord their God by teaching them His Word, by speaking it to them, and by confessing it for them and with them.  And teach them by the example of your own worship of faith and love.  Go to church and take your children with you.  Do not hinder or prevent them, but indoctrinate them with God’s Word and the preaching of it.

Bring your children to the Lord Jesus, that He might touch them, heal them, and save them in the waters of Holy Baptism and with His own Body and Blood in the Holy Communion.  Then also teach them to pray in the remembrance of their Baptism and in the confession of Christ the Crucified, by teaching them to make the sign of the Cross, especially when they are afraid, but also when they rejoice in His rescue and give thanks for His great salvation.

Teach your children to sacrifice themselves in the faith and confidence of Christ Jesus and in love for their neighbors, also by the example of your own self-sacrifice.  Set aside your own wants, desires, and pleasures, in order to meet their needs and care for them.  Love their mother and lay down your life for her, day by day, as the Lord Jesus Christ loves His Bride and gives Himself freely for her.  So may your sons and daughters learn from you, not only what it means to be a godly husband or wife, a godly man or woman, but what it is to be a Christian, a member of Christ’s Church, and a child of His God and Father.

Teach your children humility by humbling yourself.  Teach them to master their sins by your own self-discipline and daily repentance.  Teach them to fall upon the mercies of God in Christ by confessing your sins and availing yourself of the Gospel in the Lord’s ways and means of grace and forgiveness, including His gift of Holy Absolution.  Let such confession and absolution shape and define your Christian faith and life, your piety and practice, not only within the life of the church but also in your home and in all of your relationships.

Wherever you have done wrong (and, yes, you have done wrong), acknowledge your faults, apologize, and make amends as you are able.  And where others have sinned against you, be ready and willing, eager and quick to forgive them — and gladly do good to them.

Where you have sinned against your children — by harshness or neglect, by impatience or inattentiveness, by unreasonable demands or unfair punishments, or by whatever faults of temper, words, or actions you have done — humble yourself under the Lord your God, apologize to your children, who are also His dear children, and seek their forgiveness.

Do not seek to justify or excuse yourself, but let Christ alone by your Savior and Redeemer.  And so love all your neighbors, big and small, both young and old, family, friends, and foes, the brilliant and the daft, the successful and pathetic, all for Jesus’ sake.  For they, too, shall be saved, not by any righteousness, merit, or worthiness of their own, but solely by the righteousness and mercy of Christ Jesus — the very same righteousness and mercy, of the same Lord Jesus Christ, by which alone you are justified and saved from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  That is the source of your own humility and confidence of repentant faith.

If you exalt yourself — if you trust in yourself and your own righteousness, as though you were a god — you will be humbled.  Pray that you are thus humbled before the Day of Judgment, when the time of repentance shall have passed.  Pray that the Lord in His mercy would humble you now, and each and every day of your life on earth, by His preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of your sins; and that He would exalt you in His peace, as He has done for Frederick and Simon by way of Baptism and the Catechesis of His Word.

These two young men have come up to the Temple to pray, not in any righteousness of their own, but in the righteousness of Christ, by grace through faith in His mercy and forgiveness.  Not in competition, at odds, or with any contempt for one another, but in the peace of the Lord, as brothers in Christ Jesus within the Household and Family of His God and Father.  As children of God, their entire life is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to His Name.

When you know and confess that your life is from God, that it depends entirely on Him, that He gives you life by His divine grace, and that He preserves your life, not only here in time but unto all eternity in both body and soul — all by one and the same divine grace in Christ Jesus — then you comprehend the real meaning of life, and thus you are able to live before God in peace and hope, in faith and love, in graceful confidence and joyful satisfaction.

When you don’t get it — when you have not been humbled unto repentance and faith in the mercies of God — when you exalt yourself and attempt to justify yourself — then you are hounded and driven by fear.  You have no peace or joy, no confidence or satisfaction.  Not really.  You strive to keep the Law according to its letter; or else you avoid it as much as you can while tending to yourself and your own personal ambitions.  But the Lord has no regard for your self-righteousness.  He takes no pleasure in your selfish works.  And He has no delight in your sacrifices when they are offered as a bribe or as a buyout for your sins.

The harder you try to appease the Lord your God or to pay Him off in an effort to get Him off your back, the worse your situation becomes. Your self-righteous pride, indignation, laziness, and greed continue to grow and get worse, until they threaten to swallow you up and consume you altogether.  Such things are the heart and soul of sin, which entices and allures you, and yet, all the while it is really killing and destroying you.

In the futile agitation of your own self-defeating efforts, you grow more and more restless and angry with God.  You suppose that He’s unfair.  He just doesn’t like you, or so it seems.  “It’s not your fault, right? You’re doing your bit.”  But, since you can’t get even with God, and you cannot possibly compete with Him, you turn your anger and enmity, your hatred and vengeance against your neighbor.  You give yourself over to envy and jealousy and bitter resentment, to the point that you lash out at your neighbor, perhaps even your nearest and dearest kin, with hurtful words, or schemes to rob and steal, or outright bodily injury.

Make no mistake, as a child of Adam such sin is always crouching at your door, and its desire is to have you.  Resist it, and master it by contrition, repentance, and self-discipline.  Hear and heed the Word of the Lord and honor His commandments.  Love your neighbor by helping him, and by doing no harm to him in word or deed.  Examine yourself honestly and confess your sins, that you might hear and receive the blessed Gospel of forgiveness.

Pray that God the Lord would have mercy upon you, that you might live by His grace and rest in His peace.  Trust Him to provide you with all that you need, for body and soul, for this life and the Life everlasting.  And so understand that your possessions, your abilities, your time and energy, your treasures and talents, and your whole body and life on earth are a sacred trust, a divine stewardship of God’s good gifts, which He has given to you for the sake of likewise loving and serving your neighbor in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That is how you sacrifice your crops and herds, your goods and services, your body and life.  In faith toward God you love your neighbor with all that you are and have, because your life is entirely from the Lord, in Him, and with Him; and it is lived unto Him at all times.

You are your brother’s keeper, as surely as the Lord Himself is your Keeper, your Maker and Redeemer.  Frederick and Simon and all your fellow Christians belong to you, and you belong to them.  And all of your neighbors are given to be objects of your love, as you are loved by God.  So, if you are poured out as a drink offering for your neighbor, keep the faith and finish the course in peace, as the Lord Jesus pours out His Lifeblood for you.  Give your body as a living sacrifice, and feed and clothe, shelter, and protect your neighbor’s body, as the Lord Jesus Christ feeds you with His Body and His Blood, clothes you with His righteousness, and shelters and protects you by His grace within His holy Christian Church.

The same Lord Jesus Christ stands with you in all hardship and adversity, in all your trials and temptations.  He forgives you all your sins and failings, strengthens your faith and love, and guards and keeps your body and soul in Him; He thereby delivers you from every evil and brings you safely into His heavenly kingdom.  This He surely does, and so shall He crown you with His own righteousness, because He has humbled Himself unto death and given Himself for your salvation; wherefore God the Father has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name above every name.  In Him you also are exalted and named by God.

As Christ has died for you and risen from the dead for you, and as He ever lives to intercede for you before the Throne of God — as He, your merciful and great High Priest, has entered the Holy of Holies made without hands on your behalf with His most holy and precious Blood — so does He bring you home, justified by His grace through faith in His Gospel.

The Body of this dear Lord Jesus Christ is the Altar upon which you offer your sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.  Not that you should thereby atone for your sins, but that you rather give all thanks and praise to Him because He has atoned for all your sins, once and for all.

It is in Him, and through Him, and with Him, and by Him, that you and your children and your children’s children pray and worship and sacrifice.  So are you and yours received as a pleasing sacrifice and sweet-smelling incense by your dear God and Father in heaven.  He has regard for you, for your prayer and sacrifice, for Jesus’ sake.  He lifts you up in mercy and sustains you by His grace, even through death and the grave, unto the Life everlasting.

In order that you be kept safe in this Life and Salvation forever, the Lord has set His mark upon you, His sign of the Cross upon your forehead and your heart, on your body and your soul.  Though you are a sinner, deserving of nothing but the punishment of death and eternal damnation, yet, by this sign of the Cross the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh are served notice that you belong to Christ the Crucified, your Savior and Redeemer.  He shall not only avenge whatever wrong is done to you, but He also forgives the wrongs that you have done; and at the last He shall vindicate you forever in the resurrection of your body.

Even though you die, yet shall you live, forever and always.  Indeed, the Kingdom of God belongs to such as you, because you are His own beloved child in Christ Jesus.

Come up here, then, to this Temple of Christ Jesus.  Receive the holy Body with which He feeds you and the drink-offering of His own precious Blood.  And pray in the peace and confidence of His sure mercies and forgiveness.  Offer here the sacrifice of thanksgiving, take up the Cup of Salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.  He hears and answers your prayers, dear child of God, because you are justified by the Lord, the righteous Judge.

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

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