30 March 2020

Timely and Apropos for a Day of Humiliation and Prayer

O Eternal and Merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we acknowledge and confess before Thee our manifold and great offenses. We have experienced Thy goodness, but have not been led to repentance. We have seen thy judgments abroad in the earth, but have not learned righteousness. Above all, we have neglected the means of grace and set at naught Thy tender mercies in Christ Jesus. But Thou art a merciful God, full of compassion, long-suffering, and of great pity, who hast no pleasure in the death of sinners, but hadst rather that they turn from their sins and be saved. Be gracious unto us, therefore, even as Thou art wont. Spare us, O Lord, though for our evil deeds we do worthily deserve to be punished. In the midst of judgment still remember mercy. For Thy dear Son's sake, forgive us all our past sins, and grant that we may hereafter serve and please Thee in newness of life, to the honor and glory of Thy name.

Be Thou our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble.

Protect Thy Church, the vineyard which Thou hast planted among us, and water it abundantly with the rivers of living water. Give grace to all the ministers of Thy Gospel, that they may both by their doctrine and life set forth Thy true and lively Word, and grant that Thy little flock may dwell in peace and safety everywhere.

Preserve us from plague and pestilence, from war and bloodshed, from fire and flood, from failure of harvest and from famine, from lightning and tempest, and from all other calamities.

We entreat Thee also for all those who are in authority over us; counsel them by Thy wisdom, and strengthen their hands, that they may so wait on their office as to promote Thy glory and the common good. And grant grace to all Thy people, that we may submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for Thy sake, and be subject to the higher powers, reverencing  them and upholding them in all their lawful endeavors to maintain justice and righteousness among men.

Teach us to live, day by day, in humble dependence on Thy promises, in cheerful obedience to Thy laws, and in a sure and certain hope of a blessed immortality.

Fill our hearts with a due sense of Thy unspeakable love in the redemption of our souls, that we may with filial confidence call upon Thee in the day of trouble and, among all the changes of this mortal life, ever be defended by Thy most gracious and ready help.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, in our every need. Save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance, that Thy glory may dwell in our land.

Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto Thee, and dost promise, where two or three are gathered together in Thy name, Thou wilt grant their requests, fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of Thy servants as may be most expedient for us, granting us in this world knowledge of Thy truth and in the world to come life everlasting; for the sake of the redemption and intercession of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth in equal majesty and glory, true God and man, blessed forever. Amen. (The Lutheran Liturgy, 366-368).

29 March 2020

Now, in Christ, Death Cannot Slay Me

Even the friends of Jesus are confronted with sickness and the experience of death.  They suffer hurt and disappointment.  They are subject to sadness and tears.  The same is no less true for you, as you are called to believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him.  Indeed, His disciples are called to bear His Cross and to suffer and die with Him.  To be crucified, put to death, and buried with Him.

It is one thing to bear and suffer these things along with Him.  But so often it appears as though Jesus were not present when He could be, and that He has chosen not to help you.  He waits and deliberately delays.  He does not respond right away.  He does not answer your prayer according to the longing of your heart, but in ways that are confusing and seem to make no sense at all.

If only He were here, your brother would not die; nor your nephew; nor your cousin; nor your son.

If only He would intervene and do “His thing,” your own infirmity and illness would not end in death, nor even disability, but you would surely recover and not only live but thrive.

Isn’t that what a close personal friend of Jesus ought to expect from the One who is incarnate Love and the very Mercies of God in person?  He causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good, and He gives daily bread even to the wicked.  Will He not help His own friends?

You know the whispers and dark questions of your sinful heart and mind.  What does it mean when Jesus does not do what you are so desperately hoping and praying?  Does He not love and care for you?  Have you disappointed Him or failed Him somehow, that He should disappoint and fail you?  Is He tired of your nagging and your neediness?  Or does He just have better things to do?

To be sure, there are a thousand such temptations of doubt and fear, which are a more devastating consequence of sin than the sickness and death of your body.  Where heart and mind are insecure and uncertain of Christ Jesus, weeping and mourning do not flow in faith and love, but threaten to overwhelm you altogether, to drown you in cynical despair.  Assaulted by the crafts of the devil, you are buried, not with Christ in the hope of the Resurrection, but in hopelessness and unbelief.

Yet, for all your frustration, faithlessness, and fear, the fact of Christ’s presence and His love for you are certain.  Not because you have been such a good friend to Him, but because He is sent by the Father to do His Will and to glorify His Holy Name; and your Salvation is His divine Glory.

The Lord Jesus is the Good Physician, that is true, but He does not come to stave off death with heroic measures to protect and preserve your life on earth.  He does not call a halt to the reign of death by the fiat of His almighty power, although He surely could do that.  He could also have let Adam & Eve eat from the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden — and live forever in their sin.  But, instead of that, He would have the children of man become the children of God, and so live in His eternal Love: To be reconciled to Him in peace, and to become His friends in truth.  Thus, He comes, not to spare your body from the first death, but to save your body and soul from eternal death, and to bring you alive into the Paradise of the New Creation in His own glorified Body.

For that reason, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the One who comes into the world, enters fully into the sickness and mortality of our human condition, in order to die on behalf of all the people.  He comes to save them altogether from the bondage and fear of death by His own death in the flesh, by the shedding of His blood.  He comes to bring them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

He also will be wrapped and shrouded in grave clothes, buried in a tomb, and hidden away from sight and smell by a large stone.  For He makes His bed where your body is bound to repose.

Even so, according to the prayer and confession of the Psalmist, His sacred Body will not suffer decay, nor will the Father permit His beloved Son and faithful Servant to undergo corruption.  He always has the Life of the Father in Himself, and He is Himself the Resurrection and the Life of the world.  So it is that death and the grave are not able to hold Him or contain Him, although He willingly submits to them.  He lays down His life in death, in order to take it up again for us all.

So, then, sickness and mortality do not end in death.  Even death itself does not end in death!  But, no, in Christ Jesus a Christian passes through death into the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.  And, dear friends, that is the case, not only on the last day, but already here and now in the midst of mortal life.  Even now, by faith you walk in the Light of Christ and do not stumble or fall.

You are sorely tempted, tried, and tested, no doubt about it.  Not least of all by the ravages of sin, by sickness, suffering, and death, not only in yourself, but in your loved ones and all around you.

Nevertheless, as you believe in Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, the greatest miracle of all is that you do behold the Glory of God, not “in spite of the Cross,” but precisely in the Cross itself, which you have come to know and have believed to be the glorification of the Son of God.

It’s not that your hopes are pinned on some miraculous rescue from every illness, suffering, and tragedy in this perishing world.  You do rightly pray for the mercies of the Lord, and you rely upon His help in every kind of trouble.  But, come what may, you give thanks unto the Lord because He is good, and His mercy endures forever.  You hear and heed the Voice of Christ in His Gospel, and you find sure and certain hope in the Resurrection and the Life of His Body and His Blood.

Take courage, and be comforted, that He has also borne your griefs and carried all your sorrows in His own flesh, in His own body to the Cross; that He has suffered Himself to experience and share all your weaknesses and temptations, and He sympathizes with you, as your merciful and great High Priest.  He does not abandon you in tribulation and heartache, but He is with you to strengthen and support you in the one true faith, and to save you from every evil of body and soul.

It is so much the case that He is with you in the suffering and experience of sin and death, that it is precisely by His Cross that He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the children of God.  You enter into the friendship of God, and you share His Glory in Christ Jesus, by the way of His Cross.

So, then, whether you live, or whether you die, you are the Lord’s.  In Him who loves you, who died for you and has risen from the dead, you also rise up and live forever, even though you die.  By your Baptism you have already died with Him, in order to live with Him, now and forever.

In that Light of Christ, it is not wrong but appropriate and right to mourn for those who die from this world, who have been near and dear to you in this body and life.  For death is the consequence of sin; it is an intrusion upon God’s good creation and His gift of life.  Only, do not mourn as those who have no hope.  Do not despair.  Do not give yourself over to grief, as though it were your god.

Instead, call upon the Name of the Lord your God, and rely upon His mercy.  For even though you are threatened by sorrow and fear, still, He is not done with you; He is and remains your Savior.

In and through Christ Jesus, your Father in heaven hears and answers your prayers.

And His Answer to all your prayers, the Father’s resounding “Yes” and “Amen” to your every need, is Christ Jesus Himself, the incarnate Son.  And He is not simply a means to some other end, but He is Himself your Resurrection and your Life everlasting with God in both body and soul.

As you have already died and risen with Christ Jesus through Holy Baptism, so do you also feast upon His crucified and risen Body and Blood.  In Him, therefore, you really are set free from sin and death forevermore.  No longer are you imprisoned by the grave, nor bound and constricted by its trappings.  You do not stink of death and decay anymore, no matter what your senses tell you.

In truth, you live and believe in Jesus.  You live in His Light and His Love by faith in His Word.  And both you and your prayers arise like sweet-smelling incense, a pleasing aroma, to your God and Father in heaven.  By the Voice of His beloved Son — by the preaching of His Gospel — He daily and richly forgives your sins and calls you from death and the grave into Life and Salvation.

As the Lord your God is pleased with you, do not be dismayed or afraid, but hope and trust in Him with the confidence of faith; and here behold His Glory in His Body given and His Blood poured out for you and for the many.  For in and with His Flesh the Life of God abides in you forever.

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

27 March 2020

Abiding with Christ in the Place of Holy Baptism

You do not deny that Jesus is the Son of God, and you would not dream of picking up stones to throw at Him and kill Him.  By your Baptism into Christ Jesus, by His Word and Holy Spirit, you believe in Him and love Him, and you confess that He is the Lord, your Savior and your God.

But also take to heart, in particular, that He, being God, has been sanctified and sent by the Father to become true Man, your Brother in the flesh.  He has come down from heaven to do the works of God the Father here on earth — with human words and with His bodily means of grace.

Look, then, where He is staying: He is in the place of Baptism, that is, within His Church on earth — in the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins — and in the Supper of the Lamb, the One who has been slain, and yet, behold, He lives for you.  That is where you go to be with Him.

Do not look for your Savior and your God “up there,” as though you could peer into heaven and scale such heights on your own.  And don’t try to lay hold of Him, whether for good or evil, by any power or wisdom of yours.  You won’t find Him that way, nor will you catch Him in your hands.

Do not suppose that you will ever have outgrown the benefits and significance of Holy Baptism.  And do not imagine that what you need is something more and better than the same ol’ same ol’ means of grace.  Those means of the Gospel are exactly where and how Jesus is with you and for you.  That is where He remains.  That is where you find Him, because that is where and how He finds you. That is where and how you come to believe in Him and live in Him, now and forever.

Repent of your desire and your tendency to wander off and look for other gods — whatever their name or kind, whether it be your family and friends, wealth or power or fame.  Return with all your heart and soul, your body, mind, and strength, to the place of Baptism, to the Church on earth.  It is precisely there that God the Son has come from God the Father to work among you and for you.

It is in His own Body of flesh and blood — in the waters of the Jordan, in His Crucifixion and His Resurrection — that His God and Father has sanctified Christ Jesus with His Holy Spirit to be your Savior.  And it is still with the flesh and blood of Christ, and by the Word of Jesus Christ the Crucified One, that His Father sanctifies you with the same Holy Spirit, unto the Life everlasting.

This is the good work that Christ your Savior does for you.  His Word has come to you, and it is still spoken to you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  So, too, in the waters of Holy Baptism He has made of you a son of God by His grace.  His Father is your Father.  And the Holy Triune God, who has named you with His own Name, lives in you, and you in Him, forever and forevermore.

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

24 March 2020

The New Adam and the New Creation

Not from the dust of the earth this time, but from the body of the Woman, from her flesh and blood the Lord God forms the Man, the New Adam, who is Himself the Image of God in the flesh.  He is the Son of God from all eternity, but now, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Father fashions a Body for Him, and He becomes what He was not: true Man, the Son of David, the Seed of Abraham — the Seed of the Woman, who shall crush the serpent’s head and rescue the first Adam and his Eve and all their children, whom He now calls His own brothers and sisters.

God becomes Man.  The Word becomes Flesh.  And that was always the Lord’s intent.  Human sin has not forced His hand, nor has it changed His plans.  When He created the man in His own Image, forming his body from the dust of the ground and breathing His living and Life-giving Spirit into him, it was already in view of the Incarnation — the becoming-flesh — of God the Son.  For Christ Jesus — the Son of God, conceived and born of St. Mary — is the very Image of God in whom Adam was created, and in whom you also are now recreated unto the Life everlasting.

The Word by whom all things are made fulfills creation in Himself, from the inside-out, as He enters His creation and becomes one with it in human flesh and blood.  This is how closely and intimately God is now with us forever in Christ Jesus.  This is how, and how fully, God gives Himself to us; and with Himself He gives His own divine life, all for the sake of His holy Love.

The King and the Queen of God’s good creation, the Man and the Woman, are restored to the royal throne and gracious dominion that God the Creator has given to them — which the first man and his wife abdicated by their sinful rebellion against the Word of God.  For Christ the Son of God comes in perfect faith and love, in the flesh, to atone for the sins of all men and women, and to reconcile all the children of man to His own God and Father in heaven.  And the new life that He bestows by His grace through faith in His gracious speaking, by His good works and His free gifts of the Gospel, is manifest in His Mother Mary and bears good fruits in her, as in the faithful who have gone before her.  She thus prays and confesses the Word of the Lord.  She humbles herself in repentant faith before Him.  She receives what He gives — she receives Him by His Word and Spirit — and as the new Eve she becomes the Mother of all those who truly live in her dear Son.

The Lord does not take a body for Himself from the dust of the earth, for even though He does make all things new, He has come to be the Savior of men, to rescue the sons and daughters of the first Adam & Eve.  So it is that He becomes, not only like us, but exactly one of us.  He is true Man, of the same human nature as you and all your kin — bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, blood of your blood — because He is born of the Woman, and He derives His DNA, His Body, and His entire humanity entirely from her.  That make Him not only her Savior, but yours, and all of ours, the Savior of all people everywhere, even to the ends of the earth.

In Him, already in His own Person forevermore, God and Man are perfectly united in perfect harmony.  For He is the perfect Man, just as God intended, living in and with God in flawless faith and absolute love.  In Him everything is already exactly as it should be, and so shall it always be.

But He has become and always remains such a Man, in order that you also may be so reconciled to and united with God in Him; so that you also may live and abide forever with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in perfect faith and love.  It is for such life and love that the Lord your God has created you, and for which the same Lord God has become true Man and redeemed you.

It is for this reason that He has not only become like you — of the same flesh and blood, of the same human nature — but He has been conceived and born of the Woman under the Law, in order to redeem you from the curse and consequences of sin, from the condemnation of the Law, and from the fear of death and the power of the devil.  He has come to replace what was lost and bring about what was intended, to repair what has been broken and make it better than new.  Thus, He has gone out from Paradise into the harsh wilderness of sin and death — to which the Law has driven you, and wherein you were lost — in order to retrieve you, to bring you back to the Garden, back to God, not as a captive slave, but as a son or a daughter, as a dear child and heir.

Thus, the Body of the Lord Jesus is prepared for sacrifice, His Blood to be shed upon the Cross.  What all the bulls and goats could only signify, He has become, and He has come in the flesh to accomplish.  Not simply to make reparations or amends, but fully to atone for all sins.  He enters into the brokenness and hurt, and He becomes it.  He bears the full burden of sin and death, and He becomes sin and death.  He suffers the curse, and He becomes the curse.  He receives the fatal wound into His own Body, upon His sacred head, into His holy hands and feet and side.  He gives Himself freely, to the point of Crucifixion, to be cursed upon the Tree.  He dies and is buried.

In this way, then, He returns to the dust of the ground whence man was taken.  He pours out His lifeblood, gives up His Spirit, makes Himself nothing, and is swallowed up by death and Hades.

In this, too, you see again how closely and intimately God is with us in Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary.  For death and the grave are where you and your life on earth are finally found, and that is where He has gone — for you and your salvation — into the darkness and the depths of despair.  Not only that, but in His Crucifixion, bearing your sins and the sins of the whole world, He has suffered not only death (as the wages of your sin) but the full condemnation of the Law and the dire judgment of God against all wickedness and evil.  So it is that the Holy and Righteous One, the Son of the Most High, the Perfect Man, is damned upon the Cross with your damnation.

And then, out of that nothingness, out of that pitch black darkness of death and the grave, God has raised Him up in glorious Life.  God has taken the Man from the dust of the ground, and poured out His Spirit upon Him; and all of Creation is restored in Him, made brand new and perfected.

That is the power and authority of the Word that God the Lord now speaks to you — as surely as He once spoke to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Nazareth of Galilee.  It is the creative and Life-giving Word of His Resurrection from the dead, whereby He recreates you out of the nothing that you were apart from Him, and He gives life to your mortal body.  With this Word He raises you up from your sin and death, He breathes His Spirit into you, and He makes of you a beloved child.

It is the Word of Christ, the Word of His Gospel, which forgives you all your sins and causes the Light of the Revelation of the Glory of God to shine forth within your heart and life.  By the preaching of His Word He cuts through your pride and your despair, in order to bring you into repentance — in order to save you from sin and death, and from all the temptations, assaults, and accusations of the devil.  He chases the fog and the darkness away, so that your heart and mind are no longer beclouded by Satan’s lies, by the world’s allurements, or by your own doubts and fears.

The Word of Christ does not simply clarify things with new and better information.  It is by and through the Word of Christ that all things are.  What is more, it is a living and Life-giving Word with the power and authority to forgive sins, to justify the ungodly, to save sinners, and to make all things brand new.  It is the Word of the One whom God raised from the dead; which makes it a comparatively small thing for Him to give children to a barren old lady and a young virgin.

Now, then, hear what this Word of Christ proclaims to you:  Do not be afraid!  For you have found favor with God, and He is surely with you in grace, mercy, and peace.  You shall not die but live, for the Lord has come to you in great love to make His dwelling with you, both now and forever.

He is a gracious and merciful King, who reigns over you in love from His Cross, and whose scepter is the righteousness by which He justifies you.

So what does that mean?

Though you daily sin much in your thoughts, words, and deeds, you are not punished for your sins as you deserve, but you are forgiven all your sins, and you are spared from eternal condemnation.  You are rescued and delivered from death and the devil.  What is more, God is not ashamed of you, but He delights in you and rejoices over you.  He is not angry with you, but in His good pleasure with you He actually glorifies you with His own divine glory.  He is your Father, who calls you His own dear child.  And He is your Brother, who stands by you and with you and for you forever.

How can this be, since you have never known such a man as this One?  It is most certainly true, because He is the perfect Man, who is also the Son of God Most High; and He is the Christ, the Bearer and Bestower of the Holy Spirit.  He has been anointed with the Oil of Gladness to be your merciful and great High Priest and your true King, to pour out the Spirit generously upon you, and to make you glad all your days by His gracious presence.

What He once did with and for the Blessed Virgin Mary, that most highly favored Lady, He still does with and for His Bride, the Church.  She is the dear Woman, the Mother of all the living, of whom both Eve and St. Mary are the types.  To her God speaks, and it is so.  In her the Father conceives and bears the Son, in human flesh and blood, for you and your salvation.  In her the Spirit magnifies the same Son, Jesus Christ, and lays Him gently upon your heart by the Gospel.

In this Holy Christian Church the messenger of the Lord enters in and proclaims the Gospel — even here, as also to the ends of the earth.  By that preaching of the Gospel, Christ is given to you as your Savior, your sins are forgiven, and you are granted faith and life in Him.  Not by your own natural wisdom or strength, but by His gracious power, by the Cross and Resurrection of this incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus, and as a free gift of His divine mercy and great love for you.

That is why you, a son or daughter of Adam & Eve, conceived and born in sin, deserving of death and damnation, have been conceived by God in His Church through the catechesis of Christ, and born again to a new and living hope by the Word and Spirit of God in the waters of your Holy Baptism.  Thus do you now speak and sing in faith, according to the Word of the Lord.  You pray and confess as His servant, a disciple of Christ Jesus, but also as a child of God, a friend of God, a brother or sister of God.  In the humility of repentance and the confidence of faith, you declare: “Let it be to me according to His Word.”  And it is so.

Such great things God has done for St. Mary, it is true.  Thus do we also call her blessed.

And such great things does He now do for you.  For the same Body and Blood of the same Lord Jesus Christ — the Son of God, conceived and born of Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate for your sins, and raised from the dead for your justification — His Body and Blood are given into your body, that you may live and abide in Him, and He in you, unto the Life everlasting.

Wherefore you call His Name “Jesus,” because He is your Savior.

And so do you call Him Immanuel, for He is your God, and He is with you — to whom belongs all glory, honor, worship, and praise, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever.

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

22 March 2020

Day Calls Unto Night and Pours Forth His Light

The truth is that everyone is blind, without exception.  There is no one who is able to see God, not until Jesus enters in and shines His Light upon the world.  And this He most certainly does.  He speaks, and it is so!  The Light shines in the darkness.  Yet, the darkness does not comprehend it.

All of creation depends upon the Word of the Lord, not only for existence, but for enlightenment.  Apart from His speaking, there is no Life, nor Light, nor Love.  So, when His Word is rejected, darkness and death descend like a pall over everything.  Wherever you turn, the nighttime reigns.

It is a far deeper darkness than this or that sin by you or your neighbor or your parents, unless you trace it back to the sin of that one man, Adam, in whom all men sin and all men die.  The curse and consequences of sin — the creeping death of mortality, with all its ravages of time and space and its wrecking of relationships — does go back to the fall of Adam.  It is inherited by all his children.  Indeed, it is suffered by the entire world, which groans under the burden of human sin and death.

But now, understand that the Lord has cursed His creation on account of Adam, not in futility, but in the hope of the New Creation in Christ Jesus.  He spits on the ground that He has made, from which He has taken the man, in order to put sin and death to death, and so to make all things new.  Out of the curse, He brings forth the blessing; out of death, new Life; and out of darkness, Light.

This Lord Jesus is the Word of God by whom all things are created and sustained.  He is Himself the Light, which coming into the world enlightens every man.  He comes in the flesh of Adam’s flesh, in the blood of Adam’s blood, conceived and born of the Woman to become the true Man.

In Him, eternal Day calls unto night, and at the speaking of this Word-made-Flesh there is a New Beginning.  For His own Body is the Light in the darkness.  As He shall be crucified in the frailty of our mortal flesh and raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, so does He bring about the resurrection of the New Man from the dust of the ground, a New Creation from the clay.  And by the washing of the water with His Word, He opens up blind eyes to behold the true Light in Him.

These are the good works of God in Christ, which are manifested, also now for you, in the man who was born blind: Not only in the opening of his eyes to see, but in his coming to faith in Christ, and in his courageous confession of Christ Jesus.  The latter works are no less miraculous than the first, for he is raised from death to life in both body and soul.  He becomes a brand new person.

Jesus catechizes this man, as He catechized Nicodemus in the night and the Samaritan woman at the well, and He leads him by this catechesis of His Word and work to the enlightenment of faith. He leads the blind man on a Way he did not know, and He thereby makes the darkness into Light.

The same Lord Jesus does the same thing for you.  He still works on the Sabbath, in order to give you relief from all your burdens and infirmities, and to give you perfect peace and rest in Himself.  He opens up the blind eyes of your heart and mind by His Word and Spirit of the Gospel, so that you now see and understand, you believe, and you confess what you were not able to comprehend.  What is more, He also makes your body and soul brand new in His own Body of flesh and blood.

Those who resist and reject the Word of Christ, who refuse to receive the work of God or even to recognize their own blindness, are not only ignorant in doing so, but blasphemous and idolatrous.  For not only do they profane the Name of God, but they put their trust in that which is not God.

The one true God is known only in the flesh and blood of the Incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.  Apart from the Man called Jesus, whatever it is that you see and know — or whatever it is you think you see and know — it’s not what you think, and it is surely not the Lord our God.  No matter how bright and shiny it may be, and no matter how good it may appear to you or anyone else, it is not that true Light of the world, nor real Life, nor the Love of God, but only darkness and death.

Not even the Law of God can be gotten right apart from Christ, who is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  You don’t actually know Moses, nor can you be his disciple, if you do not know and follow Jesus Christ the Lord, to whom the Prophet Moses points in all his words and works.

Buried alive, as it were, in the dust of the earth — confused and confounded by the darkness, and breathing only your own poisoned air — you don’t know what is real or imagined, what is true or false.  All you really know, apart from Christ Jesus, are death and dying and hallucination.

So it remains, until Christ Jesus comes and saves you.  He raises you up, opens your blind eyes, and breathes His Life-giving Holy Spirit into your flesh with His Holy Absolution of the Gospel.  Only then do you begin to see and know the Truth, which is to say that you know God in Christ.

What also happens, then, is that the world in its darkness, and those who desire to be religious in their own self-righteousness, in the blindness of their ignorance and unbelief, will hate you and persecute you for the faith and confession of Christ Jesus.  For the works of darkness are exposed and made evident by the shining of the Light.  And as the Light now shines on you and is displayed in you, it drives the darkness to more and greater fear and frustration, and finally to outright fury.

You will be threatened in all sorts of ways, sometimes subtle, and sometimes savagely blunt.  You may lose friends, or miss opportunities, or suffer insults and rejection.  Your own family may let you down, rather than risk being caught up in the scandal of calling this Man, Jesus, the Christ.

But do not succumb to fear!  Do not love the praises of people more than God.  Rather, cling to Christ and trust in Him to care for you.  The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.  The deeds of darkness, by contrast, are unfruitful; they bring forth nothing but death and damnation.

Recognize and repent of your own dark deeds, of your infirmity and blindness inside and out.  Instead of relying on yourself and your own self-righteousness, which cannot help but fail, find your Life and Light and your Salvation in the Lord Jesus, who speaks to you in Love.

Repent and be baptized, every one of you; or, return to the significance of your Baptism.  Wash in those waters of forgiveness, which flow for you from Christ Jesus unto the Life everlasting.

Awake, O sleeper, and rise from death!  For here Christ shines upon you with His Gospel.  Listen to what He says, and look to Him, that you may see.  Hear and heed His Word to you, even in the midst of the deep darkness all around you.  And worship Him from the heart in holy faith and holy love by the witness of your words and by the works of God in your body and life.

Though you cannot see Him — no more than the man born blind could see Him when Jesus first approached, and anointed his eyes with mud and spit, and sent him to wash in the water — yet, by His grace you believe in Him, and you love Him who first loved you and recreated you in mercy.

Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk in His Light by giving attention to His Word and to His works.  See, His sent ones are here to serve you in His Name, to work the works of God while it is Day.  And it is now Day, even in the darkness of the night, and even in the face of death and the grave, because Christ has come.  It is the Day of His grace and salvation so long as the Gospel is preached and the gifts of God are given to His Church.  In the Light of the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus, your eyes and ears and your whole body and soul are healed.

So it is that, as you are born again of water and the Word in Holy Baptism, so shall you be raised up from the clay in the Resurrection of all flesh.  And then with your own eyes you shall see your Redeemer face to face, when He stands at last upon the earth and every knee shall bow to Him.

You shall see Him as He is, and you shall be like Him, all glorious in His righteousness, because you are forgiven all your sins — in which you were born, and which you have committed ever since — and you are justified by His grace, by His Cross and Resurrection in the flesh.

Even now, by faith you are able to see His salvation in His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you here at His Altar.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, therefore, in these gifts He freely gives to you.  Be ever looking to Him, the Lamb of God who takes away your sins, who feeds you with His Flesh and covers you with His Blood; for He shall pluck your feet out of the net and raise you up from death into Life.  Even now He lifts up your head, as He lifts up His countenance upon you.

Behold the fair beauty of the Lord.  Seek and find Him in the Temple of His Church.  Worship Him with your body and your soul in the splendor of His holiness.  Kneel and bow down before Him.  For He is the Light of the world who shines upon you in Peace, and in His Light you have Life.

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

20 March 2020

Hear His Voice and Come Forth

The judgment of the Son of God is just: Those who have done good are raised to life, whereas those who have done evil are subject to condemnation, punishment, and death.

Yet, what is the good and gracious will of God which Jesus does and accomplishes?  It is to raise you up from death, although you are sinful and unclean and have done what is evil and not good.

Thus has He come down from the bosom of the Father in heaven to tabernacle with us here on earth in His own flesh and blood, in order to judge you not guilty but righteous by His grace.

In doing so, He has not “made Himself” the Son of God; nor has He “made Himself” equal to God.  He simply is and ever shall be who He is, the only-begotten Son of God — God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God — begotten of the Father from all eternity, even forevermore.

And yet, in striking contrast to the way that you selfishly cling to what you claim to be your own, He has not boasted of His equality with God.  Instead, He has humbled Himself and become obedient, even unto His death on the Cross.  Not only has He become true Man, of flesh and blood like your own, but He has made Himself nothing, that is, subject to the curse of sin and death.

He has made Himself the Son of Man — the one true God in the flesh, who has become your Substitute, your Savior and Redeemer — in order to make of you a son of God by grace in Himself.

This dear Lord Jesus, the almighty and eternal Son of God — the Word who was in the beginning with God; the Word who is God, by whom and for whom all things are made and exist — He has put Himself in your place, in order to give you His own place with God the Father in heaven.

The good deeds that you have failed to do, He has done them for you — on your behalf, and also for your benefit.  At the same time, for all the evil you have done (and continue to do), He has suffered the judgment and punishment of your death and damnation in His own body and soul.

What would have crushed you and destroyed you forever, He has dealt with and defeated in Himself, in His own flesh, by the shedding of His holy and precious blood, and by His innocent suffering and death.  He has been crucified, dead, and buried — laid to rest in a tomb.  But from that hole in the ground He has come forth, opening up the way of life and peace and rest for you.

This is the Word that God the Father has spoken, that is to say, His own Son in the flesh, even unto death.  So that, in calling forth His Son from death and the grave, He has granted all authority to His Son to call forth sinners from out of death into life: From their sins to His free forgiveness — from unbelief to faith — from unrighteousness to righteousness — from the tomb into Paradise.

It is by His Voice of the Gospel — by His Word of Holy Absolution — that He, the Son of Man, the Crucified and Risen One, calls you out of darkness into His Light; out of your grave, from the dust of the earth, into His Resurrection from the dead and His Life everlasting in body and soul.

So, then, listen up.  Hear His Voice and come forth!  Do not harden your heart.  Repent of your evil deeds, of your obstinance and unbelief, of your stubborn doubts and fears, and of your idolatry.

Repent of all your sins, and obey the Voice of God.  Not by doing, first of all, but by believing.

Justice and righteousness are not satisfied by your keeping of the Law, even if you could and did manage to keep it (which you do not and cannot accomplish).  You are justified and saved by the Cross of Christ and in His Resurrection from the dead.  So the Hour has come, and now is, when He speaks that Word to you.  And by His Voice He grants His Resurrection and His Life to you.

Hear His Voice, and believe His Word:  Your sins are forgiven.  You are not guilty.  You shall not die, but live forever.  God is your Father, and you are His child.  Come then, find your Sabbath Rest in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, who has made Himself to be your Savior.

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

18 March 2020

Christ Our Lord Teaches You To Pray

Nothing is more basic to the Christian faith and life than prayer.  Indeed, prayer is the very voice of faith itself and the primary good work of the Christian life, an act of love for both God and the neighbor.  St. Paul writes, therefore, that prayer, intercession, supplication, and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all people, in the name and for the sake of Christ Jesus, who died for all and desires that all be saved.  So are you to pray at all times, without ceasing, and not to lose heart.

How, then, shall you pray?  Christ Jesus Himself teaches you by His Word and Holy Spirit, else you would not know how or what to pray as you should.  Not only has He commanded you to pray and promised to hear you, but He has given you the very Words with which to pray in His Name.  What is more, He not only teaches but exemplifies the practice of prayer in His own life, from the waters of the Jordan to the Garden of Gethsemane, from His Transfiguration to His Crucifixion.  And having sacrificed Himself for you and for all people on the Cross, He has also risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He ever lives to make intercession for His Church and for the world as our merciful and great High Priest in all things pertaining to God.

This is your sure and certain confidence in prayer, that Christ and His Spirit pray with you and for you.  Each and all of us Christians pray to our Father in heaven as those who are baptized into Christ Jesus, the beloved and well-pleasing Son.  His God and Father is our God and Father, and His prayer is our prayer.  It is for this reason that you are able to ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and that you may do so in faith, without any doubting.

That voice of faith with which you approach the throne of grace with all boldness and confidence, as a little child asking your own dear Father, arises in your heart and from your mouth by the hearing of the Word of Christ.  Christian prayer necessarily begins, therefore, not with your speaking, but with that hearing of Christ Jesus, your Savior.  For He is merciful to all who call upon Him in truth, but how shall you call upon Him whom you have not heard?

Prayer goes hand-in-hand with the Word of God, and you cannot pray without it.  The prayer of the entire Church belongs inseparably to the teaching and fellowship of the Apostles, who devoted themselves to prayer and the Ministry of the Word.  So it is that all things are sanctified for you by the Word of God and prayer.  You do not have the one without the other.  It is the Word of the Lord that opens your lips to pray, praise, and give thanks.  Before it is ever a petition or request, therefore, prayer is first of all the confession of what God has spoken; and already in asking for what He has promised, you give Him thanks and praise in the sure and certain confidence of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Father’s answer is always “Yes” and “Amen.”

You pray, then, in the expectation that every good and perfect gift is from the Lord, our God and Father in Christ Jesus, including all that you need for both body and soul, for this life and for the life everlasting.  All that He has created and given to you is thus to be received with thanksgiving, and again, sanctified by means of the Word of God and prayer.  In this way His Name is kept holy among us, the very first thing for which He has taught you to pray.  So, too, you sanctify each day as a Sabbath rest in Christ — not simply Saturday or Sunday, but all your days and nights, all your evenings and mornings.  Of course His Name is holy in itself, and every day is holy to the Lord; but these sacred things are made holy for you by the speaking and hearing of His Word in faith.

This rhythm of daily prayer is simply a daily catechesis in the Word of God.  As you hear and confess His Word, as you are instructed in the way of faith and love by the Law and the Gospel, and as you are thereby taught to pray, His Holy Spirit is actively present and at work to bring you daily to repentance.  He calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, sanctifies you in the faith, and preserves your life in Christ Jesus.  All of this the Spirit does by the Word, which puts the old Adam in you to death and raises you to newness of life in and with the Lord Jesus.

That is the rhythm of life for every baptized believer in Christ, but it never is by your own reason and strength.  Even in the weakness of your faith you simply cry out, “Kyrie, eleison!”  “Lord, have mercy and help me!”  “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”  Thus do you avail yourself of His Word and Spirit, and you pray.  You rely on the Ministry of His Gospel in His Church, and you likewise give daily attention to His Word and prayer throughout the week.  Indeed, the stronger and more healthy your Christian faith becomes, the more you gladly hear and learn the Word of God — and, along with that, the more frequently and fervently you pray and call upon His Name.

There is no time of the day or night when a Christian is not crying out from the heart unto the Lord in repentant faith.  Faith itself is already the inward groaning of the Holy Spirit, longing for Christ Jesus.  But as you believe with the heart, so do you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.  For as you have heard, so do you believe, and so do you speak in confession and prayer.

To call upon the Name of the Lord is your daily sacrifice of thanksgiving, both in the morning and at the close of the day.  With such prayer, whereby you look to the Lord for all that you need, you worship and adore Him as your true and only God.  Not only that, but in your love for Him you also pray and intercede for His entire Church and for the whole world, which He so loves by the giving of His only-begotten Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose dear Name you pray.

In your prayers and intercessions for the world — for your neighbors near and far, for those you know and those you don’t, for friends and foes alike — you are united to Christ our Head, our great High Priest, within the royal priesthood of all those who are baptized in His Name.  Praying for your neighbors in this way, as Christ Jesus ever lives to pray and intercede for you and for all people, is the most distinctive and definitive duty of your priestly vocation as a Christian.

As often as you pray the Our Father, and as often as you pray in the Name of Jesus, you are praying for His whole Church in heaven and on earth, and for as many as He will call to Himself from all the nations.  In that same light, it is comforting to realize that His entire Church is always praying day and night for you, as well, and for each and all of us, from the rising of the sun to the place of its going down.  So it is that we, as Christians, have all things in common.  And with our prayers and intercessions, our praise and thanksgiving, we love and serve each other to the glory of God.

As fundamental as all of this is to the Christian faith and life — as significant and necessary as the Word of God and prayer are to your spiritual health and strength — the actual practice of daily prayer does not come so easily or naturally to any of us poor sinners.  How often have you tried, perhaps, to establish some routine, some discipline of prayer and devotion, whether on your own or with your family, only to find that it becomes harder and harder to keep up with it?

It is true that you are easily distracted by the worries of the world, by the deceitfulness of riches, and by the desire for other things, and that you are tempted to give away your time, attentions, and energies to every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles you.  It seems burdensome to devote yourself, your heart and mind, your body and soul, to the Word of the Lord.  Yet, His Word alone endures forever, while all of those temporal things that entice you will wither and fade like the grass and the flowers of the field.  And the more you are distracted and captivated by those idols of this world, the more desperately you need the Word of the one true God in Christ!

Thankfully, He does not leave you tossed about and helpless, but in compassion He shepherds you.  By His grace and tender mercy, He encourages you and assists you in the discipline of daily prayer, first of all by His commands and promises.  For He Himself has commanded you to pray and has promised to hear you.  And again, along with His exhortation and admonition, He has also given you the very Words with which to call upon the Name of God: “Our Father, who art in heaven.”

He has taught you how to pray, not only by His Holy Scriptures, but even before you could read He put His prayer upon your lips, and thereby into your heart and mind, by the teaching and example of your parents and pastors.  The Second and Third Commandments, too, not only expose your sin, but also serve you as a curb and a guide, as a rule of faith and prayer.  The Second Table of the Law helps to protect your neighbor from the harm that you would do to him, but the First Table of the Law is for your own protection and benefit, that you should not neglect to hear the Word of God and call upon His Name in prayer.

Your earthly parents taught you to eat your vegetables, even before you learned how to enjoy them.  So does your Father in heaven command you to listen and to pray, even when you would rather not. And then, by His living and active Word He brings your heart and mind along in repentance.

To this day, even now, and throughout your life, the Lord Jesus continues teaching you to pray, and His Holy Spirit daily continues to help you in your weakness.  He does so by the ways and the means of His Word, by the agency of His Church on earth, and by the preaching and ministry of His Holy Gospel.  As you thus hear and receive His gracious Word, in which He and His Spirit are actively present and at work to give you faith and life, so does He gather you up in Himself and bring you like sweet incense, as a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice, into the Holy of Holies made without hands, eternal in the heavens, to be well received by Our Father.

Amen, Amen!  That is, Yes, Yes, it shall be so!

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

15 March 2020

Living Water to Quench Your Deepest Thirst

The Lord your God has saved you.  He has brought you out of Egypt to receive His gifts in faith and with thanksgiving, and so to worship Him in righteousness and holiness before Him.

This is most certainly true, despite outward appearances and all that you experience to the contrary.  You surely do not yet see it or feel it, of course.  Not when you are surrounded on all sides by the desert wilderness, and there’s no well or water to be found.  Not when sin, death, the devil, and hell still assail and oppress you, so that you are staggered and cannot stand.

It is still true, nevertheless, that God the Lord has saved you, and even now He is giving you life, even though your sinful heart is doubtful and afraid, irritable and quarrelsome.

In spite of His great and free salvation, your thoughts, words, and actions — proceeding from your sinful heart — do not praise and honor the Lord Your God, but profane His holy Name.  Instead of worshiping Him in faith and with thanksgiving, you grumble against Him, and against His servants.  And you put Him to the test: “Is the Lord among us or not!?”

Thus hardening your heart against Him, you close yourself to His gracious gifts of life.  You cover your ears against His Word, and you shut your mouth to His food and drink.  Thus do you go thirsty.  In foolish desperation, you long to go back to your former idolatry, to the land of sin and death from which the Lord has set you free, where all the water turns to blood, and the more you drink, the more you thirst.  In truth, by such apostasy you’ve already gone back to pagan Egypt.

The Samaritan woman in this Holy Gospel was likewise guilty of her own apostasy and spent her own time in “Egypt.”  But then she was given what she needed in the water and the Word of Christ Jesus.  Until that day when He went to meet her and called her to Himself, she had thirsted for something she did not even know, nor could she ever have gotten it on her own.  Not in her series of husbands, nor in her fornication with the man that she was then shacked up with.  She needed forgiveness for her many sins, and reconciliation with God, and the Holy Spirit of the Messiah.

Your needs are no different than hers.  And your own sins are no less damnable than hers, even if they have not included adultery and fornication.  There is, of course, that Word of our Lord Jesus by which He condemns the lust of your eyes, of your heart, and of your mind, as adultery.  Besides that, you have your own covetous lusts, your own desperate thirst for that which is not God.

So, what is it that you thirst for?  What is your drink of choice, and what well do you attempt to draw it from?  The false gods of Egypt take many forms.  You can make an idol out of marriage, for example, even if you’re only married once.  Maybe it’s alcoholism, or chronic drunkenness, or gluttony.  Or maybe it has nothing to do with actual food and drink for your body.  God knows that you need to eat and drink, after all, and He is gracious in giving you your daily bread and fresh water.  But what do your heart and mind, your soul and spirit thirst for?  What do you crave?

What do you worship?  That is the real question.  Whatever it is that you thirst for, not only with your lips and tongue and throat, but with your heart and soul and all your strength, that is your god.  And your hard work in going to fetch a pail of whatever from that well, that is your “worship.”

Therefore, if your well and your water are anything but Christ Jesus and His Gospel — Repent

Return to the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Turn away from your covetous lust and desperate selfishness.  Leave behind the water pot with which you would draw your own salvation.  Do not “obey your thirst” for anything that is not the true and living God.

Instead, seek the Lord where He may be found, where His Word is spoken, where His gifts are given.  Find Him where He comes to find you: in the courts of the Lord’s House, in the midst of His true Jerusalem.  Not with grumbling, anger, and complaint, but in faith and fervent prayer.

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that speaks to you, then you would ask of Him, and He would give you Living Water.  So ask.  And do not doubt but firmly believe that He will give you all that you need.  Not on this mountain or that, neither here nor there, but in His Church on earth, wherever on earth His Church may be, established and built upon the Rock of Christ.

Even Samaria or South Bend become the Mountain of God when Christ is at hand.  And He is here.

Here your thirst is quenched in ways that you would never have imagined.  For here you are cleansed within and without, in body and soul, by the Spirit of Christ: from His Cross and Passion.

To be sure, where you have sinned He admonishes you.  He reproves, corrects, and exhorts.  He calls you to repentance.  But still, He does not write you off.  He does not make an end of you.  He does not strike you with His Law to destroy you forever, though that is what you and all deserve.

He does speak His Law forthrightly, in order to expose your sin, to tell you everything that you have done wrong and all that you have failed to do right.  And it is the case that your sin must be condemned and punished; it must be put to death and dealt with, lest it bring you down to Sheol.

But see the staff which His Law wields, and hear how He strikes with it, not you, but the Rock which is Christ.  The Lord takes the blow and the burden of the Law upon Himself.  He does not smite His people.  He does not smite you.  By the wood of the Cross, the heavy staff of Moses cuts Yahweh to the quick.  And He, the Lord, is stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  He is bruised and beaten for your sins.  He is pierced and wounded for your transgressions, in order to save you.

He has been thirsty, even to the point of death, so that you may be given to drink from His well.

So does He remember you and love you.  As in the past, so also now and forever.  He remembers you by acting to save you, to bring you back out of Egypt to Himself, to turn your idolatrous heart from gods of stone to Himself, your God in the flesh.  All of this He does at His own expense, by His own sacrifice, by His holy and precious Blood, by His innocent suffering and death.

For He is the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed, who has saved you.  He is the Rock of your Salvation, your Strength and your Song, who has brought you out of bondage into life.  He follows you in steadfast faithfulness through the wilderness all the days of your life, even to the last.

It is true that you are rocked and staggered by tribulation, by hurts and sorrows within and without, by anxieties and fears, and by various trials and temptations so great and so many that you cannot stand upright.  You are always tripping and stumbling and falling, and dying.

But take heart.  The Lord is with you.

Yes, He is hidden from your sight for now, and He is with you in the form of a hard Rock.  But even so, that Rock is not set against you.  It is for you, that He may be your sure Foundation.

Behold the Living Water streaming from His open side, and with it flows His own Blood of the New Testament.  From this Rock the Font and the Chalice have been filled with His Spirit and His Life for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  Here is Water.  Drink.  You shall not die but live.

The same life-giving Water of the Holy Spirit is poured out for you, even in the desert, in this very preaching of the Gospel.  It quenches your deepest thirst by forgiving all your sins.  It cleanses your soul and your body with the righteousness of Christ, your Savior.  It gives you eternal life.

Therefore, your tribulations, though many, shall not be permitted to slay your body and soul forever.  They rather produce in you hope and patient endurance, which shall not be disappointed.  For none of this depends on you, but on Christ Jesus.  And He does not fail.  He shall not fall.

By your own strength you cannot stand, but Christ sustains you.  Even in His death, He is lifted up to save you.  And it is in His grace and peace and righteousness, by His Cross, that you now stand.  His Spirit lives in you, and you live in Him.  In Him you are strong and courageous!

This is the true worship of God, that is, the Cross of Christ, by which He offers up Himself to God the Father in perfect faith and steadfast love.  His Body and His Life are offered up for you and for all, even unto death, in order to atone for the sins of the world and to reconcile the world to God.  And by His Word and Holy Spirit you are united with Him in that sacrifice of faith and love.  Not that you make atonement for yourself or anyone else, but that you are returned to God the Father in Christ Jesus.  And having been justified by His grace, you live and abide with Him in peace.

As He comes to meet you in His Church and speaks His Word of the Gospel to you, He gives you the gift of His Spirit, who also unites you with Christ Jesus in the one true faith.  Thus, by His grace, through His Holy Spirit, you worship the Father in and with Christ Jesus, the beloved Son.

Not only that, but in such faith before God you also live and worship Him in fervent love for one another.  For where you are not driven by a temporal thirst that is never satiated and never can be satisfied — when your thirst is for the one true God, who freely pours Himself out for you in Christ Jesus and fills you with Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit — then you overflow with divine love for others.  You are faithful in your marriage to the spouse that God has given you, or you are chaste and pure in your life outside of marriage; either way, you love and serve your neighbors at hand.  You forgive those who trespass against you, and what is more, you gladly do them good.

It is ever and only in Christ Jesus, and always by His grace alone, that you now stand before God in perfect peace, and that you so live and love in His presence in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  Your life never does advance beyond this dear Lord Jesus, the Christ, but you live and move in Him by faith in the Word that He speaks to you in love.

For now, of course, in this mortal life, it is always in, with, and under His Cross.  It is hidden from your eyes, so that you neither know it nor have it except by His Word and the preaching of it.

When you thus discover in yourself that you continue to falter, to fall short, and to fail, first of all take heart that your sins are forgiven.  That is what the Gospel is all about: the forgiveness of sins.  Day after day they are washed away by the water and the blood that flow from the side of Christ Jesus, which He pours out for you in His Church by and with His Holy Spirit through the Gospel.

Therefore, do not despair, and do not suppose that you must somehow rectify your own situation and restore your own life.  Rather, return to the fountain of life, to Christ Jesus and His Spirit, by returning to the Ministry of His Gospel, to His ways and means of grace, to His Church on earth.

That is the Well at which He is found, where He freely does pour out His Living Water for you.

Do you recall the story when Abraham’s servant went to find a bride for Isaac?  Some of you will have just read it or heard it this past week.  That servant waited at a well, where the women went to draw water, and when Rebekah came he asked her for a drink, in much the same way that Jesus asked of the Samaritan woman in this morning’s Holy Gospel.  The goal was not to be served, but to serve — to give the good gifts of the Father, to woo and to win a Bride for the Son.  So was Rebekah called to be the bride of Isaac, and so was that Samaritan woman called to her true and heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Dearly beloved, the same is here true for you.

Bride of Christ, rejoice!  For here at hand is your true Bridegroom, the beloved and well-pleasing Son of the Father.  He has sent His servant here to you, to give you His good gifts, to woo you and to win you with His gracious love and tender forgiveness, and to bring you home to Himself.

Come, therefore, and drink deeply from His Cup, from His own hand.  Drink the Living Water that flows freely from His open heart into yours.  Hear His Word of the Gospel, which is Spirit and Truth.  Receive His free gifts, which are divine Life and eternal Salvation.  For He is indeed the Savior of the world.  Not only that, He is your Savior and your God, and you are His beloved.

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

13 March 2020

The Voice of the Bridegroom

Always a groomsman, never the Groom.  That is John’s vocation.  Among those born of the earth, he is the best man, but he is not the Christ.  He is not that true Light which shines upon the Bride and makes her radiant and beautiful.

John’s voice heralds the Coming One, the Word-made-Flesh, at whose speaking death gives way to life.  That One is the Bridegroom, the Son of God, sent by the Father from heaven to court His Bride, to call her to Himself, to cleanse and clothe her with His righteousness, and to consummate His marriage to her in both body and soul, so that not even death shall ever separate her from Him.

It is to this union of Christ Jesus and His Bride, the Church, that every earthly marriage testifies.  Husband, love your wife, therefore; forgive her sins, give yourself to her, and live your life for her benefit.  Woman, likewise, love and serve your husband; submit to him in faith, for Jesus’ sake.

Receive the spouse that God the Lord has given you, and be content.  Do not covet your neighbor’s wife or husband, but cherish the one whom Christ has given you in love.  Or, if you have not received an earthly bride or groom, be content with Christ Jesus and cling to Him by faith.

Each of you, let all your thoughts, words, and actions be chaste and pure, unselfish, and charitable, as your dear Lord Jesus Christ is toward you in all things.  For He is your heavenly Bridegroom, and by the washing of the water with His Word you belong to Him as a member of His holy Bride. In His Body and His Blood, you are one flesh with Him.  You, therefore, be holy, as He is holy.

You have nothing at all apart from Him — that is, nothing but divine wrath, condemnation, and eternal death.  But in Him, you have all good things, everything pertaining to life and godliness.  For the Father has set His seal upon His Son, not only from eternity, but also in His own flesh: in the waters of the Jordan, upon the holy Mountain, and in the Resurrection of the Crucified One.

This Man, the Bridegroom come down from heaven, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, He is the beloved Son.  All that belongs to the Father is His.  He has received the Spirit without measure, also in His flesh and blood upon the earth, in order to pour out His Holy Spirit generously and without measure upon you.  He has done so in the heavenly washing of your Baptism; and He does so for you here also, in His Holy Supper, at the festal board of His Altar.

He also does so freely, daily, and richly in His Word of forgiveness.  He does so because He loves you.  He has pledged Himself to you, bound Himself to you, and given Himself for you forever.

As you belong to such a beloved Bride of Christ, as one whom He has baptized to be a member of His Holy Christian Church, so do you belong among the true daughters of Zion, the daughters of Jerusalem.  The Father’s Son is your true Husband.  Therefore, His Father is your true Father.  His home and His inheritance are yours.  And as He increases, so are you also exalted in Him.

Dearly beloved, be awake and alert, and wait upon your Bridegroom.  For He is coming soon to call you from this vale of tears to Himself — to your true home in heaven.  He comes to carry you, body and soul, over that threshold — through the waters of the Jordan into Paradise forever.

Listen for His Voice.  He speaks to you even now by the mouth of His friend, His groomsman at this Altar.  It is His own Voice which speaks to you in love.  Consider what He says, and rejoice: “Take, eat. Drink.”  Receive these gifts Christ freely gives.  Believe His Word.  Believe also in Him, and have eternal life.  So shall your joy be made full in the Feast of His Body and His Blood.

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

11 March 2020

Confessing the God of the Font and the Altar

The one true God, the Holy Trinity, the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, is also the Author and Giver of life.  He has created you in love for life with Himself forever, and, not only does He give you life in body and soul, but He is your Life and your Salvation.  Not only has He made you — His creature — but He has graciously adopted you to be His own dear child.  Not only has He constructed your body, and not only does He cause it to function, but He enlivens your body and soul with His Holy Spirit, and He enlightens your heart and mind with His Word.

His Word, indeed, is more than sounds and letters and data.  The Father speaks to you by His Son, the Only-Begotten: God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.  This Word is always with God, from eternity to all eternity.  But what is more, this Word of God is God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, by whom the Father is known and the Spirit is bestowed.  For the Word of the Father and the Voice of the Spirit is the Christ, the Son of God, who in the fulness of time has been conceived and born of the Woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and crucified as true Man for all of us human beings, for our salvation.  The divine Word has thus become Flesh and abides with us.

This Word of the living God — the Father’s Son, Christ Jesus, the Bearer and Bestower of the Life-giving Holy Spirit — is written in the Scriptures, revealed in the preaching of the Gospel, confessed and prayed and spoken and sung by the children of God in the Church and throughout the whole world, from the rising of the sun to the place of its going down.  This is not the work of fallen man.  It is the good work and good gift of God Himself, which He performs and gives by His grace alone.  The Father keeps speaking His Son, and the Spirit keeps preaching the Christ.  Not because you or any of us are good, but because He is good, and He is merciful, and He is holy.

By this Word of God and the preaching of it — in the Church on earth, and from the Church for the life of the world — the one true God continues to shine His Light in the darkness, to create new life out of nothing, and to bring forth life from out of death, all for the sake of His own divine and holy Love.  He speaks, and it is so.  So it is that sinful mortal men, dying and as good as dead, not only receive new life in themselves, but they also become givers of life to others in faith and love.  Women with barren wombs conceive and give birth.  Doubters become believers, sinners become saints, the lost are found, the dead are raised, and even you are given life in Christ Jesus.

The Love by which and for which the Almighty and Eternal God does and gives such good and gracious things — the Love that constitutes His very Being and characterizes His divine nature — is the personal and permanent Love of God the Father for His Son, and of God the Son for His Father, in communion with the Holy Spirit.  Hence the grace of God.  It is not arbitrary, whimsical, or capricious.  It does not come and go, but as it is, so has it always been, and so shall it be forever.

That is the Love with which God loves you.  Or, better to say, He is the Love with which He loves you, just as He is the true Light that shines upon you through His Gospel.  And He is the Life with which He enlivens you, so that you now share and live the Life of God in and with Christ Jesus.

In order that you might have this Life, and know this Life, and live this Life — even now in your mortal body, and hereafter in the resurrection, in both your body and your soul forevermore — the Father speaks to you by His Son, and through that Word He breathes His Spirit into you.  Day by day He raises you up, and from the dust of the earth you become a living being: a man or woman recreated in the Image of God; a son or daughter of God the Father in His Son, Christ Jesus.

This divine Life is already yours in Christ Jesus, but it is not yet seen or felt or experienced for what it truly is, not in this fallen and perishing world.  Nevertheless, His Word of Life grants faith and hope, conviction, and assurance against all the darkness of death, against all the assaults and accusations of the devil, against false belief, despair, and every kind of wickedness.  His Word calls you daily to repentance, away from the false gods that have otherwise held sway over your heart, mind, body, and soul, unto Him who loves you, who is your Light and Life and Salvation.

The Word of God in Christ raises you from the dead and gives you faith and life, because by it He forgives you all your sins.  By His Word He justifies you and sanctifies you, which is to reconcile you to Himself in peace and love, and thereby to embrace and keep you in His own holiness.

All of this is so because the Word that God the Father speaks, which the Holy Spirit confesses to you in the Church and Ministry of the Gospel, is the preaching of Christ Jesus.  It is not only a preaching about Christ, nor is it simply that Christ is preaching through His Word, though both of those things are true.  But the preaching is Christ Himself, the Word of God, the Word-made-Flesh, graciously at work to give Himself to you.  He is actually spoken and sung into your ears, into your heart and mind.  And with Him, the Father gives to you His Heart, His highest Treasure, and Himself.  He binds Himself to you in love, in this Lord Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit.  And He so binds you to Christ that His Cross and Resurrection become yours, along with His faith and love, His righteousness and His good works, His life and His salvation.  All of these are yours.

He has taken all your sins upon Himself, and all their curse and consequence He has taken from you and into His own Body.  By His Cross He has put them to death and buried them in His tomb.  For with His holy and precious blood He has atoned for all your sins and redeemed you from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil.  In His Resurrection from the dead, He has raised you also, recreated and brand new, no longer dead in your trespasses and unbelief, but alive forevermore.

All of this the Lord Jesus Christ has already done and accomplished in Himself, once and for all.  It’s a done deal, and there is nothing at all that remains to be done in this regard.  There is nothing lacking in Him, in His work, in His Cross or Resurrection.  There is nothing whatsoever amiss.

So certain is the Lord’s great salvation that it stands fast from before the foundation of the world, not only to the end of the age, but to all eternity, forever and ever.  Amen, amen, it is and always shall be so.  In Christ Jesus, God has reconciled the world to Himself, so that sins are no longer counted or considered, and death has been defeated.  For God raised this same Jesus from the dead, and it is very good.  This is the Sabbath Rest that remains for you and for all the people of God.

And yet, the fact remains that you do not see it.  You do not feel or experience this in yourself, and you sure don’t find it to be so in the world around you.  Sin continues everywhere.  If anything, it only gets worse and worse.  Death remains rampant.  Idolatry is commonplace, along with all manner of sacrilegious blasphemy.  Fornication and false witness are taken for granted.  Even your fellow Christians sin against you, and day by day you also trespass against them.  Your thoughts are vile and perverse.  Your words are hardly better.  Your actions are not those of faith and love, but too often they proceed out of guilt and fear, out of pride and selfishness, out of a covetous heart of bitter envy and jealousy, in violent anger on the one hand, in deep sadness on the other.

What then shall we say?  And whatever shall you do?  You lift up your eyes, and all you can see is sin and death, within and without.  Where, then, shall you find any help?  Consider the Psalm: Your help comes from the Lord, the true and only God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth.

He does not slumber or sleep, but day and night, week by week, and year by year, as you lay down to sleep, and as you get up to face another day in this poor life of labor, He guards and keeps you from all the evil that surrounds you and threatens to undo you.  He shall not suffer your foot to be moved, but in all your going out and coming in He stands fast and guards you round about.  And even though you die, yet shall you live, as surely as your Savior Christ Jesus has risen and lives.

He calls you to Himself each day, again and again, as He has called you to Himself by the Gospel to begin with; not because He has to, but because He loves you, and He has created you in love to live with Him forever.  He has not moved and acted to save you because you are so faithful and sincere, so righteous and so holy, but because He is righteous and holy and faithful and just, and because it is His great glory to be gracious and merciful: to create anew and give life to the dead, to forgive and rescue sinners, to seek and to save the lost.  He never does grow weary of doing so.

The Father speaks His Son to you from His great heart of love; and this Word of God, who is your Savior Jesus Christ, fills you with His faith and love, with His assurance and conviction.  By the hearing of that Word of Christ you believe.  For the Lord your God is still creating good things out of nothing, He is still calling forth Light out of darkness, and He is still raising the dead from the dust of the earth to live.  And as you believe the Word of Christ, so do you confess.  You speak the same thing that He has said to you, and it remains His sure and certain Word upon your lips and tongue, even when you stammer and stutter.  It is His Word, and it is true against all that is false.

You speak and say what God has spoken to you by His Son — you sing the Word that He sings in you by His Spirit — and that Word perseveres and prevails where you could not even begin.

This very Word of God, your dear Lord Jesus Christ in your ears, in your heart, and on your lips, He is the new and greater Noah, who in reverence has prepared an Ark for the salvation of His household and family, that is, the holy Ark of His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

And He is the new and greater Joshua, who has brought the people of God through the waters into the good land, and who has gone before them to defeat all their enemies.  He has brought down the walls of hostility, and He has built a better city for His people, for His brothers and sisters: for you!

As for Him, the Son of God who has become true Man — your Brother in the flesh, your kinsman Redeemer, your Savior from sin and death — He has served His God and Father in perfect faith and love, in such a way that His entire household shares in His faithfulness and righteousness.

Put away your false gods, therefore, and live here in peace within the House of the Lord your God.  Hear and heed His Word to you, and pray and confess it.  However meager it may seem, this is the same Word by which all things have been made and are sustained.  This is the same Word that forgives sins, and raises the dead, and gives life and salvation to all of creation.

This Word is now your strength and your song, because this is the Word of your Savior, who has become your Salvation.  This Word is spoken to you, and it is given to you to believe and to confess — and it remains the Word of God, the Word of Christ Jesus, the Son of the living God.

By this Word you live, and you confess the God who gives you life and is your Life.  By this Word you love Him who first loves you.  By this Word you walk in His Light, even in the midst of deep darkness, even as you journey through the valley of the shadows of death.

By this Word you confess the Maker of the heavens and the earth, who is your God and Father in Christ Jesus.  And by this Word, no less, you confess the God of the Font, who cleanses you from all unrighteousness and clothes you with Christ Jesus and His righteousness.  And you confess the God of the Altar, who feeds you with Himself, with His Body and His Blood — in whom all of creation finds its meaning, its purpose and fulfillment, and in whom you also live in both body and soul, here in time, and hereafter in the resurrection forever and ever.  This is most certainly true.

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

08 March 2020

The New Birth and New Creation in Christ Jesus

Abram’s body was as good as dead, and he was still without children in his 90s.  His barren old wife Sarai’s womb was likewise dead and dying.  Their bodies, like yours, were from the dust and returning to the dust.  Born of Adam’s flesh and blood, they were subject to the sin and death of their father Adam.  Such is the legacy of fallen man.  From sire to seed the curse descends.

It is the same for you, as well.  You have received it from your parents, and you pass it on to your children (if you have any).  No amount of intelligence, strategy, hard work, luck, or wealth will break that cycle of sin and death.  No matter what your success may be, it will come to an end.

As you face the future, then, what hope do you have?  What is the point in going forward, going anywhere at all, in doing or attempting anything?  What does it matter, and why do you bother?

If your aim and hope were for this life only, that would be a most pitiable shame.  Whether it be an education, a job, a spouse and family, or fame and fortune — whether you manage to achieve such goals or fail at them all — it would make no difference in the end.  It would not matter.  Not only that, but the rest of the story would be worse than pointless, separated from God in the eternal darkness and despair of ongoing death: existing without life or light or love forevermore.

Except that isn’t all He wrote or spoke.  That isn’t the whole story, because the Author and Giver of Life has created you in Love, in order to give you His own Life in body and soul, now and forever.  And in that same divine Love, He causes the Light to shine upon you by His Word.

So, then, His Word is all that Abram and Sarai had when they set out from their home and family to a new place they had never seen before.  On a wing and a prayer, you might say, but the Lord’s promise came first and led them forward.  “I will surely be with you and bless you,” He pledged.  And not only that, but the Lord would bless the whole world in the Seed of Abram.  For the old man and his barren old wife would have children, not according to the power and promise of their frail and perishing flesh, but according to the Word and promise of the Lord their God.

It doesn’t sound like much to go on.  In fact, it seems like less than nothing at all.  So, too, when the promised Seed of Abram finally comes — the Word of God made flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood — He doesn’t look so promising, either, especially not when He arrives at the goal of His coming.  For the long-awaited Son is born to die.  The beloved and only-begotten Son will be sacrificed upon the Wood of His Cross.  What sort of hope is that?  Certainly not one that depends upon you or your understanding, that is for sure.

The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.  The shadow of death thus appears to overwhelm the Light and snuff it out.  Men are born, they grow old, and they die.  Or, as often as not, they do not even grow old — nor do they get a second childhood.  However long or short the days may be, the nighttime descends, and all is dark and cold.

And yet, the darkness is not able to prevail against the Light of the Word, nor overcome it.  True, you cannot see where it is coming from, nor can you tell where it is going.  But listen, anyway, to the Voice of the Spirit, which is the Word of God the Father, spoken to and for you by His Son.

This is the very Word by whom all things were made out of nothing, by whom and for whom all things exist and are upheld.  He is the Light of the world, who even now calls forth the Light out of the darkness.  For He is the Life of all mankind, who brings forth Life out of death.  And He has come down from heaven to earth, into the flesh and blood of man, into the depths of sin and death.  Not because there is no hope, but precisely to fulfill the promise of His Father, and to become the Blessing — that is, the “Good Word” of God — by whom all the nations are blessed.

He comes to make all things new, to bring about a New Creation by the new birth of water, Word, and Spirit.  That’s not a “second try,” nor is it a “plan B.” It is the actual completion of the Lord’s original intention in the Person of the Incarnate Son.  In His Body of flesh and blood, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He is the Image and Likeness of God in which you are raised up from the dust of the earth to newness of life.  By His Voice, by His speaking of the Gospel, God the Father breathes the Holy Spirit into your mortal flesh, in order to give you His own immortal Life in both body and soul.  So does He shine the Light upon you in divine and holy Love.

That you might believe in Him — and, believing, have abundant Life in His Name — St. John the Baptist was sent to preach the Holy Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and St. John the Apostle was sent to preach and to publish the Holy Gospel.  By the same Word and Sacrament, even to this day and place, the Holy Spirit also testifies that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, crucified and risen from the dead, is the Christ, the Son of the Living God; that He has come in the flesh to save you from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  And we know that His testimony is true.

It is in love for His only-begotten Son that God the Father has created you, and in love for His Son that He has given Him to save you.  And it is in love for His Father that God the Son has come to bring about this great salvation, that you might live with God in Love, in the Spirit of the Father and the Son.  He has come down from heaven, from the bosom of the Father, St. John testifies, and He has become flesh, in order to reveal the Father to you — to manifest the fulness of divine grace and truth in Himself.  As the Lamb of God who takes away your sin and bears it in His Body to the Cross, He has come to redeem you from sin and death.  And as the beloved and well-pleasing Son, He has come to raise you up and to bring you into His own relationship with God the Father.

So it is that you are begotten of God and born from above through this one Lord, Jesus Christ.

By His Incarnation, by His becoming flesh for us, and by His Baptism in the Jordan River, the Word and Spirit of God are now to be found in the flesh and blood of this Man from Nazareth.  For His Body is the very Word of God, and the Holy Spirit rests and remains upon Him forevermore.

As the one true God has thus become true Man, so does He also reveal and give Himself to you in earthly means.  And so does He pour out His Spirit upon you through earthly means of grace, even as the Spirit reveals and gives the same Christ Jesus to you in His Word and Sacraments.

Significantly, the Christ who is thus revealed to you, who gives Himself to you and pours out His Spirit upon you, is the very One who is crucified, dead, and buried for you.  Such are the depths of His Love for you, and, at the same time, the heights of His divine Glory as the Lord your God.

He comes down from heaven to raise you up by His Cross, to bring you to the Father in His own crucified and risen Body.  He descends in order to ascend, in order to bring you back to God in and with Himself.  It is thus by the way of His Cross that you now see and enter the Kingdom of God.

As strange as it may seem, the Cross itself — that is to say, the lifting up of the Son of Man in His death by Crucifixion — is already His mysterious and hidden exaltation, the exercise of His Glory as the Son of God, and His return to the Father in perfect faith and perfect love.  It is the voluntary sacrifice of God, whereby He wins the victory of life and salvation for you and all the nations.

It is a striking and mysterious paradox, which you cannot understand until you are enlightened by the Spirit of Christ through the catechesis of His Word.  For He is lifted up on the Wood of the Cross in the form of those fiery serpents — that is to say, in the likeness of the very sin and death which are killing you — in order to save you from those serpents and their poisonous sting.

The Resurrection of the same Lord Jesus Christ is therefore also your rescue from serpent, sin, and death, your reconciliation with God the Father, your righteousness, and your salvation.  It is the New Creation of God by His Word — in the Flesh of His Word, crucified and risen — out of the nothingness of sin and death.  It is the Light of God, shining in the darkness of sin and death, which He also causes to shine forth in your heart by the preaching of this Holy Gospel.

The Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead is Righteousness and Life for all who believe and are baptized into Him.  It is the power and authority by which you are born again of water and the Spirit — a Sign as miraculous as the conception and birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, and as marvelous as the conception and birth of Jesus Himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Nazareth.

Thus are you begotten and born of God in body and soul through faith in Christ Jesus.  And such faith is itself conceived and born in you by His Word and Spirit, by repentance and forgiveness of sins; which is to say, by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, not only for you, but in you.

You are put to death in order to be reborn to newness of life.  You are buried with Christ by your Baptism into His death, in order to be raised with Him in His Resurrection unto Life everlasting.

So it is that, even now, though you are daily being put to death by the Mystery of His Cross, you are also being lifted up and offered to God the Father as a sweet-smelling sacrifice in Christ Jesus.

As you thus live and die on earth by faith in Him — and as He thus lives and abides in you by His Word and Spirit, with His own flesh and blood — so it is that your flesh and blood, your body and your soul, your heart, mind, and spirit, likewise ascend before God and live in His Presence.

Wherever you go, be it near or far, the Lord goes with you by His Word; and you live with Him by faith in His Word.  And by His Word and promise you are blessed, no matter come what may.  Has He not given you the guarantee and pledge of these heavenly things in His own earthly things, in His holy Body and precious Blood, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins?

If you perish, you perish, but only from this mortal life on earth; for whether you live or die, you are the Lord’s, in whom you shall not perish but live forevermore.

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

06 March 2020

Abiding in the Body of Christ Jesus

The Lord’s Passover is at hand, and the firstborn Son of the Father shall be put to death as the Lamb of God, in order that His people should be spared from death, and saved from their sins, and set free from their bondage and all their burdens of body and soul.

You live, therefore, by abiding in the Father’s house in peace, where the blood of this Lamb marks the door, and where His flesh is eaten in faith and hope and with thanksgiving.

But you cannot remain in His house forever, nor can you live with Him in His presence, so long as you remain in your sin.  For your sin has put you at odds with your Father and would separate you from His house and home altogether.  If you are to abide under His roof, preserved and protected in safety when the Angel of Death passes through Egypt, then you must be forgiven of your sins and reconciled to your Father — lest you be put to death and perish forever.

Now, then, do not cast about frantically for some way or means of appeasing Him.  You cannot purchase or earn God’s favor by any coin or sacrifice of your own.  Atonement and reconciliation are not a business transaction that you could ever negotiate.  Indeed, attempting to barter or bargain for your life with God only puts you that much more at odds with Him.

Rather, see here that the Son of God has been entirely consumed by His zeal for the Father’s house, so that it should be, not a marketplace of works righteousness, but a place of peace and rest for you and for disciples of all nations.  It is a mighty fortress, a refuge and stronghold, a place where you are safe from sin, death, the devil, and hell, and from the condemnation of the Lord’s own Law.

It is by His Cross and Resurrection that the Lord Jesus Christ has become, not only the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, but also the true divine, eternal Temple of God among His people, established here on earth for you, and so also at the right hand of the Father for you.

His Body has been sacrificed, once for all, in order to atone for the sins of the whole world; and His Blood has been shed for reconciliation with God.  So it is that His Resurrection from the dead is the opening of heaven to you and to all who believe and are baptized into Him.  His open tomb is now the ever-open door back into the Father’s house.

It is by this authority of His Cross and Resurrection that Jesus calls you to repentance and brings you to faith by His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.  So also, it is from His Cross and in His Resurrection that He feeds you with His own holy Body, which is the very Temple of God.

He thus abides in you, and you abide in Him, who is the Lord your God.  And abiding in Him, you dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of your life, both here and now and forever after.

His House, His Temple, is no one building — neither here nor in Palestine, nor in any other single place on earth — but it is His own Body, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father, but given to His disciples in His Supper within His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church on earth.

His holy Church around the world (in heaven and on earth) is altogether one Body in Him, because His disciples from all nations eat of His one Body and drink from the one Cup which is the New Testament in His Blood.  Together they are built into a Temple of living stones, to which you also belong — built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Himself the Cornerstone.

Wherever in the world His Scriptures are read, wherever His Word of the Gospel is preached in His Name in its truth and purity, there His Church is gathered — His Body, His Temple on earth — to feast upon His Body and His Blood in faith, hope, and love, to the glory of God the Father.

So, then, receive here what you are, and be what you receive: the Body of Christ.  Be cleansed and sealed by His Blood for life and salvation in Him, and be at peace with your God and Father.  For here you are already at home with Him, and not even death shall be able to separate you from Him.  Though your body shall die and be buried, you also shall rise, in and with your body, and live.

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