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.

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