The usual midweek disclaimer applies: I don’t print every word I plan to say like I do for Sunday. Changes from the pulpit are standard. But this will give you the rough outline of what I said. (After the jump.)
Contradiction. Honor / Dishonor, slander praise, Known / unknown, dying, and behold we live.
The world we live in as Christians. Christ has won the victory and triumphed over Satan. And yet, we still live in this world, struggle and because of our weakness, we stumble and fall often.
We have Law – the word of God that demands absolute perfection, states that there is only one way to please God in heaven, and that is by total obedience to the law Given in the Ten Commandments. Any variation on our part from that, and we merit death. God is the vengeful judge, who will visit the iniquity of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation of those who hate him. You must be prefect, therefore, as your father in heaven is perfect.
And then there is the Gospel – the polar opposite. It tells of God’s grace and mercy for you, without any merit or worthiness on your part. Like a little infant loved by his parents without any effort, so you are lovingly created by God, given this gifts of the first article – the world and all that is in it which you use to support this body and life. And even in your sin, God gives this. God provides daily bread for all people, even the wicked and even without our prayer.
And because of your sin, he sent his son to take away your sins. To live the perfect life, and die the death you deserve in your place. He did it for you. And if that wasn’t enough, he send the Spirit so that you would believe the promise and receive the blessings.
We can’t reconcile the Law and the Gospel. One demands, and curses. One gives, and blesses. And yet, they both exist. God is just and so demands perfection. God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
And we live now in the time of grace. What St. Paul calls the favorable time, the day of salvation. Now is the time for the Gospel – the good news to be proclaimed, and for all hearts to believe so that they may be saved. This won’t last forever. The favorable day will come to an end, either because of our own death, or because of Jesus return. Then the judgment. Those who have done good will enter into eternal life, those who have done evil into eternal fire.
Now is the time to hear the word, believe and be saved. And yet, our salvation, which was accomplished on the cross and given freely for Jesus sake, is given in this world of sin, where we are sinners, who mess things up. We live in a world that can not accept this promise.
And so we see Paul’s contradictions – that we are honored by God, even while we are dishonored by the world, we are known to God, even as the World can not know His Son Jesus. We are dying in this world, we stumble in our sin, and yet we are alive in Christ, and we possess all things. We are at the same time saint because of Jesus and his work for us, where we have been declared righteous. And we are sinners, who still struggle with the flesh every day, and stumble and fall often. In talking about the Sacrament of the Altar, Luther explains it this way:
It is indeed called a food of souls, which nourishes and strengthens the new man. For by Baptism we are first born anew; but there still remains, besides, the old vicious nature of flesh and blood in man, and there are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and of the world that we often become weary and faint, and sometimes also stumble.
That is why we need to be fed. Why the blessing of dismissal after receiving the Sacrament says, “The true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ STRENGTHEN AND PRESERVE YOU…” That’s what it does. It keeps us in the true faith. And so, regardless of how the world sees us, as poor, foolish, dishonored, having nothing, yet in Christ we have been given everything. And this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are Christ’s workmanship. He is the one who had redeemed us. He is the one who has given us new life through the waters of Holy Baptism, who has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.
And we dare never neglect the gift. We dare never treat the grace of God cheaply. As if it were some dime store trinket, that can be abused whenever we want. The precious death of our Lord was what earned salvation. The most holy body and blood given and shed for you was what earned the forgiveness of your sins. A precious gift beyond rubies, emeralds, gold and silver. This salvation of Jesus is the greatest gift. That is why we are told, “Not to receive the grace of God in vain.” Because we must highly value the salvation we have been given.
Imagine if a doctor created a drug that could delay death itself – guaranteed. How much would people pay for that drug? How wealthy would he be? How long would the line be to his office door? We have an eve greater gift than that – because our life in this world is a life of sin, of repentance and forgiveness, a life lived on the cross of Christ. In Christ, the life we are given in the world to come is a life of eternal splendor around the throne of God and the Lamb. And this life will not be taken from us.
That is why we must hold precious the gift of salvation given by Jesus. Even amid all the trials of this world, the temptations to ignore the grace of God, to turn away to the cares of this world, to despair of the trials and temptations, to give up on this salvation. We must not, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we may be saved. That is why God gives his Holy Spirit through his church. So that you may receive the forgiveness of sins, so that there would be a place you can go where you received the blessings of God, the word to give forgiveness, the sacrament to cleanse and strengthen. A place where the forgiveness won by Christ would be spoken over you.
In Christ, we possess all things. Thanks be to God.