Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Wednesday of Easter 5

Wednesday of Easter 5 (A)
May 13, 2020
Text: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            In Christ, a great exchange has taken place.  Jesus has taken all our sin, death, and condemnation into Himself and put it to death in His Body on the cross.  In exchange, He has given us His righteousness, salvation, and life.  He is risen from the dead, and that life is now ours.  The exchange takes place in Baptism.  He was baptized into us at the River Jordan.  We are baptized into Him at the font.  It is a royal wedding.  Christ is the Bridegroom.  The Church is His Bride.  By the wedding ring of faith, we possess all His riches.  It is this reality that St. Peter unpacks in our text.
            Just as the situation of a husband is the situation of his bride, so it is with Christ and the Church.  As it is with Christ, so it is with us.  Jesus is a Living Stone, the Cornerstone, chosen by God and precious.  So you, beloved, are living stones built upon Him as a spiritual house, a people chosen as His own possession.  As He is our great High Priest who offered the once-for-all sacrifice of atonement for our sins, to save us, so you are a royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices of love, and good works, and even suffering, that are acceptable to God through Jesus.  As He was rejected by men, so you will be rejected and scorned and maybe even put to death.  But what happened to Jesus?  The Stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone!  He is risen!  And so whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.  You, too, shall rise. 
            As a man, our Lord had to grow up into this Priestly Office.  He was a Babe in arms at the Virgin’s breast, and so also, from His earliest days, He drank the pure spiritual milk of the Word.  He grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and with man (Luke 2:40, 52).  And so you.  As newborn babes you long for the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word.  You taste and see that the Lord is good.  And so you grow up into your spiritual priesthood, into the Christian God would have you be, doing the work God would have you do, the spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God by the blood of Christ.
            You grow in repentance and faith.  You learn to bemoan your sins and the harm they do to you and to your neighbor.  You learn to confess your sins, and turn to Christ alone for forgiveness of sins and divine rescue.  You grow in the Word as you hear and learn it and meditate upon it, as you attend the Divine Service and Bible study.  You grow in love for your neighbor.  His need becomes your need, and your abundance becomes his abundance, because this is what Christ has done for you.  You forgive his sins against you.  You pray for him and encourage him in his life in Christ.  You become, in this way, a little Christ to your neighbor.  You grow in sacrifice for him.  As Christ sacrificed Himself for you for the forgiveness of your sins, so you sacrifice yourself for your neighbor’s sake.  You give yourself and of all that is yours, that your neighbor may hear the Gospel, and be well-provided in body and soul. 
            This growth all happens through the Word.  That is where the Spirit does His sanctifying work.  It begins with the simple and nourishing milk of the Gospel, and it grows into partaking of the solid food of the Lord’s Body and Blood and an ever-deepening understanding of all that the Lord teaches. 
            And then there is this: The Holy Spirit exercises your faith in what Luther calls “the school of experience.”  That is, you suffer.  As Jesus learned obedience by suffering, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it (Heb. 5:8), so you learn to cast yourself wholly and completely on God’s mercy and follow Him through every affliction as you bear the precious and holy cross.  Whether it is the suffering of pain or disease, of grief or loss, or any affliction, as God sustains you by His Word and Spirit, He is teaching you patience and trust. 
            In this pandemic, we Christians are learning a patience we may well otherwise have lost here in the American Church, swallowed up by our affluence and our perceived invulnerability.  We really have been putting our faith in the wrong gods: wealth; unprecedented healthcare, medical knowledge, and technology; military might; scientific advancement; and freedom.  Turns out all of these are fleeting and cannot protect us in the end.  Repent.  God is growing you.  This is the school of experience.  Back to the milk of the Gospel!  That is what sustains us.  That is Who sustains us, our gracious God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
            Those who do not have the Word stumble and fall on this Cornerstone.  To them, Jesus becomes a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense.  Peter tells us, “They stumble because they disobey the word” (1 Peter 2:8; ESV).  The difference between them and you is not one of moral superiority or inferiority.  It is not that you are more righteous than they, or a person of better quality.  It is simply this: By grace, you have been given to hear and believe the Gospel.  They have rejected it, and face an eternal future apart from Christ.  They rejected the Bridegroom!  They rejected the exchange!  Lord, have mercy!
            Some will yet be rescued when they hear this life-giving Word, and that is why God leaves you here as priests.  To love them and serve them.  To suffer here, with and for them.  To be a Church in this place.  To proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  You know what it is to walk in their darkness.  Apart from Christ, that is you.  You know what it is not to be a people, as they are not, each one living for himself.  Now, in Christ, you are God’s people.  You know what it is not to receive mercy, as they deny even their need for it.  But now, in Christ, you have received mercy.  And you can show it to them, and you can give it to them.  You speak the Gospel to them.  You bring them to the Church, to hear the preaching, to come and see Jesus.  And you need not be afraid of their rejection.  For as it is with Christ, so it is with you.  They may kill you for it.  But Christ will raise you.  Then again, the Holy Spirit works through His Word.  They might just hear and believe and another living stone will be added to the spiritual house whose Cornerstone is Jesus Christ.  That is all up to God.  You just confess and suffer and trust and live in Jesus. 
            For His life is yours.  By virtue of your Baptism, you died with Christ, and you now live with Christ, and He will raise you bodily on the Last Day.  So whatever you suffer, it is simply growth toward that Day.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who suffered for you, to make you His own.  Drink the milk.  Feed on the solid food.  Commend everything to God in prayer.  You are safe in Jesus.  Your sins are forgiven.  He is coming soon.  The spiritual house is about to be revealed for all to see.  Just wait.  Keep trusting.  The Bridegroom soon shall call us.  As He is, so we are, and shall be.  Risen, living, alive in the House of our Father forever.  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                 

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