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Lenten Series (The Six Chief Parts)

Various

Rev. Alan Taylor

Epiphany 1, series A
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 

Ash Wednesday St. John Galveston 2/28/01

The Six Chief Parts

“The Ten Commandments”

Matthew 5:17-20

(Exodus 20:1-17, Romans 7:14-20)

+ In Nomine Jesu +

For these Wednesday night services during Lent I have made the decision to preach on something that, as Lutheran Christians, is near and dear to our hearts – namely the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Small Catechism.  Right off I know it sounds a bit peculiar that that which is near and dear to our hearts is contained in an extra biblical book such as the Small Catechism, but the Catechism is not extra biblical in the sense that it teaches other than the Bible, rather the Catechism is a concise summary of all of the chief articles of the Christian faith.

So masterfully laid out, the Small Catechism is to us really a prayer book.  Moving us from God’s Law – the Ten Commandments, to the Creed, which is a summary of the Gospel itself, we then learn how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, we come to confess the treasure of Holy Baptism, the joy of being able to confess our sins and receive absolution and finally we are brought to understand the treasure of the Lord’s Supper, how God has given us of Himself in bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins, for life and salvation. 

As we endeavor to take on this seemingly dogmatic, almost sterile task I would remind you of the words of one Dorothy Sayers on the preaching of doctrine.  She said, “we are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine – ‘dull dogma,’ as people call it.  The fact is the precise opposite.  It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness.  The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of men and the dogma is the drama…The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore – on the contrary, they thought Him too dynamic to be safe.” Tonight we will take up our task beginning with the Ten Commandments. 

An interviewer once asked a number of people, ‘what do you think of the Ten Commandments?’ One person just stared at the questioner and gasped: ‘Are you kidding?’ Another said, ‘Well, I don’t take them literally.’ One person replied, with a laugh; ‘Well, I think rules were made to be broken.’ Another said, ‘It’s fortunate we don’t have to keep them any more.’

But one woman replied: ‘What do I think of the Ten Commandments?’ The she paused a moment and mused quietly; ‘Well, I think God loved us an awful lot to give them to us – to protect us from ourselves.’

The Ten Commandments are well known to all of us.  We heard them in the Old Testament reading for this evening.  The trouble is, we forget or ignore them in life.  They were written in humanity’s heart by nature.  But sin had so defaced their writing that it was necessary for God to restate them – and in a quite dramatic way. 

The Commandments, of course, are not suggestions, they are Commandments, they are those things demanded by God.  Each of them has both a negative and positive side to it.  For instance, when God says, “Thou shalt not kill,” He not only commands us not to kill, but He commands us to assist our neighbor, to help him to preserve his life.  When He calls us to “not take His name in vain,” He not only forbids us to use His name in a flippant, loose manner, but He calls upon us to use that name as we “pray, praise and give thanks.” Every Commandment has both a negative and a positive side to it.

The Commandments too incorporate much more than what the average person thinks that they do.  Tell a person, for instance, that the sixth Commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and if he has not committed the act itself he will count that Commandment as having been kept in his own life.  And yet, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘you shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Likewise He said, “you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment.” The Commandments then are violated not only in actions, but also in thoughts as well as in words. 

They are violated too not only in what we do but also in what we fail to do.  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, for instance, the people who saw the man in need on the side of the road and yet who did nothing were guilty of sin – not because they harmed the man but because they failed to help him.  Even so you and I sin when we have in our power to do good and yet we choose to do nothing. 

Do you see how the Commandments of God corner us and hem us in in every direction?  This is why we confess each week our utter depravity and need, saying, “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment.”

It is with this broad understanding of the keeping of the Commandments that St. Paul finally cries out, “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death.”

All of us here tonight too who reflect on the depth of the Commandments of God will be left in the place in which St. Paul found himself.  For “the good that we would do we don’t do and the very evil that we hate this is what we do.” As Jesus says, in Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, the standard for goodness in the sight of God under the commandments is perfection – “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” And so, we look to the heavens and we cry out, “O wretched man or woman that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

With eager anticipation the people of Jerusalem waited to hear Jesus talk about the Law, the Commandments of God.  What would His position toward the Law be?  Did He come to abolish the Law?  Did He come to change things around, to lower the bar, if you will?  What would He have to say about the Law?

“Do not think (Jesus said) that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

The Commandments of God don’t just go away.  If they are ignored they do not become less severe or less binding.  But Christ has come to fulfill all of the Commandments, not for Himself, for He was without sin, but for all the world.  God’s demand of perfection still holds, but looking at sinners through the life and death of His Son God sees them as having fulfilled all that He demands.  “I have come to fulfill the law,” Jesus said.  Everything Jesus did in life He did in our stead.  None of us have fully kept the Commandments of God, but God nonetheless counts us as perfectly righteous because we have been given the perfect righteousness of His Son. 

The commandments then become, not a standard whereby we can earn our way to God, but rather, a mirror to show us our sin and to drive us to the blood of the cross, to the Sacrament of the Altar, to a remembrance of our Baptisms.  And having heard that word of forgiveness, that sweet word of release, that Jesus has fulfilled all things in our stead, we are now moved all the more to seek to live according to what God wills, indeed, even according to what He commands.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

2nd Wednesday in Lent St. John Galveston 3/7/01

The Six Chief Parts

“The Apostle’s Creed”

I Corinthians 8:6, 12:13

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Tonight we continue our reflection on the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Small Catechism.  Last Wednesday evening we were confronted with the stark realities of the Law of God – the Ten Commandments.  We reflected on the fact that the Commandments of God are violated in our lives, not only in our actions, but in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.  Confessing that reality and recognizing that with the Law we are hemmed in on every side we confessed with St. Paul, “who will set me free from this body of death?”

There is only one hope, of course, for the person who finds himself trapped by the Law of God.  That hope is to rest in Christ, it is to find complete freedom through the complete forgiveness purchased and won by Him on the Cross of Golgatha.  It is to acknowledge, yes, I am a sinner, but “He who knew no sin, became sin for me, that I might be the very righteousness of God in Him.”

From ancient times the Church has confessed its trust in the One True

God, the God who creates, who redeems or saves His creation, and who makes His creation holy, in the words of the Apostle’s Creed.  While the Creed was surely not written by the Apostle’s themselves, it does date back to the very earliest times in the Christian Church.  Biblically speaking it is perhaps best modeled in the two passages of Scripture that you have already heard this evening from I Corinthians 8 and 12.  “For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live…For by One Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

“Baptized into One Spirit” is God’s description of His Church, of you, who in time received the Sign of the Cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified.  Recognizing the central importance of this teaching of Scripture, that faith begins in the water of baptism, and that that faith is in the God who is One, and yet Three, the earliest Christians devised the Apostle’s Creed as a Baptismal Creed.  And so it is, even to this day, that when a person comes to this font, to be born anew in Christ, be they young or old, we all confess the truth’s of our faith in the words of this ancient Creed.

“For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him.” Even as the ancient church of Israel confessed, “behold the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” so we confess today that God is One, meaning there are no other gods apart from Him.  He is the creator of all things, both in heaven and on earth.  And we too have been created by Him and for Him.  All that we have in this life is God’s gift to us and all that we are, and all that we have, God still preserves and takes of.  He does it, Luther reminds us, “without any merit or worthiness on our part.” All for which it is our duty “to thank and to praise, to serve and to obey Him.”

And we believe in “One Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” The life that God gave humanity in the Garden was personally breathed into them by Him.  He was then personally acquainted with humanity in a way that no other creature shared.  But, of course, that closeness was lost when Adam and Eve made the decision to go their own way.  For centuries men and women have sought to live life apart from God, when in fact there is no such life.  As St . Augustine once wrote, “God has made us for Himself, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in Him.”

We believe in “One Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” Life begins anew in Christ, for in that moment in which we first believed, God began a restoration process in us, a process that will finally be completed in the glory of the world that is yet to come.  But even now, it is through Him that we live, and move, and have our very being.  A life of forgiveness and fellowship with God is indeed, the only true life. 

And finally, we believe that “by One Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into One Spirit.” It was, of course, the day that we came to this font or to one like it, that we were brought to believe all that we confess here tonight.  For were we not given such faith by the Spirit of God, we could not, of our reason or strength, have come to such faith. 

I am reminded of a visit I made a number of years ago with Herb Noack.  Herb, of course has passed on to glory, but I don’t think, were he living, that he would mind my mentioning this story.  I arrived at the house and Herb said that earlier in the day someone from one of the local non-Christian churches had been by to talk to him about god, as they knew him.  I guess Herb listened for just a bit, and then apparently they asked him what he believed.  Herb simply said, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.”

What an amazing thing this little summary of the faith is that we call the Apostle’s Creed.  Throughout history men and women have been brought to faith by the teaching of it, and throughout history men and women have gone to their graves confessing it.  All praise and glory to the God who created us, who has redeemed us by the blood of His Son, and who has by “the One Spirit baptized us into the one body.” In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

3rd Wednesday in Lent St. John Galveston 3/14/01

The Six Chief Parts

“The Lord’s Prayer”

Matthew 6:5-15

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Condemned by the Ten Commandments we have come, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit working through the Gospel, to confess our complete freedom in the God who has created us, the God who has redeemed us and the God who has instilled in us true faith.  Confessing this One True God we are moved to come to Him in prayer, to converse with Him, to cast upon Him our every care and our every need.  Tonight then, in reviewing the six chief parts of the Catechism, we take up the subject of prayer and in particular The Lord’s Prayer.

As St. Luke records it, the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ Their request would suggest that they, and indeed you and I, would face particular difficulties in conversing with God in prayer.  How should we pray becomes a natural question?  What should we ask for?  How should we address God?  How should we close our prayer, our time of conversation with Him?  If we are going to pray we certainly want to do so according to God’s will and in accord with His instruction.  And so, like the disciples, we would ask ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’

We are first taught that to pray is to turn to God in faith and trust, not perfect faith and trust, but faith and trust none the less, for he who comes to God in prayer knows that God exists and he believes that God hears and answers prayer according to His good and perfect will.  Prayer then is an exercise, or we might even say a discipline of faith.  St. Augustine, the early church father who contributed so much to our understanding of the Word of God, was once a rebellious son and an ardent unbeliever.  His mother Monica prayed continually that her son would, in time, come to confess Jesus Christ.  Time passed though and nothing seemed to happen and so Monica’s bishop would continually say to her, “go on praying; the child of so many prayers cannot perish.” And so the bishop solicited from Monica belief, faith, trust. 

We say, ‘Lord, teach us to pray,’ and our Lord first says, ‘pray, believing that your prayers will be heard and that they will be answered according to God’s good and perfect will.’

With that first part of prayer understood Jesus went on to answer His disciples plea, even as He answers our plea, by giving the most perfect prayer – ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ Pray in this way, He said, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The believer’s first joy is to be able to address God as his Father, and his first great desire is that God’s name would be hallowed, that it would be honored throughout all the world, and that His kingdom, that kingdom of grace, would be present in his own heart and that it would be present in the hearts of all people.  Perhaps you never thought of the Lord’s Prayer in this way before, but it is a missionary prayer, because whenever you pray it, you are asking God to come into the hearts of all those who do not yet know Him; ‘Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.’

As a believer in Christ you are always concerned about your own spiritual needs as well as the spiritual needs of others, but you also are keenly aware of your physical needs.  Jesus says, pray in this way, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Of course God gives us that daily bread even if we don’t ask Him, even as He gives daily bread to all the wicked of this world, and yet, here we are asking that God will remind us that what we have is from His merciful hand and thus that we would be moved to give Him thanks for all things.  In St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge, England, there is a banner with these words embroidered on it: “Think—thank!” If we, the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ and the heirs of eternal life, stopped to think more of God’s mercy and love toward us, we would thank Him more.  And thus we pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ ‘Lord, help us to remember from whom our daily bread came.’

‘And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ I know, it sounds a bit like conditional grace doesn’t it?  If we forgive others then God will forgive us.  And yet, God’s grace is never conditional, it is complete and absolute, it is perfectly free and unmerited.  What Christ earned for us on the Cross cannot be bought because it is a gift. 

But the forgiveness that God gives us in His Son Jesus Christ is also life changing.  In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to continually remind us of our forgiveness in the blood of His Son that we might not take forgiveness lightly, that we might not in some way hold our own forgiveness as being more valuable than His.  In a sense we pray, ‘Lord, let me live with others as you live with me, let me forgive even as I have been forgiven.’ Not far from New York is a cemetery with a grave that has just one word on the headstone: the word “FORGIVEN.” There is nothing else—no name, no date of birth, no date of death, no word of praise for the departed—just the one word, “FORGIVEN.” And yet what greater word could possibly be written above our own last resting place?  The only word that I can think of to be added to “FORGIVEN” would be the word “FORGIVING.” ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’

‘And lead us not into temptation.’ God, of course temps no one to evil, in fact, God cannot temp anyone to evil because there is no evil in Him.  And so this petition of the Lord’s Prayer is really a request that God would keep us from temptation or, if He allows us to be tempted, that we would be kept from sin by His mighty hand even in the midst of that temptation.

And then finally, we add a hearty Amen!  Yea, yea, Lord let it be so!  And though we haven’t prayed the prayer perfectly, we have prayed the perfect prayer.  And God, who is gracious and merciful, hears our prayer, and according to His good and gracious will He answers us.  And as a little child, who has turned a need or a care over to his earthly father, leaving it in his capable hands, expecting him to handle it, so we leave our cares in the hands of our heavenly Father, expecting Him to hear us, believing, trusting that He will hear us.  Yes, “Our Father, who art in heaven….” In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

5th Wednesday in Lent St. John Galveston 3/28/01

The Six Chief Parts

“The Office of the Keys & Confession”

Matthew 16:13-20

+ In Nomine Jesu +

In these Wednesday night services we have been looking at the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Small Catechism.  The exercise has not been intended necessarily to broaden our theological vocabulary and understanding, but rather to nurture faith.  It is these Six Chief Parts that form the core of all of our Christian faith – The Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism, the Office of the Keys & Confession and finally the Lord’s Supper.

In the weeks past we have contemplated the Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and Holy Baptism.  By the way, I would like to thank Pastor Bowles for bringing you the message on the subject of Baptism last week in my absence.  Tonight we turn our attention to what is perhaps the most misunderstood, or maybe I should say the most troublesome part of the Six Chief Parts, that being The Office of the Keys and Confession.

Luther says in his catechism that the Office of the Keys and Confession is “that special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.” The Office of the Keys is established in the Gospel reading that is before us tonight.  After Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that confession upon which the Church stands even to this day, Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

It is precisely this power though, of a man binding and loosing sins, that many people wrestle with.  Years ago I heard a radio Bible program in which a woman called in nearly in despair with some sin she had committed.  She said, “I went to the pastor to talk with him about it and…”before she finished her statement the Bible instructor stopped her and said, “that was your first mistake.  You don’t have to go to a pastor for forgiveness.” To which it should be said, “true, you don’t have to go to a pastor for forgiveness, but sometimes you need to, meaning sometimes you need to hear the Gospel spoken to you directly from the mouth of another person.” Thus the Office of the Keys and Confession.

The pastor says, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all of your sins,” and some would say, “who can forgive sins but God alone?” How can the pastor say, “I forgive you all of your sins?” And besides that, “what use is the forgiveness granted by the pastor, afterall, he is but a mere man?” These concerns which I have heard expressed and other concerns are those related to the “Office of the Keys & Confession.”

As Lutheran Christians we believe that the power to loose or to bind sins is a power given to the Church and that power is exercised, it is carried out, not at the whim of the Church, but by the command of God.  Where there is repentance, in other words, where a person is sorry for their sins and they seek Christ and His forgiveness, that loosing power is exercised that the penitent might go in peace, his sins having been lifted.  But where there is no sorrow for sin and no desire to be cleansed of sin and to be set right in the eyes of God the words of forgiveness are to be withheld.  And thus in that loosing and binding the Church exercises the power to open and close the door of heaven, thus the name “the Office of the Keys.”

On any given Sunday morning we all confess our sins as we say, “Almighty God, I, a poor miserable sinner confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserved Thy present and eternal punishment.  But I am heartily sorrow for them and sincerely repent of them and I pray Thee of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy innocent bitter suffering and death of Thy beloved Son Jesus Christ to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, miserable sinner.” We say those words because they express the belief of our hearts. 

And then the pastor says those words that he is not only privileged to say as the holder of the pastoral Office, but that he is commanded to say as the holder of that Office; “I, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ forgive you all of your sins.” Though the seem a bit presumptuous on the surface, when sins are confessed the pastor is duty bound to give that which Christ gives, namely forgiveness of sins, for where there is sorrow and contrition there is only one balm, one remedy to sooth the open and festering wounds that sin leaves behind.  That balm is of course the word of forgiveness, purchased and won for the world on the Cross at Calvary. 

So the pastor stands before the people and forgives their sins not because he is a great guy or because he is holier than anyone else and therefore more fit to pronounce forgiveness, but because he holds an Office that is duty bound to forgive those who confess.  He can do none other because he is a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For the penitent then, the Office of the Keys and Confession flows, not from the Law of God, but from the Gospel of Christ.  For, as Luther reminds us, “when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”

We have a fight that commonly goes on in our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod today, where it is said that some pastors literally believe and teach that they are Christ in the flesh!  It is for sure a blasphemous thing to even think, much less to voice such an opinion.  No one bears the flesh of Christ but Christ Himself.  In heaven, even now He bears that flesh, which was sacrificed for the sins of the world, even that flesh that He gives in His Supper for the forgiveness of sins.  No one bears the flesh of Christ but Christ Himself.

And yet, the words of Jesus, His command remains; “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

The pastor then stands, not as Christ, but in the stead of Christ.  He speaks not his word, but Christ’s word.  He imparts not his blessing, but Christ’s blessing.  He conveys not his forgiveness, but Christ’s forgiveness.  And what a sweet word it is to hear – “I forgive you all of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen. 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

6th Mid-Week St. John Galveston 4/4/01

The Six Chief Parts

“The Sacrament of the Altar”

Matthew 26:17-30

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Jesus said, “take, eat; this is My body.  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

And though He spoke so plainly those words of His last will and testament, Christendom has debated all these many years, even these many centuries, exactly what Jesus meant to say that night.  Is it bread and wine, or is it His very body and blood, or is it both?  And what difference does it make anyway?  For some the doctrine of the Real Presence, meaning the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper is central to the Gospel, meaning it and it’s teaching are indispensable to the Christian faith.  While for others it is a so-called auxiliary doctrine, meaning it is not essential to the Gospel and therefore it’s belief and teaching is not essential to unity in Christian fellowship either.  And so in our contemporary setting, one church, who professes to hold to the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper has no conflict with entering into a fellowship agreement with another church body that plainly denies the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. 

Is the teaching of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament essential to the Gospel or is it an auxiliary doctrine?  I suppose the simplest thing to do would be to say, “I don’t know!!!” But of course such a position, based on non-conviction, would ultimately manifest itself as a denial of the Real Presence of Christ.  Some today take that position, in effect throwing up their hands, saying, “I don’t know,” thinking perhaps that if they do err on the subject they “err on the side of grace.” But, is it grace to deny the presence of Christ and beyond that is it truthful to say of Jesus’ words, “I don’t know what they mean?” Certainly His words were simple and plain.  The fact is, with what He had to say that night, and with what He chose to give, namely Himself, He used one of the simplest words in all of language – the little word IS.  A word, by the way, that has only recently been so widely corrupted as to exactly what it means. 

So, we hold the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper to be central to our understanding of the Gospel, first, because of the simple and plain words of our Lord, “Take, eat, this IS My body!  Take, drink, this IS My blood.” It can and likely will be debated until Christ comes again but the debate will never take away the clear words of our Lord spoken in His last will and testament and so for us His words will be solemnly received, wholeheartedly believed and valiantly defended.  “Here I stand (Luther said), I can do none other, God help me.”

So we stand by Jesus’ word and second, we hold to the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, because of the profound imagery established in Scripture, first, of our need for new life, and second, of life being found in the blood of that which lives. 

If we doubt our need for new life, a purer life, a holy life we need only look to the world around us and even to the sin that wars within.  A young teenage girl is raped on Bolivar peninsula by two men.  The whole thing is video taped while 25 or 30 other people look on and no one does a thing to stop it.

A radio commentator talks about the turmoil presently going on in communist China, calling them a murderous nation because of their record of the inhumane treatment of children.  And all the while we continue to allow in this country the wholesale slaughter of children while still in the womb of their mothers – and we justify it by playing with words, we call it – the woman’s right to choose, or reproductive rights, or termination of a pregnancy.  Every child, it is said, must be a “wanted” child.

Rage wells up within us as we consider the impure and the unholy life of the world around us, and yet, as we look within we still find the Old Man, the Old Adam living very much inside of us and we recognize then our own continual need for new life and for forgiveness of that which remains of the old.  It is true, you see, what God said to Adam and Eve in the garden before they ate of the fruit.  “In the day that eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden YOU SHALL SURELY DIE.” That day Adam, and thus, you and I, died in terms of holiness, purity and perfection. 

And so we are in continual need of new life.  And Scripture says repeatedly that “life is in the blood” of that which lives.  The pelican feeds her young with her own blood when serpents have bitten them.  So Christ gives us, who have been mortally wounded by the sting of Satan, His blood in the blessed Sacrament, that our souls may be delivered from death and destruction.  “Most assuredly (says Jesus), I say unto you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives LIFE to the world…I am the bread of LIFE.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

The Presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament is central to the Gospel because Christ, He who came in flesh and blood, is central to the Gospel.  You can no more take the flesh and blood of Christ out of the Gospel, and still call it the Gospel, than you can take the flesh and blood from a man and still call that which remains LIFE.  Christ is the bread of LIFE, the bread come down out of heaven.  Faith is not dependent on memory, or on repetitive memorial actions, rather faith is dependent on Christ. 

And so, though the debate goes on, we rest in the simple words of Jesus.  “Take, eat, this IS My body.” “Take, drink, this IS My blood of the New Testament, shed for you for the remission, or the forgiveness of sins.” And from these bodies, born dead in sin, created anew in Baptism and the Word, life continues to spring anew.  Indeed, “If anyone thirsts (Jesus says), let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +





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