In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
To you, to all of you, patient or not, St. Paul says, “Put up with each other in love.” That is, endure each other, bear with one another, especially here in the Church, amongst those who are called by Christ. For this calling, this invitation, this summons given you in Holy Baptism, to be at the banquet feast of Christ for eternity, that great hope, that expectation of the coming good which God your Father has prepared for you, is your singular hope! It is your only hope. It is the ultimate gift God has given to you.
To be sure He showers upon you gifts every day. Are you alive? Are you breathing? Did you have food to eat today? Do you have a roof over your head? Clothes on your back? Do you live in a place free of war? You are blessed! You are blessed physically far beyond what 99% of people who have ever lived are blessed with. Don’t be so self-centered as to not realize this fact! Give thanks! And praise God your loving Father for this blessed reality.
But what about that 99% throughout all of time who have not had a peaceful land, food on the table, clothes on their back, the luxuries of clean water, indoor plumbing, immunizations, medical care, and the freedom of religion which are ours? Are they less blessed than you? Are they less loved by God our Father? NO. For those Christians who have lived with less than we have still have that singular, ultimate blessing: unity with and inclusion in Christ and His Church which transcends time and space. They have the ultimate blessing which can not be taken away by bosses, by big business, by economic downturns, by governments, by war, by time, by the ravages of age, by sin, by death, or by Satan; they have the calling of salvation which poured forth from Christ’s cross when He said, “It is finished,” and His cleansing blood and water flowed forth from His side to wash and feed you until the day when all that He has won for you will be completely and ultimately yours.
This is the blessing of the Christian: we are in unity with one another through Christ. It is a unity of salvation, a unity of righteousness, a unity of blessedness that goes beyond physical well being, food, goods, land, animals and all that you have to eternity itself. You are Christ’s. You are part of His one body. You are transplanted into Him by Baptism. You kept in Him by the blessed anti-rejection drugs of the Lord’s Body and blood given to you orally.
So don’t you lose that! We sinners by birth forget what is ours—what we were called to, what was won on Calvary’s cross and given to us in our Baptism. Our sinful nature stirred up by Satan wages war against the peace and harmony that our calling gives us with God and each other. “Look at that pompous fool,” says your sinful nature. “I can’t stand that guy. I don’t want to be part of him. I want nothing to do with him.” And you may be right. In our sinfulness we are all full of habits, traits, character flaws, weaknesses, and foolishness that we are often entirely blind too. There is much to break the uniting force of the peace of Christ we’ve been called into. But don’t do it. Repent of your thoughts, your words, your actions that have been less than charitable, less than kind, less than right toward your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Instead, fortified by the forgiveness of Christ’s putting up with you, put up with one another. Be willing to suffer with them for a long time. Practice the gentleness and humility that are yours as a Christian. Do your best to guard to guard that state of oneness with the Church that you are called into in Jesus Christ. For our God is one. He is one with you; one with His Son; one with His Spirit. He is one savior of all, one Father to His family, one Lord to all the universe. He is the singular thing to which you have been called and given peace with.
If that doesn’t humble you and give you reason to tread gently with your God and each other, I don’t know what will.
For He is the God who calls, who invites, who lifts up the humble, who says, “My beloved son, come up higher. Be nearer to me.” And at the same time He is the God who humbles the proud and the arrogant, those who do not respect or pay any attention to the Caller, the Inviter, the Banquet Thrower.
This Sabbath day, at this banquet feast, which is merely a tiny foretaste of what is coming at the end of time when His marriage feast will be celebrated eternally, and all the summoned ones will be brought by the holy angels to His feasting hall, come in humility. Come bowing, kneeling as we so often do before our Lord whose body and blood feeds us. Of course He understands if the ravages of sin cause you to be unable to do so in your body. But come in that humble spirit that was given you in your calling. For He heals you of your disease of sin. He makes you one with Himself. He makes you whole and unites your heart to serve Him, and gives you a place of honour.
Most of this is hidden here and now on earth. Your diseases, your temptations, your struggles often continue till the end of your days. The world and your sin mock you and torment you that you are not like Christ in His glory, but rather like Him in His suffering. For life with Christ on this side of heaven is not the glory of heaven, for we are not yet in heaven, rather it is the struggle of the cross. But know that even as you bear your cross He calls you out of these things and blesses you through the very crosses He gives you to carry. Know that He promises to repay more than double for all the things you suffer as His beloved. Know that here in time, He uses those struggles to detach you from your idols in this world and to teaches you to cling to Him alone. Know that He sees your pain, that He counts each tear you’ve cried, that He has heard your soul’s lament. Know that He has declared you His in Baptism, that He heals your soul with the life giving medicine of His body and blood broken and shed for you, and that He sends you from this place, today, free of your sins. For His New Law of the Sabbath is that He heals on the Sabbath and rescues those who are weary and heavy laden, those who have fallen victim of the hidden potholes and pitfalls of life. And His Sabbath rest is not just the seventh day of the week but every time and every place where He is with His healing Word and Sacraments. That’s what He does for you today. And in time, His time, at the end of time, when those crosses have done their worst, and put you to death, He will lift you up in victory out of death and the grave and fulfill that which He promised by bringing you to His eternal banqueting table where He will give you life, clothe you in the finest clothes, feed you from His own royal table, and honour you as His most beloved and honoured friend and bride. Know this for it is yours in your calling in Christ.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON