So the rhythm of the Christian life takes place along this path. Your faith is now rooted. To be rooted means being rooted in something, and I’m no one’s idea of a gardener but it seems really apparent that the quality and type of soil that plants are rooted in will determine how well they grow. That’s a good metaphor for the Christian life — Jesus thought so, remember the parable of the sower? The Lord says, “15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Lk 8:15). We must be rooted in something that aids in our growth, and that something in the life of a Christian is the good soil of God’s Word. These roots grow down into that soil your entire life. The roots are what you build on, so that you are “rooted and built up in him,” and this is what being established in the faith looks like — firm in commitment, strengthened against all the prevailing tides and winds of an increasingly secular culture. The apostle warns against this: “8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col 2:8–9). The writer of Hebrews also says to his church, “9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace” Heb (13:9). Rooted, built, and established in faith. This is the rhythm of faith. This it the walk of a Christian in Christ.
Paul commends the Colossians for their love for all the saints, the “saints in light,” because their love for one another is not separated from the love of the Father given through Christ Jesus. It flows from it. His love, the love that qualifies them into the kingdom, creates faith, and that faith works love. Paul has never met them but he teaches them, he reminds them, because it comes from the Word of God. Paul has never met you but the Word of God comes to you this day the same way. The redemption won by Christ has delivered all of us so that “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col 1:9–10). What does that look like? He says it’s about bearing fruit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and increasing in the knowledge of God.
You have heard the Gospel. It has come to you. You have believed it. You are redeemed. You are baptized. You eat your Lord’s flesh and drink his blood. Often. It is for your forgiveness. It is to strengthen your love. Not only is there life in the body and blood of Jesus unto forgiveness; there is strength unto love of our neighbour. You are “saints in light” in Sarnia.
Nevertheless, our love is not what it seems or what it ought to be. We need to be patient with one another, bearing one another’s burdens. Our love needs bolstering, improvement. It receives strengthening from the faith given. The Christian life is not easy, there are false teachers that want to lead us astray just like the Colossians were tempted. Faith can falter, love can grow cold, priorities can change, God gets whatever is leftover. But still he gives and gives abundantly through the gifts of his church.
The church is rooted in the teaching of Jesus – His Holy Gospel and His institution of the Sacraments. The ones who are sent by Jesus to proclaim this ministry of Word and Sacrament speak and act in the name of Jesus, in a world where many reject the message and the One who sends out the message and the messengers. The church today dares not seek visible achievements or worldly ambition as the key to some kind of earthly fulfillment. Pride and a theology of success are just tools Satan will continue to use in the church to divide and discourage, thereby thwarting true ministry. So Jesus instead says to the seventy-two who have returned, “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk 10:20).
Are these words for you as well? Indeed they are. Rejoice that by the power of the Holy Spirit you have received and not rejected and are therefore numbered with the saints in glory everlasting. Rejoice that in your Baptism Christ has made you His own and your sins are covered with His blood, that through the water and the Word all the dust and dirt is gone and you are made clean and white in righteousness. Rejoice even though in some ways St. Luke leaves us wondering and waiting. But God’s people, His Body the Church, are to walk in this earthly pilgrimage in the assurance that Christ has made us His own. Because your “name is written in heaven” God will not forget you; he has not forsaken you because your Saviour died to take away your sins and give you eternal life.
When you are sick and distressed, when you are homebound and receive Holy Communion, when you are near death and the pastor prays with you the comforting Commendation of the Dying, when your body has been lowered into the grave — in all these situations, the last words the pastor speaks are the Aaronic Blessing, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you” (Num 6:24–25).
What makes these words so familiar is that you are blessed with them every Sunday at the conclusion of the Divine Service, and what makes these words so significant is that the face of God is in fact the face of Christ. Our Gospel reading from St. Luke for today begins with these words in chapter nine verse 51, which says “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51). This little sentence is the turning point in Luke’s Gospel, for now Jesus begins the journey that will take Him to the cross. He has set His face not to show wrath but mercy. The clock is running, the time draws near when He will be taken up on the cross, and taken up out of the grave, and taken up to be with the Father.
We who are in Christ continue in that discipleship because only He has these Words, and we can’t ever grow tired of hearing them. And we can never grow tired of sharing that same message with our neighbours, just as the longtime demoniac was instructed to do. What became of that message that he was sent to shout out? We don’t know, St. Luke doesn’t give us all that detail. Did God use it to plant faith into the hearts of hearers? Actually the response doesn’t even matter so much from our perspective, for the praises of Jesus are always a glorious thing even if people won’t listen. But the thing to take with you today is the reality of the evil one who seeks to destroy the faith that you have received, and in so doing destroy you in body and soul, and to rejoice that Jesus has conquered him and sin and hell itself for your sake. Christ covers with his blood all your uncleanness in the sight of God, even every time you gave into the temptations of the devil and were back in those shackles. He brings you this forgiveness through the very Words that He speaks, for through the preaching of His Word all sin and evil are vanquished forevermore. Jesus is the one sent from God to all people, to bring salvation.
The Holy Spirit’s job is to move the Words of Christ from ears to heart. In doing so he never lets us forget we are sinners in need of a Saviour, but then he never lets us forget that we are God’s precious, redeemed, holy, forgiven children, through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Everything that we know of Christ and everything we have received from him comes through this Helper and Comforter, as he convicts and consoles us day to day throughout our earthly pilgrimage. Let us always be seeking his Help, for to properly know the work and person of the Holy Spirit will lead us to be the holy people of God that he calls us to be.
God worked faith in the heart of Lydia and she was washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism where she was made part of God’s family. Word and Sacrament, the means by which our Helper the Holy Spirit brings us the help we need. Our Gospel text today from St. John contains those familiar words of Jesus: “33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). These very words of our Saviour are spoken for our comfort out of the love that carried Him to the cross. For “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1). Praise be to God for the help and the Helper.
Paul knows that he will never see these servants of the Ephesian church again. He ends his farewell with a prayer: “I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Ac 20:32–33). He commends them to the grace of God because that is the grace which saves through faith. We as brothers and sisters of our Redeemer Christ Jesus are built up in that inheritance, won for us and now freely ours to receive through Word and Sacrament, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the inheritance for which Paul contested throughout the years of his ministry. This is the inheritance “that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pe 1:4–5).
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
God has a plan—for life! And that is what we celebrate these past days and this very day. It’s what we celebrate every Sunday in the Christian church. God dealt with sin and death. And now comes God’s new creation of life. Only God the Creator can create life when there is no life. And God will also take our lives, already dead in trespasses and sins, and create in us clean hearts and new lives, and on that Last Day, re-create into us that breath of life that makes us part of his new creation.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! And Christ will come again.
“According to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God” (Jn 19:7). Let us look to the cross of Christ to understand the truth of these words. For the obedience of our Lord and Saviour consists not only in his suffering and death but also in the fact that he freely put himself in our place under the Law and fulfilled the Law with this obedience. “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2).
This is now regarded as our righteousness; it is our justification. On Good Friday His total obedience led Him to the cross. He did this for you, so that by the shedding of His blood you might have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. All of this the Son of God performed on your behalf. As a result, God forgives your sin, considers you upright and righteous, and grants you eternal salvation. In faith you have reconciliation with God. In faith you are made part of His family. It is finished, for you.