Monday, May 18, 2009

The Heart of the Holy Scriptures

In the following words, originally posted by Pastor Rick Stuckwisch on his blog thinking-out-loud, Pastor Stuckwisch describes the sublime significance of Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for you, for the remission of your sins. Reproduced with permission.

The Heart of the Holy Scriptures

If it is true that the Son of God gives His own holy Body and pours out His own precious Blood for us Christians to eat and to drink, then everything about the Christian faith and life is effected by that fact. Or, better to say, everything is governed by that fact, and everything moves to and from that constituting heart and center of real human life with God. How could we possibly think otherwise, unless we do not believe what we confess about the Sacrament?

Here there is the Incarnate God, His Atonement, the fruits of His Cross and Passion, and His Gospel of forgiveness unto life and salvation. Not that the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the sacrifice of the Cross happen in the Sacrament of the Altar, but the content and consequences of those sacred Mysteries are bestowed in this Sacrament; their holy purpose is achieved, their divine goal is accomplished, and their saving benefit is fulfilled in us. This is the very thing that God has desired for us in love, that we should receive Him and His Life into ourselves, into our human flesh and blood, and so abide in Him bodily forever.

When the Lord our God created man in His own Image and Likeness, it was in view of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus. When He formed man out of the dust of the ground, it was in view of the bodily Resurrection of Christ Jesus from death and the grave. When He fed man in Paradise, and in particular when He planted the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, it was in view of the Cross and its life-giving fruits.

God feeds man from the beginning, and that is how He shares Himself, His Life and His Love with man. So too, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom comprises the consummation of all things, the fulfillment of creation and the realization of God's great salvation. The Lord brings us into His house, bids us to recline at His Table, and there He serves us from His own hand with His own Body and Blood.

Everywhere in the Holy Scriptures, God is feeding His people, and in this He is always moving them toward that Meal which is the gift of Himself in the flesh. The fruit of the trees in the garden. The meat of the animals following the Flood. The Passover Lamb. The manna and the quail. The flesh and the fruits of sacrifices, provided as food for the priests and for the people. The milk and honey of the Promised Land. It is all leading to the Body and Blood of the Christ. For Wisdom has built His house and prepared His Feast. The Good Shepherd has spread His Table with the choicest of meats and the finest of wines from an overflowing Chalice of salvation. The loaves and fishes are multiplied to feed the nations, and the Son of Man eats and drinks with sinners.

So, too, the Lord opens the Scriptures to us. He opens our ears, our hearts and minds to comprehend them as all concerning Himself, His Cross and Resurrection. And He catechizes us in this way to bring us to the Breaking of the Bread, wherein He reveals and gives Himself to us. Then our eyes are also opened to recognize Him there, by faith, that we might receive Him with thanksgiving in body and soul. It is to the Holy Communion that the Holy Scriptures lead us. There they culminate and find their fulfillment in the Body and Blood of Christ, the Lord.

If the Holy Scriptures are all about Christ Jesus, as He Himself testifies in St. Luke 24, then they are all about the Supper in which this Crucified and Risen One feeds us with His Body and gives us to drink of His Blood. For He is the Word of God, of whom the Holy Scriptures are but the written testimony. The Sacrament of the Altar is the same Word of God, who has become Flesh, who is given and poured out for us. This is not a tangent but the realized very-goodness of God's Creation, the working out of His Redemption, the gift and bestowal of His Sanctification upon us. Here is the heart of the matter and the center of everything. It is to this flesh and blood of Christ that His Word brings us in love, that we might be forgiven, reconciled to God, redeemed in body and soul, and sanctified in our own flesh and blood unto the life everlasting. Not as a means to some other end, but a bodily participation in that divine life which has no end; a bodily participation, by grace, in that divine nature which Christ, the incarnate Son, eternally shares with His Father and the Holy Spirit.

The proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel is the particularly bright light by which all of Holy Scripture is understood. The path enlighted by that distinction leads us to the Altar, where we are fed with the fruits of our redemption, the Body and Blood of the Lamb who is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. It is upon that Lamb, given and poured out for us Christians to eat and to drink, that the Lamp of the Scriptures shines brightest and best. For His flesh and blood are the beating heart of the Word, by which our flesh and blood are enlivened.

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