[Part 4 of 4] How does worship change your life?–John 3:22-36
I have heard it said, and I believe it is something I too have mentioned, that the high point in the Divine Service is the Lord’s Supper. This is not an accurate statement. Thus far we have discussed Baptism, the Word, and the Lord’s Supper. Which of these is lesser than the Lord’s Supper? NONE! Which of these has in fact less Jesus? NONE! It is not that the Divine Service has a high point, but that it is the high point, the whole service is centered upon Christ–his efficacious Preached Word, Baptism, and Supper. The week of a Christian’s life is one of constant prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. The Christian centers their life upon Christ; there is no Word, Baptism, or Supper apart from him! It is then that every week that one is given to receive God in their life, meditating on Scripture and personally reflecting sorrow over sin and joy in Jesus. Jesus reconciles sinners, this grace is good news! Still, Christians don’t live outside of the community of believers (that is, for themselves), they live also within the identity of churchly fellowship. God has promised that at church, he has sent his ministers who are called to preach and teach, to Baptize, and benefit the people gathered around the altar to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus.
This Christian distinctive, to live an identity found in Christ through preaching and the means of grace (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) is to live a life without end. This effectually means that no matter how sinful the Christian is, and we are sinners, the Gospel of Christ locates our righteousness in him. When righteousness is located in Christ, and not in yourself, you are free to live life without end. Life without end means that your sins are forgiven, eternal life is yours because Jesus, with his blessed gifts of life, is located where he promises to be for us according to the Bible: in Baptism, in preaching the Word, and at his Holy Supper! This life without end also finds these promises in the high point of the Christian’s temporal life, namely at and in the Divine Service, where your temporal and fleeting life hears, is splashed by, and tastes eternal life: words to make men wise, water that saves, and eating and drinking which forgives sins. The Divine Service is worship where God is not sought but where God seeks and has indeed found you! God makes us who were blind in sinfulness, those who now see, since, like St. Paul, God removed the scales from our eyes that we might behold his light of life, without end.
The Divine Service begins much like it concludes, with the acknowledgement that the Lord is with us in spirit and truth! This is cause for blessing the Lord, giving thanks. Before we leave God’s house to continue out our lives in the world, we wonderfully receive the pastor’s benediction–actually it is Christ’s promise to us as we depart for the week, that we be secure in: his blessing and keeping us, the Lord’s light of salvation, his grace, and countenance that he gives to us.
This Benediction is NOT AN ENDING! It is not the pastor saying, “The End. Hope you enjoyed the featured presentation.” The Benediction retells the congregation what they just received in Christ, blesses them to go out into the world strengthened in faith, and to love their neighbor as themselves. But it is also the call to these same Christians to return to church regularly; weekly, bi-weekly, perhaps daily to once more receive those gifts that Christ never ceases to give. To return to church that they might love the Lord their God through his pure reception of them into his house, that is of course through his means of grace given over and over again. That is indeed the the pattern, over and over again the Benediction recounts that we as God’s people are heading out only to be returning back, as sheep who graze the pasture but always return to the same watering hole.
Quite conclusively our text from John 3 summarizes well, that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…(v 36).” Likewise, “whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true (v 33).” See in this our Lord who comes to increase while all else decreases–sin, malice, all envy, or strife among us. Instead, let us rejoice in the hearing of the bridegroom’s voice! It speaks and acts, yes in our daily life in the world but is effectively yours in the Divine Service where his promises are clearly handed out freely in preaching, in Baptism, in his Holy Supper.
We, the Church, are the Bride of Christ. The church building is our marriage hall, there the Divine Service acts as our wedding ceremony binding us to the Bridegroom, to Christ, in Holy Baptism. There also the everlasting bond is edified in the proclamation of the Word, and Jesus as the head of the household provides for us, his Bride, the Church, with a fitting marriage banquet of his own Body and Blood for nourishment of faith.
Jesus is not of earthly origins, he comes from heaven. Let the testimony of John remain true for us then, that “a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven (v 27).” A life without end is a Benediction without end. The Benediction of our Lord confirms the Baptismal seal given to you, it proclaims the Word of God which keeps you, and is Christ’s peace for your life as you eat and drink his Flesh and Blood for forgiveness, life, and salvation of your soul.