A Gift Won, A Gift Delivered

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Gifts Brought to Us

In these cold weeks, coming in from freezing desert winds, we may sit down to eat a ripe orange. It’s freezing this time of year, cold and darkened in shortened winter days. But the orange is from—where, Brazil?, or some other place now basking in bright days of summer?

This is extraordinary when we think about it. After all, Brazil could grow all the oranges she wants, but it will do us New Mexicans not one bit of good. Not, that is, until the oranges are delivered to us, brought into our homes.

We may speak of the oranges in two ways:  1) the growing of the oranges, and 2) the delivery of those oranges to those not in the orchard. If the oranges aren’t grown, then no delivery is possible. But if they are not delivered, then the growing is futile.

To sit in cold, winter-darkened Albuquerque, eating an orange from the warmth of Brazil: extraordinary! 

The Shedding of Blood, the Delivery of Blood

Now let us consider how our Lord has, first, won a gift for us, and, second, how he delivers that gift to us, so that the winning of it is not futile. And even continues faithfully delivering it into our lives each week.

We all live in the same world, whether Albuquerque or, say, Brazil. In common with those orange growers in Brazil, and with all people around the globe, we all live in a cold, dark world. Darkened by sin; made cold by hatred. We know that Jesus is the Light for the world, and His blood shed on the cross has atoned for the sin of our cold, dark world.

But the gift of the cross does us no good unless delivered into our lives. So we may speak of the blood of the cross in two ways: 1) the shedding of the blood on the cross, and 2) the delivery of that blood into the lives of those who were not there at the cross.

The Gospel is Given Externally

Some years ago (1525), Martin Luther was contending against a heretic named Karlstadt. Karlstadt was a false teacher in the church who was leading people to look “inside” themselves, and away from the comfort of the forgiveness of sins con­ferred from “outside”:  in Baptism and Holy Communion.

Karlstadt’s teaching was not unlike the so-called “Evangelicals” found on television today, teaching people to look inside of themselves, to their own dreams, possibilities, potentialities, and purposes. But Karlstadt’s is a teaching devoid of the true Gospel. For the Gospel comes never from inside the sinner, but from outside. The Gospel is given in the external things of the preaching of forgiveness and the administration of the Lord’s Sacraments. Against Karlstadt, Luther explained our Lord’s gift like this:

We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways.  First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us.  Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. There he has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world …

If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there.  Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Dr. Karl­stadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore, [I, Luther,] have rightly taught that whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacra­ment offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me.  Is that not clear enough? [LUTHER’S WORKS, A.E. VOL. 40, PP. 213-214]

The Gift Distributed Each Week

As those belonging to Jesus, called into the Light, we rejoice to teach our families to cherish the Lord’s Gospel and to have faith in his gifts of the Sacraments. We esteem the holy blood—for it is the blood which he shed at the cross but which the Holy Spirit, through the Word, now kindly distributes to us each week when he gathers us to the holy Name. It is called the Divine Service, or the Lord’s Service, for it is nothing less than the Lord coming to his people in his Gospel and serving them with the gift of the holy Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all sin.

In the Name of Jesus.

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