Thursday, December 01, 2011

Taking your meds?

Anti-rejection drugs are daily medications taken by organ transplant patients to prevent organ rejection. Such drugs, also called immunosuppressants, help to suppress the immune system's response to a new organ. When a new organ is placed inside a patient's body, the patient's immune system recognizes the organ as foreign tissue and tries to reject it.

A similar thing happens when God puts a 'new heart' in us by '... the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior'  (Titus 3.5-6).  For the rest of our earthly lives, our sinful nature will try to expel the 'new nature' that God has given us from our souls.  We need to take 'anti-rejection medication', so to speak.  That would be what Christians call the 'Means of Grace' - God's word and sacraments.

These are powerful spiritual agents that remain outside of us and useless to us unless taken religiously (if you pardon the pun).  Those who think they can remain Christians, yet not receive the saving benefits of the Means of Grace are like transplant patients who refuse to take their anti-rejection meds.   They need to ‘repent’ of not taking their meds, if you see what I mean.  Otherwise there is a real danger that they will eventually become spiritually ill and reject the Spirit of God and the new life that was given to them to provide eternal life.

Now they did not have organ transplants and immunosuppressant drugs back in New Testament times.  But they did have to eat.  And so Jesus used the urgency of nutrition to make His point.

‘here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die (Jesus said). 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
 53 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him’  (John 6.50-56).

Do you see how that phrase ‘remains in me and I in him’ resembles organ rejection?  Without the transplant patient eating the anti-rejection drugs, a vital organ transplanted into a body may not remain in the body – and the results would be death.   You can see the urgency in taking those meds.

The tone John took in his preaching was that of urgency also as he shouted, "Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near"  to his audience.  This same Kingdom of God, new life and the Holy Spirit came upon each of us when we were at the font, becoming baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It was there that the Holy Spirit entered into our hearts, creating within us saving faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to purchase that new life for us with His blood.

The baptism of John the Baptiser differed from the baptism of Jesus in that John's baptism brought the newly baptized to look forward to the Messiah who was to come and bring about total forgiveness by what He would later accomplish.

By contrast, the baptism of Jesus, that which we have received, has brought us total forgiveness on account of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. 

Using a phrase that was later taken up into the Divine Service, St. John the Baptiser proclaimed about Jesus, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  (Jn. 1:29-31).

In the Divine Service  that is what we proclaim because it is Jesus Christ who takes away our sin by the power of His forgiving touch.  Abide in Him and He with you.  ‘Walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin’  (1 John 1.7)  And the Spirit of Jesus Christ Who has caused us to repent, will  raise us up again.  Amen.

'To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.