Sunday, July 29, 2012

Of Rainbows and Slow Learners

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, July 29th, Year of Our + Lord 2012
The Baptism of Olivia Lake and the Installation of Vicar Jason Toombs
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, MT
 Mark 6:45-56 and Genesis 9:8-17

Which to choose?  We have two great themes before us.  First we have the promise of God declared in rainbows, which goes very well today with little Olivia, fresh from the waters of Holy Baptism, God’s smiling promise shining down through the water, refracting the light of His love in this place. 

At the same time, we have men struggling through their preparation to be ministers of Christ in His Church, 12 disciples, slow to learn and hard-hearted, not yet able to grasp the Good News unfolding before their eyes, ever so slowly and fitfully heading to the day when they would preach Christ to the nations.  The 12 have already seen Jesus calm the stormy sea.  They have seen Him heal the sick, lepers and paralytics and many others.  Three of them have seen Him raise the dead little girl, the daughter of Jairus, and they all were servants at the feeding of the 5,000, distributing the miraculous bread.  But on this night, of these remarkable sights they have no memory, and no faith.  They should not be shocked that the Messiah can walk on water, but as the Lord comes to them, walking on the water, they are afraid, thinking Jesus must be a ghost. 

This text is a good reminder, for all of us, but especially today for Jason Toombs, about to be installed as Vicar, that it is not the quality of the man God puts in the office of the Holy Ministry that accomplishes God’s mission, but rather it is Christ who gets His work done, Christ, working through the Word the man speaks, Christ, sustaining both preacher and hearer, Christ, overcoming the limitations that plague every minister of His Church. 

So, which to choose?   Rainbows, or hardhearted, slow to learn ministers?  I choose both.  We will dig into both rainbows and hard-hearted servants, for in truth both of these themes go with little Olivia, and with Vicar Toombs, and with each of you. 

First, of rainbows and the baptized.  Here we have Noah and his family, just off the ark, just delivered through water, water which destroyed the wicked, hard-hearted, unbelieving world, but also water which floated Noah and his family in safety, surrounded by destruction, but kept safe in the ark.  That’s the Church.  That’s you.  When you look around today, you still see threatening waves, you are in peril on the sea.  God has promised to never again destroy the world with a flood, but daily we face a flood of sin and temptation and evil, a world that rejects and opposes the message of Christ crucified, a world which mocks Christ’s Baptism as an empty, superstitious ritual. 

Worse yet, when you hear God’s condemnation of the sins of the world, when you consider your own lives in light of what the people around Noah were doing before the flood, when you honestly judge your thoughts, words and deeds, you know you share in much of the same guilt and sin as the unbelieving world.  You have been taken aboard the Ark of God’s Church, but by your actions, you deserve to be thrown overboard.  This is true for you, and for me, and, even though we commit Olivia to God’s hands this morning, praying she grows up strong in the faith and Church, we know she too will sin.  Olivia too will seek to jump overboard, to leave the Ark, because the sinner that remains in each of us does not want the things of God, but rather prefers to see faith drowned, and to return to waters of death in which the world so merrily swims. 

But the Captain of God’s Ark is still on the bridge, still guides the wheel, and still watches over His crew.  When we look out at the threatening waves of the world, or when we look inward to see if our hearts are receptive to Christ, in both places we see defeat and destruction. 

So look up.  Enough of considering the threats of the world.  Enough of worrying that you have not reformed yourself, that you have not been able to control your sinfulness.  Confess yours sins, and look up, to the Captain of our Ark.  Look up, to the exalted one, the one lifted up, on a Cross, for He is always eager to forgive and restore.  When you look to Jesus Christ, visible to you through His Word and Sacraments, you see the true and final sign of God’s promise, the guarantee of all God’s promises.  For Noah and his family, the rainbow was a foreshadowing sign of God’s promise, the promise not to destroy, not to count our sins against us, not to cast us off, but rather to forgive, restore, and guide.  The rainbow was a sign for Noah, and still is a sign for us, but we are more blessed.  We are more blessed, because we also have the sign fulfilled, Christ crucified, taking away the penalty and guilt and curse of sin, once for all. 

A rainbow is light, refracted through water, a bow of color to which God connected His Word of promise for Noah, a promise not to destroy, but to save.  Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected, is the Light of the World, shining the light of His forgiving love into every dark corner, shining in and through the waters of Holy Baptism, shining in our hearts with a rainbow of eternal promises.

Christ and His self-sacrifice to take away the sins of the whole world are wonderful news.  When the Holy Spirit brings us to hear and trust it, this good news gives peace and joy and new life.  But the message of Christ is still received by faith; our physical eyes do not get to see the rainbow of God’s love shining from the Baptismal font.  Our eyes can only see Noah’s rainbows, up in the sky, now and then after a rainstorm, pretty, but not a sign from which we naturally draw all the promises of Christ.   We believe in rainbows, that they exist, and in fact we imagine that physicists have explained all there is to know about refracted light and the electromagnetic spectrum.  We have great confidence in what we see from science.  But we doubt, or simply forget, the Word of promise God has attached to rainbows. 

We tend to ignore God’s promises and trust only the things we see, and what our eyes see in the world and in ourselves does not give confidence that God would love us.  What do we see in the terror in Aurora, Colorado that gives us hope?  Why would God love the people of a nation in which violence is a fantasy and family is a failing institution?  Worse, when tragic events in the news or personal struggles and pain weigh us down, we are all too susceptible to the lies of people and institutions which claim that God isn’t even real, or at least deny there is any way to truly know God.  Certainly, from what we see in the world and our lives, it is hard to believe that God loves us.     

God is real, and God has loved the world, atoning for all sin through the blood of the man Jesus Christ, who is also the eternal Son of God.  God’s mission to the world is to save sinners, through the Word of Christ.  The visible outworking of this reality is the 2,000 year history of the Christian Church, 2,000 years of continued proclamation, despite errors and sins from within, despite continual resistance from the outside.  Some would say that the many struggles the Church has suffered, the splits, the internal arguing, the perversion of her ideals that have occurred, time and again, are more reason to doubt God’s existence, or at least His love.  But the struggles and failures of the Church are simply proof of the sinfulness of mankind.  Indeed, the continued proclamation of the forgiveness of Christ, despite all our failures, is strong evidence of the Holy Spirit’s continuing presence with His Church. 

God’s promises are trustworthy, and His Church will endure, but we, like the disciples on the boat, need more help if we are to continue in faith.  We are all naturally slow to learn, just like the disciples, our hearts naturally hardened against God’s message.  For us to believe requires God to give us new hearts, and to renew them, again and again.  For this purpose, God has instituted the office of the Holy Ministry, calling men from His Church to be public proclaimers and public distributors of His Gospel gifts, men set aside to study the Word, so they can speak God’s truth, to and for you.  Today begins an important year in the preparation of Jason Toombs to be placed into that office, a year for him to practice, to serve, to grow in knowledge and skill.  Today we are witnesses to God putting a man at risk, because to be a sinner called to preach to God’s people and the world is to be exposed.  Seeking the office of bishop is a good thing, but it is a good thing that is sure to expose all your faults, all your weakness, all your failures. 

And yet, through the preaching of sinners, God chooses to work.  It’s miraculous.  Likewise, through the lives and words of His Baptized people, God also chooses to work, filling His people with faith and knowledge and a heart for sinners, so that in your daily callings you can give the reason for the hope that is in you, so that you too can proclaim Christ, to the people God brings into your life.  This too is miraculous.  The Captain uses every soul on His Ark in some way, in His ongoing mission of plucking sinners out of the sea of destruction, to bring them safely into the saving Ark of Christ’s Church. 

When we consider their situation in this world, as sinners surrounded by temptations to sin and unbelief, both Olivia and Vicar Toombs are at risk.  So are you.  So am I.  But both Olivia and Vicar and you are safe in Christ.  The rainbow God put in the cloud for Noah is a reflection of the Rainbow that surrounds God’s throne in heaven, where the Lamb of God, who has been slain, stands.  There, in the heavenly throne room of the Almighty, the resurrected Jesus Christ stands, for Olivia, for Jason, and for you, guaranteeing your inheritance with all the saints in light.  Through the weakness of Baptism, through the weakness of the men called to be pastors, through the weakness of the message of the Cross, the power of God shines through, creating and sustaining faith, overcoming all that is weak in His pastors, and in His people, that we might be forever safe in His presence.  This is the promise of rainbows, and of Baptism, the promise of preaching, the promise of salvation, for you, Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crying Out for Christ

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 22nd, Year of Our + Lord 2012
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, Montana
Mark 6:30-44

It seems this week that the lectionary, from which we take our readings, is at cross purposes with the events of our life together in Christ. Today before our eyes little Matthias Emens Castro was declared holy by God through the washing of Water and the Word, a day fairly begging for some passage about Baptism.  But our readings instead tell us of overabundant banquets of heavenly bread, the Good Shepherd feeding His flock, bringing to mind the Holy Supper, not so much Baptism.  However, as those of you who have been fortunate enough to join him in worship these last few weeks have heard, the character of Matthias lends itself quite well to a discussion of God’s banquet, even on this, the day of his Baptism.  For, as some of you have heard, when this new little saint of God gets hungry, he’s not shy about letting you know. 

In fact, when Matthias is hungry, or has anything else not right in his world, he is quite vocal, making sure that all around him know that feeding him, or changing him, or rocking him, whatever he needs, should immediately take first priority.  Three weeks ago, the time to feed Matthias and the time to receive the Supper coincided here at Trinity, and Matthias won out.  Laura his mother missed the Sacrament because his fussing and building cries of starvation, which simply demanded to be met. 

Now that’s o.k. for a Sunday here and there, but Laura knows that to be the best Christian mother she can be, she needs to get as much of Jesus as she can, especially to eat and drink His Body and Blood for the remission of sins, for the Supper strengthens Laura and all faithful recipients to love their neighbors.  It’s a bit of a Catch 22, though, as very high on Laura’s list of neighbors these days is of course little Matthias.  Still, to care best for Matthias in the long run, both Laura and Jon need the Supper, and so last week they were determined to make sure they could both commune, no matter what Matthias had to say. 

Oh, what a glorious day last Sunday was.  The parents and I had consulted a bit beforehand, and so, after the elder and I had taken communion to the organist and a few other members in the pews, we headed back up to the sanctuary via the side aisle, enabling me to glance over at the Castros, to see if perchance we needed to commune one of them in the pew, just in case Matthias wasn’t cooperating.  A glance and nod from Jon indicated that all seemed fine, so we continued back into the chancel and began serving the gathered guests coming forward to the Altar. 

We had served the first table, I think, maybe two, when, just as the Castros headed up to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, Matthias realized that his priorities were being relegated, however briefly, to second fiddle.  The protest began.  I don’t know if Matthias was hungry, or if there was something else disturbing him, but as his father carried him toward the altar, a chorus of wrath and woe  began.  If you missed it, just let me say that given his complete comfort with boldly proclaiming what is on his heart, even up in the front of the Church, perhaps we should reserve a spot for Matthias in the Fort Wayne Seminary’s summer Greek class for the year 2034 or so. 

Matthias vigorously protested his parents delaying, however briefly, the satisfaction of his needs.  Jon and Laura were doing the right thing, but from the perspective of Matthias, something was not quite right, and Matthias wanted things put right in his world, right now.  When Mom and Dad did not immediately respond to his cry, he took it up a notch, or two.  By the time Jon made it to the rail, father and son had matching red faces, and I was locked in a duel to see if I could make myself heard to the people gathered at the rail, a foot or two in front of me.  It was great.  Matthias’s volume was impressive, definitely a future preacher’s lungs if I’ve ever heard some.  We really should begin praying now that the Lord of the Harvest will send Matthias as worker into His harvest field, to use that voice to proclaim the Gospel to every nation, perhaps all at once. 

I loved the whole thing, Christ with His Supper inserting Himself right into the messiness of our very real human lives, the Lord our Righteousness delivering His gifts right into the midst of our need.  It doesn’t get much better than babies crying in Church, adding their voices to the chorus of earth and heaven, reminding us all that Christ passed through every stage of human development, because every stage of our lives needed to be redeemed. 

I suspect that Matthias will be one of those blessed children who, when their parents bring them to the rail, reach out for the bread, and grab at the chalice, that he will want to be fed at the table as soon as possible.  Which is as it should be.  The Supper is for the baptized, the only limitation being the need for all who commune at the altar to rightly confess the faith proclaimed there, and to discern, that is to understand and confess what God is doing in the Supper.  For the Supper is the very Holy of Holies, to be handled with care, for God Himself is present to save.  The supper a gift meant for the gathered faithful, for only faith in Christ enables us to safely and beneficially receive it.  The Supper is also a meal which Paul tells us is a proclamation.  As we eat, we proclaim the Gospel, and we of course want to get it right, to proclaim the same truth, so that all who participate can do so with joy and confidence.  So it isn’t yet time to commune Matthias, because we cannot yet hear his confession of faith.  But that every baptized Christian should want the Supper, that is meet, right and salutary. 

Certainly Matthias seemed distraught last Sunday, as Mom and Dad got to eat, but he didn’t.  We as yet can’t understand everything Matthias is communicating, but he certainly seems to be hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  That is, Matthias is very keenly focused on having everything right in his world, and righteousness is having everything right, not just with the world, but with the Lord.  Being right with God requires holiness, a righteousness and a love for God which we sinners cannot produce, but which God gives as a gift, delivered by Word and Sacrament, creating faith in Christ’s blood bought forgiveness.   

This gift of righteousness Matthias has, fresh from the waters of Holy Baptism, where the Lord, who is our  Righteousness, placed His robe of righteousness over Matthias, covering all his sin, making him spotless and pure in the sight of God the Father.  Today is truly a special day for Matthias, the day we can point him to for the rest of his earthly life, the day when God publicly proclaimed:  Matthias is mine. 

Now, the Lord has been privately been making that claim for some time now, writing Matthias’ name in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world, and speaking to Matthias since his beginning.  Yes, Matthias has been hearing the Lord call him for 10 months now.  For nine months in the womb, and in the month since, Matthias has been a regular hearer of the Word, so certainly the Word of Christ has been dwelling in him richly. 

And by the Word of Christ, the Holy Spirit creates a hunger for more, a hunger for the putting right of things wrong, for the filling of the stomach of faith with the promised good news bread.  By God’s grace and power, those who regularly hear the Christ’s Word of Law and Gospel have created in them a hunger and thirst for righteousness, a hunger and thirst for Christ Himself. 

This is as it should be for the Baptized.  And also for those approaching Baptism.  Every sinner whom the Lord is calling to Himself should be demanding Christ.  Those who have heard the promises of Baptism should demand to be given the new birth of the Holy Spirit, and those who are baptized should be reaching out for the Supper.  Every sinner who hopes in Christ should be crying out to be given Him, through His Word, through His Sacraments, now, and often, and always. 

Because we need Him.  Oh yes, we need Him, day by day.  I really do think we should pray that Matthias will be called into the Holy Ministry.  But even more we should pray he be one of those steady, boring, always in Church Christians, a person who when he’s sixty will say he can never remember not being regular in Church.  We should pray this for him, because Matthias will need it.  Despite his promising start, despite his faithful parents, Matthias will need to be reminded, he will need to be pointed to this day.  He will need to be challenged, confronted when his actions brings shame on the Name placed on him today, confronted, so he can again be comforted by the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, receiving again the word of forgiveness he received today.  Forgiveness is always available for Matthias, because God has promised to forgive all who trust in Jesus.   

God counts Matthias righteous for Christ’s sake, but Matthias will sin, and the world will lure him away, and the devil will seek to devour him like a roaring lion, and the only defense our Lord has given Matthias, and you, is His Word of promise.  We are so often plagued by doubts.  Could God really love me?  Is His way really true, and truly best?  Don’t I have to make my own way, now that I’ve fallen away, again?  Will God forgive me, again? 

Against these and a thousand other doubts and temptations, all we have is God’s promise, made in Christ, delivered by the Spirit through proclamation and the Sacraments.  The Gospel in Word and Sacrament is all we have to fight sin, guilt and death, but it is enough, for the Good News is that no sin can be too great for Jesus to forgive.  We poor miserable sinners can always come back to Him, confessing our sins, because on the Cross, Jesus shed His blood and gave up His Spirit, in order to win forgiveness and new life for every sinner.  The journey of faith on which Matthias embarked today, the path that all of you are walking, is one necessarily built on daily forgiveness.  And it is God’s great joy to lead you on that path, to daily and richly forgive you, for this is just who God is.   

Matthias, since his mother is a teacher and singer and fiddle player, may be naturally inclined to singing and speaking publicly, good traits for a future pastor.  Certainly he has good volume.  And perhaps from his dad he has inherited the habits of a steady, hard worker.  From grandpas and grandmas he no doubt has other fine traits.  But better than all of these, today God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has put His Name on Matthias, and made promises that last forever, promises of forgiveness and eternal joy.  These are the promises that faith lives from, and my prayer, for Matthias, and for you, is that the Lord will grant you a daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, a hunger and thirst for His Word and Sacrament, a hunger and thirst for Jesus, who is your life, both today, and forever and ever, Amen. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recapitulated in Christ

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 15th, Year of Our + Lord 2012
St John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana
Mark 6:14-29, Ephesians 1:1-14

And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.  
     This is the Gospel of the Lord. 

Really?  This is Gospel?  This is Good News, that Herod ordered the decapitation of John the Baptist?  Now, we know that Gospel is a word with multiple meanings, and when I say: This is the Gospel of the Lord, I’m saying that this has been our reading from the Gospel, in this case St. Mark.  But still, how is this story even in the Gospel?  How can John’s death by decapitation even be a part of the story of salvation? 

Everything about this story is uncomfortable.  The deeper we dig, the messier it gets.  First, we have a wicked royal family.  Herod, ruler of Galilee on behalf of the Romans, is married to Herodias, who had been his brother Philip’s wife.  John the Baptist condemns their sin, and lands in jail, as the king, and especially the king’s wife do not appreciate being condemned.  John in this persecution joins every prophet who gets in trouble for speaking the truth to powerful people. 

Next we have a birthday party gone terribly wrong.  We shouldn’t read too much, or too little, into the daughter of Herodias pleasing the party with her dancing.  But questions force themselves upon us.  Just how old was the girl?  Just what kind of dance did she do?  We don’t know, we only know that her dance was so pleasing it led Herod to make a rash promise, and back it up with a vow:  Ask whatever you want, up to half of my kingdom…  

Now our twisted story gets really bad.  Did a girl go to her mother in innocence, just looking for a something good to ask for?  A castle?  A pony, perhaps?  Or did a young woman share her mother’s anger at John, and went to her knowing that they had an opportunity to do bad things to the wild prophet from the Jordan?  In any case, think of the request.  Think of saying those words out loud, in all seriousness:  Give me the head of John the Baptist, on a platter.  Think of being one of the birthday guests, of waiting in horror for the wish to be granted.  I assume they waited in horror; you don’t suppose anyone waited in ghoulish expectation, do you?  It was a dark and wicked party. 

The deed is done, and we are appalled, and perhaps wondering about Mark.  Even though he wrote the shortest of the four Gospels, Mark gives the most lurid details from this story.  Why tell us so much?  Is it simply to reveal the darkness of which we human beings are capable?  Surely we don’t need to be warned away from such evil;  hasn’t our society progressed far beyond such savagery? 

After all, it’s not like we Americans have aborted 55 million children in the womb since 1973.  Like the violence of Herodias, the violence of the abortion industry is bold, bold enough to claim that these babies were killed in the name of women’s health.  Their concern for women’s health must not take into account the health of the 27.5 million baby girls we have aborted, not to mention the physical, emotional and spiritual health of the mothers who realize too late that they have been deceived into making a terrible mistake.
Does Mark really need to lecture us on violence?  It’s not like dozens of grotesquely violent multimillion dollar horror movies are produced in America each year, primarily to be watched by our youth.  Even better are the insanely violent video games, which put the trigger in our hands!  It’s not as though multiple times every year we hear of people slaughtering co-workers or fellow students, for no conceivable reason.  Do we really need Mark to warn us of the human capacity for violence and cruelty? 

Yes, of course we do.  Remember that the next account in Genesis after Adam and Eves’ fall into sin is the story of Cain killing his brother Abel.  Turning from the Lord of life makes us into seekers of death.  Our sinfulness means that violence is within us all.  We will not be able to relax our guard until God delivers us from this world of tears.  Mark just lifts the veil a little on the darkness, so we are reminded that it’s all too real. 

But is that it?  Is this story needed in the Gospels simply to warn us against human wickedness and violence?  Can we understand more of how the decapitation of John fits into the Good News of God’s salvation?  If only somehow there could be a “recapitation,” a rejoining of the head to the body.  That would be a happy ending.  But how can that be?  Once John’s head is off, how can it be reattached? This is why violence is such an enduring curse.  Stolen goods can be returned or replaced, a lie can be admitted and corrected, a covetous heart can learn to rejoice in another’s good fortune.  But once thrown, a punch struck cannot be pulled back.  Once dead, a murder victim is gone to us.  Scars can last a lifetime, and the blood of Abel still cries from the ground.  How can there be a recapitation, once the deed is done? 

Well, there is a recapitation, a recapitulation, to use the technical term, a bringing all together again under one head, which we heard about in our reading from Ephesians.  Now, you didn’t hear those exact words in our epistle.  Our translation tries to make easier sense of the Greek for us, speaking of a plan for the fullness of time, a plan “to unite all things in him,” things in heaven and things on earth.  The “unite all things in him” translates “anakephalaiosasthai” which means “to recapitulate,” or, “to bring back under the head all things,” in Him.  And the Him, the Head, is, of course, Jesus Christ. 

Remember what Jesus told the man trying to earn his salvation.  Jesus said:  Only God is Good.  Which means that all men are wicked.  God in mercy restrains the worst evil, for the sake of the elect, for the sake of His Church.  Left to our own devices, we humans would quickly destroy one another.  This is unpleasant to consider, but important to remember and confess, lest we think too much of ourselves and decide we don’t need a savior, lest we imagine we can build heaven on earth through human cooperation.  It all depends on Christ, our head. 

This especially we resist, because our sinful natures do not want to be dependent, powerless.  We are always trying to introduce something from ourselves into the salvation equation.  It doesn’t matter whether the false teaching is obvious, as in the Five Pillars of Islam, or the door knocking way to heaven of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or whether the lie is more subtle, as in the seemingly tiny requirement of making a decision for Jesus, or giving your heart to Jesus.  Any time we add a work of ours to God’s work of salvation we corrupt the Gospel, and we insult Christ. 
We must be watchful, for our natural tendency is to corrupt the pure Gospel with works requirements, to think we are saving ourselves.  Self-righteousness is even more common among us than our capacity for violence.  We need to be watchful, or we will lose our heads, theologically speaking, because only the living Christ can save us from death.  Only the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, testifies that all sins have been paid for.  Jesus has paid for every sin, including the sins of Herod and Herodias, including the sins of those involved in the abortion industry, and including the sins of those who have been deceived by their propaganda, all is forgiven in Christ.  So we, the Church, have good news for all people: whoever looks to Jesus in faith is forgiven, period.  He is the prophet greater than Amos, or John, or even Moses, the Prophet who died to fulfill God’s promise of salvation for all. 

John lost his head in service to God’s Church.  But he will be restored, for the crucified and resurrected Jesus is the head of His body, the Church.  In Christ we have been ransomed from the devil, by His precious blood, which is shed for the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace.  In Christ God has made known to us the mystery of his will, a plan revealed at just the right time, a plan to bring back together under the One True Head all things  in heaven and on earth.   In Christ the soul of John the Baptist lives, with all the saints who have gone before, joyfully awaiting the Last Day, when John will receive back his perfected body, head included. 

In Christ we too have obtained an inheritance, the promise of eternal life in heaven, having been  chosen before time in Christ, to the praise of his glory.   How can we make so bold a claim?  Not because of anything we have done, but because God has promised.  Indeed, God has sealed His promise with Himself, for in Baptismal waters we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.  In our Baptismal faith, made new every time we hear the Word of forgiveness, strengthened every time we feast at the banquet of forgiveness, we eagerly await the day when Christ will reveal the promise to our eyes. 

In the meantime, we live in a world that is violent, a world that rejects God’s way.  We live as strangers called to speak unpopular things to the powers of darkness.  But we have no need to fear, for we are free, free to be bold, to speak against evil, to speak for life, to risk the anger of the popular culture, to stand up for the weak and low.  We are free to uphold God’s Law because we know the One who has fulfilled that Law for us and for all people. 

Let the world reject us.  For what is the world to us?  We have the Head of all things, the Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  He has entered into His creation and redeemed it, in His own body, on the Cross.  And we are connected to Him, we are by His grace and power truly His body, the Church, His blood flows through us.  Our leader, our Savior, our Head rules all things.  In Christ we have the victory, over sin and death, the world and the devil.  Rejoice, and sing His praises, today and forevermore.  Amen.