Monday, October 29, 2012

Be Still, and Know, God Is Your Savior

Reformation Day, Observed, October 28th, Year of Our + Lord 2012
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, Montana
Be Still, and Know, God Is Your Savior -Psalm 46:10 and Romans 3:19-28

Be still, and know that God is your Savior. 

            Seven year old David watches his mom stripping a piece of furniture in the back porch, a boy enjoying watching someone else get something done, imagining in his young mind that by watching and perhaps handing his mother a rag or a tool or her cup of coffee from time to time, he can also take some credit for this good thing being accomplished. 

Do you know what Zip Strip is?  Rubber gloves, long sleeves and eye protection are called for when using this gooey paint remover, even called for 39 years ago, before the safety nannies took over America.  You truly need protection from Zip Strip, because it eats through flesh.  So Mom wears gloves, I think, probably not goggles.  Little David, watching, supposedly from a safe distance, but always shifting closer to get a better look, wears nothing but the shorts and t-shirt called for on a late summer day in Eastern Montana. But gloves and long sleeves are no protection for what happens next.  Safety glasses would help, but there are none.  Mom’s scraper sticks, then breaks free suddenly, flinging peeling paint and Zip Strip across the room, one tiny piece finding its target, in the corner of David’s eye, who has crept forward for a closer look. 

Screams follow immediately, along with a torrent of tears which limit the damage to his eye.  David flees, running into the house, both hands covering one eye, in a fair imitation of a wounded animal bolting off in pain and fear.  Mom follows close behind, shouting at David to stop, calling for Dad to come.  She corners David in the living room and drags him into the hall bathroom, trying to peel his hands off his eye, stuffing his head under the water now running in the sink. 

David is a squirmy little guy, so most of the water splashes on Mom and around the room.  Dad shows up, his strong voice and stronger arms manage to cause a small stream of water to pass over David’s eye.  But the offensive speck of paint remains; it’s stuck, along with some residue of Zip Strip.  “We’ve got to get that out,” Dad announces, at which word David tries to break free again.  But there’s nowhere to run in the tiny bathroom.  Dad grabs and carries David to the living room, under the big light, telling big brother Karl to go get a teaspoon from the kitchen, the sugar spoon, actually, because it has a finer edge.  Fear wells up in David again, but Dad will not let him slip away.  Mom holding his legs, Dad straddling his body and Karl holding his head, fearful little David is finally still.  He desperately wants to flee, but mother, father and brother simply prevent it.  Then, a moment of terror, as the spoon approaches his eye, lids held open by his father’s fingers, a quick, smooth motion, the offending speck is gone, and more tears rush forth to wash and wash and wash the scene of the injury. 

Do they teach eye surgery with a spoon in Dad School?  I missed that class.  Nonetheless, the crisis over, serious injury prevented, David returns to his carefree childhood ways, slightly wiser, although you’d be hard pressed to see any proof. 

Be still, and know that God is your Savior.  It’s Reformation Sunday.  Once again we celebrate the work God did some five centuries ago, uncovering and proclaiming the wonderful truth of His pure Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, based on the merits of Christ alone, a revelation that God worked through the life and ministry of a German monk and priest named Martin Luther.   Luther for years struggled mightily to achieve the righteousness in himself which the Church told him he was required to produce for salvation.  He ended up hating the God whose standards of perfection he knew he always failed, fighting and flailing until the day God pinned him down, rescuing Luther with His Word. 

In God’s Word, Luther discovered that the righteousness God requires in sinners He also gives to sinners, as a free gift, by faith in Jesus.  Saving righteousness is not our work to struggle for, but rather it is God’s gift.  Be still, sinner, says God, and know that I am your salvation.

When it comes the question of salvation, of how poor, weak, sin-plagued people can hope to live in a good relationship to the Almighty and Holy God, we still struggle to believe God when He tells us we must be still.  Because of our sin we cannot by our works gain the favor of God.  God must hold us down and stop our squirming, so that He can tell us the most surprising and best news:  God Himself is your salvation.  God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, solely from His mercy and love, has done it all.  God even does the work of delivering salvation to us sinners, through the Words and Signs of forgiveness, forgiveness based in the blood of Christ. 

Be still, and know that God is your Savior.  Our squirming and running and striving take many forms.  Like little David with paint and Zip Strip in his eye, sometimes pain drives us to flee from the very God who alone has the power to help us. 
Physical pain from disease or injury can be a huge obstacle.  The long, slow, excruciating trudge that is daily life for so many can end up driving people away from God, either because they don’t trust that He cares to help, or simply don’t know that He is pursuing us, ready to heal our deepest injuries. 
Mental anguish can be just as bad, pondering the mysteries of the universe, so many of which seem unfair or simply random, like the destruction of storm, fire and flood, or man’s inhumanity to man, or the inability of people to learn from the past, leading us to make the same stupid mistakes, over and over again, until we die. 
Perhaps hardest of all is emotional pain.  I’m pretty strong, I can bear pain in my body, I can ignore the stupidity of the world.  I can endure a lot, as long as there are one or two people who care for me, loved ones on whom I can rely.  But if nobody loves me, or worse, if the people I love turn against me and injure me, then where do I run? 

Whatever pain you may face, the God who is your Savior knows it.  No matter how torn and broken your body, no matter how dark your thoughts, no matter how great your heartbreak, God allowed Martin Luther to re-discover and proclaim to the world this Good News: On His Cross your Savior has swallowed up your pain, buried it in His own broken body, understood it with His own mind, even felt the anguish of abandonment by His own heavenly Father, all so that you may find in Him relief for all your hurts.  Luther did not discover a God who takes away all our pain in this earthly life, but rather he discovered the God faced and defeated all our pain, by His death and third day Resurrection.  Luther discovered the God who faces your pain with you, because He has made it His own.  Luther discovered the God who carries you through the pains and joys of this life, unto that day when pain will be no more, tears will be more, when life will be fulfilling and joyful, forever and ever. 

Be still and know: God is your Savior.  Often we flee from God, because we don’t want anyone telling us what we can and can’t do.  We don’t want to be still before God and receive His salvation, for that is to admit we can’t earn it.  Like little David, “helping” his mother refinish furniture, we want to claim some credit for helping with salvation.  After all, aren’t we taught from an early age to carry our own weight?  Isn’t it true that we will get out of life only as much as we put into it?  We know how life in this world works.  What we so easily forget is that salvation is not found in this dying world, nor is it primarily about life in this dying world, but rather salvation comes from above, and is focused mainly on our hope for glorious life in the world to come. 

As we heard last Sunday, God’s ways are not our ways, thankfully, because our ways are all fallen and broken and incapable of making the leap from the kingdom of this earth into the kingdom of God.  We hate this law of God, maybe most of all, this unavoidable decree that no imperfect, sinful thing will ever come into God’s eternal kingdom.  So also we by our fallen natures hate free grace, because in our sinfulness we think we are pretty hot stuff, and so God must be impressed with what we bring to the relationship. 

Be silent.  Shut your mouth.  Stop talking or thinking about your works, for by works of the law shall no human being be declared righteous before God.  All are sinful, there is not one who does good among all the descendents of Adam.  All have sinned and lack the glory of God.  Be still, sinner, you cannot win God’s favor.  Be still, and know that God is your Savior.  For we hold that one is declared righteous by faith in Christ, completely apart from works of the law.  “I can do it” or “we can do it” are fine slogans for building a house, or running a business, holding a brats give-away, or winning a football game.  But don’t bring your imperfect works into the work of salvation.  God will reject you for this, for to insist on your own works in salvation is to devalue and heap scorn on the once for all sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus, crucified for all the sins of the whole world.  Was it because of your own merit that Jesus died, your soul to win?  No, it was grace, and grace alone, that brought Him from His heavenly throne. 

Be still, and know that God is your Savior, with free grace, free forgiveness, free salvation, for you!  Good news, right?  Yes it is.  But we’re not home yet.  Even still, we may struggle to be still and receive the gifts of Christ, because of our ignorance and faulty thinking. 

God has free salvation for me, but, I might wonder, how do I receive it?  If we forget God’s plan for His Church, if we are ignorant of His means of grace, that is if we do not know how and where and through what means the forgiveness of Christ is delivered to sinners today, we could spend our whole life running around in a frantic search for the fountain of eternal life.  Our hunger for rescue can even work against us, if it causes us to listen to those who locate salvation in actions, people or things that God never ordained.  If we forget where Jesus tells us to go to receive forgiveness, if we listen to those who say God doesn’t work through humble means like words and water and wheat and wine, then we may seek salvation in Christian living.  "Look at me, at all I do.  I’m a loving Christian, this is how I’m saved, right?"  Or we may succumb to the temptation to look for salvation in the spectacular:   "Look at me, I speak in tongues, my pastor heals the “sick,” I worship so fervently I fall into a trance."  Or, if we are a bit more realistic and personally humble, we may find our version of salvation in a person or an institution:  "I obey this man or this church body, and this is why I’m saved.

All of these things we do are, of course, works, works which may have some earthly benefit, but still works which St. Paul rejects in salvation.  For by works of the law no flesh will be declared righteous before God, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  Because we are sinners, none of our works are perfect, each time we try to keep the law, as we should always be trying to do, we are also reminded of the many ways we fall short. 

Be still, and know that God is your Savior.  For now the righteousness of God has been revealed, through the life and work of Jesus Christ.  He is the faithful one who has become our salvation, fulfilling the law of God with His life of service, removing the penalty of sin by His sacrificial death, delivering His free gift of righteousness through His chosen, humble means of Word and Sacrament, the proclamation and application of His holiness which makes us new, makes us children of God.  In the proclamation and distribution of God’s merciful gifts, God’s not guilty verdict is applied to you and me.  Even more, we are declared to be faithful, fruitful, beloved children of God, by our faith in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit even starts to produce real fruit in our lives, once we are still, and know that God is our Savior. 

So, be still, and know that God, Jesus Christ, is your Savior.  From His gifts we live, ever being reformed by the Holy Spirit.  And, to our surprise, being before God results in the most joyful, active life, for the better you know that God is your total and complete Savior, the more free you will be to truly live, to truly love, to truly rejoice, because with God as your Savior, nothing can defeat you. 

God grant you stillness, peace and joy, in your Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Come to the Wedding Feast

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, October 21st, Year of Our + Lord 2012
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, Montana
Come to the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22:1-14
Vicar Jason Toombs

“The King requires the honor of your presence at the wedding feast for His Son” was written on the invitation.  The invitations have gone out and the announcement of the wedding feast has been planned.  Then comes the waiting for the day to arrive.  Time passes slowly at first, then more rapidly as the day approaches.  The servants weren’t trying to find all the necessary items for a wedding: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  No, they were preparing the wedding feast.  All the items were prepared and the King has said, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”

The servants were sent out with this message from the King.  They were sent out to bring “those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.”  “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.”  The invited ones cared more about the things of this world, their farm, their business, their own concerns.  They paid no attention to the call of the King’s servants.  They paid no attention to the King’s command.  “The rest seized His servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”  They killed the servants of the King.   Wow, I can’t believe they did that.   I bet you can’t either.

They cared more about the cares of this world than about their King.   You are no different.  You care about the things of this world too.  You and I care more about “our time,” thinking that we own time.  “Don’t bother me now. Can’t you see that I’m busy. Come back later. I’ll help you then.”  We are selfish with time.  We only spend time with other people when it’s convenient for us.  On the other hand, we can easily spend time doing nothing when we are supposed to be working, when we’re “on the clock.”  We cheerfully have a conversation with our coworkers, take a few extra minutes around the water cooler, or take a personal phone call when we should be working.  Instead of being selfish with the time that we have on this earth, or wasting time that we should be devoting to working for our boss, we should make “the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  And it doesn’t end there.

We’re also selfish with our things.  Be it our toys, our money, our vehicles, or our bodies.  We think that we own these things rather than receiving them as gifts.  We confessed earlier, “We pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, and the like.”  We need to realize that we live on borrowed capital from God.  These things that we have are not our own, they are God’s good gifts to us.  When we have this understanding, it is no wonder the Lord’s Prayer is the daily prayer of the Christian.

And it is not simply a daily prayer.  It is the prayer that we should say before going to bed and upon waking up.  We should thank God that He has kept us this night from all harm and danger.  It is also the prayer that we should pray whenever we receive a meal with thanksgiving.  With a thankful heart we should give thanks to God for His good gifts to us, whether we eat a wedding feast, a simple donut, or even the Lord’s Body and Blood.

The ones who were invited not only killed the King’s servants, they also killed the Son.  Jesus came to earth to call them to come to the wedding feast, His wedding feast, and instead they handed Him over to be crucified.  The Lord of life came to bring life to this fallen world and instead of listening to His message, we killed Him.  He came to earth to deliver us from ourselves, our desire for time, and our selfishness.  He took all of these things upon Himself and put them to death.  And He rose again on the third day to show that death has no power over Him.  He died on the cross and rose from the dead for you.

And the King sends out other servants to proclaim His Son’s death and resurrection.  He sends pastors to the main roads, the highways, the by-ways, the towns, the countryside, and all places.  He sends missionaries throughout the world to proclaim that the wedding feast is ready.  He invites both bad and good, all people.  This is because we are bad on our own, there is no good in us apart from Christ.

The wedding feast is ready.  The meal has been prepared.  Christ gave His Body and Blood before He went to the cross for you to eat and to drink.  This is the wedding feast that has been prepared for His bride, the church.  And you partake of this wedding feast, this small portion of it, when you come to His table.  But there is always more with Jesus.

The wedding feast is also prepared in heaven.  The heavenly banquet has been laid out and the King is waiting patiently for the guests to arrive.  They have been clothed in the wedding garment that He has given to them.  They have been clothed in the wedding garment of their baptism.  They are clothed with Christ, clothed with the bridegroom Himself.  You have put on Christ and are invited with open arms to come in to the wedding feast.  The wedding feast is overflowing with the finest of meats and the choicest of wines.  Come and eat.  Come and drink.  See that the Lord is good.

You are the ones who heard the call of Christ and His servants.  You hear them say, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.”  You have drank the living water that flowed from the side of Christ.  This water bubbles up within you.  This is the same baptismal water that covers you.  You have come to the living water and been covered and drowned.  The living water also raises you to life.  It brings you back to life.  You were drowned and brought to life by the Risen One.  Christ is what you need for this body and life, as He has given you your body and has raised you to life.

You also hear the servants say, “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”  How can you buy without money and price?  Only when you realize that this is gift does it make sense.  Wine and milk are the good things that God gives.  He gives you wine and bread in His meal.  This sustains you.  He also brings you into the land flowing with milk and honey, He brings you into the holy, promised land.  He brings you into heaven where the wedding feast is prepared.

You even hear the servants say, “Eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”  The food of the wedding feast is the best food.  It is the food that endures forever because it contains the One who endures forever.  “Come, taste and see that the Lord is good.”  The Lord is the only one who is good.  And He has called you good because you are in Him.

On the front cover of our bulletin we see Mary and Martha.  Both are doing good things, one busy serving, the other simply listening.  We love Martha, we all need Martha.  But don’t be too busy with the cares of this world.  Don’t always be like Martha, only looking to serve others.  Sometimes you need to be like Mary, sitting at the feet of your Lord.  Don’t only be concerned with doing good for your neighbor.  You can only do good for them when you receive the one who is good.  Delight in the fact that He comes to serve you.  Sit at His feet and listen to Him.  Come to His table and be fed by Him.

Like you, like every Christian, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League as an organization needs to be fed by the Lord.  Only then, renewed by God’s Word of grace, can they usefully serve others.  They, and you, are called by Christ to spread His message and His gifts to the ends of the earth.  They, and you, are called to do good for their neighbor.  And they have helped countless people, organizations, and charities throughout the years.  The LWML has been able to do these things for their neighbors, both near and far, because they have been consistently fed by the Lord. 

Everything is ready. The wedding feast has been prepared.  Come to the wedding feast that God has prepared.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

God Descends

Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
October 14th, Year of Our + Lord 2012 
Mission Sunday
St John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana
God Descends - Genesis 28:10-17 and Matthew 9:1-8

     The Stairway which God revealed to Jacob, that stairway connecting heaven and earth, is not a ladder that we must climb to get up into heaven.  This stairway, rather, is the means by which God comes down to us, God coming to speak words of comfort and promise for Jacob, and for every family on earth.  Central to the Christian Gospel is this descent of God, the surprising news that God is not sitting in heaven, waiting for us sinners to somehow find our way up to Him, only to face His judgment upon our arrival.  Rather, the Good News is this: the LORD Himself descends in mission, coming to remove the judgment we have earned, coming to seek and to save the lost, coming to save you and me. 

     As we consider and support the work of the Orphan Grain Train today, an organization that seeks both to serve bodily needs of people in crisis, and also to proclaim the Christian Gospel into these same crises, our readings about Jacob’s stairway and the paralytic carried to Jesus by his four friends serve us very well.  There are many comparisons to be made between these two stories, as well as contrasts, their common center being the God who descends in Gospel mission to body and soul, even still today, through the work of the Orphan Grain Train, and through your daily life. 

     In Genesis, we see Jacob on the run, fleeing for his life from his twin brother Esau, who was born first, and so was the rightful heir of their father Isaac.   Esau is angry, because Jacob had taken both his birthright and his father’s blessing from him.  Jacob is in desperate straits, fleeing, alone, across the wilderness. 

     In Matthew, we see a paralytic, a man who can’t even walk, let alone run like Jacob, and yet also a man in desperate straits, dependent on others to care for him, his body no doubt full of bed sores, his mind tortured by boredom and uselessness. 

     Jacob is running for his life, completely alone, no friends to help him, reduced to using a stone for a pillow, sleeping out in the open, where all the dangers of the wilderness threatened him, like wild animals, the harsh weather, thieves and murderers.  Jacob was nearly defeated.

     Our paralyzed friend is not alone.  In fact, he has four very good friends, friends with faith in the promise they had heard or perhaps observed, in Jesus.  For Jesus of Nazareth possessed power from God to heal the sick.  These friends will make a remarkable difference in the paralytic’s life, and he needs it, for while not friendless, he like Jacob is also nearly defeated, unable to move, constantly at the mercy of the world around him, constantly dependent on the good will of others

     Jacob  is focused on his bodily life, on avoiding death and injury, which threatened through the anger of Esau.  The paralytic is also forced to focus, day by day, on his bodily needs, for injury has found him and death is near his door.  His friends also seem to be most concerned for his bodily well-being, hoping for a physical miracle that would release their friend from his paralysis.  In both cases, not much thought seems to be given to the problem of sin and the need for righteousness before Almighty God.    To this point in his life, Jacob has never given much thought to the right worship of God, the LORD God who had revealed Himself to Jacob’s father and grandfather, Isaac and Abraham.  Likewise, the crowds pressed around Jesus mostly in hope they might be freed from some illness, some infirmity. 

     Jacob is guilty.  Esau is right to be angry with him, for conspiring with their mother to steal Esau’s blessing.  You know the story, how Jacob pretended to be the hairy hunter Esau, his arms covered in animal skins, deceiving his father Isaac in order to receive his final blessing, the blessing their father intended for Esau.  Jacob is a trickster and a thief, guilty though and through.   

     The paralytic is guilty too.  Not that we should or would call him guilty, because Jesus has taught us that individual illnesses and sufferings are not to be directly connected to the sufferer’s particular sins.  We should not call him guilty for being a paralytic.  But no doubt he felt guilt, guilt for all the work and time his friends had to devote to him, guilt for not being able to contribute to his family’s well being.  And while we are not to connect a particular physical malady to the sufferer’s particular individual sin, the sinfulness of all mankind is, in general, behind every disease, every paralysis, all suffering. 

     God comes to Jacob, the LORD Almighty descending to this fleeing one, this desperate, lonely, frightened, guilty man.  The paralytic’s faithful friends bring him to God, God come into human flesh and visibly present on the earth.  Out of faith and love these four men find a way to help their paralyzed friend, another desperate, lonely, frightened, guilty man.  From Mark’s Gospel we know they dig  a hole in the thatched roof  and lower him down with ropes, into the presence of Jesus. 
     The LORD God meets Jacob in the middle of his crisis, coming to him with a word of promise, a promise of protection, and a promise of blessing, blessing not just for Jacob and his descendents, but a blessing for every family in the earth.  God meets Jacob, repeating and renewing the promises He made to Abraham and Isaac, his grandfather and father.  God meets Jacob in his crisis, renewing promises, and by that Word of Promise renewing faith, teaching Jacob something about true worship, which happens when God descends with his gifts, descends to men and women.  Through this lesson, God gives Jacob strength and hope to continue on.
     Jesus meets the paralytic, lowered through the roof to find God in a house, an unimportant house in a little no-where place called Capernaum.  There the paralyzed man finds the blessing for every family God had promised to Jacob, for that blessing is God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, come to rescue sinners from peril and death.

     Since eternal salvation is His primary business, Jesus first addresses the paralyzed man’s real crisis:  “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”   What’s that?  A man with an obvious physical need is brought to Jesus, and Jesus forgives his sins?  Yes, forgiveness is always at the center of true worship of the LORD God Almighty.  The healing of the paralysis, while certainly a wonderful blessing, is the lesser miracle, done to give evidence that Jesus does have authority, the authority of God, both to heal, and even more, to forgive. 

     Where does this authority come from?  We know nothing that makes us demand just punishment for the paralytic.  But why is it just, how is it right that the LORD should rescue Jacob from the danger his sin had placed him?  How is it just and right that Jacob should receive such extravagant promises of blessing, and even a central role in the blessing of every nation on earth?  Well, even as our discussion today has moved back and forth in time thousands of years, from Jacob to Jesus and back, so also the authority of Jesus to forgive sins comes out of chronological order.  Jesus’ authority to forgive sins comes from the cross. 

     God began with the end in mind, even before He created the heavens and the earth.  Even back when He was making promises to Jacob, Jesus’ authority to forgive and restore and give new life to sinners was based in the cross, based in the decision made before time by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the decision to descend and do whatever it takes to rescue us sinners from ourselves, to rescue us and renew us and remake us into a holy people for God’s eternal enjoyment.  God’s mission has always been the same, and He has been proclaiming it and working it out and delivering it through faith to sinners like you and me, ever since sin first darkened the beautiful garden bringing guilt and illness and death.

     God’s mission has always been the same, descending to earth to save sinners, and God is still at it.  God the Father is still sending His Son, still giving His Spirit, still descending and seeking us out, still coming to meet sinners, to deliver forgiveness, to complete His Mission.  This is true worship, whenever God gathers His people around His promises.  Won on the Cross 2,000 years ago, the promise of forgiveness is proclaimed and delivered to you and all who gather around the preached Word, the living waters of the font, the Holy meal of Jesus. 

     We are by our nature much more focused on the bodily problems and crises that confront us in our lives.  We should first and foremost be concerned with our problem with sin and God’s merciful solution in Christ.  But we are still sinners, like every other living person on earth, and in our weakness, the physical usually trumps the spiritual.  God knows this, and even stoops to work through these earthly concerns of ours for our eternal benefit.  God truly does care about our earthly lives; He gave them to us, after all.  He created you and cares for you, and His ultimate desire is to wash you clean, to give you a good conscience by the forgiveness found in Jesus’ blood, to share with you the new, perfect resurrected life of Jesus, both now, and in the world to come.  To do this, God often works through our physical needs, coming and serving us in our earthly crises, so that in the midst of them, He can finally capture our attention and address our greatest need. 

The Orphan Grain Train is one way that God continues to reach out, caring for people body and soul, both for today, with blankets and food and help in times of need, and also for eternity, by proclaiming the good news of the free forgiveness God the Father has for all people who trust in Christ Jesus.  God does His mission work through the Orphan Grain Train, and also through you, as you, motivated by the love of Christ, care for the neighbors He gives you, as recently so many of you have been caring for Katherine, body and soul, in all her many illnesses.  God works through you and every Christian as you pray, as you invite, as you serve your neighbor and confess Christ, who comes down His stairway of Word and Sacrament, to serve sinners, even in this place in little Fairview Montana.  By God’s powerful Word of grace, this place truly becomes the house of God, the gate of heaven.  So rejoice that God comes down to you in blessing.  And pray that He will continue to work through the Orphan Grain Train, and St John congregation, as the LORD continues His mission, delivering His blessings for every family on earth.  Amen.