13 April 2014

Your Priestly King Enters His Holy City

Is this not an amazing thing, that your King, the Lord Himself, the Son of God in His own flesh, comes to you and makes His dwelling with you?

But what does this mean?  It might be rather frightening, actually.  Does He come to provide for you or punish you?  To promote you, or to pull rank on you?  After all, a visit from the powers that be and the governing authorities often means discipline, or some consequence for wrongdoing.

There is a certain ambiguity and tension in the coming of your King: Is He coming to put you in your place, or to remove you from the place and position you have had?  Wondering and worrying about when and where and how the axe is going to fall is nerve wracking and scary.  And if, on the other hand, you get your hopes up that your King is coming to set things right and make everything better in your life on earth, you’re very likely to be surprised and disappointed by what He does.

It’s true enough, as the Holy Scriptures testify, that things are pretty messed up: not only in your own personal life, but on a national and global scale.  And though you may not be a ruler or a boss — perhaps you’re one of the little guys, or you’re still making your way to wherever it is that you’re going — you’ve done your part to mess things up in your own little niche or corner of life.

There is no one who is righteous.  No, not one.  No one but Christ Jesus, the King who comes to His own people in righteousness and peace.  But then consider how this one Lord, Jesus Christ, is regarded and received.  Hailed on Palm Sunday, yes, but mocked and ridiculed, condemned and crucified before the week is over.  Falsely accused, brutally beaten up, and spit upon.  His closest companions betray Him, deny Him, and abandon Him.  So, what is such a King to do about it?

Even now, as He enters the Holy City on the cusp of His Passion, it is only because of His miracles that the great crowds throng to see Him and to welcome Him.  Not even the disciples understand what’s going on, not yet.  Everyone is eager for a Bread King, a great big generous Sugar Daddy, a Miracle Worker to build a glorious Kingdom on earth, to compete with the nations of the world.

To be sure, the raising of Lazarus from the dead has been an impressive Sign, as even the skeptics must admit and the enemies of Jesus grudgingly concede.  But, as a Sign, it points beyond itself to something else, that is, to the dying and the rising of the Lord Jesus Himself.  The way that He approached that situation, as you heard last week, has testified to that: The Glory of God in Christ is found, first of all, in His suffering and death, and only then in His Resurrection and His Life.

That is the pattern, too, of Christian faith and life, as your Baptism signifies and testifies, if you think about the dying and rising of that Holy Sacrament.  It is also your experience of life in the world, with all its ups and downs, with all its hopes and disappointments, frustrations and fears.

It is frankly confusing and difficult to navigate.  Just when you think you’ve finally figured it out, and gotten your bearings, and found your footing in the world, then everything shifts and changes, and you’re left not knowing what’s up and what’s down, or which way to turn.

Think of how it must have been for the disciples in the course of that first Holy Week, from Palm Sunday, through Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday and Easter.  The Passion of Christ Jesus is a profound and powerful story, even to consider it; but it is also the life into which you are baptized, by which the Lord recreates you from the dust of death and conforms you to the Image of Christ.

It is impossible to understand any of this superficially, nor at all apart from the accomplished fact of the Cross and Passion, as manifest in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead, and now realized for you in the Sacrament of the Altar.  The Lord’s Supper is the interpretive key to the Lord’s Passion, both beforehand and afterwards.  It not only explains what happens to Him, and why, but it delivers and bestows the fruits and benefits of His suffering, death, and resurrection.

Only in the Body and Blood of Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, given and poured out for you and for the many, do you see and know and believe what is the Truth of God in Christ, your King: That He has indeed come to “take your place,” and to “put you in your place,” but in such a way that you could never have guessed or imagined or invented for yourself.

Do not be afraid, dear child of God!  For the Lord has made you a beloved son or daughter of His Church on earth, and, therefore, a son or daughter of the Father in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son.  Rejoice in His mercy, and give all thanks and praise to this one Lord, Jesus Christ, your King, who comes to you in Peace; not to punish you for your sins, but to bear your punishment and grant you His Peace.  He comes to save you from your enemies; to give you rest from your weariness, relief from your fears, and safety in place of uncertainty; and to reign over you in love with His Word.

He has not come to “lord it over you” in the way of earthly monarchs, but, as your Lord, your Savior and your King, He calls you by His Cross and Resurrection to become and be like Him.

To that end, He has first of all become like you in every way, save only without sin.  He has been tempted in every way that you are; He has suffered every burden of your mortal flesh, and every dire consequence of your sin.  He truly has taken your place, your sin and death and every ill, and He has made it all His own.  All for the sake of bringing you into His place with God the Father.

By His Self-Sacrifice, He opens up the way through suffering and death into the Resurrection of the Body and the Life everlasting.  For He is a priestly King, and a royal High Priest, who enters the Most Holy Place by His own Blood, in order to bring you into the presence of God in Himself.

He humbles Himself, even unto His death upon the Cross, in order to be exalted and glorified on your behalf by His God and Father.  He becomes a disciple, Himself, in order to make a disciple of you by the catechesis of His Word and by your Holy Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection.

So it is that your salvation is accomplished, established, and secure in the Person of Christ Jesus, in His own crucified and risen Body of flesh and blood.

Now, then, He testifies to the Sign of His own Cross and Resurrection, by preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name.  His dying and rising are the fulfillment of all things, and they are also then the Sign of your own dying and rising with Him, by which you are saved from sin and death unto life and salvation forever.  What He has suffered and received in your place, in order to save you, He now preaches and gives to you by His Word.

His preaching to you is not simply information to be processed and stored, but it calls you to follow after Him.  As you hear the testimony of His Cross and Passion, come out to meet Him, as He comes in Peace to meet you here, at His Altar, within His Church on earth.

His preaching of repentance does put you to death; it crucifies and buries you with Him.  So, then, you do lose “your place,” the place that you have made for yourself, the place of sin and death, which Christ has taken from you and made His own.  But so does He also bring you to life and put you in His place.  He gives to you His Sonship, His Spirit, and His Glory in and with the Father.

In calling you to follow after Him, His preaching calls you and brings you into the New Covenant of His flesh and blood, which He has established forever: the Promise of His eternal Inheritance.

Beloved of the Lord, as He entered the Holy City on Palm Sunday for His Cross and Passion, so do you enter the heavenly City, New Jerusalem, by the way and means of His Cross and Passion.

And as He entered the Most Holy Place once for all with His own Blood, by His innocent suffering and death, and in His bodily Resurrection and Ascension, so do you now enter with Him into that same Holy of Holies, eternal in the heavens, by His flesh and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.

That is why the Liturgy has taught you to cry out in prayer and praise, to rejoice, give thanks, and sing, as the Lord comes to His Altar: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest, and the Peace of the Lord on earth.  For here, indeed, He comes to save you now in this Divine Service; to sustain you with His Word and Spirit; and to sanctify you for the Life everlasting in body and soul with His own holy Body and His holy and precious Blood.

As He thus remembers you in mercy, and forgives you all your sins, and gives you His own Life and Salvation in body and soul, so remember Him by faith, repent of all your sins, and rejoice in His Resurrection.  For as surely as He comes to you here, so shall you surely follow after Him, to be with Him where He is, even forever and ever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

09 April 2014

A Medicine of Peace for Heart, Mind, Soul & Spirit

If you knew that your pastor could cure your illness and heal all your bodily diseases — and that he would gladly do so with a word, without cost — you would go to him.  You know that you would.  For medical care, you’re willing to do a lot, to go through a lot, to pay a lot, even if you are one of those people who tend to put it off too long.

When it finally does come down to it, for your physical health and well-being, you’re even willing to let your medical doctor examine you in ways that would otherwise be quite immodest and inappropriate.  Likewise, you’re willing to let a surgeon cut into your body and open you up — in ways that actually are quite dangerous and even deadly — for the sake of dealing with even more dangerous and deadly conditions.

You’re willing to do and suffer all of these medical treatments, even though there are no guarantees or “warranties” when it comes to your bodily health in this mortal life.

Why, then, is there such hesitation and resistance on the part of so many Christians when it comes to seeking out the spiritual care of their pastor and allowing him to serve them with the sure and certain Word of Christ?  Is it self-righteous pride and conceit?  Stubborn self-reliance?  Or is it, rather, embarrassment and shame?

No matter what your own reasons or excuses may be, if you recognize your sin, if you know how serious and dangerous it is, then, for heaven’s sake, seek and receive the rescue; just as you go to the doctor when you’re sick, even though you’d rather not.

But, if you do not recognize or realize your sinful condition and its prognosis, then all the more do you need to be rescued and healed from it — lest it kill you eternally!  For your sin is real, and it is deadly; all the more so when you deny it.

It is for this reason that the Holy Scriptures and the Small Catechism teach you and admonish you to examine yourself according to the Commandments of God.

It’s actually far more important than regular medical check-ups and exams, even as wise and beneficial as those kinds of physical maintenance are.  For the truth is, your body is going to die in any event, whether sooner or later, no matter what you do.  But then, what will happen to your body and your soul after that, and forever and ever, depends on where you stand in relation to God: whether in repentance and faith, unto the resurrection and the life everlasting, or in sinful unbelief, unto eternal punishment.

Examine yourself, therefore, and discipline yourself according to the Word of God.

Otherwise — and thanks be to God for this, although it is unpleasant in the meantime — the Lord, in His love for you, will discipline you and call you to repentance, in order that you not remain in your sin, but be rescued for the faith and life of His Son.

To this end, the Lord your God allows you to suffer some of the consequences of your sins.  Although, in mercy, He spares you from so much of what you rightly deserve, He also chastens and wounds you, in order to heal and repair you.  And He sends His Nathans, His pastors and “prophets,” as it were, to preach His Word to you, lest you be left in your ignorance, or, what is even worse than that, your presumptuous sins.

The Lord uses the Law and the Gospel to call you and bring you to repentance, that is, to the daily dying of contrition, and to the rising of faith in His forgiveness of sins.  He puts the Old Adam in you to death; He raises the New Man within you unto life.

You should recognize this dying and rising for what it is, namely, the ongoing, daily, and life-long significance of your Holy Baptism.  It is not your work; nor is it in your own power, no more than your Baptism itself and its great benefits are your doing.  There simply is no “do-it-yourself” or “self-medicated” Christianity, but the Lord works through His own means to recall you to Himself, and to keep you close to Him.

This good work of repentance is precisely what He does for you, and gives to you, and works in you, through the practice of Confession & Holy Absolution.

Though it seems natural that you should focus on your confession — on its difficulty and embarrassment, on its character and content, on its length and other qualities — the real focus, and the “center of gravity” in this means of grace, is Holy Absolution, that is, the spoken Word of forgiveness in the Name and stead of Christ your Savior; and then, along with that, the pastor’s preaching of the Gospel to you in that context.

The emphasis is not on your work, but on Christ.  Not how “good” or “bad” you are, but how good Christ is, and how gracious and merciful He is in forgiving you all your sins.  It is not what you give or suffer, but what Christ gives to you as the fruit and benefit of His suffering for you.  Not your remorse for the past, nor your promises for the future, but the certainty of Christ’s Word and promise to you in the here and now.

The Lord gives you all these good things, and He does these good things for you, by and with His Word; and not at all apart from His Word.  So did He send the Prophet “Nathan” (whose very name means gift) to speak His Word to David.

And so does He also send a pastor to you; not as a master and commander of His Word, but as a called and ordained servant of His Word, and as a gift of His grace.

It is true that Individual Confession & Absolution is a matter of freedom; for it is a gift of the Gospel, not an obligation or burden of the Law.  That is not the case in matters of public sin or with a stubborn persistence in unrepentant sin, which call for the use of the binding key and for the exercise of church discipline.  But the ordinary use of Individual Confession & Absolution is freely given to be freely received in repentant faith.  No one is keeping score or grading you on this practice.

However, do consider and take to heart the unique and powerful benefit and blessing of Individual Confession & Absolution, which rests upon the authority of Christ your Savior, and which is so highly praised by Dr. Luther and our Lutheran Confessions.

For the Word of Christ that is spoken and preached in Holy Absolution surely does and gives exactly what it says: By it, the Lord your God removes your sins from you and lays them on the Son of David, Jesus Christ, who suffers and dies in your stead.

In removing your sin, He then also strengthens your faith with the Gospel.  For the Word of Absolution sets Christ against your sin and death, against the temptations and the accusations of the devil.  What is more, it sets the same Lord Jesus Christ, not against you, but with you and for you, as your great Champion of Salvation.

The life-giving Word of Holy Absolution pours Christ Jesus Himself into you, into your ears, in much the same way that His Body and His Blood are given into your mouth in the Holy Communion.  In both cases, the Holy Spirit lays Christ upon your heart to strengthen and sustain your body and your soul in steadfast faith and real life.

So, too, along with this central gift and benefit of Holy Absolution itself, the practice of Individual Confession & Absolution is a tremendous means of pastoral care and catechesis in the Word and faith, as I can attest from both sides of that relationship.  It is a most personal bestowal of forgiveness, which addresses itself to your particular sins and weaknesses; not to condemn you, but to heal, help, and strengthen you.

Thus, it is a powerful weapon against the assaults and accusations of the devil, and a source of unsurpassed comfort, peace, and rest in the sweet Gospel of Christ Jesus.

For a pastor, let me tell you, honestly, that Individual Confession & Absolution is a difficult and humbling task.  Nevertheless, it is also a sacred trust and responsibility, and a profound means of care that can hardly be equaled and cannot be replaced.

Actually, the Office of the Keys and the Office of the Holy Ministry go hand-in-hand: Hearing confession and absolving sinners in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus is integral to, and in some ways definitive of, the entire pastoral office.

So much is this a part of who your pastor is and what he does, that he is not shocked or appalled, nor even surprised by your sins.  But he is grateful for the opportunity to help you with the gifts of Christ, that is, with the Holy Absolution of the Gospel, and with the preaching of the Gospel to your own sins and personal circumstances.

In this way, and by this means of grace, your pastor is given to assist you in bearing the burdens of your sin and death.  Not by his own wisdom or strength, but by the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus, and by His authority as the crucified and risen Lord.  That is the special authority, not of worldly power, but of loving service.

Through this exercise of pastoral care, your pastor serves, not only as a physician of your soul, but as your shepherd under Christ, and as your spiritual father in Christ.

Do not be ashamed to be a patient, a sheep, and a child of this servant.  But take to heart that Christ Jesus — who has purchased and won you to be His very own, so that you might live with Him in His Kingdom in eternal peace and joy — He has entrusted you to the care of this poor man, so that you might kneel at this Altar and recline at this Table; that you might here be fed and nourished with the Gospel; and that you might be a son or daughter of God in the House of the Lord forever and ever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

06 April 2014

Now, in Christ, Death Cannot Slay Me

Even the friends of Jesus are confronted with sickness and the experience of death.  They suffer hurt and disappointment.  They are subject to sadness and tears.  The same is no less true for you, who are called to believe in Christ Jesus and to follow Him.  Indeed, His disciples are called to bear the Cross and follow after Him, to suffer and die with Him: crucified, dead, and buried.

It is one thing, however, to bear and suffer these things with Him; but it would appear that Jesus is not here with you, when He could be, and that He does not do what He could to help.  He waits and deliberately delays; He doesn’t respond right away.  He does not answer your prayer according to the longing of your heart, but in a way that is confusing and seems to make no sense at all.

If only He were here, your brother would not die; nor your nephew; nor your cousin; nor your son.

If only He would intervene and do “His thing,” your own infirmity and illness would not end in death, nor even disability, but you would surely recover and, not only live, but thrive.

Isn’t that what a close personal friend of Jesus ought to expect from the One who is incarnate Love and the very Mercies of God in person?  He causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good, and He gives daily bread even to the wicked: Will He not help out His friend?

You know the whispers and dark questions of your sinful heart and mind.  What does it mean when Jesus does not do what you are so desperately hoping and praying?  Have you disappointed Him or failed Him, somehow, that He should disappoint and fail you?  Is He tired of your nagging and your neediness?  Or does He just have better things to do?  Does He not love and care about you?

To be sure, there are a thousand such temptations of doubt and fear, which are a more devastating consequence of sin than the sickness and death of your body.  Where heart and mind are insecure and uncertain of Christ Jesus, weeping and mourning do not flow in faith and love, but threaten to overwhelm you altogether, to drown you in cynical despair.  Assaulted by the crafts of the devil, you are buried, not with Christ in the hope of the Resurrection, but in hopelessness and unbelief.

Yet, for all your frustration, faithlessness, and fear, the fact of Christ’s presence and His love for you are certain.  Not because you have been such a good friend to Him, but because He is sent by the Father to do His Will and to glorify His Holy Name; and His divine Glory is your Salvation.

The Lord Jesus is the Good Physician, it is true, but He does not come to stave off death with heroic measures to protect and preserve your life on earth.  He does not call a halt to the reign of death by the fiat of His almighty power; although, yes, He could do that.  He could also have let Adam & Eve eat from the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden, and so live forever in their sin.  But, instead of that, He would have the children of man become the children of God, and so live in His eternal Love: To be reconciled to Him in peace, and to become His friends in truth.  Thus, He comes, not to spare your body from the first death, but to save your body and soul from eternal death, and to bring you alive into the Paradise of the New Creation in His own glorified Body.

For that reason, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, the One who comes into the world, enters fully into the sickness and mortality of human sin and death, in order to die on behalf of all the people.  He comes to save them altogether, by His own death in the flesh, and by His holy, precious blood, from the bondage and fear of death; and to bring them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

He also will be wrapped and shrouded in grave clothes, buried in a tomb, and hidden away from sight and smell by a large stone.  For He makes His bed where your body should be laid to rest.

Even so, according to the prayer and confession of the Psalmist, His sacred Body will not suffer decay, nor will the Father permit His beloved Son and faithful Servant to undergo corruption.  He always has the Life of the Father in Himself, and He is Himself the Resurrection and the Life of the world.  So it is that death and the grave are not able to hold Him or contain Him; although He willingly submits to them, and lays down His life in death, in order to take it up again for us all.

Thus, sickness and mortality do not end in death.  Even death itself does not end in death!  But, no, in Christ, the Christian passes through death into the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.  And, dear friends, that is the case, not only on the last day, but already here and now in the midst of sin and death.  For now, by faith, you walk in the Light of Christ and do not stumble or fall.

You are sorely tempted, tried, and tested, no doubt about it; not least of all by the ravages of sin, by sickness, suffering, and death, not only in yourself, but in your loved ones and all around you.

Nevertheless, as you believe in Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, the greatest miracle of all is that you do behold the Glory of God.  Not “in spite of the Cross,” but precisely in the Cross itself, which you have come to know and have believed to be the glorification of the Son of God.

It’s not that your hopes are pinned on some miraculous rescue from every illness, suffering, and tragedy of this perishing world.  Oh, yes, you rightly pray for the mercies of the Lord, and you rely upon His help in every kind of trouble.  But, come what may, you give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.  You hear and heed the Voice of Christ in His Gospel, and you find sure and certain hope in the Resurrection and the Life of His Body and His Blood.

Take courage, and be comforted, that He has also borne your griefs and carried all your sorrows in His own flesh, in His own body to the Cross.  For He has suffered Himself to experience and share all your weaknesses and temptations, and He sympathizes with you, as your merciful and great High Priest.  He does not abandon you in tribulation and heartache, but He is with you, to strengthen and support you in the one true faith, and to save you from every evil of body and soul.

So much so is it the case, that He is with you in the suffering and experience of sin and death, that it is by His Cross that He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the children of God.  You enter into the friendship of God, and share His Glory in Christ Jesus, precisely by the way of the Cross.

Therefore, whether you live, or whether you die, you are the Lord’s.  In Him who loves you, who died for you and has risen from the dead, you also rise up and live forever, even though you die.  By your Baptism, you have already died with Him, in order to live with Him, never to die again.

In that Light of Christ, it is not wrong, but appropriate and right, to mourn those who die from this mortal coil, who have been near and dear to you in this life on earth.  For death is the consequence of sin; it is an intrusion upon God’s good creation and gift of life.  Only, do not mourn as those who have no hope.  Do not despair.  Do not give yourself over to grief, as though it were your god.

Rather, call upon the Name of the Lord your God, and rely upon His mercy.  If and when you are undone by sorrow and fear, yet, He is not done with you, but He is and remains your Savior.

In and through Christ Jesus, your Father in heaven hears and answers your prayers.

And the Answer to your prayer, the Father’s resounding “Yes” and “Amen” to your every need, is Christ Himself, the incarnate Son.  Not simply as a means to an end, but as the One who is your Resurrection and your Life everlasting with God.

As you have already died and are risen with Christ Jesus through Holy Baptism, so do you also feast upon His crucified and risen Body and Blood.  Here He comes into your world, and He is with you in the flesh.  It’s not “too little, too late.”  This Sacrament is the promise and the pledge, the sign, seal, and delivery of His own indestructible Life.  The Holy Absolution of His Gospel, His speaking of forgiveness, is already the loud and clear voice of the Resurrection, by which He calls you to come forth out of the darkness of despair into the sunshine of His eternal Day.

In this Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, you really are set free from sin and death forevermore.  No longer are you imprisoned by the grave, nor bound and constricted by its trappings.  You do not stink of death and decay anymore, no matter what your senses may tell you in the meantime.

Instead, you live and believe in Jesus.  You live in the Light and Love of His Word to you.  And you and your prayer arise like sweet-smelling incense, a pleasing aroma, to your Father in heaven.

As the Lord your God is pleased with you, do not be dismayed or afraid, but hope and trust in Him, in the confidence of faith.  And here behold His Glory in the Body given and the Blood poured out for you and for the many.  For with His own flesh, the Life of God Himself abides in you forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

30 March 2014

Day Calls Unto Night and Pours Forth His Light

The truth is that everyone is blind.  No exceptions.  Because no one can see God — not until Christ Jesus enters in and shines His Light upon the world.  And surely it is true that He does.  He speaks, and it is so!  The Light shines in the darkness; yet, the darkness does not comprehend it.

All of creation depends upon the Word of the Lord, not only for existence, but for enlightenment.  Apart from His speaking, there is no Life, nor Light, nor Love.  So, when His Word is rejected, darkness and death descend like a pall over everything.  Wherever you turn, the nighttime reigns.

It is a far deeper darkness than this or that sin by you or your neighbor or your parents; unless you trace it back to the sin of that one man, Adam, in whom all men sin and all men die.  The curse and consequences of sin — the creeping death of mortality, with all its ravages of time and space and its wrecking of relationships — does go back to the fall of Adam; it is inherited by all his children; indeed, it is suffered by the entire world, which groans under the burden of human sin and death.

But now, understand that the Lord has cursed His creation on account of Adam, not in futility, but in the hope of the New Creation in Christ Jesus.  He spits on the ground that He has made, from which He has taken the man, in order to put sin and death to death, and so to make all things new.  Out of the curse, He brings forth the blessing; out of death, new Life; and out of darkness, Light.

This Lord Jesus is the Word of God by whom all things are created and sustained.  He is Himself the Light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.  He comes in the flesh of Adam’s flesh, in the blood of Adam’s blood, conceived and born of the Woman, to become the true Man.

In Him, eternal Day calls unto night, and, at the speaking of this Word made Flesh, there is a New Beginning.  For His own Body is the Light in the darkness.  As He shall be crucified in the frailty of our mortal flesh, and raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, so does He bring about the resurrection of the New Man from the dust of the ground, a New Creation from the clay.  And by the washing of the water with His Word, He opens up blind eyes to behold the Light in Him.

These are the good works of God in Christ, which are manifested, also now for you, in the man who was born blind: Not only in the opening of his eyes to see, but in his coming to faith in Christ, and in his courageous confession of Christ Jesus.  The latter works are no less miraculous than the first, for he is raised from death to life in both body and soul.  He becomes a brand new person.

Jesus catechizes this man, as He catechized Nicodemus in the night and the Samaritan woman at the well, and He leads him by this catechesis of His Word and work to the enlightenment of faith. He leads the blind man on a Way he did not know, and thereby makes the darkness into Light.

The same Lord Jesus Christ does the same for you.  He still works on the Sabbath, in order to give you relief from all your burdens and infirmities, and to give you perfect peace and rest in Himself.  He opens up the blind eyes of your heart and mind, by His Word and Spirit of the Gospel, so that you now see and understand, you believe, and you confess, what before you could not comprehend.  More than that, He makes your body and soul brand new in His own Body of flesh and blood.

Those who resist and reject the Word of Christ, who refuse to receive the work of God or even to recognize their own blindness, are not only ignorant in doing so, but blasphemous and idolatrous.  For not only do they profane the Name of God, but they put their trust in that which is not God.

The one true God is known only in the flesh and blood of the Incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.  Apart from the Man called Jesus, whatever it is that you see and know, or whatever it is you think you see and know, it’s not what you think; and it surely is not the Lord.  No matter how bright and shiny it may be, and no matter how good it may appear to you or anyone else, it is not that true Light of the world, nor real Life, nor the Love of God, but only darkness and death.

Not even the Law of God can be gotten right apart from Christ, who is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  You don’t actually know Moses, nor can you be his disciple, if you do not know and follow Jesus Christ, the Lord, to whom the Prophet Moses pointed in all his words and works.

Buried alive, as it were, in the dust of the earth — confused and confounded by the darkness, and breathing only your own poisoned air — you don’t know what is real and what is imagined, true or false.  All you really know, then, apart from Christ, are death and dying and hallucination.

So it remains, until Christ Jesus comes and saves you.  He raises you up, opens your blind eyes, and breathes His Life-giving Holy Spirit into your flesh with His Holy Absolution of the Gospel.  Only then do you begin to see and know the Truth; which is to say that you know God in Christ.

What also happens, then, is that the world in its darkness, and those who desire to be religious in their own self-righteousness, in the blindness of their ignorance and unbelief, will hate you and persecute you for the faith and confession of Christ Jesus.  For the works of darkness are exposed and made evident by the shining of the Light; and, as the Light now shines on you, and is displayed in you, it drives the darkness to great fear and frustration, and finally to outright fury.

You will be threatened in all sorts of ways, sometimes subtle, and sometimes savagely blunt.  You may lose friends, or miss opportunities, or suffer insult and rejection.  Your own family may let you down, rather than risk being caught up in the scandal of calling this Man, Jesus, the Christ.

But do not succumb to fear!  Do not love the praises of people more than God.  Rather, cling to Christ, and trust in Him to care for you.  The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.  The deeds of darkness, by contrast, are unfruitful; they bring forth nothing but death and damnation.

Recognize and repent of your own dark deeds, of your infirmity and blindness, inside and out.  Instead of relying on yourself and your own righteousness, which cannot help but fail, find your Life and Light and your Salvation in the Lord Jesus, who speaks to you in Love.

Repent and be baptized, every one of you; or, return to the significance of your Baptism.  Wash in those waters of forgiveness, which flow for you from Christ Jesus unto the Life everlasting.

Awake, sleeper, and rise from death!  For here Christ shines on you with His Gospel.  Listen to what He says, and look to Him, that you may see.  Hear and heed His Word to you, even in the midst of deep darkness all around you; and worship Him from the heart in the witness of your words and with the works of God in your body and life.

Though you cannot see Him — no more than the man born blind could see Him when Jesus first approached, and anointed his eyes with mud and spit, and sent him to wash in the water — yet, by His grace, you believe in Him and love Him, who first loved you and recreated you in mercy.

Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk in His Light by giving attention to His Word and His works.  See, His sent ones are here to serve you in His Name, to work the works of God while it is Day.  And it is now Day, since Christ has come, even in the darkness of the night, and even in the face of death and the grave.  It is the Day of His grace and salvation, so long as the Gospel is preached and the gifts of God are given to His Church.  In the Light of the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus, your eyes and ears, and your whole body and soul, are healed.

So it is that you, who are born again of water and the Word in Holy Baptism, shall also be raised up from the clay in the Resurrection of all flesh; and then with your own eyes you shall see your Redeemer face to face, when He stands at last upon the earth and every knee shall bow to Him.

You shall see Him as He is, and you shall be like Him: all glorious in His righteousness, because you are forgiven all your sins, in which you were born, and which you have committed ever since, and you are justified by His grace, by His Cross and Resurrection in the flesh.

Even now, by faith, you are able to see His salvation in His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you here at His Altar.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, therefore, in these gifts He freely gives you.  Be ever looking to Him, the Lamb of God who takes away your sins, who feeds you with His flesh and covers you with His Blood; for He shall pluck your feet out of the net and raise you up from death to life.  Even now He lifts up your head, as He lifts up His countenance upon you.

Behold the fair beauty of the Lord.  Seek and find Him in His Temple.  Worship Him with your body and your soul in the splendor of His holiness.  Kneel and bow down before Him.  For He is the Light of the world, who shines upon you in Peace; and in His Light, you have Life.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

23 March 2014

Living Water from the Wellspring of Christ

He knows her, as He knows the hearts and minds of all people.  He knows her, before she has spoken a single word, as He has known her from before the foundation of the world in His Love.

Oh, yes, He knows her sin, her sordid past, her scandalous life.  He knows her serial adultery and present fornication, that she is living in sin with a man who is not her husband.  He knows, too, that she is thirsty, not only for water, but for love, for acceptance and companionship, for meaning and purpose in her life, for self-worth and value.  He knows that she won’t find it on her own.

But He is the Gift of God, who has come down from the Father in heaven to save sinners like her: To rescue them from sin and death; to pour out the living water of the Holy Spirit generously upon them, into their hearts and minds, and into their flesh and bones, to give them eternal life.

He also is thirsty; and hungry, too.  Not merely for the food and drink that perish, though His body on earth needs both, no less than yours.  But He hungers and thirsts for the will of His Father, to seek and to save the lost to the glory of His holy Name, to become the true worshipers of God.

Therefore, as He has known this Samaritan woman all along, so does He also come to wait for her, to meet her at the well, to give her what she needs and what she’s looking for without knowing it.

In love for her, with tender mercy and compassion, He catechizes her with the Wisdom of God.  He leads her by His Word, from guilt and shame, from doubt and fear — first of all to curiosity and interest — to the dawning of some new hope within her troubled heart, which has for so long ached with disappointments — finally to repentance, and to faith in the One who is speaking to her.

He declares to her all things.  Not only all the things that she has been doing wrong, but the things concerning Himself; that she might learn to know Him, and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His Cross and Passion; that, being conformed to His death, by the Gift of His Spirit, she might also attain to the resurrection of her body and the life everlasting of her body and soul.

He quenches her thirst with the free gift of His Word and Spirit; and, in doing so, He leads her and He brings her to the worship of the Father in the Spirit and the Truth, for which she was created.

He does the same for you.  For He is the Gift of God.  Ask of Him, and He will quench your thirst, your burning, desperate thirst for something more than what you’ve got, for something to satisfy your aching, empty heart.  Indeed, He pours out the Love of God into your heart, and fills you up with the Living Waters of His Spirit, which freely flow in you, and well up as a fountain in you, unto eternal life, to the worship of the Father in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What is it that you’ve been chasing after and trying to find, instead of this Gift of God in Christ?  What are you trying to do and achieve and to get for yourself?  And whose well do you run to, in the heat of the day, in order to fill up your bucket?  How many men have you had?  Or how many women?  Or how do you compete and keep the score?  What is it that you worship with your body and your soul, with the investment of your heart and the exercise of all your strength and spirit?

The Lord knows your heart and mind, your thoughts and words and actions.  There are no secrets hidden from Him.  He knows your sin, and all that you have ever done or failed to do.  He knows your guilt and shame, your doubts and fears, your ignorance and confusion.  He knows your frailty and weaknesses.  He knows that you have tried to quench your thirst with all the wrong liquids.

And even knowing all of that, He has come to you in mercy and compassion, in tenderness and loving care, in order to bestow the Gift of His Spirit upon you, and to bring you to the Father in Himself, in perfect peace and genuine hope and real joy, which shall remain and not be used up.

Thus it is, that, even in the desert, He pours out Living Waters to quench your thirst, to cleanse you and refresh you, both inside and out, in body and soul; to shatter your rocks and wear down your mountains, but also to float your boat on the ocean waves, and to preserve your life in the rapids.  Tribulation, therefore, does not cause your shipwreck, but brings forth perseverance, and builds up your faith, hope, and love in Christ Jesus, who shall never let you down or disappoint you.

Behold, then, how He does so: How it is that your Hope in Him is not disappointed, and that you are not put to shame and disgrace, but are vindicated and exalted in this dear Lord, Jesus Christ.

He is the Rock on the Mountain of God; and He is the One who is struck by the Staff of Moses, by the command and judgment of the Law of the Lord.  So it is, that, from His sacrificed Body flow the cleansing rivers of the water and the blood, and times of refreshment in His Atonement.

For by His Cross and Passion, at about the Sixth Hour, He has grown weary and thirsted, in order to strengthen and preserve you in the one true faith, and so to provide you with His Sabbath Rest.

In the completion of His good work, He gives to you His Holy Spirit through His Word of Holy Absolution, the free and full forgiveness of all your sins — those you know and regret, and those you don’t even realize or remember — He removes them all, and He remembers them no more.

As He is thus lifted up in death upon the Cross for your salvation, and as He thus returns to the Father in His Resurrection and Ascension, so does His own Holy Body become the true Temple of God.  The Mountain of God, henceforth, is wherever He is, with His preaching and catechesis, His Body given and His Blood poured out, from Jerusalem to Samaria and the ends of the earth.

Here, friends, is the Gift of God for you: Living Water from the Rock of Ages, the Spirit of the Father in the Word and Sacrament of Christ, His Son.  Here, by His grace, through faith in Him, you worship the Father in the Spirit and the Truth.  Such is your life and your salvation evermore.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

16 March 2014

Born Out of Nothing by the Word

As good as dead, that’s what Abram was.  He was already 75 when the Lord first spoke to him about his offspring; and, a couple decades later, he was still childless and not getting any younger in his 90s.  His barren old wife, Sarai, too; her womb was dead and dying.  Their bodies were dust, and returning to dust.  Born of the flesh and blood of Adam, they were subject to the sin and death of Adam.  That is the legacy of fallen man; from sire to seed the curse descends.

It is the same for you, as well.  You receive it from your parents, and you pass it on to your children, if you have any.  No amount of intelligence, strategy, hard work, luck, or wealth will break that cycle.  No matter how successful you may be, it will end.

As you face the future, then, what hope do you have?  What is the point in going forward, going anywhere at all, in doing or attempting anything?  What does it matter, and why do you bother?

If your aim and hope were for this life only, that would be a most pitiable shame.  Whether it be an education, a job, a spouse and family, or fame and fortune; and whether you manage to achieve such goals, or fail at them all; it would make no difference in the end, and it wouldn’t matter.  Not only that, but the rest of the story would be worse than pointless, separated from God in the eternal darkness and despair of ongoing death: existing, but without life or light or love anymore forever.

Except, that isn’t all He wrote or spoke; that isn’t the whole story; because the Author and Giver of Life has created you in Love, in order to give you His own Life; and, in that same divine Love, He causes the Light to shine upon you by His Word.

His Word.  That is really all that Abram and Sarai had when they set out from their home and family to a new place they had never seen before.  On a wing and a prayer, you might say, but the Lord’s promise came first and led them forward.  “I will surely be with you and bless you,” He pledged; and, of all things, He would bless the whole world in the Seed of Abram.  The old man and his barren old woman would have children, not according to the power and promise of their powerless and perishing flesh, but according to the Word and promise of the Lord their God.

It doesn’t sound like much to go on.  In fact, it seems like nothing at all.  And when the promised Seed of Abram finally comes, the Word of God made flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood, He doesn’t look so promising, either; leastwise not when He reaches the goal of His coming.  The long-awaited Son is born to die.  The beloved and only-begotten Son is to be sacrificed upon the Wood of His Cross.  What sort of hope is that?  Well, it’s not one that depends upon you or your understanding, that is for sure.

The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.  The shadow of death appears to overwhelm it.  Men are born, they grow old, and they die.  Or, too often, they do not even grow old; neither do they get a second childhood.  However long or short the days may be, the nighttime descends, and all is dark and cold.

Even so, the darkness is not able to prevail against the Light of the Word, nor overcome it.  True, you cannot see where it is coming from, nor can you tell where it is going; but listen, anyway, to the Voice of the Spirit, which is the Word of God the Father, spoken to and for you by His Son.

This is the very Word by whom all things were made out of nothing, by whom and for whom all things exist and are upheld.  He is the Light of the world, who even now calls forth the Light out of the darkness; for He is the Life of all mankind, who brings forth Life out of death.  And He has come down from heaven to earth, into the flesh and blood of man, into the depths of sin and death; not because there is no hope, but precisely to fulfill the promise of His Father, and to become the Blessing — that is, the “Good Word” of God — by whom all the nations are blessed.

He comes to make all things new, to bring about a New Creation by the new birth of water, Word, and Spirit.  It’s not a “second try,” nor “old plan B,” but the actual completion of the Lord’s original intention in the Person of the Incarnate Son.  In His Body of flesh and blood, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He is the Image and Likeness of God, in which you are raised from the dust of the earth and created anew.  By His Voice, by His speaking of the Gospel, God the Father breathes the Holy Spirit into your mortal flesh, in order to give you His own immortal Life in body and soul.  So does He shine the Light upon you in divine and holy Love.

That you might believe in Him, and, believing, have abundant Life in His Name, St. John the Baptist was sent to preach the Holy Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and St. John the Apostle was sent to preach and to publish the Holy Gospel.  By the same Word and Sacrament, even to this day and place, the Holy Spirit also testifies that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, crucified and risen from the dead, is the Christ, the Son of the Living God; that He has come in the flesh to save you from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  And we know that His testimony is true.

It is in love for His only-begotten Son that God the Father has created you, and in love for His Son that He has given Him to save you; and it is in love for His Father that the Son of God has come to bring about this great salvation, that you might live with God in Love, in the Spirit of the Father and the Son.  He has come down from heaven, from the bosom of the Father, St. John testifies, and He has become flesh, in order to reveal the Father to you; to manifest the fulness of divine grace and truth in Himself.  He has come to redeem you from sin and death, as the very Lamb of God who bears away your sin in His own Body to the Cross.  And He has come to raise you up and to bring you into His own relationship with God the Father, as the beloved and well-pleasing Son.

So it is that you are begotten of God and born from above through this one Lord, Jesus Christ.

By His Incarnation (His becoming flesh for us), and by His Holy Baptism in the Jordan River, the Word and Spirit of God are now to be found in the flesh and blood of this Man from Nazareth.  For His Body is the very Word of God, and the Holy Spirit rests and remains upon Him forevermore.

As the one true God has thus become true Man, so does He also reveal and give Himself to you in earthly means, and He pours out His Spirit upon you, as well, through earthly means of grace, as the Spirit also reveals and gives the same Christ Jesus to you in His Word and Holy Sacraments.

Significantly, the Christ who is thus revealed to you, who gives Himself to you and pours out His Spirit upon you, is the very One who is crucified, dead, and buried for you.  Such is the depth of His Love for you, and, at the same time, the height of His divine Glory as the Lord your God.

He comes down from heaven, in order to raise you up by His Cross, to bring you to the Father in His own crucified and risen Body.  He descends, in order to ascend, and to bring you in and with Himself to God.  Thus, you now see and enter the Kingdom of God by the way of His Cross.

The Cross itself — that is to say, the lifting up of the Son of Man in Crucifixion — strange as it may seem, that is already His exaltation, His glorification, and His return to the Father in perfect faith and perfect love.  It is the voluntary sacrifice of God, by which He wins the victory of life and salvation for you and all the nations.  From the death of His Body comes the life of all the living, even the Life everlasting.

It is a striking and mysterious paradox, which you cannot understand until you are enlightened by the Spirit of Christ through the catechesis of His Word.  For He is lifted up on the Wood of the Cross in the form of the serpents, as it were; that is to say, in the likeness of the very sin and death which are killing you, in order to save you from those fiery serpents and their poisonous sting.

The Resurrection of the same Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, is also your rescue from the serpent, sin, and death, your reconciliation with God the Father, your righteousness, and your salvation.  It is the New Creation of God by His Word — in the Flesh of the Word, crucified and risen — out of the nothingness of sin and death.  It is the Light of God, shining in the darkness of sin and death; the Light which He also causes to shine forth in your heart by the preaching of this Holy Gospel.

For the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead is the Life of all who believe and are baptized into Him.  It is the power and authority by which you are born again of water and the Spirit, a Sign as miraculous as the conception and birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, and as marvelous as the conception and birth of Jesus Himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Nazareth.

So are you begotten and born of God — in body and soul — by faith in Christ Jesus.  And such faith, itself, is conceived and born in you by His Word and Spirit, by repentance and forgiveness of sins; which is to say, by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, not only for you, but in you.

You are put to death, in order to be reborn to newness of life.  You are buried with Christ, by your Baptism into His death, in order to be raised with Him in His Resurrection, unto life everlasting.

Which means that, even now, by the Mystery of His Cross, as you are daily being put to death, so are you being lifted up and offered to God the Father as a sweet-smelling sacrifice in Christ Jesus.

As you thus live and die on earth by faith in Him — and as He thus lives and abides in you by His Word and Spirit, with His own flesh and blood — so it is that your flesh and blood, your body and your soul, your heart, mind, and spirit, likewise ascend before God and live in His Presence.

Wherever you go, be it near or far, the Lord goes with you by His Word; and you live with Him by faith in His Word.  And by His Word and promise, you are blessed, no matter come what may.  Has He not given you the guarantee and pledge of these heavenly things in His own earthly things, in His holy Body and precious Blood, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins?

If you perish, you perish, but only from this mortal life on earth; for whether you live or die, you are the Lord’s, in whom you shall not perish but live forevermore.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

12 March 2014

The God Who Saves You for Life with Himself

The Lord Jesus Christ is your true and only God, who has brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery into the freedom of faith, into the household and family of His Father. You shall have no other gods than Him. For there is life in no one else, and there is no other name by which you shall be saved.

Call upon the Name of this Lord Jesus; look to Him for all that you need, and for all good things; trust Him and rely upon Him, and proceed in such faith and confidence. Know that He is with you, that He loves you, and that He will help you in the future, as in the past. For the sake of His great mercy and compassion, He shall not leave you, not ever, but He will save you from sin, death, the devil and hell; He will rescue you from every evil of body and soul.

As surely as He has borne your sins in His own Body on the Cross, laid down His life and shed His blood for you as the Lamb of God, and risen from the dead, so surely does He conquer all your enemies, cleanse you from all unrighteousness, and bring you out of death and the grave into His own life everlasting. As He has ascended to the right hand of His God and Father in heaven, so does He seat you with Himself in the heavenly places, even now, and forever and ever.

He is your hope, your faith and life, your strength and your song, as He has become and ever is your salvation.

Cling to Him, therefore, and worship Him alone — and the Father and the Holy Spirit in Him — with your heart and mind, your soul and body. As you have been baptized in His Name, into His Cross and Resurrection, by the washing of water with His Word, so confess His Name in both your words and actions, and pray in His Name to your Father in heaven, by the grace of His Holy Spirit, as He has taught you and invited you to pray.

Let your whole life, also, be a confession of Christ Jesus and a prayer of faith in Him. With your body worship Him in reverence and humility before Him, in fear, love and trust in Him above all else, and so in loving and self-sacrificing service to your neighbor.

Do not make or worship any other gods, nor attempt to be a god unto yourself. That is to say, do not put your hope and confidence in yourself, nor anyone else, nor anything else, but in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of the Father. Do not invest yourself, your heart and mind, your time and energy in anything apart from His Word. Do not give your body over to that which His Word forbids, nor to that which He has not given to you, but exercise and train your body to live unto righteousness according to His Word. Likewise, do not speak except as He has spoken, that all your words might be good and right and true, and so glorify the Lord your God.

It is a matter of living in His house, as a child and heir of God the Father. It is a matter of resting in His gracious providence, abiding in His peace, receiving His good gifts, being cared for and protected by the One who loves you and bestows His own life upon you. It is a matter of finding your own place, your refuge and your home, with Him who has called you to Himself in Christ and called you by His own Name, adopting you for the sake of His love and granting you a glorious inheritance forever.

The rules of His household and family are not a new kind of slavery or bondage, though your old Adam is constrained and constricted by such rules. Children in this fallen world do not always honor their fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters do not always love each other and care for one another as they should. Therefore the rules of the Father's house so order things for the benefit of one and all, that wickedness and hurt and harm may be curbed, and that help may be given and good promoted. So, too, the rules of the house aim to keep you close to your Father and your family, to guard and keep you safe from danger, and to provide for you the rhythm and stability of real life in the peace and harmony of Christ, your Savior.

Thus, His rules set before you the good life that Christ Jesus has lived for you, which He has given and still gives to you in His Ministry of the Gospel. The Father invites you into that life, as it is established and steadfast in the beloved Son, who continues to bear the good fruits of that life, so that you might eat and drink and live with Him.

He jealously guards you against the false gods that would entice or force you away from Him, which promise life but have nothing but death and despair to share with you. He invites you to pray, and teaches and encourages you to pray, and even commands you to pray, that you should thereby learn to speak and live by faith in Him who is your true and only God. So does He also call you daily back to your Sabbath Rest in Him, to His Word and His good works. For He would feed you at His Table and give you peaceful sleep in the bed that He has made for you, in your own room in your dear Father's house.

The pillow upon which your heart and soul, your mind and body rest is the sweet forgiveness of His Gospel. For He Himself loves you in the way that He commands you to love your neighbors, your brothers and sisters, and in such love He also forgives you all your sins. He does not hold your trespasses against you, but as His mercies are new every morning, so is your Father's house always open to you. Your place at His Table remains, and your Sabbath Rest in Christ Jesus, the Incarnate Son.

Such love and forgiveness are the good fruits of His good tree, which He bears for you in His mercy and perfect faithfulness.

By these He does not hurt nor harm you in body or soul, but He gives you His own life.

He does not rob you, but He gives you Himself and all the treasures of His Kingdom.

He is an ever-faithful husband, who cherishes and cares for you as a member of His beloved Bride. Where you have strayed, as often as you have turned away from Him to other gods, He woos you back to Himself, and reconciles you to Himself, and welcomes you home to His strong arms and loving embrace.

With His Word He forgives you, enlightens you, teaches you all things and gives to you His Holy Spirit, and defends you against all the assaults and accusations of the devil. He covers your shame with His honor. He speaks well of you and credits you with His own righteousness.

This is the firm foundation of His Father's house, which stands fast on earth as it is in heaven, and which shall not be blown away or wrecked by wind and wave, by hurricanes or floods. For all the Law and the Prophets have been fulfilled in Him, in His Incarnation, in His flesh and blood, in His Cross and Resurrection, in His faith and love. He has kept and still keeps the rules of the house for you, so that His Sabbath Rest remains and His good life continues for you, and that shall not be shaken or removed.

That is why the Word of Christ has such authority. He does not simply interpret or teach the Law, but He has kept and fulfilled the Law — and His fulfillment of the whole Law, of the Ten Commandments and all that His Father has spoken, has become His Gospel to and for you. Thus does He forgive your sins — your faults and failings, your breaking of the Law and your neglect of faith and love. As He has given Himself for you in atonement for all that has been wrong, so does He give Himself to you in peace, in mercy and compassion, to repair what has been broken, to set right whatever is amiss, to fill up whatever is lacking, and to bring you home.

Do not be afraid. The Lord has set you free, but He shall not let you go. You are His own beloved, and He truly is the Lord your God. As He has brought you out of slavery, so shall He bring you in freedom into the good land of His heaven. Even now, in the midst of the wilderness, He is with you, and He shall never leave you nor forsake you.

The One who promises is faithful, and He shall do it.

His peace be with you.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.