27 July 2012

The Theology of the Cross

The Theology of the Cross does not command or coerce the neighbor to tough it out, to suffer the weight and burden of the Law and the consequences of his sin.

The Theology of the Cross bears the neighbor's frailties, faults and failings with compassion; patiently suffers the neighbor in peace; willingly carries the neighbor's burdens in love; quietly compensates for the neighbor's weaknesses, while covering his shame and honoring him; and freely forgives the neighbor all his sins.

The Theology of the Cross does not expose the neighbor's nakedness, but reveals the heart of God in Christ.

22 July 2012

He Keeps on Giving Bread to His Disciples

If you ask a new Mom what life with a newborn infant is like, she will likely tell you about feeding him, and how he eats, how much and how often.  Everything revolves around that routine, whether on a schedule or on demand.  Toddlers and teenagers are not much different.  Food and drink are so central to life, eating and drinking so necessary, and so fundamental, not only to living, but to the fellowship of family and friends.  Not only basic to survival, but the heart of any celebration.

With food and clothing let us be content, the Scriptures teach.  But depending on the climate, you can survive without clothing, or with very little clothing, far longer than you can make it without food.  Once you are born, your life depends upon breathing and eating and drinking.  Breathing is more constant, but food and drink are just as necessary in due season.

Spiritual life is much the same.  As you are born of Christ in Holy Baptism, and clothed in Him, in His Righteousness, so do you breathe His Word and Spirit by faith in His forgiveness of sins, and so do you eat and drink His Body and His Blood, which are your Meat and Drink indeed.

Mothers are uniquely equipped to feed their babies, as the Church is likewise equipped to nurture the children of God.  But no Mom can feed her nursing infant if she herself is not being nourished.  She cannot give what she does not receive.  Thus, both Mother and Child wait upon the Lord, who alone provides all that is needed, who opens His hand to satisfy the hunger of every living thing.

The Apostles, too, must rely upon the Lord and receive His good gifts, if they are to do and give anything in His Name.  They cannot speak, except as they have heard.  They cannot teach, except what they have been taught.  They cannot forgive sins, except by the Spirit of Christ Jesus, which He breathes upon them by His Word.  They cannot heal the people or care for the crowds, except they find their Sabbath Rest in Him, and eat and drink from His hand.

As it is, at this point, they have been doing and teaching a great deal for a great many people, and they are spent, exhausted and hungry.  St. Mark has made a point of telling us, “they did not even have time to eat.”  Most of you know how that goes and what that’s like.  You get caught up in your duties, in caring for others and meeting their demands, and before you know it, lunch time has come and gone, and you’ve missed your break, and you can feel yourself slowing down and starting to fade.  Same kind of thing when you’ve been too busy to sleep.  Whether you’re a cook or a waitress, a retail store manager, a doctor or nurse, or a cop on the night shift.  Adrenaline may carry you for a while, and you may have reserves to draw upon, but eventually you’re gonna crash.  You need to rest, to eat and drink, to be refreshed and restored.

So Jesus gathers the Apostles to Himself, and with care and concern for these men, whom He loves, He calls them away from the crowds and the chaos to a secluded place — to peace and quiet — to rest their bodies and their minds, and to eat.  Notice that they follow Him to all of that “in the boat,” which is to speak of that “holy ark of the Christian Church,” such as Cyprian has boarded with all of us on this day of his Holy Baptism.  It is in the Church that you find peace and Sabbath Rest in Christ Jesus, and the Food that He gives you to eat and to drink.

But the crowds are hungry, too.  Hungry for help.  Hungry for healing and security.  Hungry for daily bread of one sort or another.  Hungry for life.  So they follow after Jesus and the Apostles.  Or, rather, they race around the water on foot, and are already there waiting when the boat lands, in what had been a secluded place.  Thousands of needy people, longing for peace and rest.  They have not come in the boat; they’re not yet in the Church; they are like sheep without a shepherd.

And Jesus has compassion on them.  He is moved by His divine and tender mercy, from the depths of His being, to help them.  This is the compassion with which He goes to the Cross, like a Lamb to the slaughter, to lay down His life for the sheep.  So does He become their Good Shepherd.  Which means what?  That He guards and protects them, and rescues them from danger.  That He defeats and drives away their enemies, who prey on them.  And that He leads and guides them in safety, and provides them with food and drink in green pastures, alongside streams of living water.

But what it means to be their Shepherd, first of all, is that He begins to teach them many things.  He catechizes them.  He makes of them disciples by the speaking of His Word to them.  For He comes to preach peace, to those who are near, and to those who are far off.  It is by such preaching that He begins to shepherd them; by His preaching that He addresses and meets their every need; by His preaching that He gives them peace and rest.

Still, it is a desolate place, and bodies require food.  Presumably, the Apostles have not yet eaten, either, but have been listening to Jesus.  You can put yourself in their shoes and imagine how antsy they may have been.  Were their bellies beginning to rumble and growl?  Were they fighting to keep their eyes open?  In any event, it was already quite late when they finally came to Jesus with concern for the crowds of people — and perhaps for their own hunger, as well.  “Send them away,” they urged.  “Let them go and buy themselves something to eat.”  And then, at last, the disciples would also be able to eat: to share their loaves and fishes between them, and rest.

You can imagine their surprise and befuddlement when Jesus responds to their suggestion with an entirely different plan: “You (disciples) give the crowds of people something to eat.”

Jesus is going to feed the 5000.  You already know that.  But He deliberately does so by the hands of His disciples.  That’s how He works.  That’s how He feeds His Church on earth and shepherds the sheep of His pasture.  He gives to His disciples to give to all the people what they need.

He puts them on the spot, at first, in telling them to do this thing.  They know they don’t have it in them to do it.  They simply can’t.  Where or how would they begin?  It doesn’t even occur to them to consider their own uneaten lunch, because, really, what’s the point?  Five loaves of bread and a couple fish might be fine for twelve hungry men, but it obviously isn’t going to fill up or satisfy the bellies of 500 times that many people.

If the Apostles have been tempted to think that all of their doing and teaching were somehow by their own power and abilities, by their own resources and skills, they know better in this situation.  In truth, they have nothing but what they receive from the Lord.  They have nothing to give but what they are given.  In this, their preaching and healing are really no different than feeding 5000.

So, now, as He has been with them in their doing and teaching, He takes what little they do have — the five loaves and two fish they have already received — and He opens His hand to provide for everything that is needed.  He takes the bread, He blesses, He breaks, and He keeps on giving it to the disciples to set before the people.  Everyone eats, and everyone is satisfied.

This, too, is how He shepherds the sheep.  The food accompanies the teaching of His Word, and now His Word accompanies and sanctifies the food, and both the teaching and the feeding are caught up in the compassion of His own sacrifice.  In this way, He who gives Himself as a ransom for the many, also gives Himself to them as real food and drink for body and soul.  Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “soul” is also the word for “throat,” which demonstrates, again, the centrality of eating for life.  So does your soul feast upon the Lord, as your throat receives and swallows the food with which He feeds you.  Not bread alone, but the Word of God — the Word made Flesh.

He allows you to grow hungry, as He allowed the crowds and His disciples to grow hungry, and then He feeds you, one and all, with a miraculous Bread — which none of you have known before, and none of you could ever have gotten for yourself — that you might learn to be and to live as His disciple, that is, to live by faith in His Word.  In such faith, you wait upon Him, knowing that He will provide for you.  And in such faith, you receive His Bread from His hand with thanksgiving.

For He is your great Good Shepherd King — the new and greater David — who is the Lord, your Righteousness, in the flesh.  He does and accomplishes everything for you in Himself.  He justifies you and reconciles you to God, His Father, by His Cross and Resurrection.  He bears all your sin, all your frailties and weaknesses, all your griefs and sorrows, in His own Body, even unto death.  And He sheds His holy and precious Blood for you, to make Atonement for you, and to redeem you from the bondage of sin and death, unto life everlasting.  Having done all of this, He also comes and preaches peace to you, that is, the forgiveness of all your sins, by His Gospel.  He calls and gathers you to Himself, and He cares for you by His Word and Spirit.  He brings you to His God and Father, not simply as a guest or a visitor, but as a member of the family, as a beloved child and heir.  Thus, you have a home, that is, a place where you really belong, where you eat and sleep in the fellowship of the Holy Triune God.

You are no longer lost or missing or scattered.  You shall not be destroyed, but dwell securely.  For the Lord Himself has sought you out and found you: He has gathered you to Himself, taken you into His arms, and brought you home rejoicing.  Do not be afraid.  For He is your Good Shepherd.

He cares for you, now, in all these ways, through those shepherds He provides for His flock on earth; that is, through pastors who preach and teach and administer His Gospel.  As the whole Church is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, so does the Church in each place live by the Ministry of such preaching and teaching, by the administration of the Holy Sacraments.  Pastors do and teach these things, they give these gifts of God, not by their own reason or strength, but by the Word of Christ, handing over what He Himself provides.

What I receive from the Lord, I also deliver to you: The confession of Christ, crucified and risen, and His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

I could no more do any of this by myself than the disciples could feed 5000 men, plus women and children, with their lunch.  But your pastors are cared for by the Lord Jesus, and are provided for by Him.  It is in His Name that your pastors, in turn, serve and care for you; so that you receive the many things He teaches you by this preaching, and you also eat from His hand and are satisfied.  These are the fruits of His Passion, which He gives you here, in particular, in the Divine Service.

It does not come to an end with the Divine Service, however.  Consider those twelve baskets full of broken pieces, and how they were gathered up.  So, too, as the loaves and fishes were multiplied — and as the Body and Blood of Christ continue to be given and poured out to feed His whole Church in every time and place — so are His people fruitful and multiplied, to love and serve and care for each other; to feed each other, according to the Lord’s calling.

What shall you say?  That you do not have enough?  That you are hard pressed already, taking care of yourself?  That you cannot afford to feed your neighbor, besides?  That he or she does nothing for you, anyway, but only takes without returning the favor?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are reconciled to one another in Him, and you belong to one another, as members of one Body, in Him.

Do not suppose that you have nothing to do or to give, nor that you do not have enough to go around.  Instead, do what you are given to do, and give what you receive.  After all, what do you have that you have not received from the Lord, by His grace?  All that is needed, is provided, and more than enough.  The Lord is generous, and even the young ravens know that all good things come from Him.  Yet, He now desires to serve your neighbor through you, as He also serves you through your neighbor.  He does not give this task without also supplying the bread to fulfill it.

Do not be afraid.  The Lord will not let you starve.  Nor will He work you to death.  It is His work and His death that give you life, and it is He who feeds you with Himself.  Therefore, do not think that everything depends upon you.  But neither conclude that your work is pointless or in vain.  Beloved, your calling is not a lark.  Your office and station in life are not for nothing.  You are a member of God’s household and family; so then, live that way, and do your part within the family.

Do so — do whatever you are given to do — in the confidence that Christ is the Cornerstone; that His own crucified and risen Body is the Building, the Temple of God, in which you live and move and have your being; and that all things are accomplished in Him.

You are not a stranger, nor an outcast, but you belong to Christ Jesus, and so you are a friend and a fellow citizen with all His saints.

That includes the great St. Cyprian of Carthage, for whom little Cyprian Rhein has been named.  He was a pastor and a bishop of the Church in northern Africa, in the first half of the third century.  He lived and served in a time of great conflict and persecution, when the Church was struggling to find her place and her way.  In one fierce persecution, Cyprian went into hiding, in order to continue caring for the flock through correspondence.  Not ideal, but he did what he could with what he had to work with under the circumstances.

When Cyprian was able to return, he shepherded the Church of the Good Shepherd with the Word of Christ, and as a pastor and bishop he was instrumental in the reconciliation of many: of those who were at odds with each other within the Church, and of those who had fallen away through fear and faithlessness during the persecution.

When yet another wave of persecution came, Cyprian was among those who were martyred in the faith and peace of Christ.  Thus, he sealed his confession and his ministry with his own blood, for the sake of Him who shed His Blood for all of us, who died for us and rose again.  So does St. Cyprian live in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.  And so does the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ continue to live, even as her earthly shepherds come and go.  And so do you also live, even now, by the grace of God in Christ, by faith in His Gospel, within your own vocation.

Whether you live, or whether you die, you are His own.  And so you shall remain.

If you are tired, hungry, discouraged, anxious or afraid; if you are spent, exhausted, and ready to expire — take heart, and do not despair.  Your Lord has compassion on you, and He cares for you.

Come here now, and rest a while.  Eat and drink in peace.  Be refreshed by the Lord who opens wide His hand to feed you.  For you also are baptized — which is the new and better circumcision, made without human hands — by which you belong to the fellowship of the new and better Israel, which is the Body and Bride of Christ, His Church.  You are God’s own child.  You are a sheep of the Good Shepherd.  And therefore, with His Word, He satisfies you with Life itself — which is really to say that your body and soul are fed with the Lord Himself:

Here at His Table, you are brought near by His Blood, and through His Body you have access to His God and Father in the Holy Spirit.  This is your Meat and Drink indeed, so that, even in death, you also rise and live in Him.

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

01 July 2012

The Worship of the Body

It means to be whipped — beaten or disciplined with a whip — the word that is used to describe that poor woman’s affliction.  It’s a metaphor, but it fits.  No one has taken a whip to her back, but a string of doctors have taken all her money without helping.  In fact, she has grown worse.

Twelve years of bleeding, from the inside out.  The curse upon the Woman has been notched up significantly in this daughter of Eve.  Her life is in the blood, but it won’t stop flowing out of her, slipping away.  And so she is left anemic and drained, low on energy, and tired in every way of dealing with this scourge.  How many times has she dared to hope, only to be whipped again, and dashed back down?  Twelve years!  Think of that.

How many clothes has she had to scour or discard in all that time?  How often has she broken down and sobbed in despair?  We do not know such details, but imagine yourself in her place, and consider the whips that have fallen upon you over the years.

Some hurts, like this woman’s, are all that much harder and heavier to bear because they are so embarrassing, and you are so ashamed, you want to hide yourself away.  In such a case as this one, the Law is clear:  She is unclean.  She is not to go out in public.  She is not to be in church.

Whipped and beaten, yes, that fits.

But, now, you have heard the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sake He made Himself poor, so that you, by His poverty, might become rich.  Don’t imagine dollar signs, but look to Him for salvation: for life and health and strength and every good thing.  Here is the great Physician of body and soul, who does in fact make house calls.  He has come to help.  He will not take all your money, and then leave you bleeding, but He pours Himself out, and gives Himself to you, in order to fill you up.

He has crossed over.  You heard about the little boat last week, which gives you an image of His Church.  Now, in that boat, He has gone back and forth across the lake.  And in the meantime, He has cast out a legion of demons from a wild man who lived among the tombs.  You should hear in all of this that He has come down from heaven for you, and in the flesh He has gone to death and back on your behalf.  He entered the waters of Baptism, in order to cross over by His Cross and Passion, through death and the grave, into His bodily Resurrection and the life everlasting.

Why does He make such a journey, if not to save you from death and bring you into life with Himself?  That is the point.  That is why He is here for you now, as He was for that woman then.

Worship Him: with your heart, by faith, and with your lips, by confessing Him and calling upon His Name, and with your body, too.
To “worship” is to bow, to genuflect or kneel, to fall at the feet of Jesus, the Lord, and prostrate yourself before Him.  Such outward bodily “worship” will avail you nothing without faith, but where your heart bows before Him, there your mind and mouth and hands and feet, and your whole body, will follow suit.  Don’t worry: Jesus isn’t keeping score, and neither am I.  Don’t try to score each other, either.  But do worship the Lord Jesus, and lay hold of Him where He is found.

Your heart, mind and soul won’t have Him without your body.  Not because you must work for Him, but because He saves the whole you.  Your heart and mind, soul and body have altogether fallen into sin and death, and are altogether subject to temporal and eternal punishment.  But so has the Lord your God come in the flesh, as true Man with heart and mind, soul and body of His own, just like yours, in order to save you altogether: to raise you from death and the grave, in order to give you life forever in body and soul.

What He has accomplished for you, in and with His Body and His Blood, He gives to you in the means of grace, in the Ministry of the Gospel, which you receive with your body.  Your ears hear His Word.  Your eyes see the sign of His Cross, set before you, and the administration of His Sacraments.  Your body has been washed with the water included in His command and combined with His Word in Holy Baptism.  And so do you eat His Body and drink His Blood with your mouth, with your lips and tongue and teeth and throat.

To receive these good gifts of Christ Jesus, with your body, in faith, is to worship Him most surely.  So do you seek Him out, and lay yourself before Him, and call upon His Name, in the hope and expectation that He will hear you and help you.

That is what Jairus did.  He was a leader of the local synagogue, who knew the Scriptures, the Word and promises of God, and who recognized that Word made flesh in Christ Jesus.  He approached Jesus, and fell at His feet — he worshiped Him with his body, and with prayer and petition for his little daughter, who was at the point of death.  She was only twelve years old, which seems like such a tender age at which to die, although it is a very long time to be hemorrhaging.  You can easily picture that little girl, if you simply consider the several young ladies of that age within our own congregation.

You fathers and mothers, picture one of your daughters — or a son, for that matter — wasting away before your eyes, and dying.  If there’s anything worse than dealing with your own frailty, weakness, and mortality, it is the anguish and sorrow of watching your own child suffer and die, and realizing how utterly helpless and powerless you are to save her (or him).  Some of you don’t have to imagine it, because you’ve been there.

By the grace of God, you pray, as Jairus prayed, that Jesus would come and help.  And do you see how bodily all of this is?  Jairus prays, not only with his mouth, but with his body, prostrate at the feet of Jesus.  He implores the Lord to come, to lay His hands on the little girl, so that she will get well and live.  He’s pleading for her salvation, that is what his words imply, but his immediate concern and prayer are for her bodily health and well-being.  He wants her to go to heaven in the resurrection of the righteous, but right now he does not want her to die.  He loves his little girl and does not want to lose her.  So Jairus goes to Jesus and confesses that He is the Lord, the Author and Giver of Life, and that His flesh — the touch of His hand — is strong and powerful to save.

Now, Jesus responds right away by going with Jairus, just as He also hears and answers all your prayers.  Indeed, He is the Answer to your prayers.  Before you have even called, and while you are yet speaking, your Father in heaven has given you this same Son, Jesus Christ, for you and for your children.  He has mercy and compassion upon you, and He comes to save you.

But then there is this interruption, this intrusion, this delay.  Pushing through the crowd, like trying to swim your way upstream, having appealed to the Lord and secured His promise of help, you’re anxious to get home, to see some results, to experience the blessed relief and the great joy of an answered prayer.  It’s your turn.  Your need is so great, and the time is so short.  Yet, Jesus stops and turns and waits upon another — He turns His body and His attention to someone else; and you are left waiting, until it is seemingly too late, while not yours but your neighbor’s prayer is granted.

It is interesting, and not by accident, that these two stories are woven together.  That’s how life is.  And you’ve been on both sides, haven’t you?  You’ve been the one who is needed by too many people at once, being asked for help on all sides, pushed and pulled about by more demands than you can handle.  And you’ve also been the one who’s lost in the crowd, desperately trying to get someone’s attention, to get what you need; waiting patiently, or not so patiently, for your turn.

We’re not told what Jairus thought about the delay.  Perhaps he was a ways ahead before he even realized that Jesus had stopped and was no longer following after him.  Did he panic?  How would your pulse and blood pressure have been at that point?  Would you have been angry or impatient?  We’re not told of anything that Jairus said or did; not at this point, nor throughout the rest of the story.  Everything hinges on Jesus, on what He says and does.  So, you also are drawn to Him, to follow Him, to trust in Him, to wait on Him.

The woman was exactly right in knowing that Jesus was the answer to her need, on the basis of what she had heard about Him.  That was the only Word she had, and that is where she put her faith.  And again, it is all so bodily.  Her prayer is not with words, but in this case with the reaching of her hand.  She lays hold of Jesus in faith, by laying hold of His cloak, His garments.  You’ve heard about these things before, and we’ve talked about this recently in Bible class, with reference to the vestments of the High Priest.  Here now is Jesus, your merciful and great High Priest, and the hem of His garments — like that of every Jewish man — is bound up with the Word of God.  For that is how the Lord works: He attaches His Word and promises to external things, which you can touch and take hold of.  That is where faith looks for Him, and finds Him, and receives Him.

That is how you also lay hold of Him in faith, according to His Word: in the water of Holy Baptism, and in the bread and wine which are His Body and His Blood in the Holy Communion.  And power goes out from His Holy Body to the one who lays hold of Him by faith.  The crowd presses upon Him, but it is faith in His Word that discerns and receives the Life that is in Him.

That is how it was for the woman in this Gospel, and so also for you.  Immediately, the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed.  After twelve long years, she was suddenly no longer broken and dying, but made whole and clean and filled with Life.  Because Jesus has borne our griefs and carried all our sorrows in His Body, and He has poured out His Blood for all of us.  He was whipped for our transgressions, and by His scourging we are healed.

Faith receives that healing, that forgiveness, life and salvation, in the means of grace, in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  It is here for you to have and to hold, that you also may have peace and joy.

Which is all well and good for that woman, whom Jesus tenderly addresses as a “daughter.”  But what about the synagogue official’s little girl?  What about that daughter?  And what about you and your children and your hurts?

They came to Jairus with the news, like the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night.  It’s too late.  It’s all over.  “Your daughter has died.”  End of story.  “Why trouble the Teacher anymore?”

And yet, the Teacher has something more to teach you.  Even now, He says, “Do not be afraid any longer.  Only believe.”  So, Jairus was afraid, as you can well imagine, as you are afraid and tempted to despair.  But, again, St. Mark does not describe what Jairus was thinking or feeling, or doing or saying.  Everything moves with Jesus.  He is the One who speaks, who acts.

The woman with the twelve-year flow of blood went looking for Him, and found Him, where His Word said that He would be.  You also, seek Him where He may be found.  And call upon Him, for yourself and for your neighbor, as Jairus besought Him in the first place for his little daughter.

But notice that the twelve-year-old girl does absolutely nothing for herself in this case.  We are told nothing of her faith.  And, medically speaking, she’s already dead when Jesus shows up.  Do not suppose that her family, friends and doctors have simply made a mistake in thinking that she has died.  The Word of Jesus, that “the child has not died, but is asleep,” is not a second medical opinion or a different diagnosis, but a powerful Word of Life that makes all things new.

Of course, the world regards the Word of Jesus as ridiculous.  So the people go from a wailing commotion to hysterical laughter, from devilish despair to the mockery of unbelief.  That is the temptation, and the sin, that also lurks within your heart and rears its head to devour your hope.

For all of that, the Lord Jesus enters in and casts out doubt and fear, and blasphemy and sin.  He enters the room where the child is, and with this Holy Gospel He has made you His companion; He brings you with Him — once more, through death into life.

He takes hold of that little girl.  He takes her by the hand, and He speaks: “Talitha kum!”  Get up!  It is the Resurrection Word, and as surely as the death of Jesus swallows up death forever, so surely do His flesh and His Word raise up the dead in His rising.  Immediately the girl gets up and begins to walk.  She lives.

You live, too, because the same Lord Jesus has done the very same thing for you.  Others have prayed and interceded for you, surely, but even when everyone else in the world has been silenced, Jesus enters in and saves you.  He comes into your room of death, and He takes you by the hand, in order to raise you up from death to life.

He has done it in your Baptism: by the hand and mouth of your pastor, with the water and the Word.  He does the same thing with His Word of Absolution: His forgiveness says to you, “Get up, and go in peace.”  Not only are you healed of your deepest affliction, but you are brought back from the dead.  Today, if you hear His voice, do not be afraid anymore, but only believe.

It is not too late.  Not yet.

Wait upon the Lord, for He will help you.  If He delays in answering your prayers, He has not forgotten you.  If He causes grief, He will also have compassion.  He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons and daughters of men, and He will not reject forever.  His steadfast love never ceases, but His mercies are new every morning.  He forgives you all your sins, and He will save you from all evil.  He is faithful, and He will do it.

It is good and right for you to seek Him out, to lay hold of Him in His means of grace, to avail yourself of His Gospel, and to worship Him with heart and mind, body and soul.  But rest assured that His faithfulness is greater than yours.  Therefore He has borne the yoke for you, that you might be set free by His hard labor and patient obedience.  In silence before His accusers, He has waited upon His Father to vindicate Him and to deliver Him out of death for your justification.  He has given His cheek to the smiters and put His mouth in the dust, that you might have hope, even when it all seems so very hopeless.

In truth, as God has raised this same Jesus from the dead, you have a sure and certain hope in Him.  Hang on to Him for dear life — grab hold of His garments right here, in the preaching of His Word, and in His Sacrament — and don’t let go.  Take hold of Him in the confidence that He holds on to you.  For the One who took you by the hand and raised you up through the waters of your Baptism, here also gives you something to eat.  Indeed, He feeds you with His own Body, and His own Blood still flows for you, that you might be filled with the power of His indestructible Life.

That stands fast and remains forever, in the face of suffering, sickness, sin and death.  For He has called you His own daughter, His own son, and He shall not let you go.  No one shall ever snatch you out of His hand.  If you can imagine the loving concern and committed zeal of Jairus for his little daughter, ever so much more and greater is the love and compassion of the Lord your God for you, His own dear child.

In the death of Christ Jesus for you, your death is but a peaceful sleep and Sabbath rest.  And in His Resurrection from the dead, you are made well, and you live, in soul and body forever.

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