The Peace of the Lord is with you, because the Lord Jesus Christ is with you in this place, in this preaching, at this Altar.
is with you in peace, because He has reconciled you to Himself and to
the Father by His voluntary suffering and death, by His self-sacrifice
upon the Cross.
He is the one true God from all
eternity, but for you and your salvation He has become true Man,
conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In His own human body He
has borne your sins away, and all your griefs and sorrows, to the Cross.
All of this He has put to death and buried with Himself, to do away
with it once and for all, and to leave it in the tomb forever. Yet, He
has risen from the dead in the very body with which He shares your
humanity and in which He has carried the burden of your sin and guilt.
Thus, in His Resurrection you also are set free. For with His own flesh
and blood He has redeemed you for Himself, for Life with Him and with
His Father in His Spirit forever and ever.
All of this
is true, whether you believe it or not. And He is here for you with all
of this grace and every blessing, whether you believe it or not; whether
you are here to receive it or not.
You have the
testimony of His servant, St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist; and from
St. John you have also now heard the confession of St. Thomas, that
Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One, is the Lord your God. The
entire apostolic witness and the confession of the whole Christian
Church on earth is that He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns
to all eternity; and that on the last day He will raise you from the
dead and give eternal life to you and to all who believe in Him, for His
Be at peace, therefore. God and man are
reconciled. Death has been defeated, because sin is forgiven; your sin
is forgiven. The devil has no real power over you. The grave shall not
be able to contain you. Christ has arisen, and you too shall rise and
Do not be afraid. Do not fret or fuss or figit or
fight. Do not be faithless, but believing and faithful. Abide in peace
with your neighbor, as God is at peace with you in His Son. Be gathered
together with the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be with Him
where He is.
Do not rely upon yourself. Do not be a
loner; it is not good for you to be alone. Do not lean upon your own
understanding, nor trust your own wisdom and experience. Do not suppose
that what you see and feel is truer than the Word of the Gospel that is
preached to you. And do not succumb to skeptical doubt or cynical
Be where Christ is with you, here; believe and
trust in Him. And so live with your neighbor in love. Live and abide
with your fellow disciples, your brothers and sisters in Christ; and
live also for your neighbors in the world. Reach out to them, to one and
all of them, with the hands of Christ. Speak the Word that is spoken to
you; confess the Word of the Gospel, which is Spirit, Truth and Life.
You have nothing else worth saying. You have nothing to give but what
you are given.
If you look at yourself, you would be
right to conclude that you are not sufficient to the task that you are
given. Look, you are wounded by your sin and pierced with guilt. You are
riddled with doubts and fears, surrounded by dangers and death. Your
strength wavers, your body wears out; your mind falters, and your heart
faints. Battered about by winds and waves of strife and temptation, you
cannot help but fall and sink. You are threatened with oblivion on every
hand, at every turn.
What you see and feel and
experience is no help, and there appears to be no hope. The good that
you would do, you do not. The sin that you should not, you do, again and
again and again. Death stalks you like a nightmare; it pursues you day
and night, and eventually it will catch you. And as far as you have ever
been able to tell, those who die remain dead and buried.
in your family and friends, nor in your own health and strength, nor in
your thoughts, words and actions is there anything, anywhere, that
would save you (or anyone else) from death.
are you to reach out in love to your neighbor, when you have no strength
to lift a finger, nor even to grasp at straws? How are you to
strengthen others when you are so decrepit and fragile yourself? How are
you supposed to encourage your brothers in faith, when you are so
discouraged and doubtful and down? How can you even think about your
neighbor and his need, when you are so consumed by worry and suspicion?
here, now, the Lord Jesus Christ reaches out His hand to lay hold of
you and help you. Yet, even this seems a dismal sort of rescue! If you
consider the men He calls and sends to serve His people — with nothing
but the Gospel to do it! — you are sorely tempted to despise His gifts.
Cowardly Gideon? Playboy Samson? Peter the denier? Paul the persecutor?
What are any of these men but mortal
flesh and blood, wounded and weak, sinners no less than yourself? They
stumble and fall. They are put to death and buried. They have no power
in the eyes of the world, no fame and fortune, no glory but the Cross of
Christ and His Word of the Gospel.
Look at these
hands. They have no strength. They cannot pull you from the fire, nor
back from the precipice. What good are they? They have nothing to give
you, but what the Lord puts into them — and what has He given? Water?
His Name? His Word of Absolution? Bread and wine? Shall any of this be
able to save you from disaster?
The entire life of the
Church is like this. It is a minority in the world, make no mistake
about it. Huddled together as a tiny band against the masses. Pastors
and people alike are frail and always under the weight of more burdens
than resources. If they are not being put to death, they are dying
nonetheless. There’s always more to be done than time, money, or people
to accomplish it.
Little wonder that you become cynical
and sarcastic, skeptical and incredulous. You want something to believe
in, something tangible and solid, something sure and certain, something
you can see and feel and touch and handle and trust.
friend, be at peace. The Lord is with you. He is here for you. These
hands are His hands for your benefit. If they are wounded and scarred,
as you are wounded and scarred, know that He has been wounded for your
transgressions and pierced for your iniquities, and by His scars and
stripes you are healed.
Your doubts and fears are
faithless unbelief, but He is faithful; you are forgiven. Your demands
are selfish and impertinent, but He does not hold them against you; He
is merciful and comes to serve you with care. He puts Himself at your
disposal. He places Himself into your hands. He entrusts Himself to you,
as He who rules the cosmic deep entrusted Himself to the arms of His
Witness His love for you. His humility is not
weakness but strength and salvation — for you. His Cross and Passion,
His suffering and death are not His defeat but His victory — for you.
His mortal flesh and blood are not impotent but salutary gifts and
life-giving benefits — for you.
His hands and side and
feet are pierced and wounded; they bear the marks of crucifixion, of
execution, of nails and spear. But Christ the Crucified, the One who was
dead and buried, has risen from the dead, and He has all compassion for
you. And life!
There is no human logic here, but
divine Wisdom. His Cross if foolishness and weakness, but it is the
power of God unto salvation. His Cross has not defeated Him, but it has
conquered death and crushed the devil’s head; and this same Cross saves
you, and gives you everlasting life, through the forgiveness of all your
From His Cross, the Lord Jesus breathes His
life-giving Holy Spirit upon you with His Word of Absolution. Your sins
are forgiven, and so you live, even though you die. For those who live
and believe in Him will never die.
From His pierced and
wounded side is delivered His Eve, His glorious Bride, the Church. Of
her you are a member; not by your own wisdom, reason or strength; not by
your own choice or decision; but by His grace He has called, gathered,
enlightened and sanctified you with the Gospel, the forgiveness of all
your sins; the removal of all your guilt and shame; rescue from all your
doubts and fears. With this Gospel He has healed you of unbelief and
granted you faith.
His wounded hands pour out His Blood
of the New Testament, which permeates the waters of your Holy Baptism
and cleanses you, as it also continues to fill and overflow the Chalice
of the Holy Communion, poured out for you and for the many, for the
forgiveness of all your sins.
So do His wounded hands
extend to serve you and reach out to feed you with His holy Body, given
for you, that you may remain a member of His Body. Hide yourself there,
in Him, at this very Altar.
Reach here your hand. Take
and eat. Drink. Open your mouth and be fed. Do not be unbelieving, but
believing. And be at peace. The Lord is with you, and His Peace is with
you always. The One who died for you has risen, and you also shall live.
For He forgives your trespasses and remembers your sins no more. In the
Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen