30 November 2014

O Lord, How Shall You Meet Me?

He is your King, who comes to meet you.  He has come in person, in the flesh, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  And you know that He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  But even now, year after year, week after week, and here today, He is your King, who is coming to reign over you in love by His Word and Spirit.

And that is a big deal.  Not only because it is a great honor for your King to come to you, but because you need Him and He provides for you; not only for your daily bread in this body and life, but for the rescue of your body and soul from sin, death, the devil, and hell, and for life everlasting with the one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It really is a matter of life and death, and so He calls you to rejoice in His coming to you.  For He enters into your precarious and perishing existence in order to save you, to set you free from the devil’s kingdom, and to bring you into the Kingdom of His God and Father.  It is for this purpose that He goes up to Jerusalem: To bring you to God in His own Body.

Because He comes for you, to do you good, He does not sneak up on you; He is not out to catch you by surprise.  Has He not taught you to be on your guard, to watch and wait upon His coming?  He does not act spontaneously or randomly, but deliberately and with great care, according to the will and counsel of the Lord from before the foundation of the world.  He comes, therefore, in fulfillment of the Holy Scriptures, just as He has spoken.

As always, He sends His servants ahead of Him to prepare the way, and as the way and means by which He comes.  He calls them to Himself, and He sends them in His Name, with His royal authority, to set you free from bondage, and to bring you to Himself as a disciple.

As He called St. John the Baptist from the womb, and sent him to prepare His Way before Him by the preaching and baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, so does He send His disciples to find and retrieve the colt of a donkey on which He will enter His Holy City.  And so will He send His disciples, again, to prepare the Passover where He will take bread and wine, give thanks to His Father, and distribute His Body and His Blood to His Church on earth, even to the close of the age, for the forgiveness of all sins, including all of yours.

In all of this, He demonstrates His divine royalty, His royal divinity, but in such a way that eye has never seen and ear has never heard before.  You do not recognize Him for who and what He is by your natural senses, but only by faith in His Word.  It is a great Mystery, and a far greater Wisdom than this world is able to comprehend.  It is also the truest Truth of all.

He is the King of the Jews, and the King of all Creation, by whom, through whom, and for whom all things are made.  But He comes as such a King in humility and meekness; His almighty power is made perfect in His voluntary weakness, in His suffering and His death.

He comes by such ways and means as no man has ever come before, by a new donkey that no man has ever ridden.  He is born of the Virgin, and that sets the tone for His whole life and ministry: Not by the will and power of man, but by the power and wisdom of God.  He comes by the washing of the water with His Word.  He comes with His own flesh and blood, given and poured out as the Feast of His own Sacrifice by the means of bread and wine.

So, His power is not of the world, but of the Lord your God.  As the true Son of the Father in the flesh, He comes to save you by His righteousness, by His perfect faith and holy love, by His humble obedience, even unto His death by Crucifixion.  He releases you from the death-grip of your sin by the Atonement of His own Blood.  He sets you free from Satan’s dreadful accusation, and He acquits you of the Law’s terrible condemnation.

He is such a King who suffers, sacrifices, and serves on behalf of His people.  And He thus enters His Kingdom and ascends to His Throne at the right hand of God the Father Almighty by the way and means of His Cross.  Because He does all of this for you, He is surely with you in your suffering; and, not only that, but you are raised up with Him in His Resurrection and seated with Him in the heavenly places.  As He comes to you here, so do you come with Him to the Father.  As He sends His servants before Him, so do you now follow after Him.

Now, then, as He instructs you by His Word and with His Spirit, recognize and acknowledge your King as He comes to you in His Ministry of the Gospel, in His means of grace, in the preaching and teaching of His Word, and in His Holy Sacraments.  Rejoice in His coming, and receive Him to yourself in humility: Not a fake modesty, nor a manufactured show of merely outward humility, but an honest recognition of your need, your unworthiness, and your mortality, and that you would perish in your idolatry and unbelief if He did not come to save you in His mercy.

Confess your sin, confess your Savior and your King, and call upon His Name in holy faith.  Let the humility of repentance be completed in the joyful confidence of His Resurrection.  Pray, praise, give thanks, and sing.  These sacrifices of your lips are pleasing to Him, and He does not spurn them nor reject them, but He receives them, as He receives you, in love.  To exercise your faith by the prayer and confession of His Word is fundamental to your life as a disciple, by which you follow after Christ, and by which He guards and keeps you.

Not only with your lips and voice, but with your whole body and life, and so also with your possessions, acknowledge your Lord and King, entrust yourself to Him, and serve Him.  Lay your coat and your leafy branches beneath His feet; that is to say, with whatever gifts He has entrusted to you, and whatever the work of your hands may be, let all be done to the Glory of His Holy Name, to honor His Body of flesh and blood, to serve and care for His people.

And if He would have your colt, the foal of your donkey, let it be.  The Lord has need of it.  Not as though He were tapped out and desperate for your help, but because your King has, in mercy, redeemed you from your sin and death, and from the power of the devil, to live with Him in His Kingdom and to serve Him in righteousness and peace.

As when a father engages his little son to assist him with some task, in order to share with him his own life, so does your Lord honor you by enlisting your service in the support of His Church and Ministry on earth.  He uses your donkey to bear the burdens of your neighbor.  He uses your coat to clothe and cover the neighbor who has none.  He uses your offerings to provide for the preaching of the Gospel, and for the teaching of His Word and faith.  He uses your water for Holy Baptism, your bread and wine to give you His Body and Blood.

Learn from your Lord and King to live according to the righteousness of faith in His Word, which is to say, according to the tender mercies, forgiveness, and life of His Holy Gospel.  For by His coming, by His Cross, and by His care and compassion for you, He establishes His Kingdom for you, and He establishes you in His Kingdom.

As He forgives you all your sins, as He clothes you and covers you with His Righteousness, and as He feeds you with His holy Body and His precious Blood, He shows you His ways, He teaches you His paths, and He leads you in His Truth.  And by these ways and means of the Gospel, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ gives to you His Holy Spirit, so that, by His grace, you believe His holy Word and lead a godly life according to it.

So does God’s Kingdom come to you in Christ Jesus, who is both David’s Son and David’s Lord.  Offer Him your thanks and praise, serve and obey Him; not as though you must find some way to appease Him, but because He is righteous, and He is your King who saves you.

All that you are and have is from Him, and for Him, and still He gives you more.  His need of you is not for His benefit but yours.  He comes, not to be served, but to serve.  He acts on your behalf, so that everything of His may also become yours.  He remembers you in mercy, that you may remember Him in peace, and hope in His great salvation, even in the midst of sin and death.  For those who wait upon the Lord shall not be put to shame.

He has sent His disciples to make a disciple of you, to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins, to baptize you in His Name, to catechize you in all that He has spoken, promised, and commanded.  So does He also send His servants in His Name to take up His gifts of bread and wine and give them to you with His Word, that He should thereby come to you in person, in His own flesh and blood, given and poured out for the forgiveness of all your sins, for life and salvation in Him.  And just as Jesus has spoken, so is it done, and so it is.

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

16 November 2014

To Live in the Joy of Your Lord

Contrary to the opinion of the Master’s third slave in this Parable, the Lord your God is neither hard nor harsh, but He is very kind and generous, He is merciful and good.

He surely does not reap where He has not sown; nor does He gather where He has not planted; for all things are His from the beginning.  Every good and perfect gift is from the one and only Lord, your God.  He is almighty and has authority over all things, because He alone is the Maker of the heavens and the earth.  There is nothing that is that He has not created out of nothing by the power of His Word; and there is nothing in all of creation that does not depend on Him for its existence.

Far from taking what is not His own (for there is no such thing), He is overwhelmingly generous and gracious in sharing His own things and all the good gifts of His creation with His creatures, with His servants, the children of men, as the Parable clearly portrays.  Although we poor sinners deserve nothing but punishment for our sins, He daily and richly provides us with all that we need and far more, for body and soul, for now and forever, all by fatherly divine goodness and mercy.

His “possessions,” and therefore the “talents” He distributes to His servants, include everything that pertains to this body and life, all that is meant by “daily bread,” as well as the means of grace and all that pertains to the Gospel for the life everlasting of body and soul.

Even the abilities and skills to manage these talents are provided by the Lord, by His grace.  So, then, when He distributes His talents to His servants “according to each one’s abilities,” it is not a question of personal merit, but of the Lord’s divine mercy and gracious providence.  So, too, the abilities that He supplies are perfectly adequate and sufficient for the “talents” that He entrusts to each of His servants, for the offices, stations, and duties He assigns to each one of them.  And in the case of the Gospel with all its good gifts and benefits, it is the Lord who gives the ears to hear, who opens your eyes, your heart, and your mind to perceive and believe the blessings of Christ.

When you understand that everything is the Lord’s — including yourself, all that you are and have, and whatever you are able and given to do — then there is no contest or competing, no envy or jealousy, and neither boastful pride nor paralyzing fear.  There is only a joyful confidence that He has, in His mercy and love, entrusted you with His things, that you might use them to the glory of His Name.  You’re not earning your life with God, but simply living the life He has given you.

But when you suppose the Lord to be demanding, harsh, and unfair, then there is fear and anger and covetousness.  You work where you ought to rest, and you rest when you ought to be working.

To such a person, God is harsh, and so you receive the bitter fruits of your own false belief upon your heart and head.  For the Lord does punish those who are stagnant in spirit; who imagine that He acts arbitrarily; who presume that He will not be just or fair in His dealings with anyone.

The third slave perceives the Master in this way, and so he is afraid.  He is concerned only about guarding and protecting his own neck, and in doing so, ironically, he brings wrath upon himself.

To bury a treasure in the ground is not, in itself, as foolish as it sounds to our modern ears; though I suppose there are still those to be found, even now, who would view a mattress or a hole in the ground as a safer investment than stocks and bonds or banks and credit unions.  For a first century listener, to bury the talent was a safe and prudent way to protect and preserve the Lord’s money.  Yet, it was not the use of the Lord’s possessions that He intends.  The third slave’s actions were reasonable, perhaps even wise, from a worldly standpoint, but they were not according to the real character of his Lord; neither did they make sense according to his own assessment of his Lord!

The first two slaves are faithful in their stewardship, because they live by faith in their Lord.  They know and trust Him rightly.  Thus, they enter into His joy by faith in His Gospel, and they are likewise given a share and a participation in His gracious care and governance of His Kingdom, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden prior to the fall into sin.  They share in His joy and His authority already in their management of His talents; and so shall it also be in the Resurrection.

Although the quantities differ, the faithful slaves are alike in their faithfulness and in their Lord’s praise; their productivity and their rewards are equally proportionate to His gifts.  They are good and righteous by faith in Him, and they are consequently fruitful and productive in good works.

The real contrast here is not between different quantities of wealth and productivity, nor between differing abilities and talents, but between faith and false belief.

The Lord would have you know Him rightly by faith in His Gospel.  He would have you know Him as He is, that He is abounding in steadfast love, and that He withholds no good thing from you.

He would thus have you recognize the greatness of His gifts to you, no matter their appearance in the world.  For the way the sinful world and your own mortal flesh perceive the things of God is not according to His wisdom.  But even in the midst of sin and death, His creation is truly good, and all things are to be received with thanksgiving, to be sanctified by His Word and prayer.

At the same time, He would also teach you to understand how few and how small the good gifts of this body and life actually are, by comparison to the greatness and glory of the age to come.

While you should not despise your place and purpose in this world and what the Lord provides for you here, neither should you cling to it, nor work for it as though your life depended on it.  Rather, be always living in view of the Kingdom of God, which is yours by faith in Christ, your merciful and great High Priest, who is just and good and generous with all His gifts and benefits.

Even now, the foremost “ability” that God has given you is faith in Christ, His Son.  And the first and foremost “talent” or treasure of His Kingdom is the forgiveness of all your sins, which is the fruit of the Cross.  That Talent is then multiplied in your forgiveness of those who trespass against you, just as God in Christ forgives you.  And that is only the beginning!  By faith you are granted the wisdom and knowledge of the Kingdom of God, and as you receive and trust His forgiveness of sins, so do you live in love for your neighbor in that confidence, in accordance with that Gospel.

The Lord would thus have you live by faith in Him, in His Gospel of forgiveness, and by this faith to be fruitful and productive in your own place and position.  To say it simply, He would have you do good works with His good gifts; not to save yourself, but to glorify your Savior and to serve your neighbor in His Name.  Such good works are defined and characterized, not by fear, but by the Wisdom of His Cross, by His mercy and forgiveness and love for you and for all.  In this way, you enter into His joy and share in the good work of His Kingdom, as a servant of Christ Jesus.

Whatever you are and have, whatever it is that you have been given in this body and life, it is a stewardship of the Mysteries of God, each of you within his or her own office and station in life.  That certainly does include your actual use of money and other tangible stuff, but it is more than that.  It is life itself, your body and soul, your heart and mind, your reason and all your senses.  And it therefore entails, not only the way that you save or spend, invest or contribute your finances, but really the entire way that you live in relationship to God and your neighbors.

With this Parable, and in His preaching, even to the close of the age, the Lord Jesus warns you against false belief and unfaithfulness, in order to call you to repentance; so that you should not perish, but have life in Him through His free and full forgiveness of your sins.  The threats to be heard in the fierce conclusion of this and other Parables, are a warning to flee the wrath that is to come against all the sons of disobedience.  So, too, the promise that is heard in the generosity of the Master toward His faithful servants, is encouragement to live by faith in your Lord’s mercy.

For Jesus Himself is the faithful One, who, by the Cross, brings forth the Resurrection.  Indeed, He is faithful in all things.  As in His going to the Cross, so now also in His Ministry of the Gospel, He is faithful to those who have failed and fallen short, whether out of fear or for whatever reason.

You know God rightly in Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead.  In Him you are given to know and understand the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God, and to believe and trust in Him; and to whom such faith is given, much, much more will also then be given.  For the incarnate Son has perfectly fulfilled the Father’s Will in His own flesh and blood.  He has used all His Talents well.

By His faithfulness, He has borne good fruits and multiplied His good gifts for the glory of His Father, and for your benefit.  For God has not destined you for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through this same Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus, by His Cross and Passion, and in His Resurrection from the dead, He has brought you into the Kingdom of His God and Father, to enter into His Joy.  Your Lord thus reaps what He has sown; He gathers what He has planted.

Come, then, blessed of the Father, and share this Feast of Christ your Lord in the joy of His salvation and in the fellowship of all His saints.  With His Body and His Blood He here declares that you are His good and faithful servant, with whom He is well pleased and generous beyond measure.  For it is by the grace and glory of His Gospel that you are well prepared and worthy to receive these good gifts, and to eat and drink with Him in His Kingdom, both now and forever.

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

09 November 2014

Wake, Awake, the Bridegroom Is Here

Be on the alert.  Watch and pray.  Be ready for the coming of the Bridegroom.

This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  It is to this that you have been called: To watch and to wait for the Bridegroom, and then to enter with Him into the Wedding Feast.

By what wisdom, then, shall you prepare to meet Him?

It comes down to this, whether you have oil for your lamp or not.

You don’t know how long the wait will be.  You don’t know on what day or at what hour the Bridegroom will come.  Be prepared, therefore, both day and night, both awake and asleep.

You will grow drowsy and sleep, to be sure, not unlike the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.  All of the virgins do, both the wise and the foolish alike.  For your mortal flesh will perish, and you shall be laid to rest in the dust of the earth.  But there is a great difference between falling asleep in Jesus, at peace and at rest in Him by faith in His Gospel, and falling asleep in foolish unbelief, in the drowsiness of despair or the stupor of sin.

The difference is in the Oil for your lamp: In the anointing of Christ Jesus, the outpouring of His Holy Spirit.  With that Oil, you are prepared and enter in.  Without it, you are left out in the dark.

You know that Christ Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His Baptism in the Jordan River, anointed for His Cross and for the Resurrection, for the sake of your salvation.  In that same Holy Spirit, from the waters of His Baptism into the desert wilderness, He met and resisted the devil’s temptations on your behalf, as your great Champion and Savior.

So, too, when His Baptism brought Him to its goal and purpose in His Passion unto death, He was ready, watching and waiting in prayer, alert, and prepared to commend Himself to His Father.

Now His Baptism, His Cross and Resurrection have become yours in your Holy Baptism, in which He has poured out His Holy Spirit generously upon you.  By that Oil of gladness, your lamp is fueled and burns brightly.  You are made ready, because you are in Christ.  His readiness is yours.

So does your light also shine before your neighbors in the world, who see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  In fact, your light is a reflection of His own, because His Word is a Lamp unto your feet and a Light upon your path.

It is by His Word of the Law that His Spirit guides you in the way that you should go, according to His Will, that is, in the way of justice and righteousness, in the way of peace and love.

But it is by His Word of the Gospel, specifically His spoken Word of Holy Absolution — by the free and full forgiveness of all your sins in His Name — that the Lord Jesus breathes His life-giving Holy Spirit into you.  Indeed, He gives the Spirit into your ears, and into your heart, into your whole body and life, and He thereby fills up your lamp with the Oil of gladness.

So, get yourself to the dealers, to the stewards of the Mysteries of God, to the ministers of the Word and Sacraments of Christ, to be replenished and prepared by the Oil of His grace, mercy, and peace. Keep listening to His voice of the Gospel, which is the voice of your Bridegroom, who is calling you to Himself and to His Feast.  And keep receiving the gifts that He freely gives to you.

He has already come down from the Father in heaven to seek you out, to woo you to Himself in love, to make of you a member of His holy Bride by grace, and to prepare you for the Wedding Feast by His perfect righteousness and holiness.  It is for this very reason that He went to His Cross and Passion, and that God the Father raised Him from the dead: That He should cleanse you by the washing of the water with His Word, and clothe you in the glory of His Gospel; and that you should thus be adorned as a beautiful Bride for your heavenly Bridegroom.

By the Will of His God and Father, and by the Holy Spirit, He was ready and waiting when His Day and Hour came.  And by His readiness, He has made all things ready for you and your salvation.

He submitted Himself to the somber sleep of death, in order to raise you up from death to life.

It is from His riven side, from the fruitful Tree of His Sacrifice, that His own dear Eve, His Holy Bride, has been taken and fashioned for Him by His own dear Father.  And it is from His riven side, not only in His death upon the Cross, but now also in His Resurrection from the dead, that He pours out the Water, Blood, and Spirit through the Ministry of His Gospel.  These gifts of Christ the Crucified are the Oil that you need for your lamp.  Likewise, the Spiritual Food and Drink with which He fills His Table and His Cup for you, that you might feast on Him, and be filled with Him, and live in Him, and He in you, now and forever after.

Beloved of the Lord, behold, here at His Altar, the Bridegroom of the Church in heaven and on earth.  He is your Bridegroom, as surely as He has died and is risen for you, and as surely as He preaches the Gospel to you here and now.  He is at hand.  Come up to meet Him.  For He is here for you, in this great Wedding Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.  All things are made ready: His House, His Table, His Supper.  And you also, His Bride, are made ready to meet Him by faith in His Gospel.  Awake, O sleeper, rise from death.  Eat, drink, and live!

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

04 November 2014

That Christ Be Manifest in His Saints

Here is an audio recording of my presentation at the Good Shepherd Institute: That Christ Be Manifest in His Saints

02 November 2014

Exalted in the Humility of Christ

Christ is your Teacher, your Rabbi; and He is your Leader through life and death, into the Resurrection of the Body and the life everlasting.  His God and Father is your true God and Father, who has given you His Holy Spirit for the sanctification of your body and soul in Christ Jesus, for Life with God here in time and hereafter in eternity.

To this end, or, rather, to this divine eternal Life, the Lord Jesus Christ teaches you His Word, which is the good and acceptable will of God, both the Law and the Gospel.  He teaches you to live in love for God and man, as you heard from Him last Sunday.  And He teaches you that such life and love are yours by faith in Him, who is both true God and true Man, your Savior from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  In love for you, He daily and richly forgives you all your sins, and by such forgiveness you receive the Holy Spirit and learn to know your Father in heaven rightly.

To live by such faith in the forgiveness of sins is genuine humility, in which you know your faults and failures, your poverty and need, and, for that reason, you rely upon the mercies of the Lord instead of your own righteousness, reason, or strength.  The Lord humbles you with His Word to know and believe this, in order to exalt you by His grace, by His Word and Holy Spirit.

It’s not about intellectual achievement or hard work.  It is the fear of the Lord and a loving trust in Him alone.  There is, perhaps, a temptation to sinful pride in this business of “confirmation,” as though the diligent young Lutheran (but not too young!) could pull himself up by his bootstraps and exalt himself.  But, of course, that is not the point at all.  Confirmation embraces the promises of God and the confession of faith in His Gospel.  It clings to Christ for dear Life in His Ministry of Word and Sacrament.  It abides in the ongoing significance and meaning of one Holy Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and so promises to continue dying and rising through daily contrition and repentance.  It finds no life in yourself or in your flesh, but only in Christ Jesus.

It is to this humility of repentant faith that the celebration of All Saints and the commemoration of the faithful departed call you.  For here at the Table of the Lord in His House, in the face of death and the grave, we confess that those who have died in the faith of Christ are not dead and gone, but are alive and well in Him.  They are at peace with God, and at rest from all their labors.  Their bodies, although even now returning to the dust of the earth from which they were taken, await the Resurrection of all flesh in the sure and certain hope of the risen Lord Jesus.

They surely do not exalt themselves!  There is no pride in death.  For those of you who have watched your loved ones waste away and die, you know there is no boast in mortal flesh and blood.  There is only the Cross of Christ to cling to, and the Resurrection of Christ to rely upon.  Nothing else can save you.  Yet, there is that which He has done and accomplished for you and for all.

He is your One Leader, who not only shows you the way to go, but is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He goes before you and blazes the trail.  He enters into your sin and death, and He takes your place in the dust of the earth, in order to open up the way of life for you in His Resurrection from the dead.  He is the One who humbles Himself, even unto death on the Cross, who is exalted by His God and Father and given the Name above every name, with which He has also named you.

As He has died and risen for you in His own Body of flesh and blood, so have you died with Him and are raised with Him through Holy Baptism.  Which is all that your Confirmation confesses and relies upon: That you are baptized into Christ, God’s own child in Him, clothed in His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, anointed by His Spirit, and fed by His Body and Blood.

Because that is true, the life that you live in your body, even now, actually matters and means something.  The fact that all your sins are freely forgiven for Jesus’ sake is not a reason to go on sinning — God forbid!  Rather, excel more and more in faith and love toward God, and in love for your neighbor.  Flee from sin and every evil, and possess your own vessel, your body and life on earth, in the holiness and honor of the Lord.  Where you have fallen into temptation and sin, repent.  Lay hold of Christ and His forgiveness in the Gospel, and live again according to His Word.

Do not despair, but fear, love, and trust in God.  As He humbles you unto repentance, so does He exalt you in Christ Jesus by His Gospel of forgiveness.  Day by day throughout your life, He raises you up through faith in His Word and promises.  And on that great and final Day, He shall raise your body from the grave in the Glory of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  This is most certainly true.

This is what it means to be and to live as a Christian, as a child of the one true God.  And all who believe and are baptized in His Holy Name are brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of one Father, and members of His one household and family in heaven and on earth.  We mourn together with those who are bereaved, not without hope, but in the hope of the Resurrection.  And so do we also rejoice with one another as one Body in Christ Jesus.

The men and women we name before His Altar this morning, and the saints we remember with thanksgiving throughout the year — Apostles and Evangelists, St. Mary, and St. John the Baptist — they are all knit together with us, and we with them, in the Holy Communion.  Death has not severed that connection, nor is it even able to do so, since Christ our Lord is risen from the dead.

So, today, our confirmands affirm the pledge and promise of Baptism: They yet again renounce the devil, all his works, and all his ways, and confess their faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in whom alone true Life is found.  They would die before giving up that faith and confession, for there is no other God.  One is your Father.  One is your Teacher.  One is your Leader and Lord.

Even for these four young men, their day to die will come, whether sooner or later.  But, as also for those who have gone before us in the faith, even death wll not be able to end their gladness.

For now, they labor in love.  Then they shall enter their rest.  Either way, they are the Lord’s.

Their deeds do not lead the way, but Christ their Savior leads them; and their good deeds of faith and love quietly follow after Him.  Men are not impressed by such a life, but the Father in heaven is pleased with them and all His children for the sake of His Beloved Son.  Therefore, He gives to them the place of honor, to be seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenly places, even as they recline here at His Table in peace, and feast upon His Banquet, adorned with His garments of salvation.

So does He also wash your robes and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting.

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