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Holy Destruction: Holy God & His Holy Things

jeremiah-preaching-to-his-followers
“Jeremiah Preaching to His Followers” by Gustave Dore

Click here to listen to this sermon.

“The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that He has pronounced against you” (Jeremiah 26:12-13).

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Last week we continued our series, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” by remembering that God has set us Christians apart as His holy nation. Now, it would be nice to believe that we are immune to every danger, protected from every threat. Too bad. It’s not so. In fact, in our text today, we discover that God’s holy things, including His holy people, may face not only danger, but total destruction.

Set apart for destruction? What’s holy about that? Well, as always, God, who sets apart for holy purposes, has a holy purpose. That’s true even of “holy destruction,” because God’s destruction of holy things is always for salvation.

It was early in the reign of Jehoiakim, around 609 or 608 B.C. At the Lord’s command, Jeremiah was to repeat a message he had first delivered during the reign of Josiah. The message contained both a threat and a promise. The threat: If the people of Judah did not repent, the Lord’s house and city would end up like Shiloh.

Shiloh was one of the original places of Israel’s worship, where the ark of the covenant had been enshrined. But when the sacred chest has been degraded into a good-luck charm, it was captured by the Philistines, and the city was destroyed. Jeremiah warns that Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem is not immune either. It will suffer the same fate if the people persist in worshiping false gods. God’s holy things—even His holy city and His holy temple—are subject to destruction when His people repeatedly ignore His Word.

But it was not all bad news. God also made a solemn promise: If the people repented, God would not carry out His judgment. The Lord again displayed His great love and patience. He offered Judah and all its people another chance.

Jeremiah told the people exactly what God had commanded, for the message was not his, but the Lord’s. Duty to his calling, fear of the Lord, and love compelled him to deliver the whole message even though he feared it would be met with unwelcoming ears, minds, and hearts.

In his last words to the Ephesian elders, the apostle Paul confesses that this is the solemn duty of a man of God: “[You know] how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house… Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:20, 26–27). The only hope for Jeremiah’s listeners lay in knowing their true situation. And Jeremiah laid it all on the line.

The response of Jeremiah’s listeners, unfortunately, was predictable. Out of their hearts they spoke and acted. The Lord had rightly evaluated their hearts. They were wholly impenitent from top to bottom, from the priests and prophets to all the people. Without hesitation they arrested Jeremiah and declared: “You must die!”

The uproar reached the palace, the court of the king himself. The chief officers hurried from the palace and assembled to hear the case against Jeremiah. The priests and prophets and others sympathetic to them leveled the charge: “He has prophesied against this city” (v 11). They accused Jeremiah not of false doctrine or of being a false prophet, but of treason—a crime against the state.

Jeremiah tried to make it clear: Their problem was not really with him, but with the Lord: he was only the Lord’s messenger. They were furious with Jeremiah because he had convicted them of their sin. In their minds, it had to be Jeremiah who is in the wrong not they, so he should be silenced.

Many an impenitent sinner has acted in the same way toward one sent to call him to account for his sin. It is as Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22). The unbelieving world conspires to silence the call to repentance any way it can, for it will not face up to its sin.

Jeremiah did not flinch in the face of opposition. He answered his accusers directly, “Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears” (Jeremiah 26:14-15).

God’s holy things—even His holy city and His holy temple—are subject to destruction when His people repeatedly ignore or rebel against His Word.

In today’s Epistle, Paul speaks of the holy destruction of people, rather than places: “Many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19). In saying, “their god is their belly,” Paul means they are serving the appetites of their sinful human nature. It is shameful to do anything that contradicts God’s design for human life, but human arrogance reaches a point where it actually prides itself on such behavior and flaunts this attitude as though it were something of which to be proud.

Those who refuse to admit their guilt under the Law and therefore refuse to accept Jesus’ accursed death as the propitiation for their sins will meet destruction. Their bodies will certainly perish in time. Their souls are even now perishing under their contradiction of God’s salvation. If unchanged, they will suffer being cut off eternally from God in the lake of fire.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the destruction of those who persistently resist the Lord: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken” (Luke 13:34-35).

Israel’s status as God’s holy nation would not keep her from being overthrown. Jerusalem’s status as God’s holy city would not keep it from destruction. The temple’s status as the holy house of the Lord would not keep it from being torn down. As a result of their resistance to God’s love, their house will be left desolate. God’s holy things—even His holy city and His holy temple—are subject to destruction when His people repeatedly resist His Word.

Today’s lessons are each a warning to us that even we, God’s chosen people, His holy nation, are also subject to destruction if we resist His Word. Whole church bodies can be (and have been) left desolate by the Lord if they abandon His pure doctrine and practice. Congregations can be left to their own self-destruction if they fall into squabbles and infighting.

Each individual Christian can be destroyed by giving himself or herself over to sin. Even God’s holy people will struggle constantly against sin. (In fact, only God’s holy people struggle against sin, because the unbeliever is totally given over to sin, while the believer is both new person and old.) Sins like Judah’s pride, Paul’s examples of lusts for sex, pleasure, and earthly things, and the Jews’ self-messiahship can be especially entangling. If we refuse to heed God’s warning against these sins, we can forfeit our holy status and be destroyed eternally.

But even out of the wreckage, God can rebuild wondrous things. Out of the disaster, God brings something good.

Jeremiah’s call, even when it required prophesying destruction, was always ultimately to restore: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that He has pronounced against you” (Jeremiah 26:12-13).

Less than 40 years after Jesus spoke the words of our Gospel, Jerusalem was destroyed and its temple was leveled by the Romans—an act of God’s judgment upon the rebellious nation. Its people were scattered around the ancient world. Yet from Israel’s general rejection of Christ, God brought forth the New Testament holy nation, the new Israel, the Church, which includes both Jews and Gentiles.

When the visible church, the church of Rome, abandoned God’s pure doctrine and practice, God left it to its own desolate teachings, but raised up a new visible church on earth through the Reformation.

Even the “destruction” of the individual Christian, when the Church exercises discipline and removes him or her from its membership, is intended to—and indeed can—result in the soul’s salvation (1 Corinthians 5:5).

All of these “holy destructions” are able to bring blessings and restoration because of the destruction of God’s Holy One, Jesus Christ.

When Jesus cleansed the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers, His opponents asked Him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” He was speaking about His body.

Jesus’ death on the cross was a painful experience. Adding to the physical pain was the fact He had done nothing wrong. He had done nothing but help people all His life. Surely of all people, Jesus deserved to be destroyed least of all. But by the scheming of wicked men He was destroyed, and, amazingly, this was according to God’s holy plan.

Out of this destruction God brought the highest good. Three days after Jesus’ death, God raised Him from the dead. Because of His resurrection, we know that any destruction God works in our lives is only to bring us also eternal resurrection. The Lord “will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21).

Jeremiah showed his faith in the life to come as he warned his captors, “Behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears” (Jeremiah 26:14-15).

Jeremiah’s caution elicits no response in our text. But in the Passion-story the frenzied, fanatical crowd cries out, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). They, of course, meant, “We’ll take the consequences for killing Jesus—gladly. And for all we care, if there are any consequences left over, our children can experience them, too.”

The Gospel, of course, lay not in the curse the Jews of Christ’s day wished upon themselves but rather in the unintended and ironic blessing their words foreshadowed. Christ’s blood was on them and on their children—not in the damning sense they meant but in the saving sense God had in mind from eternity. As St. Paul reminds us, “We have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14). The blessings (not the consequences) of Christ’s blood are on all people, including Jeremiah’s enemies in our text as well as the frenzied, fanatical mob which had something quite different in mind when it voiced the blasphemous cry, “His blood be on us, and on our children.”

Because of Jesus’ holy destruction and resurrection, we can always cling to the same faith. Our sins are forgiven. The words of absolution are certain. Our Baptism remains. We can always repent with the absolute confidence that we will be welcomed back, restored to the status of God’s holy nation. We will not be destroyed eternally.

Jesus redeemed us, lost and condemned persons, purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that we may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, live and reigns to all eternity.

On the Last Day, Christ will return, not for our judgment, but He will raise us and all believers to everlasting life. He will gather all God’s children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and we will live with the Lord in His kingdom forever. This is most certainly true.

For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

jesus-laments-over-jerusalemClick here to listen to this sermon.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

I bet you can relate. You’ve heard it yourself. That drawn-out repeating of your name. Maybe accompanied with the sad shaking of a head. Preceded by a little sigh. “Robert, Robert” You understand instantly that you’ve probably disappointed someone.

Or maybe you’ve heard this variation. A little more drawn out, higher pitched, increasing in volume. “Robert! Robert!” Your mind is wandering, or you are otherwise distracted and someone needs to catch your attention.

We don’t see this happen very often in Scriptures, but when we do, it catches our attention, as it highlights a sense of urgency, true concern, or deep-felt emotion. Especially when it is used by God Himself.

For example, when Moses looked to see the burning bush, God called to him, “Moses! Moses!” (Exodus 3:4). Here the doubling of Moses’ name was meant to warn and to reveal. “Do not come near,” God said. “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

In 1 Samuel, we read how the boy was lying down in the temple when the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” to gain attention that He was calling him as a prophet (1 Samuel 3:10).

When she was too preoccupied with serving and had no time for hearing the Word in Bible class, Jesus admonished, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41).

And then there was the time a son of David hung on a tree, his body pierced three times, with wounds that cut him to the heart. Below him stood soldiers who surrounded him and struck him. And when the word of his death reached his father, King David cried out, “O my son Absalom, my son, My son Absalom!” (2 Samuel 18:33).

Do you hear the hurt and pain and sorrow? This is the same sort of lament Jesus makes as He sees before Him the city of God, the abandoned temple, the prophet-killing place: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it” (Luke 13:34).

Do you hear the heart of God in these words? The lament expresses His inmost desire. God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. It hurts Him more than we can ever imagine when His children reject Him and spurn His offer of grace and love.

Jerusalem—the city that kills prophets and stones apostles—how’s that for a nice slogan, a catchphrase for a publicity campaign? That would get people coming in by the droves, wouldn’t it? Especially prophets and apostles. But here we have a prophet, an apostle, purposely headed for that very city. One might think that He can’t be much of a prophet if He doesn’t realize the danger that He’s in. Even His enemies warn Him to stay away because “Herod wants to kill you.”

But this was the Prophet, the Apostle, the One sent by God to deliver His people from sin. Not only did He know of Herod’s plans, He knew the murderous hearts of the Pharisees. Jesus headed for the city, knowing full well that suffering, pain, and death lay ahead. Yet He went resolutely and willingly to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem itself had a sort of double identity. It hadn’t always been known as “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it” (Luke 13:34). Ironically, it had first been called “Salem,” the city of peace. Throughout Israel’s history, it was identified as the city of God. The Lord Himself referred to it as “my city.” And because it was the place where God had put His name, it was often called “the Holy City.”

With all the honor and favor that God had shown Jerusalem over the years, it should’ve been a leader in welcoming prophets and showing them honor. Instead, “the holy city” became known as the city that kills prophets and stones apostles. Their reputation for rejecting God’s messengers was so bad, even Jesus said in our text, “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). And so, the Lord Jesus announced, that after centuries of rejecting the Word of God and silencing His prophets, the day of grace had finally passed for Jerusalem. He would no longer visit in mercy, peace, and grace, but His advent would be one of judgment, dread, and desolation.

There comes a moment for the city that kills prophets and stones apostles… there comes a time for a congregation that casts out faithful pastors and drives away orthodox teachers… there comes an instant for an individual who lives in unrepentant sin, who continuously rejects the Word, or who absents himself from the Sacraments… there comes an hour when the time of repentance is past. That which the city, a congregation, or an individual seeks is suddenly realized.

That’s what had happened at the synagogue in Nazareth when those in attendance rose up and forced Jesus out of their midst. They sought to rid themselves of Him, and the result was that they no longer had Jesus among them.

Similarly, the people of the “holy city that kills prophets” will lead the Prophet Jesus outside the gates to a cursed place to be crucified. The City of God will remove the Son of God from their midst, and their ears, stopped by sin will not even hear Jesus’ lament on their behalf: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”

The congregation that silences the Word by rejecting faithful pastors, or that abandons the Word by listening to false shepherds will eventually get what they seek. Though they will still gather together, though they’re religious and zealous, they’ll no longer have a faithful pastor to feed and nurture them on Word and Sacrament, but rather a false pastor who is a wolf in shepherd’s clothing.

But the really frightening thing is this—those who depart generally don’t even know that this is taking place, and they’re not even able to hear the lament: “O Congregation, Congregation! … O Pastor, Pastor!”

If that’s possible to happen to the congregation or her pastor, it certainly also can happen to a member of the congregation—the individual who, either through being careless, taking offense, expressing sinful pride, or just plain ignoring God’s Word, neglects to come to the holy place where the Lord meets His people. Such an individual will discover, if not in this life, at the Last Day, that he has not heard the Lord’s Word of forgiveness and has no place at His banquet.

Now dear friends, be assured that this is not the way Jesus desires the city, the congregation, or the individual to be. But if any one of them is impenitent, then he, she, or it will suffer the divine consequences. They will hear those words of judgment: “You would not! Behold, your house is forsaken” (Luke 13:35).

This word “forsaken” in our text is another example of a type of doubling, because the same Greek word for “desolate or forsaken” is also the word for “forgiven or released.” Both have to do with leaving or separating. With the Holy Trinity there will always be a releasing or departure of one sort or the other. There will either be the releasing forgiveness of sins, or there’ll be forsakenness, the departure of God’s merciful and gracious Presence.

Let this be a serious reflection for every Christian. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are in Christ and Christ is in you. Indeed, since the Father and the Son are also One, you have the Holy Trinity living within you. The only way this can be is if you have been released from your sin, and your transgressions have been removed from you “as far as the east is from the west.”

This happened when you were baptized in His name for the “releasing,” that is, for the forgiveness of your sins. You remain the temple of God as you live in your baptismal grace by confessing your sins and hearing the Absolution—the Word of forgiveness—that is announced and applied to you. Christ is graciously within you as you commune at His table and feed on His body and blood.

No, the holy Lord and your sin cannot live together. Jesus bore it once when He died upon the cross. He does not bear being with it again. Though He is patient and longsuffering, there comes a time when Jesus says, “Either your sin is removed from you or I am. If you will not let Me release you from your sin, then I will not live with you. But even now, I seek to have you with Me, even as my Bride, the Church, seeks to keep you gathered under her wings.”

Dear friends, there is no salvation apart from Christ and no eternal life outside the Church, the Body of Christ. How sad and tragic it will be for those who’ve departed from God’s presence as they seek to do their own thing. How tragic it will be for those who justify themselves because of their good works done without God. How sad it will be for those who take God’s grace for granted or who look at His atoning death as a sort of spiritual “get out of jail free card” that entitles them to go on living in unrepentant sin.

How sad it will be, for then will come to pass what Jesus foretold, “On that day, many will say to [Him], ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23).

This same truth concerning the individual also applies to the congregation. In Revelation, Jesus warned the church in Ephesus, as it teetered on the edge of unbelief, that they had forsaken the sacrificial love of the Lord. The consequences of their corporate failure to repent would be that Christ would no longer remain with them. Jesus said it like this: “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5).

A congregation that permits false doctrine to be taught, and as a result, false practices to take place and even be promoted, will no longer be the holy place where people may enter into God’s gracious presence. Indeed, the Lord will depart from such a place as He did centuries ago.

For Jerusalem it was too late. The day of grace had passed. And from outside the city, Jesus’ lamentation was heard: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luke 13:34-35).

Yes, Jesus will return to Jerusalem. It will be on Palm Sunday as foretold by Zechariah. He’ll come as a king, “righteous and having salvation,” “humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:8).

Yes, Jesus will return also to the Temple in Jerusalem, when He leads the children in and they sing their hosannas to the Lord. But before He leaves the temple area, He’ll overturn the tables of the moneychangers and drive out those making His holy house of prayer into “a den of robbers.” He’ll heal the blind and the lame and teach all who will listen about the kingdom of God.

And a few days later, Christ will once more wind through the streets of the city that kills the prophets. As Simon of Cyrene helps to carry His cross, the Lord will turn to those women who mourn and wail for Him, and say, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”

You see, even in the midst of rejection and rebellion by His chosen people, Christ is still in control. No one takes His life. He lays it down of His own accord. Incredibly, He’ll use even Jerusalem’s penchant for killing the prophets to accomplish His good purposes, to bring His salvation, and to gather His chosen people under His protection and loving care.

The Son of David will hang on a tree, His body pierced three times, with wounds that cut Him to the heart. Below Him will stand soldiers who will surround Him and pierce Him. But His Father won’t lament His death as David did for his disobedient, rebellious son, Absalom. Rather, the heavenly Father will turn His back on His obedient Son, as He bears the sins of the entire world.

The haunting, repeating words will come from Jesus’ mouth instead: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). On that cross, Christ will suffer an eternity of God’s wrath, so that you and I might never be abandoned by God. So that you and I might be released from our sins. So that you and I might have eternal life.

By God’s grace, may we all be willing to repent of our sinful ways and be gathered together into Christ’s body, the church, like chicks gathered under a hen’s wings. Released from the bondage of our sin through Baptism and faith, may we never again depart from our Savior’s love. May we all rest in Christ’s forgiveness until the Last Day when we will say again, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” May God grant this to us all. Amen.

Now may the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Sermons, Uncategorized

Holy Nation: Holy God & His Holy Things

WordItOut-word-cloud-3662959Click here to listen to this sermon.

“And you shall make response before the Lord your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which You, O Lord, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 26:5-10).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Tonight, we continue our series, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” based upon our Old Testament readings during Lent. To be “holy” means to be set apart for a unique purpose. The One who is Himself “holy, holy, holy” is set apart from us as infinitely as heaven is above the earth. Yet, surprisingly our holy God wishes to be with us, to be close to us, and to that end He has set us apart as a people for Himself.

Moses gave instructions to the Israelites for the day when they settled in the Promised Land. At a place that the Lord would choose, the people were to bring the firstfruits of the land and give it to the priests. Right up front, the Lord wanted His people to give back to Him the first and best of what He’d given them, in anticipation of further providence and blessing down the road. Although Moses described them as “some of the firstfruits,” it was to be a widely distributed sample, some of the firstfruits “of all that you produce”—not just of fruits and vegetables, but also of sheep and cattle.

The Israelites will not have acquired this land by accident, nor by their own genius or military muscle. The covenant-Lord had spoken an oath to their fathers that He would give them this land, and He would do what He promised. This new land was an inheritance, something that belonged to them as His gift. It didn’t matter to God that there were still many other nations living in the land who didn’t wish to give it up. In the Lord’s eyes, and in the eyes of Moses, the land was already Israel’s inheritance, they were His holy nation.

It may seem out of place to have this reading during Lent. Lent is a time when we think of the dangers and perils to which we are exposed on our journey to the “promised land.” This text tells what the people of God are to do after they are safely settled in the Promised Land. But it’s always good when you’re on the journey to be reminded of the blessings ahead, what it will take to get you there, and the appropriate response when you finally arrive there.

The brief recital of Israelite history in verses 5 through 10 is similar to a creed or liturgy. As the Israelites offer the firstfruits of the land, they are to remember their ancestors, who had been landless and suffered countless hardships in Egypt before the Lord finally delivered them.

The men and women and children of each new generation could adopt these verses as their own confession of faith. Even though they hadn’t yet been born when the Lord had rescued His people from Egypt, they could identify with their fathers and grandfathers who’d seen the Lord’s mighty miracles and received the gift of the land.

God set had apart Israel as a holy nation from the time of Abram. “From [that] one man, and him as good as dead,” (Hebrews 11:12) God had built His people. They came from humble beginnings among the nations. They were few in number, homeless, and oppressed. It was only by God’s grace that they survived and became strong and numerous.

“A wandering Aramean was my father” refers to the patriarch Jacob who had lived for a while in the region of Aram (or Syria). He left Canaan because he had to flee for his life from his brother Esau (Genesis 27:41-45), lived in Aram until his uncle Laban came after him (Genesis 31:17-30), and finally relocated to Egypt to escape the famine (Genesis 46:1-7). Jacob’s extended family numbered only 70 sons and grandsons when they left Canaan (Genesis 46:27), but the Lord multiplied them into a people so large and powerful that the Egyptian pharaoh enslaved them because he feared they might join Egypt’s enemies (Exodus 1:6-14).

The Egyptians mistreated them and made them suffer with hard labor. It wasn’t only physical pain, but also humiliation that made their lives miserable. In their suffering they cried out to the God of their fathers.

When they cried to God for help, He brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror, and with miraculous signs and wonders. The miraculous signs and wonder included all the plagues the Lord inflicted on Egypt. Throughout the plagues, He made a distinction between His people and the Egyptians (Exodus 8:23), spearing the Israelites from the plagues of flies (Exodus 8:22), death of livestock (Exodus 9:4), hail (Exodus 9:26), and darkness (Exodus 10:23).

In the tenth and final plague, the Lord dealt differently with Israel in the most dramatic way. While He struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, “from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock” (Exodus 12:29), the Lord rescued all firstborn of Israel through the blood of the Passover lamb. “For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians,” Moses told Israel’s elders, “and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you” (Exodus 12:23).

This last plague caused such a great terror among the Egyptians that they “were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, ‘We shall all be dead’” (Exodus 12:33). The Lord carried out these miraculous signs and wonders to bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt (Exodus 12:12), so the Egyptians would know that He was the Lord (Exodus 7:5), and so His name would be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:16).

The Lord would bring the people of Israel into their own land flowing with milk and honey. He would make them into His holy nation, not because of their merit or worthiness, but because of His mercy and grace. As Moses explained earlier in Deuteronomy:

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6–8).

The Lord would bring His people out of the misery and oppression of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into His Promised Land, a land filled with good cities they did not build, a houses filled with things they did not work for, cisterns they did not dig, vineyards they did not plant, a land flowing with milk and honey. And the people are encouraged to believe this, even as they wander in the wilderness. And they are cautioned, that when they do receive all these things, not to forget this. In response to their deliverance, they are to bow before the Lord and bring Him the firstfruits of the land.

Ultimately, the greatest gift the land will provide is the Messiah. The prophets of the Lord are clear. The Messiah must be born in the Promised Land. Thus, we see how important this small piece of property becomes. Its true value is in the gift of Jesus, who will provide His blood and very life to endow all people with forgiveness and everlasting life for His children.

St. Peter reminds us that, like Israel, God has set apart us Christians as a holy nation as well: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Like the Israelites, we are also of unremarkable origin among the nations of the world. Paul tells the Corinthians:

“Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

This has been true throughout history. There is nothing special in us that caught God’s eye or earned His favor. He saved us solely out of His goodness and mercy without any merit worthiness on our part. He called us to be His people, His holy nation. He did it all! The Lord’s outstretched arm, signs, and wonders set us apart from the sinful world as holy.

We are set apart as holy by the forgiveness Jesus earned when He literally stretched out His arms on the cross to save us. In His resurrection, Christ gives us the greatest of His miraculous signs, proof that He is the Son of God, that His Word is true, that the Father has accepted His sacrifice for our sins, and that we, too, shall rise.

God’s mighty acts continue through His ministers and means of grace: The Gospel proclaimed and carried out is powerful beyond any earthly might. In Holy Baptism, God gives us His Holy Spirit, He delivers us from the bondage of sin, promises us an inheritance in God’s heavenly land, and declares us saints even now. The Lord sustains us in holiness as He gives us His very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.

As the people of God, we do not live with amnesia about the past. The remembrance of God’s saving acts gives us our identity. Because this identity is a gift, we live lives of gratitude expressed in acts of worship and obedience. Our thankful recollections for God’s saving acts compel us to bring gifts to Him. These gifts will also be of benefit to the Church and to the needy.

In response to God’s deliverance, we bring Him gifts and worship Him. Truth be told, we give Him what was always His in the first place. We are simply stewards of His creation and gifts. The worship we bring is simply receiving His Word and speaking it back to Him. The good works that we do for our neighbors were prepared by Him beforehand.

Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy. You are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Holy Assembly: Holy God & His Holy Things

Ash WednesdayClick here to listen to this sermon.

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people (Joel 2:12-15).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

We find our identity is very much tied to our family—for better or worse. Healthy families do lots of different things together that bind them as family. Some families work together. Other families play together. But one of the things that binds together families the most is when they gather to share a meal. Hence, those family meals at Christmas, and at Easter, at Thanksgiving, and at other holidays, birthdays, and so on. When we gather together and we experience something as a group, it is far more profound than to do something or experience something by ourselves as individuals. That is why God gave family to begin with, with Adam and Eve and their children. Families are a great gift of God!

We come to problems, though, when we begin to see our family as the end itself. Like other great gifts of God, we can turn our families into idols, putting them ahead even of our relationship with God. We can so easily forget that we’re really part of a bigger family, the family of God, the people of God gathered around the holy things of God—His Word and Sacrament.

You and I are a part of the wonderful thing known as the Church, and we are family who gather around this central focus point where God gathers us and calls us. And it is this shared experience and shared journey that defines us as family.

What is a family all about? Your earthly family at home is about nurture and encouragement and love and support; but let’s be honest: it can also be a place of pain and sorrow and brokenness because of sin. Arguments and disagreements arise between spouses and between parents and children. Unresolved conflicts fester. And there is still all that history that has shapes us for better or for worse.

It is no different in this communion of saints of which you and I are a part. We come here also with a great amount of baggage, not much different than any family. What are we a part of? That is the interesting thing about family.

Looking at your own family, there are perhaps some of your siblings who kind of skirt along the outside of the family perimeter either because of some past perceived slight or sin or some present offense that keeps them at arm’s length, or they don’t really want to involve themselves. Or maybe it’s just because of the rest of the family is highly dysfunctional! Who knows?

This is where dysfunctional people gather, isn’t it? This is where dysfunctional families gather. This is where imperfect husbands come for repentance and forgiveness and imperfect wives come for repentance and forgiveness. This is where children who did not honor their parents come for repentance and forgiveness. And parents who laid such high and lofty goals and expectations come for repentance and forgiveness. This is where brothers and sisters who have not always put the best construction on things with other brothers or sisters come for repentance and forgiveness, as well.

In the Old Testament text, Joel was exhorted by God to gather all the people: the elders, the children, even nursing infants, the bridegroom and his bride. No one is to be excluded from this holy assembly, this family get-together. That’s no different than it is at your home, is it? You want everybody to be there, from grandpa and grandma to the newborn, gathered around that table to rejoice, and to sometimes talk and discuss, to give blessing and to receive blessing.

In coming here to this holy assembly, we come as people set apart from the world of which we are merely pilgrims and wanderers, and who are not, though the temptation is great, setting roots in this world. Our Lord Jesus makes that very clear in the Gospel: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He exhorts us to lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven. But is that exhortation only for you and Jesus, or is that exhortation for you as a brother to encourage someone else, as a sister to someone else, as a father or mother in the faith to someone else?

When it comes right down to it, there is only one thing we can bring with us beyond this life—that is our fellow believers, our loved ones in the family of God. And we need to repent, for we haven’t always put the best construction on the actions and words of others within this holy assembly. We have not given grace as much as we’ve expected it from others within our communion of saints here. We have not been willing to step up and encourage one another as fellow redeemed in this solemn assembly whom God has called together, whom He has marked as dust to remind us that we are all the same and that there is only one hope.

The dynamics of family life are fascinating to watch, aren’t they? Moms and dads get stuck in a rut of viewing their children still as children and not as adults, forgetting they have made great strides and accomplishments. Even though they’ve grown up and moved out, they still see them as kids. And the kids can so easily forget that their parents have gone through life and are wise, imperfect though they may be, but at least wise in experience. They’re not always ready to listen to their elders. Sisters and brothers vie for attention and for those accolades from parents, and are still seeking it even though they have their own children.

These kinds of dynamics occur within a parish family, too. In any parish family, there are those who have longstanding status in that parish family and those who are newcomers. This can prove to be a challenge. There is not always a great nurturing of newcomers by the longstanding ones. There isn’t always an appreciation by new individuals within the parish family for the traditions that the longstanding ones have established, the achievements they have sweat for, and challenges they have sacrificed to overcome.

Sometimes the congregation can be seen merely as a way station and not an investment of our heart. But in a normal and healthy family, you have to sacrifice and give of your emotion in order for it to be a healthy family. You have to do it in a church family as well. And just like you may have gotten burned in your own family, you will get burned in a church family. But that is the nucleus around which God has deemed us as His children to gather.

We are not to neglect the communion of saints to which we have been called. And yet there are those who have, and our job is to call them back to the family. We are to invite them back, bring them back, encourage them back. And those who are still licking wounds of years gone by, we are to help them bind up their wounds, receive forgiveness, and grow forward.

Satan’s desire is to splinter God’s family, not only ones in your own home and house, but in this house, too. And he wishes to splinter it by creating individuals and depressing the concept of belonging to something bigger than individual. Why do people drift away from the church? Because Satan has gotten them to thinking that they don’t need this communion of saints, or they’re too sinful, or that we’re too hypocritical. Satan is a prowling lion, and he wishes to split you off from the herd, because that makes you more vulnerable to his attacks.

You, by virtue of your baptism, have been born into a family that you didn’t choose, but you will spend eternity with. What a great a comfort! As you and I gather in this holy assembly to commune, we are confessing that we will spend eternity with them. And we are saying, “This is my family. Dysfunctional, sin-scarred though it may be, this is my family, and I declare my allegiance to my family, and I will be a good member of my family, faithful and not on the fringe.”

But this is profoundly above and beyond that analogy. That is why Joel was encouraged by God to tell the people to gather together. “Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, and make not Your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations.”

We repent. We reflect upon our own sin and our mortality: “From dust you came and from dust you shall return.” And we remember the promised Seed of the Woman, who would crush the serpent’s head, who would defeat sin, death, and Satan with His atoning sacrifice. That is what we do when we gather here on Ash Wednesday. That is our life every day, a life of repentance. And it’s not that one needs to repent more than the other. We all need it the same.

That is why gather in this holy assembly. Here, we all come to hear the same Word of God—the Law that shows us our sins and our need for repentance. And the Gospel, that tells us how God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus lived the perfect life that you and I could not live. Jesus died to pay the penalty for the sins of the world—your sins and my sins. Jesus rose again from the grave giving us the certain hope of our own resurrection to eternal life.

This is why we gather together in this holy assembly. That is why we come to hear the same absolution from the mouth of God’s called and ordained servant. That’s why we join together in the liturgy and singing the great Lenten hymns. That’s why we all come here and kneel at the same altar to receive this same body and blood with the bread and wine, that we may feed upon the same thing that binds us as the Body of Christ…the Body of Christ! How profound that the very thing upon which we feed is the very thing we are and are knit together in.

That is laying up treasures for yourself in heaven. It’s returning to the only place where you are family, and that which binds you as family shall not be severed by death, by divorce, by abandonment, by hurt feelings, and by pains of differences that are on an earthly level and not on a spiritual plane. Here is where we return to be bound up and unified again in this family. And just as it is a very big sin within your own earthly family to miss a big family gathering and meal, and just as it is as affirming and unifying to be at that meal, so it is here.

Obviously, not everyone is here tonight. That is why, as we leave here tonight, forgiven and refreshed, we go out in faith in God and in service to our neighbor. We go to be a good family member, loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, them and encouraging them to come back to the family gathering, back to Bible study and Sunday school, back to church and the holy assembly of God.

For here, in this holy assembly, is where we lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Here, we build up one another in the faith and admonition of the Lord. Here, our Lord calls us to repentance that we might confess our sins and receive His absolution. Here, our Lord promises to be with His good gifts—forgiveness salvation, and eternal life.

Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your brothers and sister joyfully. For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Preparing for Departure

moses-sees-the-promised-land-from-afar.jpg!LargeClick here to listen to this sermon.

“And behold, two men were talking with [Jesus], Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Moses’ long life was marked with mountaintop experiences. At the age of eighty, God spoke to him out of the burning bush on Horeb, the mountain of God, and called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1ff). On Mount Sinai, the Lord spoke to Moses out of the thick cloud and gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19-20). When Moses came down from the mountain, the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God (Exodus 34:29-35).

In today’s Old Testament reading, Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. The mountain traditionally identified as Mount Nebo is located about 12 miles east of where the Jordan River enters the Dead Sea, and it rises more than 2,600 feet about sea level. The Dead Sea is the lowest spot in the world, 1,300 feet below sea level. What a dramatic view the Lord gave of this land that Moses longed to see for many years!

By inviting Moses to view the extent of the land, the Lord showed one last act of kindness to this special leader of His people. But maybe it was more than that. Biblical precept, as well as later Roman law, let a man view land he was about to possess. Perhaps this was the Lord’s way of giving Moses a legal guarantee that the men and women he led for so long would really inherit the land, though he would die before it happened.

The Lord had a far better promised land in mind for Moses. The writer to the Hebrews included Moses among the believers from the Old Testament era who saw the Lord’s promises fulfilled by faith, not by sight:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11:13,16).

The account of Moses’ death is simple but mysterious: “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-Peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).

The final measure of Moses’ long life was that he was the Lord’s servant. What better epitaph could be placed under a man of God’s name on his tombstone than “Servant of the Lord!” As Jesus defines true greatness for His disciples: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).

Regarding Moses’ departure, there is much mystery. It’s not clear whether we should translate “He buried him” or “He was buried.” Some have proposed that the Lord Himself buried Moses; that’s possible, but it can’t be proved definitively by the text. There’s an additional air of mystery in the words, “no one knows the place of his burial to this day.” If the Lord buried Moses, some have suggested that his body may not have suffered the physical decay that unavoidably follows death. In his epistle, Jude makes a passing reference to a dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil over Moses’ body (Jude 9). According to legend, when Moses died (by the kiss of God), the Lord delegated Michael to bury his body, but the devil tried to claim the body for himself. At least one version of the legend adds that Moses’ body was later “assumed” into heaven, accompanied by angels.

However intriguing this notion may be, we can’t speak with certainty. And anyway, Moses also wrote Psalm 90, and it’s more likely that the death he described as the common experience of all people was what he suffered too:

You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away (Psalm 90:3,5,6,10).

Moses lived well beyond eighty years. Yet even at 120 years, his eyesight was keen and his physical strength unimpaired up until the day that he died.

Moses’ service to the Lord was unique because he enjoyed a more intimate relationship with the Lord than any Old Testament prophet before or after him. “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). The Lord explained this special relationship to Moses and Aaron:

If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all My house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord” (Numbers 12:6–8a).

Before his departure, Moses spoke of a prophet who was to come: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to Him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Little did Moses realize that the climb to the top of the mountain on the day of his death would be the precursor of another climb up another mountain to proclaim the departure of that even greater Prophet for the salvation of the human race.

That’s where we find him in our Gospel. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John along as He goes up onto a mountain to pray. As Jesus prays, He is transfigured and appears in heavenly glory. Moses and Elijah appear and speak with Him. We don’t know much about the specifics of the conversation. Luke doesn’t give us a verbatim account, but he does tell us they spoke concerning “His departure.” The Greek brings more to mind. They talked about His “exodus.”

This was not the first time Jesus talked about His departure in Jerusalem. Earlier in the same chapter Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection (9:21-22). He also spoke about the death of all who would follow Him (9:23-25). The connection between these departures and the Old Testament Exodus are obvious and worth noting. As God’s central act of deliverance before Jesus, the Exodus from Egypt meant liberation from bondage and hope for a future. Jesus’ departure in Jerusalem accomplished this and more for all who depart in faith in Him.

Which brings us back to the conversation on the mountain on the day of Transfiguration. What do you suppose that Jesus spoke about with the prophets? While we can’t be sure, I think that we can imagine the types of things they may have discussed. Perhaps Jesus told them about the difficulties He was preparing to endure in His passion. Maybe they asked Jesus how He was going to do it.

Perhaps Jesus was telling them about how the disciples—including the three with Him—would all run away. About how they would promise to stay with Him, but then how their fears would rise up and about how He would suffer alone.

Perhaps Jesus was telling them about why He was willing to endure the coming sufferings: Maybe He spoke of His love for creation, His love for all people, His great desire to restore all things. Maybe He let Moses and Elijah in on the secret—that by dying and rising He would conquer death for all time. Maybe Jesus was helping the two of them see this had been His plan from the beginning and how they (Moses and Elijah) were part of a much larger story.

Or perhaps Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah about how His departure—His death and resurrection—would affect our departure.

Most of us probably do not like to think about our own departure—our exodus—very often. We are too busy living to spend much time thinking about dying. But death has a way of forcing its way into the conversation. Sometimes it sneaks up on us suddenly; other times it lingers, slowly sapping life away. A few, like Moses enjoy a long vigorous life. But death always enters the picture.

Which makes this Sunday a good opportunity to prepare to not only enter the season of Lent, but also to die well. In three short days, we will be reflecting especially on our own death on Ash Wednesday.

As your pastor, my most important duty is to make sure you are ready for the day of your death. So, I must ask you: Are you prepared for your departure?

I’m not talking the practical aspects of getting your day-to-day affairs in order like purchasing enough life insurance, updating your will, or pre-planning your funeral. Those are all important details, especially for your loved one, but they’re not near as important as having your spiritual affairs all in order.

Death is inevitable. You and I must prepare for death, so we may meet it without fear and the danger of eternal ruin. It is a sad truth that we can get so wrapped up in ourselves and the attainment of our own goals, that we not only fail to take our coming death into account, but actually invite God’s wrath by the way we act and live. And day by day, month by month, year by year, we think and talk and live having no concern for the eternal consequences. And one day it’s too late.

The hard truth is: We are not able to make the preparations necessary to enter into the promised land of heaven and into the eternal Paradise that God wants us to have in His presence. Each one of us is a sinful human being who daily sins much in thought, word, and deed… by what we do and by what don’t do… by what we say and what we don’t say… by what we think and what we don’t think. Hour after hour, week after week, year after year, the burden of sin builds and there is terror as we consider what we deserve from the holy, just, righteous God. No, the Lord God must make all the preparations if we are to be with Him forever.

The Good News to you this day is this: God has done it. God the Father sent His Son into this world to take your place on the cross by enduring the penalty for your sinfulness and for all your sins… every one of them. With His holy precious blood, His innocent suffering and death, Jesus has made all the preparations for your departure from this life and into the promised land of heaven.

God baptized you into His death on the cross and your death became His death and His death became your death. You died on the day of your Baptism. You were crucified with Christ and from that moment on, it was no longer you have lived but Christ living in you; and the life which you live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself up for you (Galatians 2:20). On the day of your Baptism, the Lord was preparing you for your departure.

Please remember, the Lord God must make all the preparations if we are be with Him forever. The Good News to you this day is this: God has done it. In order to accomplish your salvation, Jesus rose again from the dead on the third day. Neither death nor devil nor grave could hold Him. He has defeated them for you.

God granted you your first resurrection when He baptized you with water and the Word. You were buried with Christ through Baptism into death, that just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so you also have walked in newness of life from that moment (Romans 6:4). On the day of your Baptism, the Lord was preparing you for your departure from this world, for your own resurrection, and for eternal life in His presence.

The eternal blessings of God because of His Son’s life, death, and resurrection are yours by faith in Christ. Salvation is by God’s gift of faith and not by mans’ good deeds. Faith itself is God’s work that the Holy Spirit gives through the Word. The Lord works faith in your heart as you hear the proclamation of the Gospel. God grants you faith to believe in Him.

The Lord, through Word and Sacrament, sustains and strengthens the faith that He began in you throughout your life. As you receive the very body and blood of your Lord Jesus Christ, you are strengthened in faith toward God and in service to your neighbor. Each time you leave, fully prepared for your departure, that is, to depart in peace, knowing that for Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.