Faith Lutheran Church Desboro


Gardener Father

Ezekiel 17:22-24. ESV
The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

16/06/24




Eddie O’Hare was a good father. Eddie O’Hare wanted the best for his son. But, for most of his life, it sure did not look that way. In the 1920’s, they called him Artful Eddie: an accomplice of the notorious gangster, Al Capone. Living off the profits of organized crime, Eddie became a wealthy man: his family lived the high life. Then came the day when he went to the police and informed on Capone. There would be a high price to pay for squealing—for turning against a crime boss. He knew it. But Artful Eddie took the risk. He didn’t want his son to grow up in the Mafia. He wanted to be a good role model for his son. So, with his life, Artful Eddie paid the ultimate price. Capone’s men gunned him down: two shotgun blasts.


And, his sacrifice did help his son, named Butch. He enrolled in the U. S. Naval Academy. In World War II while serving as a pilot, Butch O’Hare was the first to be awarded the Medal of Honour. What’s more, Chicago named its airport after Eddie’s son. The busiest airport in America bears his name: O’Hare International Airport—all because his father gave his life for his son.


Flawed Fathers


We may try hard. But we all know that fathers are not perfect. Fathers may try to throw their weight around. “Do what I say... Why? Because I’m your Dad, that’s why.” Have any of you fathers ever used that line on your children? Fathers don’t always know best. And, that goes for all of us: whether we are a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife or worker. God the Father, He knows best.


Do our actions show that? Do we trust that God our heavenly Father is looking after us? Do we fret and worry about the future? Or do we confess with a heart filled with peace that God is in charge of our future? You have a heavenly Father who loves you. Do we hide our faith in Jesus and refuse to spread the seed of His Word in our daily conversations with others? Or do we have confidence that God uses us to tell the good news of salvation to others? You have a heavenly Father who takes care of you everyday. Have we convinced ourselves that the Church grows by our efforts—without us, the church will surely fail? Or do we believe that God the Holy Spirit makes His Church grow like a mustard seed where and when He pleases in the hearts of those who believe the Gospel (AC V:2)? Does it all depend on us? No. God leads us to repent. Our Gardener Father wisely tends the garden of His Church. He promises, “I have spoken and I will do it” (v. 24).


Master Gardener


God the Father loves us. Your Father in heaven provides for you here and in eternity. The Heavenly Father gave up His only Son to prepare an eternity for us in heaven. Ezekiel’s prophecy today speaks of Christ, the Messiah. Jesus is the tender top of the great cedar, broken off to become a noble cedar tree, the refuge of all sorts of birds. Jesus was born in the humble town of Bethlehem, laid on the hay of a lowly manger for us: a tiny beginning for the Son of God. For us and all the world, this Child, a branch of the house of David, lived a blameless life under the watchful care of His heavenly Father. Like a flourishing, green tree at the age of thirty-three, Christ was nailed to the tree of the cross. Life ebbed away. Like a tree dried and dead, Christ was laid low in the tomb. Three days later, flourishing with life, the Father raised His Son from the dead, the tree of life for all nations. Like birds of every kind nesting in the branches of a great tree (v. 23), people from every part of the world find a place in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus. Baptized believers find shelter forever in Christ. The Lord promises, “I have spoken and I will do it” (v. 24). That’s God the Gardener at work.


God The Father Gives The Growth


Martin Luther teaches us, “The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer” (SC III:7). The Church grows by His power: “I have spoken and I will do it” (v. 24). The Lord Himself makes the seed grow—the farmer can’t say how. God’s kingdom has grown from a very tiny seed, quite humble beginnings, into a great tree. Adam and Eve trusted God’s promise of a Saviour and passed that ancient faith down through the patriarchs: to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and David. God did this! Hope in God’s Messiah was preserved through the time of exile in Babylon until the time when John the Baptist was born. God did this! Twelve Apostles preached Christ crucified, and spread this faith across the world to an obscure Monk in Wittenberg, named Martin Luther. God did this! Over the sea, from Europe to Desboro, the Christian faith has come to us and taken root in our hearts and lives. Did we do this? No. God did this!


From small beginnings, the Church now fills the world. The mustard seed has taken root and grown into a large tree where the birds nest in its shade. Although God’s kingdom comes by itself, “we pray that it may come among us also” (SC III:7). “...our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity” (SC III:8). Like birds nesting in the shade of a great tree, we are also a part of this one holy Christian Church. We have God, our loving Father to thank for this. He promises, “I have spoken and I will do it” (v. 24).


Faith trusts in God our heavenly Father: He makes us grow. We have life to the full. Forever. He has spoken. He will do it.
Amen







Originals

Genesis 3:8-15. ESV
The Third Sunday After Pentecost

09/06/24



She got a great deal on a bluetooth speaker! That online deal was amazing: less than half the cost for the same Sony speaker everywhere else! Until that deal was delivered to her doorstep: she opened the box to find a state-of-the-art “Sorny” bluetooth speaker. The imitation passed itself off as the original. Sadly, this company did not accept returns. So, she tried it out. While this speaker sounded okay, she kept thinking of Sony’s advertizing slogan: “Like no other.”


He couldn’t believe his luck! There was only one left on the shelf: a high-end Seiko watch for only a few dollars! Rather than let this one get away, he bought it. Right there. On the spot. Only to find out later that day, this was no original, but a knock-off! He learned the true identity of this timepiece when he read “Seikou” inscribed on the face of the watch.


We pay more for the originals. We highly value the inventors, the trail-blazers, the ones who come first. The origin of the idea, the source of fresh and novel thought—the original creation grabs our respect like no other.


God’s Word appointed for today records for us the originals: original sin and original Gospel. Today, we hear the beginning, the Genesis, the origin and root cause: the first disobedience of the first human beings against God. That origin story changed everything. Today, we hear the beginning, the Genesis, the origin and effective cause to wipe away the sins of the world: the first promise from the loving heart of God to destroy evil and its effects, and to work salvation for the first human beings and all their descendants through the firstborn Son of God the heavenly Father. Original sin. Original Gospel. Sacred Scripture gives us the originals.


Bite


It started with one bite. Even before the teeth of Eve bit into the fruit that Almighty God said, “Do not eat it,” before that first act of disobeying, the mouth-watering morsel of doing the very thing God said not to do was served up to Eve on the platter of the serpent’s temptation. Looked good: colourful, juicy, sweet! Sounded good: to be wise, like God is wise. Satan served up the lie. Eve bit. Then Adam. The serpent succeeded: the first people swallowed the temptation to ignore God, refusing to listen to His Word, breaking His commandment. All it took was one bite. Original sin entered the world, entered the first humans, then passed down to all their descendants. Satan’s fangs inflicted the bite: sin, death, hell.


Blame


Then, came the blame. The signs and symptoms of sin showed right away: original infection of rebellion against God flowing  through their veins. Sin showed as they refused to take responsibility for their actions. Blaming each other. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. We sin by throwing other people under the bus.


The boss yells at you—and you pin your mistakes on a co-worker. Mom yells at her son for writing on the walls—he gets mad and kicks the cat. You’ve been caught in a lie—you blame it on somebody else. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, hid in the garden so God wouldn’t find them, would not see the shame of their sin. Like them, we deal with our guilt by seeking to shift the blame to others. To hide from our sin. To cover it, instead of to confess it. But, original sin has consequences. The effects of that first disobedience brought curses: the slithering serpent; back-breaking labour; painful childbirth; conflict between husbands and wives. Like that couple in Eden’s bushes, original sin leaves us naked and afraid.


Blessing


Right in the middle of this storm of curses, God blesses! Genesis 3:15 is the first Gospel: hope in the midst of despair. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Here, God promises to send a Champion to defeat the original enemy. Eve’s Offspring, Jesus the Christ, will defeat the deceiver of all mankind. Where Eve, Adam, and each of us have failed, and caved in to Satan’s temptations, the Lord has raised up a Saviour for us from the family tree of Eve. In this promise of a Saviour, Eve, Adam, and all believers throughout the ages have trusted and were saved: the first Gospel.


How? By His cross! The promised Descendant of Eve, Jesus the Christ, did not try to charm the satanic serpent, seductively swaying back and forth, singing hypnotic, enchanting songs. Satan cannot be tamed. The promised Descendant of Eve, Jesus the Christ, did not engage the serpent in a war of words, debating the devil with clever speech, or a slick sales pitch, the way that Satan deceived Eve. No. Jesus stomps his head (ףש).

The snake dies.


The hiss of the serpent’s accusations against all mankind is silenced by Christ. Satan’s power over us is sin. Sin’s power comes from the Law (I Corinthians 15:6). But, Jesus has taken our sins from us, and taken those sins upon Himself, taking away the devil’s power over us. For us, who have disobeyed the Law of God, Jesus was obedient to that Law. His righteousness is ours through the faith given to us in our Baptisms, and strengthened by our Lord here in Holy Communion. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8). The promised Descendant of Eve, Jesus the Christ, came to bring His heel down on the head of the serpent. Head crusher! Jesus takes away the devil’s words: words that tempt us to sin; words that truly accuse us with our guilt. Christ silences the devil’s damning words. Original Gospel!


Stepping on snakes is dangerous. The Saviour who crushed the serpent’s head was bit on the heel. Jesus suffered this mortal injury on the cross. Hands and heels nailed to the Jerusalem cross, Christ fulfilled God’s original promise: crushing Satan, and so releasing the devil’s grip on mankind. In this strange and awesome strife (LSB 463:3)—the ultimate conflict of good versus evil, Jesus died. His body buried in a tomb. More than a wound on the heel, you might say. Except that death could not hold Him. The dear Saviour promised by God the Father rose to live again. His life is our hope. Since He lives, we shall live also (St. John 14:19).


Light in darkness. Blessing from God despite the curse of our sins. Eve and Adam trusted in the Saviour God would send and they were saved. We trust in the Saviour God has sent, Jesus the Christ, and we are saved. Original Gospel!


Amen







Now, For The Rest

Deuteronomy 5:12-15. ESV
The Second Sunday After Pentecost

02/06/24.



The groom was late. In the summer of 1995 in Lloydminster, Alberta, I was in the church office putting the finishing touches on a sermon for the next day. In the meeting room two doors down, the bride fretted. She was decked out in bridal splendour, accompanied by her attendants: bridesmaids and maid of honour. While the organ played, the church was filled with guests, the other Pastor was vested, ready for the wedding nuptials to begin. I walked down the hall to check on the wedding party. The bride was getting frantic: where was her fiancé? In the days before cell phones were common, no one had called the church office. He should have been there long before. At ten minutes past the hour, she joked that he now had cold feet, and had changed his mind about getting married. By twenty minutes past the start time for the service, the bride began to panic. Surely we would have heard from him by now. Something terrible must have happened: only a car accident could have made him this late! How relieved everyone was at twenty-three minutes after two o’clock when the groom came through the door of the church with his ushers and best man. What happened? Car broke down! Once it finally started, the men made a break for the church. Now the service could begin.


The bride needs to be with her groom. The Church is the bride of Christ: that’s you and me. Jesus Christ is the heavenly Bridegroom of the Church (St. Matthew 25:1-13; Ephesians 5:22-32; Revelation 19:7-9). Love between bride and groom makes them yearn to be together. Every day, in our personal and family devotions, the bride hears the voice of the Groom. Jesus speaks His undying love to us in the Bible. At least one day out of seven, we gather here, in God’s house to be with our dear Lord. Jesus speaks to us in His Word. Jesus feeds us with His Sacraments. The Groom’s forgiving voice gives the bride a peace that she cannot find in the world. The Groom feeds her with renewed faith, hope and love: with Himself. Rest for our souls. Now, for the rest!


One day of rest out seven. God designed our weeks from the beginning, from creation. The Almighty Father created all things in the universe out of nothing simply by the power of His Word. Six working days. Then a day of rest. Not because He was tired. On the Sabbath day, the Almighty contemplated His work well done: the perfection of creation before sin entered to wreck it all. On the day of rest, the Creator enjoyed harmonious fellowship with all that He created, especially with the crown of His creation: Adam and Eve. That’s a picture of heaven! The unending unity of angels and saints before God in heaven without the guilt of sin nor the burden of work: in heaven, the bride of Christ is united forever with her Beloved—to rest in peace. Looking forward to heaven, God commands us to observe a day of rest away from our work in His house: one day out of seven.


What if we miss it? When God lays down the rule in His commandment, immediately exceptions to the rule arise. Healing the sick on the Sabbath? Plucking heads of grain to feed the hungry? Should you gather with God’s people in Church if you have been struck with a contagious disease? What if your house catches on fire when you are pulling out of the driveway to go to Church? Does the third commandment keep you from herding the cattle off the highway and back into the field if they have broken down the fence on Sunday morning? What if your donkey falls into a pit on the Sabbath? What becomes of the day of rest? Need and necessity. Emergency. Unpredictable urgencies pop up unplanned and must be dealt with. The weekly flow of work and worship can be disrupted by emergencies that must be sorted out. The Law of God also commands us to care for our neighbour’s property and bodily health.


How easily everything can become an emergency! How one Sunday away from the Lord’s gracious blessing in Church can turn into two, three, one month, one year. Oh, has it been that long? Even with good reason, missing the Sunday rest of our Lord’s presence here in His Word and Sacraments, harms our souls. We need quality time with our dearly Beloved, Christ our Lord. Without the rest He provides for our souls, we never get a break from work, from the demands of God’s Law, from the relentless rule of our consciences as they are burdened by sin. Like Israel in Egypt.


Slavery.


We love the Lord Jesus because He sets us free. The Sabbath rest started in creation, when God rested on the seventh day. After the Exodus, God renewed His day of rest for His ancient people, Israel. Centuries of hard labour while they worked as slaves in Egypt made them cry out to be free. The Lord worked to free His people, bringing them out of captivity, safely through the Red Sea waters, and into the Promised land of Canaan. Because the Lord worked to save His people, they could rest their souls in Him.


We love the Lord Jesus because He sets us free. Not from Egyptian slave drivers, but from the slavish demands of the commandments with their ceaseless accusations. All people are enslaved to sin’s demands. We are unable to free ourselves. Jesus submitted to the guilt of the world’s sin when He was nailed to the cross. By dying in our place, He set us free. The exhaustion of sin ends with His absolution, His word of forgiveness to free our souls. We rest in Christ.


Now, for the rest. We are not slaves to time. We can take a day of rest because the Lord is always working. This day of rest is not a duty we must pay: not a tribute of time, one day out of seven, to give back to God. This day of rest is time for our gracious God to bless us with His gifts: forgiveness, life and salvation that set us at rest, in both body and soul.


A man driving through Pennsylvania saw a large field of donkeys. When he asked about these donkeys, he found out that the animals worked all week in the mine below ground. They needed to be brought up every Sunday so that they wouldn’t go blind.


We are not donkeys. But, some weeks, it feels like we have spent our days down in the mines. After we struggle in this dark and hectic world all week, we also need to come to the Son, at least once a week and let Him fill us with the rays of new light.


Here and now, is the rest.
Amen








Holy! Holy! Holy!

Isaiah 6:1-8. ESV
The Festival Of The Holy Trinity

26/05/24



When you sit down here in church to listen to the sermon, concerns from daily life in the world come with you: weighing on your heart; occupying your mind. From the Word of God, you listen to hear direction from the Lord: answers to questions like:


How can I get along with my wife, or my husband?
How can I get the kids to behave, to do well in school?
How can I do well and advance in my work?
How can I be healthy and happy?


Today we hear the Old Testament reading: Isaiah chapter six. A vision of God! Angels and seraphim! Smoke of incense! Noises of heaven itself. Holy! Holy! Holy! This is nothing at all like daily life. Sounds like something so heavenly minded, it’s no earthly good.


Or is it?


Actually, what could be more practical for us to come face to face with the Holy God? He changes us.


Wholly Sinful


What happens when Isaiah is confronted with God who alone is holy? What happens to us?
You might think Isaiah’s first words when seeing the Holy, Triune God with his own eyes would be wonder: “Cool! This is awesome! I always wanted to see angels. So that’s what God wears.” But no. Isaiah freaks out. He thinks he is as good as dead. With his own eyes, he has seen the glory of the Lord. No one can do that and live (Exodus 33:20). The holy light of God’s perfection streamed down from heaven to flood the earthly temple, to overwhelm Isaiah’s eyes, to shine a spotlight on the sin in his soul and on his lips. “Woe is me” (v. 5), he confessed.


That’s how we react to what is holy: confessing our sins. Isaiah was a pretty decent fellow: hardworking and religious, compared with others. But not compared with God. “Woe is me!” moaned Isaiah. No angel wings covered his sins from the all-seeing eye of God. No fig leaf covered his shame. “I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (v. 5).


We are like Isaiah: lost, and needing God to find us; dead, and needing God to give us life. Confession is part of being a Christian. We confess that we are not perfect husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, workers. This is practical, daily stuff.  We confess our failings to each others so that we forgive each other. We confess to God so He forgives us.


Holy Forgiveness


And He does. God forgave Isaiah. Gripped by terror as a sinner before the Holy God, Isaiah was paralyzed, motionless. So God came to Him. The Lord sent one of the heavenly angels, the seraphim, flying over to him. Poor, frightened Isaiah! This heavenly being carried a fiery coal from the altar. Imagine his fear as the hot coal touched Isaiah’s unclean lips. Yet, in that moment, His guilt was taken away, his sin atoned for (v. 7).


How did that happen? The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, offered for Isaiah and for all sinners of the world on the altar of the cross. The second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, chose to face the holy fire of God’s anger for the sins of the world. In His body, Jesus burned up our sins, cleansing Isaiah and us by His Passion. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, Isaiah was purified by that heavenly, burning coal. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we are forgiven all the sins we confess.


Forgiveness does not come to us by a fiery coal, carried from the bronze temple altar by heavenly seraphim. Instead, God’s called servant, the Pastor, speaks the words of forgiveness that come from Christ, just as valid and certain, even in heaven (SC V). The fires of our sins are extinguished by the water and words of Holy Baptism. And from this altar, the Lord touches our lips and fills our hearts with His true body and blood in Holy Communion. Here in His Word and Sacraments, the Lord forgives us and makes us His holy people, just as He forgave Isaiah and made him holy.


Why does He do this? We Christians forgive others as we have received God’s forgiveness. This is practical, daily stuff. Husbands and wives forgive each other. Forgiveness sets the tone in Christian homes, on the job, on the farm, in all our relationships with others. Our Holy God forgives us. We lives holy lives when we forgive others.


Holy Calling


God appeared before Isaiah to call him as Prophet. This holy scene was his ordination. Isaiah served as Prophet for 45 years: difficult, often painful years. While King Uzziah reigned, God’s people prospered, the economy was good, the army was strong, there was peace. But the death of Uzziah was the beginning of the end. Spiritual apathy made people forget God. The country suffered. Foreign kingdoms conquered Israel. Hard times for Isaiah. Yet, God sustained His prophet. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” called the Triune God. “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8), answered Isaiah. And the Lord sent His prophet on a holy calling.


Next month on June 28th, it will be thirty-two years since I was ordained. In 1988 when I entered Seminary, LCC had more churches, more members, more money. Things have changed, as they did for Isaiah and for Israel. Still God calls and promises to care for Pastors today. “Here am I! Send me!” The Lord sends them on a holy calling.


Like every Christian. All Christians are privileged to serve others out of love for God. During good times, and when the Church suffers, we show the love of Jesus. Love starts in our homes and flows out into work, school, and the world. We love and forgive our family, friends, co-workers and strangers. This is practical, daily stuff. The love of the holy Triune God through Jesus, who died and rose for us is what drives our Christian calling.


Each day, we live in the presence of our unseen, yet thrice-holy God. He gives us answers to our practical questions and daily struggles. We confess our sin, embrace His forgiveness, and go out into the world to serve others. He sends us on a holy calling.
Amen.








Hope For The Holidays

Ezekiel 37:1-14. ESV
The Festival Of Pentecost

19/05/24



Pentecost? The Victoria day long weekend? What holiday is this? Hallowe’en? From the sights recorded by the Prophet Ezekiel, you might say Hallowe’en, what with the vast valley of desiccated bones, the spontaneous assembly of body parts without life, an army of inanimate zombies who then come to life: more like horror than hope! But, you are in here church for the high holiday of Pentecost. When God the Holy Spirit comes, He breathes life into those who are slain; He gives faith to those who don’t believe; He inspires hope where hope has died. Welcome home to God’s house for the holidays. Today is Pentecost. God the Holy Spirit gives us hope that looks ahead to everlasting life. By the Spirit, we have hope for the holidays.


Hope Dried Up


What does it mean to live without hope? Life without hope means you believe you have nothing to look forward to. The future stretches before you like a long, dark tunnel: at the end of that tunnel, a solid brick wall. Like a valley filled with dry bones, our sins deprive us of hope. Living without hope is impossible. Without hope, you cannot start the day. In Psalm three, King David pictured hopelessness: “Many are saying of me, there is no help for him in God” (Psalm 3:2 RSV).
Like the nation of Israel, carried off into exile to Babylon: deprived of their homeland, unable to come to the temple, their freedom taken away. While in far-off Babylon, Jerusalem was totally destroyed. Far from the land of promise, the nation of Israel struggled to believe God’s promises. Hope in their hearts dried up. “We are clean cut off” (v. 11 RSV). Can these bones live?


Like the followers of Jesus in the days before the Pentecost miracle. Despite the glad news of Christ’s resurrection, the spectre of the cross, with its shame and suffering, and the grim reality of the grave worked in the hearts of the Lord’s feeble followers. They quivered in fear and hiding between Easter and Pentecost. Like a valley of dry bones. Where is hope? Can these bones live?
Like us, between Baptism and Christ’s return. How often hope seems lost! Are we so different from that valley of skeletons from Ezekiel’s prophecy? Not according to God’s Word. “You were dead in [the] trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), writes the Apostle St. Paul. What is our natural state when it comes to spiritual abilities? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him” (SC II:6). Spiritual strength like extremely dry bones. Dead!


Hope With Skin On


But then the wind blows. The Holy Spirit comes to us in the Word of God and the water of His Baptism. The dead are raised—we live! The same “Lord and Giver of life” (NC:7) who made  the Israelites in the skeletal valley come to life again has breathed life into us in His Holy Word, the Bible, and in that same Word at work in the sacramental water, bread and wine. God the Holy Spirit “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). We, who by our sins were deprived of hope, have been born again into a new and living hope (I Peter 1:3) through Spirit-worked faith in Christ Jesus.


That’s the unique work of the Holy Spirit: He leads us to Christ. The third Person of the Trinity, eternal spirit without a body turns our attention to trust in the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, born in our human flesh and blood to be our Saviour. We trust in God: He has skin like we do! Our hope is in Jesus. For us, Jesus beat death and the grave, the final enemies that steal hope away from us. To save the world, dying without hope, the Lord Jesus, very God of very God was crucified: His bones nailed to the wood of the cross. For us, Christ faced the hopelessness of death brought on by our sins. Jesus descended into hell, traversing the land of skeletons, to bring life where death had ruled. Christ burst out of the prison of the grave to give hope to us, who one day must pass through that same narrow path. The resurrected Lord leads us to the hope that cannot be extinguished: to the real and living hope of life to the full after this brief earthly life. In this way, the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus. To life. To hope.


Like the wind, the Holy Spirit works where and when He pleases (AC 5:2), blowing into our lives with power and precision. The wind of Spirit moves through the Word of God. Sin-flawed Ezekiel, powerless to do anything before acres of human bones, speaks the Word of God—and the bones stand alive on their feet! At the Word of God the Holy Spirit, this huge human army is filled with the breath of life. By the Word of God, they are filled with hope!


Water, bread, and wine are plain elements of creation—daily food and drink. Until the called ministers of Christ speak the Word of God over these elements: and they become much more. The Holy Spirit uses His Word to make the water of our Baptisms a life-giving water, rich in grace (Titus 3:5-7). The Holy Spirit makes our Baptism a fountain of hope in Christ. And, the Holy Spirit uses His Word to lead us to Christ our Saviour and eternal hope here in this Sacrament of His body and blood. Can these bones live? By the Holy Spirit’s direction and inspiration through the Word of God, here we have our faith in Christ strengthened: the gift of hope that cannot die (LSB 417:1).


Eternal life with God after this life—this is the ultimate hope of all Christians. God sent His Holy Spirit to His people Israel, captives in Babylon, filling their discouraged hearts with the sure and certain hope of freedom and return to the Promised land. To renew our faith and fill us with sure and certain hope, the Holy Spirit showed Ezekiel the miracle of a vast army raised from death to live again. In Christ Jesus, who died, rose again, and ascended into heaven, we look forward, in hope, to God’s promise come true: “when I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people” (v. 12). The Lord Jesus lives, body and soul, and will never die. He echoes this same promise to His faithful people: “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live... the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth” (St. John 5:25, 28, 29 NKJV).


The resurrection of our bodies to life everlasting—our sure and certain hope—on this holiday... and always!
Amen.







With One Accord                                                                                          

 Acts 1:12-26. ESV
The Seventh Sunday Of Easter                                                                                   

12/05/24.

 

            “The best gift is having you all here together.” Mom was simply beaming on her special day: smiling with joy, surrounded by all her children. Unity in her family. Sadly, it cannot always be this way: as sons and daughters grow up, move out of the house, and have families of their own. The children move, and they have children—times together, oneness for mother, dad and their children become fewer.

            Sadder still when the family breaks up before that: when the children, like the prodigal son, strike off into the wide world to go their own way, to do their own thing, and turn their backs on their family home, refusing to honour father and mother. At those times, the hearts of parents long for their children to come back, “that they may be one” (St. John 17:11).

At Loose Ends

            Like Judas. Privileged to be chosen by the Lord Jesus to be among the twelve disciples, those closest to the Lord, who were always with Him, Judas Iscariot enjoyed God’s favour like few other people had in the history of the world: close to Christ—like family! But, he blew it. This close companion of Christ betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver: Jesus was arrested, put on trial and sentenced to be crucified. When he saw his sin, that he betrayed His Lord, Judas fell into despair. Tragically, he ended his own life. This lost sheep wandered from the flock and was destroyed.

            The tragic end of the Lord’s disciple, Judas, is a cautionary tale for each of us: don’t turn from the Lord to go your own way. Inside the fellowship of the Holy Christian Church is safety, encouragement and strength. Look at the example provided by the Eleven survivors, together with Mary, the mother of our Lord, and the faithful women. After Jesus ascended to heaven, this nucleus of the New Testament Church stayed together: the family of Faith. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (v. 14). A touching and powerful picture of that newborn body of believers: unity in the family of Faith. Unity in the Church. Unity in Christ.

            Outside of that Christian fellowship, Judas, and all other “lone ranger” Christians wander alone, discouraged, defeated, destroyed. James in his Epistle pictures it like this: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). [Post-covid, there are a lot of lonely, lost people in the world, outside the family of the Faith]. Judas fell into despair. Many others do too.

Safe In His Embrace

            Jesus calls back to Himself all who wander, back to the fellowship of the Church. For all people, Jesus prays to the Father, “that they may be one” (St. John 17:11). Oneness, unity, togetherness is in Jesus.

            Through His cross. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself” (St. John 12:32), said the Lord just days before His crucifixion. All people come together in Christ. His cross is the magnet (LW 311:4). There, on that awful Roman instrument, the body of Jesus broke down and died under the pressure of our sins—the sins that tear us apart. Christ died for all (II Corinthians 5:14). And yet, through His righteous self-offering on the cross, Jesus serves His dear people as the Head of the Church, which is His body. The crucified Lord stretched out His arms to embrace the world in a gesture of love for the whole world when He died. No one is excluded from His forgiving love. Jesus prays that we all may be one. He gave His life so that prayer would come true. Christ died and rose again to bring us together in Him.

            The Holy Spirit calls us out of the world into the Church, which is the body of Christ (SC III:6). We believe in one Church, even while we are so different from each other. We confess that there is “one holy Christian and apostolic Church,” even when church people appear fractured, divided, and so unlike each other in the eyes of the world. That’s the visible Church. Clearly, our differences don’t unite us as one. Sadly, even in the visible Church, there are painful fractures that divide Christians one from another—like Paul and Barnabas who disagreed so sharply, they had to part and go their separate ways (Acts 15:39-40). Where sin divides, Jesus unites. With joy, Dr. Martin Luther writes, “Thank God, today a seven-year-old child knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd” (SA III, XII: 2). The invisible Church is one in Jesus.

The Wounded Healer

            We dearly long to be close to one another: in our families, on the job, and in church. Yet sin—our sin and others—is a powerful force to smash friendships, to stand in the way of reconciliation and to shatter the bonds of love: like a precious vase broken to bits.

            Rather than throw the pieces away, the Japanese technique known as kintsugi restores the broken pieces of a shattered vessel. Powdered gold, silver, or platinum is mixed into a laquer to bind the broken pieces back together. Repaired pottery is not perfect: the fractured lines show its history: all that this object has been through.

            We are not perfect. But Christ has bound us up: healing the wounds of our sins. Not with gold, silver, or precious metals, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Bought by Christ’s blood, we are bound together in Baptism, healed in the Sacrament of the Altar with His living body and blood. We all have fracture lines. But Jesus binds us together as one body.

One In His Hands

            Every morning, a mother brought her young son to preschool, kissed him on the forehead and told him, “I’m leaving you in good hands.” Years later, dementia had taken its toll on this poor lady. Her son, now a middle-aged man, took his dear mother to a nursing home. As he said goodbye, he kissed her forehead and told her, “I’m leaving you in good hands.” His mother, who could barely remember the words of a conversation she had just five minutes earlier began to weep. She remembered that those were the same words she had told him so many years ago.

            We are in good hands. Jesus has us. He prays for us to be one. Christ—resurrected and ascended—makes it happen.

                                                                                                                                                Amen​






Chariot Of The Gospel                                                                                 

Acts 8:26-40. ESV
The Fifth Sunday Of Easter                                                                                          

28/04/24.

 

            Philip and a man from Ethiopia meet in a chariot travelling from Jerusalem to Gaza. From the temple to Ethiopia. There in the chariot (ἅρμα v. 28), en route, God visits the man from the court of Queen Candace. God the Holy Spirit enters the heart of this man, converting him to saving faith in Christ. The Word of God is the vehicle, specifically Isaiah chapter fifty-three, verse seven. Saving faith in Jesus leads to the Holy Spirit’s work again: this time in the water and Word of Baptism. The Spirit brings these two men together in a chariot. The Spirit converted this man: creating saving faith then and there. A chariot of the Gospel!

Old Wheels

            The chariot was the mode of transportation for the rich in Bible times. The chariot also worked as heavy military transport in ancient warfare.

            Remember? Chariots of Pharaoh pursuing the children of Israel out of Egypt into the Red Sea (Exodus 14). The wheels of Egypt’s military might drowned by the (baptismal) flood of God’s salvation. Good news—in Jesus!

            Remember? Iron chariots in Canaan spotted by spies exploring the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13). Together with the giant inhabitants of this land, the sight of wheeled warriors on chariots struck fear in these twelve men, and in the hearts of the whole congregation of Israel: cursed to wander for the next forty years in the dry, dusty desert.

            Remember? That saving, flaming chariot, pulled by fiery horses that carried the Prophet Elijah alive into heaven (II Kings 2:11).

            The chariot in today’s reading from Acts 8 is both pulpit and Bible class: the life-changing location for this Ethiopian man. A chariot of the Gospel.

Road Blocks          

            What prevents us? The Ethiopian eagerly asked Philip that question, seeking the blessing of the new birth God the Holy Spirit gives in Baptism. What stands in our way, stopping us from making the most of God’s Word, especially the Gospel, the good news about Jesus (v. 35)? What keeps us from living our baptismal life to the full? Sacred Scripture, the Bible warns us against three roadblocks to the free gifts of God in His grace: the devil; the world; our sinful nature. Even while this official from Ethiopia was rolling down the desert road in his splendid chariot, he hit a solid barrier, a roadblock to understanding what he was reading in the scroll of Isaiah: “How can I [understand] unless someone guides me?” (v. 31), exclaimed the frustrated seeker. The Holy Spirit guides us. The Bible is His Word. The Holy Spirit drives us to Christ.

Divine Delivery

            Christ comes to us. His vehicle is not a chariot, but Himself. By human flesh and blood, Jesus lives with us. From heaven to earth, God, in love, travelled to our world. Christ’s destination? Bethlehem! For us, Jesus came, the tender Child of Mary. The fragile flesh of newborn Jesus: that’s the vehicle the Lord uses to come to His people.

            To save us. The Jerusalem cross stood as Christ’s final destination. Jesus, Son of God, converted this sentence of shame into the vehicle of our salvation—the chariot of the Gospel. Christ’s obedient life headed to this spot of sacrifice—the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world (St. John 1:29). To the delight of the devil and before the eyes of the world, the sight of Christ on the cross: it sure looked as if the wheels had totally fallen off—the world’s salvation at a sudden standstill.

            Like a sheep He was led to the slaughter

            and like a lamb before its shearers is silent,

            so He opens not His mouth.

            In His humiliation justice was denied Him.

            Who can describe His generation?

            For His life is taken away from the earth (Isaiah 53:7, v. 32-33).

            Beginning with this Scripture, here’s the Gospel in the chariot, the good news about Jesus. He gives us His perfection in exchange for our sins. He gives us a clear conscience instead of hearts weighed down with guilt. He restores our broken relationships, opening the bridge between us and God. Now here’s Gospel that’s got wheels! Christ comes to us: from heaven to earth; from Bethlehem to Jerusalem; from the cross through the empty tomb; through Scripture and through Sacrament; Christ comes to us to bring us to Himself. That’s the Gospel: go on your way rejoicing in Christ!

            Go on your way: from Bible to Baptism. Rejoicing in Jesus, go on your way from Scripture to Sacrament of Baptism. This Ethiopian man did. “See, here is some water... What prevents me from being baptized?” (v. 37). Well, nothing. They stop the chariot ride. Put on the parking brake. Together, they climb down out of the chariot into the water of this Palestinian pond. Pastor Philip baptizes this new believer. Word of God combined with water. A roadside Baptism! The good news about Jesus immersed in this Sacrament.

            The distance from the font to the altar—from Baptism to Communion—is about a dozen steps, or about thirteen years for infants through Confirmation. Baptism begins what Communion sustains: chariots of the Gospel to enjoy life to the full through the good news about Jesus. His Word, the Bible; His Sacraments, Baptism and Communion: these are the holy means of grace He uses to keep faith alive in us. Vehicles of the Gospel.

            Go on your way—rejoicing in Christ!
             Amen






Only One Way                                                                                                  

Acts 4:1-12. ESV
The Fourth Sunday Of Easter                                                                                      

21/04/24.

 

            Boy, he was strong, for a little guy! Many years ago, at the Chatsworth Christmas parade, one our members brought his sheep to ride on the church float. “Pastor, hold him for a minute,” he told me as everyone on the float was getting ready. Well, I held that wooly sheep according to the way I was shown—by the horns—but that sheep was strong! He wriggled and twisted to get free from my grip and go his own way. Until the shepherd got a hold of him. Then, in his hands, the sheep behaved for the parade.

Sheep Who Love To Stray

            Shepherds of Israel fill our reading from the book of Acts today on this Good Shepherd Sunday: Annas, Caiaphus, John and Alexander: all from the family of high priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees: all prominent leaders to care for the sheep of the flock of Israel. Only, they were “greatly annoyed” (v. 2). Why? The shepherds were greatly annoyed by the Apostles’ preaching and teaching. The shepherds were greatly annoyed by the resurrection of Jesus! Easter was just too much for them! They hoped that they were done with this Prophet from Galilee, but no! This Healer just won’t go away. A well-known lame beggar is now healed because of this Jesus of Nazareth.

            So, Peter and John were on trial. The same Israelite judges who had recently grilled the Lord Jesus under trial (St. John 18:13, 24) now examined, questioned, and accused His Apostles, Peter and John. Jesus laid down His life for them and for all people. Now, they followed where the Shepherd of the sheep has led: giving “a reason for the hope that is in [them]” (I Peter 3:15), wrote Peter; “laying down their lives for the brothers” (I John 3:16), wrote John.

            Why were they on trial? “A good deed done to a crippled man” (v. 9). Facing court because of a healing? Sadly, it is said that no good deed goes unpunished.

            How were Peter and John so bold to stand trial in defense of their Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd who heals, forgives and saves—and Him alone? These fickle followers, these straying sheep, who not many days before were shivering in fear of arrest and trial before these religious authorities? The Holy Spirit! God the Holy Spirit, poured out at Pentecost, gave faith instead of fears. The risen and living Christ ordained these Apostles as undershepherds of the fledgling flock of the Church of Christ.

            The Good Shepherd calls Pastors—earth-bound undershepherds—and uses them to keep His sheep from straying. His own Word and Sacraments are the rod and staff to lead us back to Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

            Wolves are in the world. Ruthless persecutors of the flock care nothing for the sheep. In the first century, wolves tried to steal away the sheep of Jesus with force: threatening monetary fines, jail time, even physical punishment. What makes sheep stray today? Popular today is the opinion that salvation comes by many paths. Diverse religious ideas are as close as the Internet. Sheep of the Lord Jesus stray by the click of a mouse. Not every path leads to salvation. No. There’s one way to heaven—and Jesus is the way. Peter said it (on trial under oath): “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (v. 12).

Won Way

            There’s no one like Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. He laid down His life to save the sheep—to save us as we stray into false paths, dead ends, false teachings, and suffer under cruel leaders. Jesus is the way—there is salvation in no one else.

            Jesus cares for us. The world around us grows increasingly cold and loveless (St. Matthew 24:12). Many seemed to have stopped caring. The Good Shepherd cares. Jesus cares for each one of us, just as a shepherd knows everyone of His sheep. Jesus knows us. He calls us by name—the name you were given here in Holy Baptism—the name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27). Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows us better than we know ourselves—and still, He loves us. Through the hands of Peter and John, the Good Shepherd healed the lame man. Every day, Jesus provides us with all that we need to support this body and life. The Good Shepherd even gives us Himself—His true body and blood—here in the Sacrament of the Altar to provide us with forgiveness, life and salvation for us, the dear sheep of His flock. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5). Christ keeps our bodies and souls together. He cares for us (I Peter 5:7). He is our Good Shepherd.

            Jesus is the way to the Father in heaven—the only way (Jn 14:6). Although rejected by those He came to save, Christ is our cornerstone: the critical key to our salvation. Despite our straying sins, apart from our good deeds, words and lives, the Good Shepherd saves us. There was only one way it could be done: the Shepherd died for the sheep. The righteous Lamb of God offered Himself on the cross for the sinful sheep of the whole world.

            One sacrifice. Saves all. There is no other way.
            Amen






Times Of Refreshing                                                                                    

Acts 3:11-21. ESV
The Third Sunday Of Easter                                                                                         

14/04/24.

 

            “I need a holiday.”

            The pace was nonstop. Day after day, the lame man begged for coins. Steady was the flow of the faithful: worshippers coming through the temple entrance called “Beautiful Gate” to present their prayers and offerings to God. Many Israelites passed this poor, disabled man, unable to walk, unable to work. Some gave generously: coins of copper, silver and gold to help him in his need. Others ignored the pleas of this lame beggar. Like the passing people, so also the days flowed on: one after another, without much change. This poor man woke up everyday to this same sad reality: his legs didn’t work as they should. Others had to carry him wherever he wanted to go. Others had to provide alms to take care of his daily needs.

            “I need a holiday.” Times of refreshing.

            Along came the Apostles, Peter and John, walking through that Beautiful Gate. As he petitioned so many others, that lame man asked them for money. But, this time was different. Not funds, but function was given. Not gold, but get-up-and-go. In the name of Jesus, by faith in His name, this lame man was made strong in his feet and ankles: “he stood up and began to walk... walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). By the power and action of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, this man was blessed with a holy day: relief from his disability, relaxation in his soul with repentance for his sins, return to a right relationship with God the heavenly Father, breathing space in his spirit with the promise of sins blotted out (v. 19). No wonder this lame man “clung to Peter and John” (v. 11), the Apostles who conveyed this life-changing blessing from God to him. This was one of many “times of refreshing” (καιροί ἀναψύξεως) this formerly lame beggar would receive from the presence of the Lord (v. 20).

Holiday For The Soul

            “I need a holiday.” Not a week or two to lie on a beach in the Caribbean. We need rest, relief, refreshing in our souls. Every week, our souls cry out for a break from the weariness of our daily sins: from the relentless pressure of the world to forsake the Faith and walk its way; from the temptations of the devil to live only for ourselves. “I need a holiday,” pleads our soul. The Lord agrees. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” God commands His people. One day out of seven, His Word, the Bible is uppermost in our minds and hearts, His Sacraments feed our souls, the name of Jesus—faith in His name—we hold sacred in trusting hearts. “Times of refreshing... from the presence of the Lord” (v. 20). To give this kind of holiday, the Sabbath rest, God had the temple built: a holy place to meet with His people. To give this kind of holiday, the Sabbath rest, the lame man and all worshippers gathered at the Jerusalem temple. To give this kind of holiday, the Sabbath rest, Peter and John healed this lame man. Then called everyone who witnessed this miracle to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus, now risen from the dead. To experience this kind of holiday, the Sabbath rest, you and I are here today: gathered in church, the house of the Lord, to hear Him speak and to be fed with His Sacraments. Times of refreshing!

Missing Out

            Or are we? Although our souls eagerly long for the rest that only God in His Word and Sacraments can provide, our sinful nature can easily despise preaching and the Word of God. Just as the Israelites in the temple, who witnessed this lame man healed, had some time before despised Christ Jesus, calling for His crucifixion, sadly, we also can reject the times of refreshing that come through God’s means of grace here in Church. St. Peter recalls the trial of Jesus before Pilate. Even as the Governor sought to release Him, the crowds called for a murderer to go free. “Release Barabbas! Crucify Christ!’ They killed the Author of life (v. 15).

            How can God, the Creator of all living things, die? Using the picture of scales to weigh guilt in the coming judgment Martin Luther explains: “We Christians should know that if God is not in the scale to give it weight, we, on our side, sink to the ground. I mean it this way: if it cannot be said that God died for us, but only a man, we are lost; but if God’s death and a dead God lie in the balance, His side goes down and ours goes up like a light and empty scale. Yet He can also readily go up again, or leap out of the scale! But He could not sit on the scale unless He became a man like us, so that it could be called God’s dying, God’s martyrdom, God’s blood, and God’s death. For God in His own nature cannot die; but now that God and man are united in one person, it is called God’s death when the man dies who is one substance or one person with God” (FC SD VIII:44).

Forever Refreshed

            What a paradox: Christ’s death means life for us! This gift of love refreshes our souls at Easter and always. The death of God in the flesh—the very Author of life—Jesus Christ, gives healing to the lame man, forgiveness for our souls. In the name of Jesus—by faith in His name—all our guilt is blotted out. In Him, we have everlasting life: times of refreshing without end.

Now Or Later

            At those times when we are blessed to gather here in God’s house to be refreshed in our souls with forgiveness from the hand of the risen Christ, we pray for those among us who are ill. We trust that Jesus, the Author of Life, whose holy name healed the lame man, gives “perfect health” (v. 16) in answer to our prayers. We rejoice and thank the Lord when we see that healing here and now: that is, while we live in this world. Yet, if healing is not given now, by faith we look forward to the “perfect health” the Lord will certainly give when He will resurrect our bodies: free of all sickness, pain and death in everlasting life: true times of refreshing.

            Our reading from Acts begins with the lame man clinging to Peter and John—this is what faith looks like: leaning on another. Even though he could now stand on his own, even walk and jump, this man chose to lean on the Lord’s servants who brought God’s healing to him. In faith, we cling to Jesus. He died and rose to life again for us. He heals our guilt, and blots out all our sins. We have times of refreshing in Jesus—without end.

            Cling to Him!

            Amen






Great Grace                                                                                                    

Acts 4:32-35. ESV
The Second Sunday Of Easter                                                                                    

07/04/24.

 

            Graham crackers and melted chocolate. If that’s part of the recipe for s’mores, what more do you need? Marshmallows: golden brown, camp-fire-toasted marshmallows, squashed between the chocolate and crackers. The marshmallows make the s’more: gooey, warm, sweet, and comforting.

            During Lent, I read a book on repentance: The Devastating Lie of Marshmallow Grace. The author pointed out this false teaching: that “grace” is the same as “being nice, comfortable, easy.” Such grace leaves no lasting effect on your life or others. Grace like that is soft, mushy—empty calories—like a marshmallow.

            There’s no soft, marshmallow grace in today’s first reading from Acts. St. Luke pictures the life of the newborn Church shortly after Pentecost. This congregation of perhaps 5 000 members, headed by twelve Pastors—the Apostles—was busy, active, alive, unified and caring for each other. Luke’s snapshot of Church life in these four verses makes it clear that great power (δυνάμει μεγάλη  v. 33) was not fuelled by the thin diet of flimsy marshmallow grace. No, things were happening in the early Church because “great grace (χάρις τε μεγάλη) was upon them all.” Christ is risen! The resurrected Christ moved His Church, the body of Christ, into action.

            God in His grace does that. “Grace” means “gift.” And, when your gift is from God, that’s great grace! For His grace is nothing other than this: the free forgiveness of our sins, earned not by our good works, but by His substitutionary death on the cross for us. Jesus is no softy. Christ took the hard road of His Passion, suffering and death because of His rich, full-bodied love for us. Without us asking Him. While we were still sinners. His death counts as life for us. That’s grace.

            The gift of forgiveness for our sins is sealed by His resurrection from the dead. Jesus truly died on the cross and now is alive—Thomas saw the marks in His living body with His own eyes. Marks that proved this really was Jesus! His visit to Thomas means life for us: life for all who believe and are baptized into Jesus. God’s free gift to us. Grace! Great grace!

            Great grace moves us into action. True, faith in Jesus alone saves. But faith in our gracious Saviour is never alone. In the Lutheran Confessions, Dr. Martin Luther explains: “O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them” (FC SD IV:10-11). Great grace fuels good works.

            Christians in the early Church heard this great grace in the preaching of the Apostles, especially as they proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (v. 33). With believing hearts, they heard this great, gracious Gospel: that God had beaten death in His Son Jesus. Hearing this act of grace moved them to share their property with each other. Wealthy Christians sold lands and houses, bringing the income from these sales to the Apostles. These men of God dispersed these gifts to those among them who were poor and needy (v. 35). This free and joyous giving filled the growling tummies of those who were hungry and thirsty, covered those who could not afford decent clothing (St. Matthew 25:35-36), and promoted a unity in Christ where “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (v. 32). Some twenty years later, this great grace of giving came back to them through the wider church. When a global famine struck central Palestine with great poverty, the Apostle St. Paul gathered assistance from churches in Asia Minor to help the needy in these same churches in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30; II Corinthians 9:1-15; Galatians 2:10)—a kind of first century “gofundme” platform. Love for fellow members of the body of Christ—that’s great grace.

            The members who constitute this congregation promise that we “will support Lutheran Church-Canada” (Constitution, Article X). Our life together as a synod—a fellowship of churches—in Lutheran Church-Canada gives us the opportunity to show care and concern for Christians who are joined to us in a common faith, the same way that first century Christians looked after each other. That’s our mission: “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world, to manifest the unity of our faith in Jesus Christ as God and Saviour, to foster Christian fellowship and love, to extend a helping hand in human need” (Constitution, Article II). We give to “current” through our offering envelopes to care for local needs here in Desboro and area. We give to “missions” through our offering envelopes  to care for the needs of the Church in Domestic and International missions, as well as global concerns. Needs in our circuit, region, country and world: together God the Holy Spirit has forged the bonds of fellowship between us in the resurrected and living Lord Jesus. God in His grace has given us all that we are and have: our lives are His gift to us. How can we use those gifts to help others in need?

            Helping others doesn’t earn a place for us in heaven. We are saved by grace: God’s undeserved favour in Christ crucified and raised to life again for us. Since the Lord saves us, we have gifts to help others: great grace!

            Amen​






Bigger Than...                                                                                                

Isaiah 25:6-9. ESV
The Resurrection Of Our Lord                                                                                      

31/03/24.

 

            Christ is risen! Jesus is alive! Death is defeated! Sorrow is swallowed up! Alleluia! This is big! So big, Easter pushes everything else out of the way: sin and sadness, disappointment, despair and loss. Even death itself is destroyed—eclipsed by the life of Christ who died and rose again. God is bigger than all of our enemies. The resurrection of the Lord—is bigger!

            “You’re a bad dog!” I yelled. The dog had just knocked over our garbage can and was nosing through our trash, looking for something to eat. The dog looked up from this mess and ran over to  me, barking. I barked back: “That’s not yours! Stay out of our garbage!” The dog stopped in his tracks. Barked again. He was loud. A big dog. I was bigger.

            Big enemies bark at us in this life. Hunger, unhappiness, separation, poverty, sadness, sickness, death. They are big. Like the funeral pall—the cover on a coffin—they are so big, sometimes they blot out everything else. Sin and death are such big opponents, they cover the whole world, Isaiah writes. Even God Himself, Jesus Christ in the days of His humanity here on earth, was engulfed by these adversaries—swallowed up by our sin, the whole world’s sin, at the cross. The mouth of the grave in Jerusalem swallowed up the Lord Jesus in death. Even hell wrapped itself around the Lord in His suffering and death. Big enemies. But, Christ the Lord is bigger.

Obstacles

            Big barriers stood to block the way on the first Easter morning. The huge stone door. “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” (St. Mark 16:3), said the women to each other as they went to embalm the body of Jesus. No worries—the resurrection of Christ from the dead is bigger than the grave, whose merciless door shuts us in (LSB 685:3). Then, the angel. That tomb was not the way they expected to find it. These ladies came looking for the lifeless body of Jesus. Instead, “they saw a young man sitting on the right side [of the tomb], dressed in a white robe” (St. Mark 16:5). What a shock! No need to worry—Jesus is not in the tomb because “He has risen!” Alleluia! The living Christ is bigger than their morning chores. Finally, there was the obstacle of their own fears. Even when greeted by the open tomb, and the glad word of the angel that the Lord Jesus has risen, still the women flee in fear and trembling.

Big Win

            No worries—the resurrected Christ is bigger than their fears... or ours! Fear comes from sin: against God and others. That’s our big problem: too big for us to solve by doing good things to make up for our bad: sin is just too big. So God did it. God became man in Christ Jesus. He took our sins to the cross and died to save us. Saving the world—that’s huge! “Too big for you,” the devil whispered into the ear of Jesus as he discouraged the Lord, tempting Him to abandon His mission to save the world. Yet, here we are: in the shadow of the cross. Christ is bigger than global sin. The One who was crucified is not here. He has risen! That’s a big win—the biggest, in fact! Alleluia!

Big Meal

            Sin and death, grave and hell have all been swallowed up by life—in Jesus, who rose from the dead. Our final enemy—death—opens its big mouth to swallow us; to swallow our loved ones. But, the living Lord Christ is bigger. In Him, we live, even though we die. And whoever lives and believes in Him will never die. Easter means eternal life for us, together with all baptized believers in Christ.

            Therefore, the Lord spreads a big meal before us: the feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, just as foretold in Isaiah. Here, at the altar, we receive a small sample of the big meal that is coming. Christ Jesus, who rose from the dead for us, is now present for us here in His true body and blood. This sacramental meal is bigger than any other. Christ is really and truly present here, and at Christian altars all around the world. At the Lamb’s High Feast we sing His powerful victory: over sin and death, over the grave and hell. Because He lives, we live also. Nothing is bigger!

            Alleluia!

                                                                                                                                                Amen.​






Beat The Alarm                                                                                       

St. Mark 16:5-6. ESV
Easter Vigil                                                                                                                     

31/03/24.

 

            This morning, the alarm clock woke me up. I set it to 4:30 am. The noisy ringing roused me from a sound sleep. To greet the dawn on this holy Easter morning! The alarm clock woke me up.

            I don’t like it. Many mornings, I’m wide awake before the alarm has a chance to sound and get me up. Before it rings, I beat the alarm.

            The women were alarmed. The faithful ladies who came early to the Jerusalem tomb to anoint the body of Jesus were alarmed: the huge stone door of the tomb stood open; a white-robed man was sitting inside. Where was Jesus? Alarm bells rang in their hearts: Fear! Trembling! Astonishment!

            What alarms you? Bad news, like sickness, unemployment, loneliness, loss, or death? Swift, sudden, irreversible changes alarm us, afflicting us in body and possessions, in our minds and hearts. Alarming! That’s sin in action, ringing its solemn bell, tolling disaster with its dread sound. We’ve all heard it!

            “Don’t be alarmed!” So the angel told the women. “Don’t be alarmed.” So we hear today. All your fears have been nailed to the cross of Jesus. Every alarm that afflicts you has been buried in His tomb. “Don’t be alarmed!” So we hear today. Christ is risen! He is not in the grave. For us, He beat death, the grave, sin and hell. For us, Jesus beat the alarm!

            Rejoice! Alleluia!

                                                                                                                                                 Amen






By His Hand                                                                                              

Psalm 22:16-17. ESV
Good Friday                                                                                                                     

29/03/24.

 

            For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me;

they have pierced My hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over Me.

            They pierced His hands. Soldiers drove an iron spike through the tender flesh of thirty-three-year-old Jesus, nailing Him to the cross. For us. For our salvation.

            The hands of Jesus. Once, His compassionate hands reached out to touch the sick and suffering. At His hand, the afflicted felt relief, comfort, and healing. The hands of Jesus blessed infants, nursing babes brought to the Lord by their parents. The hand of Jesus reached out to grab sinking St. Peter, rescuing him from drowning, pulling him to safety. In His hands, five small bread loaves and two fish were passed out and served more than five thousand hungry students, just as in our day, Jesus distributes His true body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar to His faithful people through the hands of His ministers. By means of His divine-human hands, Jesus gives life to the world.

            Even when those pure and holy hands are pierced by nails. On the cross, Jesus works life-giving forgiveness for us. The Lord of life dies for the sins of the world: the life of the Holy One for the sins we have committed with our hands.

Sin Hammers It Home

            We long to deny that: we’re not so bad; generally respectable But sinners? God’s commandments say so. Written by the finger of God, the Ten Commandments were inscribed on two tablets of stone: the unchanging Law of the Lord for Moses, for Israel, for the world, for you and me. Our duty to God and to other people. God’s will for all people of all time. The finger of God’s Law points at you and me, pointing out all the things we have done to hurt others, to offend God, even to hurt ourselves. Not just what these hands have done: the Law of God points the finger of blame at our hearts. That’s where it all starts.

            “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting” (Daniel 5:27). In the palace of the King of Babylon, during an out-of-control drinking party to make fun of God, mysterious fingers appeared and wrote that message on the plaster. The writing was on the wall: the eerie finger of God wrote that ominous sentence in strange script: “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting” (Daniel 5:27). The writing on the wall pointed out the sin of the King of Babylon and his nobles. Very soon, his kingdom would fall.

            What does it all mean? The deeds you have done with your hands will convict you. Along with the sins of the heart. Our best works cannot offset the weight of our guilt. Our sins pound the hammer blows on the nails piercing Christ’s hands and feet.

            We crucified Him!

Hand-Made Heaven

            That He would save us. Christ chose to be delivered into the hands of sinful men to ransom the world from the guilt of our sins. By the finger of God, Jesus cast out evil spirits; by the finger of God, Christ brought the kingdom of God to the world (St. Luke 11:20). Look to the crucified Christ to see His kingdom coming. Look to the one who was pierced, believing that He gave His life for your sins, then you have complete and perfect forgiveness by His hand. The holy blood of Jesus, pouring from His sacred wounds, from His piercèd hands, erases the record of sin that stands against us. “This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). Because He loves us, Jesus placed His palms up, opening His holy hands to receive the nails meant for our sins. So He delivers us from sin’s punishment forever. Now, Jesus lives to welcome His dear baptized believers into heaven. Christ stands with open arms to welcome us into eternity.

Read His Palm

            Even after His ordeal on the cross: suffering, dying and burial in the Jerusalem tomb, even now, the living Jesus still bears the marks of the nails and spear: on His feet, in His side, on His hands. On the first Easter Sunday night, St. Thomas, plagued by doubts, could not believe Jesus had beaten death. ‘I need to see the marks,’ he said. I need to put my finger where the nail was in His hand.’ Such a strange demand! But those scars identify Jesus!

            Eight days later, Thomas had his chance. Seeing. Hearing. Touching the once crucified Christ, doubting Thomas became believing Thomas. He saw His hands. The One pierced had beaten death: “My Lord and My God!” (St. John 20:24-28).

            Doubts plague us today, as they worried Thomas. The suffering Christ bids us pick up our crosses of suffering to follow Him in faith. His Good Friday triumph over sin and death, over the grave and hell itself is our triumph and victory too. Like Thomas, we go to be with Jesus where He has promised to be. Here in His Word, where two or three or more have gathered in His name, the pierced hands of Jesus hold us up. Here at the altar, under bread and wine, the pierced hands of Jesus hold us together. We find Jesus as He has promised. And in His presence, we believe:

            We have eternal life. By the hand of the Jesus.

                        My Lord and My God!

                                                                                                            Amen






Down And Out                                                                                               

Exodus 2:10. ESV
Maundy Thursday                                                                                                           

28/03/24.

 

            When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

            “Moses” means “to draw out.” The daughter of Pharaoh gave him that name because she drew him out of the water of the Nile where he was floating in a basket.

            Out of the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter took baby Moses from the same river where the lives of so many other Hebrew boys ended—sunk down in the river water. By God’s protection through his mother and sister’s care, Moses went down to the Nile river—floating in the ark of the basket—only to be drawn out by the daughter of Pharaoh and raised as a Prince of Egypt in the royal palace. Down... and out!

            For a greater calling. Out of the burning bush, the Lord called Moses to draw the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The early  favour of Pharaoh and his people turned to oppression. The sons of Jacob and their descendants were down in the labour camps of Egypt—forced to make bricks without straw in the land of idols, superstition, and death. “Let my people go,” the Lord commanded Pharaoh through Moses. God’s powerful Word was accompanied with signs: the first of the ten plagues turned the water of the Nile to blood. This river of life that flowed through all the land of Egypt, whose waters had once aborted the lives of newborn Hebrew boys now dealt death to all Egypt. Hardened down again and again was Pharaoh’s heart as he refused nine times to let the Israelites out of his country; out of the grip of slavery. The tenth and final plague hit hardest. The Pharaoh who commanded Israel’s sons to be killed lost his own first-born son. Everywhere in Egypt, the cry of death went up at the discovery of death: every male child in palace and poorhouse; even the first born male of livestock in the stall.

            Except in the houses of God’s people. Lamb’s blood protected them from this awful plague of death. The destroying angel passed over the homes of God’s people down below: homes where a lamb without defect was slaughtered to mark the doorframes of believers; homes where faithful Israelites ate the sacred meal to commemorate this holy night. In these homes, God’s people ate in haste, eagerly expecting that they would soon win their freedom. For four hundred and thirty years (Exodus 12:40), they were down: slaves under the thumb of their Egyptian oppressors. Now, the Lord would lead them out: through the Red Sea; through the desert; into their own land, the land of promise.

            All of these events point to an even greater deliverance. Since the first man and woman, all people are born down under the slavery of sin. God’s Son, greater than Moses, draws us out of our sins, leading us to the promised land of heaven.

            Christ Jesus came down from heaven to earth to deliver us from sin, death, and hell. How far down did God’s Son sink? Christ’s state of humiliation began at His incarnation: when He took on human flesh of the Virgin Mary. Down and down He sank: born in Bethlehem, rejected by His own people, arrested, punished, crucified, dead, and buried. Jesus sank to the very depths of our sinful guilt, taking our punishment on Himself, even of hell itself.

            To draw us out. To free and forgive us of our sins. To give us life instead of death. To free us from slavery. To bring us out of demonic-occupied territory into the safely of the promised land, the holy Christian Church. Jesus descended to the depths to draw us out to salvation.

            Ever have that sinking feeling? We’ve all been down in that water. Not the Nile. Not even the Jordan. But this shallow body of water: the baptismal font. With just a little water combined with the word of God, the Old Adam drowns under the water, under the judgment of God. That cursèd nature each of us was born with drowns and dies with all sins and evil desires. That means, as often as you think back on your Baptism, by the power of Christ, you tell that sinful nature within: “You’re going down!” Because something new and wonderful is being created in you from this baptismal water. Here, the Triune God joins you to the resurrected and living Christ. Jesus is alive in you because you have been baptized. Down with sin! And out comes a new life in Christ.

            A life He feeds here. Under this bread is the body of Christ. Under this wine is the blood of Christ. For His dear people weighed down in their souls, heavy with sin and guilt, freighted with doubts and fears, the Lord instituted this sacred Supper. The bread and wine go down into our bodies. Christ’s real presence goes down into our souls. As the Lamb’s blood on Israelite doors protected them from the destroying angel, so the Lamb of God protects our hearts with His holy, precious blood.

            When we are down with our Lord’s rich promises in this sacramental meal, He promises to bring us out of the messes our sins have made in our lives into a safe place: the fellowship of the body of Christ.

            Sin got you down? Jesus draws you out.
            Amen

 


Right Faith                                                                                  

Zechariah 9:9-12. ESV
Palm Sunday                                                                                                       

24/03/24.

 

            “Use the right tool for the job.” My high school shop teacher, Mr. Magashazi taught us that lesson. Then proceeded to show us how dangerous and ineffective it is when you use the wrong tool for the job: using a knife instead of a screwdriver and stripping the head off the screw, or trying to scrape paint off using a pair or scissors. The bloody knuckles he suffered from doing the work poorly helped drive the lesson home: “use the right tool for the job.”

            So, you might really admire a Harley Davidson and dream about buying one of your own and driving that “hog” on a road trip. But those chrome pipes and orange pin stripes are not what you want if you plan to run through the mud on the back edges of your field. What could be better for that than a tuned-up dirt bike? Who needs chrome and a cool paint job if you’re just going to cover it with mud? The powerful torque of a two-cycle engine and the aggressive tread on a pair of knobby tires: that’s what you need to tackle dirt, sand, slime and gravel. The right bike for off road.

            Fans of Jesus might have preferred to see Him ride into Jerusalem on a mighty war horse. Kings of powerful armies rode into victory after battle on a war horse at the head of their calvary and troops. Zechariah the Prophet pictures it: spectators quake with fear as officers riding chariots with metal wheels thunder through their streets, bowmen march in step, their weapons slung across their backs; and at the head of all these military forces: the King riding on a splendid steed. Impressive!

            But not Jesus: “Your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (v. 9). That’s how the Prophet pictured Jesus. And that’s how He came into Jerusalem. The donkey was the right mount. In some ways, a powerful horse also fits as a ride for Jesus. For He is not just any King. Jesus is the King of Kings. True God in human flesh. None greater. “The highest place that heaven affords is His, is His by right” (LSB 532:2). King Jesus should choose the most glorious war horse around.

            Yet He chooses a humble donkey, an everyday form of transport: the moped, the e-bike of the first century. For He has come to make peace, not to make war. Christ has not come to destroy, but to give life. The Lord has not come to make prisoners, but to set the prisoners free. In lowliness and humility, the King has come to give us hope. The right ride is the donkey.

            Jesus is the right Messiah for the crowds who welcomed Him that day. He is the right Saviour for you: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

            Hosanna means, “Lord save us!” The joy and excitement that ran through the Jerusalem crowds on that first Palm Sunday was faith in God. Masses of the faithful in Jerusalem for Passover expected that God would save His people. Previously, that salvation was by military might: a show of strength and power: chariot, war horse, and battle bow (v. 10), says Zechariah. Even the disciples after Easter expected Jesus to take the throne as King and “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). War and battle continue to rock Jerusalem today, inflicting casualties on Israelis and Palestinians alike. Faith that God will build His kingdom through strife and conflict: that’s false faith. Jesus says “Wars and rumours of wars” (St. Matthew 24:6) are proof that the world’s end is coming. Conflicts between nations reflect the conflict of sin in our hearts: the old Adam at war within us (Romans 7:13-25).


            Our hearts: that is the battleground where Jesus enters as the King to conquer. Not with chariot, war horse, and battle bow. The Lord Jesus puts Himself on the front line: Christ’s own flesh and blood are the weapons He musters to wage war against our enemies: sin and death, devil and hell. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! As the Prophet Zechariah foretold, the world’s Saviour rides into Jerusalem, humble and holy, riding on a donkey. His destination is the cross. What looks like defeat is actually the ultimate victory. Jesus battled Satan, the grave and hell itself when He suffered on the cross. His strategy: since He has no sin, being true God Himself, Jesus took on the sin of the whole world. Like an atomic blast, the death of Christ annihilated the power of sin and its guilt over us. What rule does sin, devil and hell have over us? In Christ crucified, “It is finished” (St. John 19:30).

            With the right faith, we welcome Jesus today: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Like those Jerusalem crowds full of joy when Jesus comes, Confirmation is where we “Lift up our hearts, therefore to the God of all grace and joyfully give answer” to those questions that point to the right faith: faith in the Holy Trinity; faith in His work in our Baptisms; faith in the Word of God, the Bible; faith in the true and right teaching of that Word. By God’s grace in Jesus, we look past the day of our Confirmation to welcome Jesus Sunday after Sunday as He rides into our lives with His Word, preached and taught, and with His Sacrament, the real presence of His body and blood here in Holy Communion. Confirmation looks ahead to a lifetime of faithfulness to Christ our King. Through faith in Jesus, we have the peace of sins forgiven. Through faith in Jesus, we are released from the waterless pit of guilt and the prisons of despair that capture our hearts and minds.  Through faith in Jesus, we have hope in a world that has lost its way. The right faith trusts Jesus Christ: our Saviour and King!

            Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He.

            Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
            Amen






                                       

With One Accord                                                                                           Acts 1:12-26. ESV

The Seventh Sunday Of Easter                                                                                    12/05/24.

 

            “The best gift is having you all here together.” Mom was simply beaming on her special day: smiling with joy, surrounded by all her children. Unity in her family. Sadly, it cannot always be this way: as sons and daughters grow up, move out of the house, and have families of their own. The children move, and they have children—times together, oneness for mother, dad and their children become fewer.

            Sadder still when the family breaks up before that: when the children, like the prodigal son, strike off into the wide world to go their own way, to do their own thing, and turn their backs on their family home, refusing to honour father and mother. At those times, the hearts of parents long for their children to come back, “that they may be one” (St. John 17:11).

 

At Loose Ends

            Like Judas. Privileged to be chosen by the Lord Jesus to be among the twelve disciples, those closest to the Lord, who were always with Him, Judas Iscariot enjoyed God’s favour like few other people had in the history of the world: close to Christ—like family! But, he blew it. This close companion of Christ betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver: Jesus was arrested, put on trial and sentenced to be crucified. When he saw his sin, that he betrayed His Lord, Judas fell into despair. Tragically, he ended his own life. This lost sheep wandered from the flock and was destroyed.


            The tragic end of the Lord’s disciple, Judas, is a cautionary tale for each of us: don’t turn from the Lord to go your own way. Inside the fellowship of the Holy Christian Church is safety, encouragement and strength. Look at the example provided by the Eleven survivors, together with Mary, the mother of our Lord, and the faithful women. After Jesus ascended to heaven, this nucleus of the New Testament Church stayed together: the family of Faith. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (v. 14). A touching and powerful picture of that newborn body of believers: unity in the family of Faith. Unity in the Church. Unity in Christ.

            Outside of that Christian fellowship, Judas, and all other “lone ranger” Christians wander alone, discouraged, defeated, destroyed. James in his Epistle pictures it like this: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). [Post-covid, there are a lot of lonely, lost people in the world, outside the family of the Faith]. Judas fell into despair. Many others do too.

 

Safe In His Embrace

            Jesus calls back to Himself all who wander, back to the fellowship of the Church. For all people, Jesus prays to the Father, “that they may be one” (St. John 17:11). Oneness, unity, togetherness is in Jesus.


            Through His cross. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself” (St. John 12:32), said the Lord just days before His crucifixion. All people come together in Christ. His cross is the magnet (LW 311:4). There, on that awful Roman instrument, the body of Jesus broke down and died under the pressure of our sins—the sins that tear us apart. Christ died for all (II Corinthians 5:14). And yet, through His righteous self-offering on the cross, Jesus serves His dear people as the Head of the Church, which is His body. The crucified Lord stretched out His arms to embrace the world in a gesture of love for the whole world when He died. No one is excluded from His forgiving love. Jesus prays that we all may be one. He gave His life so that prayer would come true. Christ died and rose again to bring us together in Him.

            The Holy Spirit calls us out of the world into the Church, which is the body of Christ (SC III:6). We believe in one Church, even while we are so different from each other. We confess that there is “one holy Christian and apostolic Church,” even when church people appear fractured, divided, and so unlike each other in the eyes of the world. That’s the visible Church. Clearly, our differences don’t unite us as one. Sadly, even in the visible Church, there are painful fractures that divide Christians one from another—like Paul and Barnabas who disagreed so sharply, they had to part and go their separate ways (Acts 15:39-40). Where sin divides, Jesus unites. With joy, Dr. Martin Luther writes, “Thank God, today a seven-year-old child knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd” (SA III, XII: 2). The invisible Church is one in Jesus.

 

The Wounded Healer

            We dearly long to be close to one another: in our families, on the job, and in church. Yet sin—our sin and others—is a powerful force to smash friendships, to stand in the way of reconciliation and to shatter the bonds of love: like a precious vase broken to bits.

            Rather than throw the pieces away, the Japanese technique known as kintsugi restores the broken pieces of a shattered vessel. Powdered gold, silver, or platinum is mixed into a laquer to bind the broken pieces back together. Repaired pottery is not perfect: the fractured lines show its history: all that this object has been through.


            We are not perfect. But Christ has bound us up: healing the wounds of our sins. Not with gold, silver, or precious metals, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Bought by Christ’s blood, we are bound together in Baptism, healed in the Sacrament of the Altar with His living body and blood. We all have fracture lines. But Jesus binds us together as one body.

 

One In His Hands

            Every morning, a mother brought her young son to preschool, kissed him on the forehead and told him, “I’m leaving you in good hands.” Years later, dementia had taken its toll on this poor lady. Her son, now a middle-aged man, took his dear mother to a nursing home. As he said goodbye, he kissed her forehead and told her, “I’m leaving you in good hands.” His mother, who could barely remember the words of a conversation she had just five minutes earlier began to weep. She remembered that those were the same words she had told him so many years ago.

            We are in good hands. Jesus has us. He prays for us to be one. Christ—resurrected and ascended—makes it happen.

                                                                                                                                                Amen