Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trinity 6 Sermon

Trinity 6 – July 27th and 28th, 2019 – Matthew 5:17-26

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. This is how Jesus starts a long stretch of the sermon on the Mount, the next 31 verses. For the rest of the chapter, Jesus focuses on the depth of God's Law, how serious it is – and how we sinful human beings here, have broken it, and how we continue to break it and violate it. You, you right there, under the law, judged by its standards, are a sinner. Period.

We don't like that. We don't like being told that we are wrong, even when we know we are wrong. And we certainly don't like finding out we were actually wrong when we thought we were right. And the Good and Perfect Law of God comes sweeping in, and in our sinfulness, we panic. And sometimes that panic results in an attempt to abolish the Law. This is a quite popular tact today. Think about how many people try to write out, fuzz out things in the law that they don't like. I mean, the obvious ones to us that come to mind quickly are those dirty, rotten liberal churches that are going on lax on sexuality and so on and so forth. Of course we think of that – because as we heard a few weeks ago, it's a lot easier to spot the speck in the neighbor's eye rather than the log in our own.

How about it – how do you try to relax the law, abolish it – justify your own ignoring of it? Because really what Jesus does the rest of this chapter is point out how people have justified their own weakening or abolishing of the law. He starts with the 5th commandment and He builds on it. Let's think about the fifth commandment for a bit – You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need. Every. Physical. Need. So, did past week did you think of a reason why you couldn't or didn't really need to help someone? That's abolishing the law of God. And let's consider the 8th Commandment as well, since Jesus ties it to the fifth, because Jesus warns against speaking ill of your neighbor. - You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. So, did you defend everyone this week. Did you explain everything kindly – put the best construction on everything? Then you were abolishing the law.

Okay, if you are squirming a bit right now – I was squirming as I wrote this Monday morning, because I knew what would happen. I'd write this down, go about my week, and the time to preach it would come, and while I'm preaching so many of the things I will have done in the mean time will pop into my head and smack me upside the back of my head. Because we here in this room are sinners. We abolish, we destroy, we come up with every excuse in our own self-righteous book to ignore the law of God. To find loopholes and work arounds – that's our default approach as sinners. And it's lousy.

But wait! There's more! There's a second way we utterly trash God's Law. We hear what Jesus says – I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them – and we think, “That's it, that's the ticket! Instead of doing bad, how about I just start doing good.” Easy peasy – I'll just do better. I will start fulfilling the law, I'll make myself a nice righteous person. And we start playing this holy one-upsmanship game – we start signaling virtue, showing everyone what a good little Christian we are. Or maybe, maybe if we are really, really good – we remember things like the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector, and we remember to be humble and not brag about all of the good we do, and we do it quietly and in secret – and we think, oh, yeah, it is totally and completely the way I am to do stuff.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. It doesn't work. I mean, you can try – and yes, I'm going to encourage you to strive to do good, and to be humble about it – I mean that is really good for your neighbor. But for you, well, in terms of the law, it doesn't really fix things. Doing the law, breaking it less, doesn't fill anything. It doesn't fulfill the law. This is the verse from Salvation Unto Us Has Come, which I'd be happy singing every week, but I know y'all would get sick of it, so we don't – but this is that third verse that we should all have memorized - “It was a false, misleading dream, that God His Law had given, that sinners could themselves redeem, and by their works gain heaven. The Law is but a mirror bright, to bring the inbred sin to light that lurks within our nature.” We hear this idea of fulfilling the law, and our sinful flesh jumps – there's my way out. I can work my way to heaven – that's what the Law says! No it doesn't. The Law must be fulfilled – and fulfilling the law doesn't simply mean “doing” the law. The Law is an if-then sort of statement. Suppose mom says, “If you don't take out the trash, then you don't get to play video games tomorrow” - and it's tomorrow and the trash has not been taken out... how is that law fulfilled? It's not fulfilled by me whining at my mom and promising to take the trash out all the better next week – the law is fulfilled by its designated punishment being executed. If you get a ticket for speeding, the law is fulfilled not by you promising the officer to drive more slowly, but by paying the fine. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

And what is the if-then for God's law? But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to the hell of fire. Oh. Or perhaps we should be a bit more blunt. For in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die. - The wages of sin is death. You see, God's Law is not something we can casually avoid or change on our whim. God's Law isn't something that we can placate or bargain with. You know what God's Law is like? It's like a Bounty Hunter – it's like Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. The hunter has found the 4 villains and they ask,
“What are your intentions.” And Rooster says, “
I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned. Or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker's convenience. Which'll it be?” If you understand that – then you understand what the Law of God says to sinners. You have transgressed, and you are going to die, and you aren't talking your way out of it. The wages of sin is death.

Now hear Jesus again – Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. Jesus comes because the sinner needs to die. And He isn't going to change that fact – the sinner needs to die. That law's not going to be abolished or annulled or lessened in any single way – not a by an iota or a dot. So Jesus comes to fulfill the law. He comes to die. You do realize that Jesus here is announcing His death, that He will be the One to die on account of sin? That is the entirety of the Law and the Prophets – that is what the entire Old Testament points towards and drives towards – that the Christ would come, that God Himself would come and be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, that it was necessary that the Christ be Crucified – that His heel must be bruised to crush the head of the serpent. And what Jesus does is He takes up the sin of the world – your sin, and He carries it to the cross and He is killed. The law is fulfilled. It is finished, it is completed. The sentence is carried out, now and for all time. This is why we confess that all people, believer and unbeliever alike will be raised again on the last day – Christ died for all.

But there is a second aspect to this that we need note. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. This is another if-then sort of statement, a barrier statement. If your righteousness isn't beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees, then you don't get to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again, this is something you cannot do yourself. And again, this is something that Christ comes to fulfill for you. He gives you His righteousness. He declares, He officially states that His righteousness is yours. Your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees because your righteousness is Christ's righteousness. You are not and will not be judged on the basis of your own works – your works were judged upon the Cross when Christ was put to death. No – you are baptized into Christ Jesus, you have been declared righteous by Him – and so you are judged on the basis of Christ Jesus. When the Father sees you, O Baptized Christian, O Baptized “little Christ”, He sees Jesus. And this is in reality what your life is. Even as your sinful flesh fights tooth and nail against the Law of God and against your neighbor – you are a new creation in Christ, and He dwells in you, and His righteousness covers you, and He works in you and through you, and the Father sees you and sees Jesus at the exact same time, for your righteousness is Christ's righteousness now – you are united to Christ – For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. And this is all what Christ has done. This is Christ coming to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and do to so for you, to rescue you from sin and death, to see you forgiven, to give you life now and forever. And it is what He has done for you, and what He pours out upon you again today in His Word and in His Supper. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Trinity 4 Sermon

Trinity 4 – July 13th and 14th, 2019 – Luke 6:36-42

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit +
“You have every right to be angry.” I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before, it’s probably been said to you. You may have even told it to a person – I have. You have every right to be angry, to be upset. Actually, we don’t; not the way we can think of it. Anger happens, it’s the response that we sinful folks have when we or the people we love are wronged. But St. Paul says, Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Yep, we on occasion get angry, get upset – occasionally we will be angry, but we have no right to stay angry, no right to let anger influence our actions. This is what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel lesson; He shows us why our anger is something we should avoid and beat down when it flares up. Let us listen to our Lord this morning.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. This is what you are to be – merciful. When you think about it, mercy is as about as far from anger as you can get. I know when I am feeling angry, when I am upset, mercy is the farthest thing from my mind. When I’m angry, I want vengeance, I want someone to get what they deserve, I want them to suffer humiliations galore. That’s not what I’m supposed to do, that’s not who I’m supposed to be. I am to be a merciful, loving person. The problem is my Old Adam, my sinful flesh doesn’t crave mercy. It craves power and control and respect, it wants to teach people a lesson. That’s not who we are to be. We are to be like God, God who is merciful – and not just merciful in general, but merciful to us. God has His way; His way is forgiveness. That’s how God likes, that’s how God prefers to handle sin. That is God’s plan – sin should be forgiven.

But if we refuse God, if we demand our own way and demand that sin be punished, if that’s how we want to be, God will do things our way. You want people’s sin to be on their heads, you want them to suffer for their wrongs – okay. Have it your way – but that’s how it will work for you as well. God says, “You don’t like forgiveness, you want judgment and punishment and condemnation to be the way things work, so be it.” Jesus warns us of this. Judge not and you will not be judged, condemn not and you will not be condemned. It’s really quite simple. How do you want it to be? Do you want to keep a record of sins done against you? Hear the Psalmist – If You, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand? If you want to demand that vengeance be taken against another for their sins, if you want to abandon mercy – guess what comes to you. And this makes sense. I remember playing basketball on the play ground growing up – and most of the time, we wouldn’t foul each other, we’d pull off, we’re just having fun. But then, someone fouls, drops the hammer on a guy. And you know what happens? Next time, that guy gets fouled. And soon we’re all knocking each other around. Same thing here – God wants our lives to be ones of mercy – but if we want them to be full of judgment and condemnation – God will play that way too. And you know what? That’s not good for us. Growing up, I was small. I could never give as good as I got when we started fouling – it was bad for me. Trying to play the judging game is bad for us. Blame game, condemnation game, bad for us. Ends up with us in hell.

You see, that’s what we deserve. That’s what it means when we say that we are sinners. Sinners deserve hell. By rights, sinners ought to be damned. Period. But see what your merciful God gives you. Christ Jesus goes to the cross and bears the punishment of sin in your place, takes it all, takes it fully – and in return He gives you forgiveness – and forgiveness not just for yourself, but forgiveness for you to give out freely to all who have wronged you. Do you know why – because that person who has gotten you upset, the person you want to beat with a stick – it’s already happened. Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God was already beaten with a stick for them – in fact, He was whipped, had a crown of thorns put on His head, and crucified. And so Christ gives us forgiveness, fills us with it so we do not have to bear any grudge or anger. Any wrong that has been done you, Christ has made full atonement, born the full punishment for it already. This is why He says, forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your lap.” This is how richly He has forgiven you. This is what Jesus has done for you. And on this, on His forgiveness, is where your focus is to be – and do you know why? Because when you are angry, when you are upset with someone and want them punished, when you condemn – you are denying Christ, or at least ignoring Him. You are saying that the punishment Christ suffered wasn’t enough, not enough for this person. “Surely, when Christ died for sinners, He wasn’t dying for this person who offended me.” Yes, He was. Be merciful, and show the same mercy that you have been given. Because the mercy you show isn’t your own mercy – it’s just the mercy that you’ve received from God, and you are simply passing it on.

You see, this is what Jesus is doing. He is training us and teaching us to be like Him. A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Jesus trains us with His Word, with His forgiveness, to be forgivers, to be people who gladly speak His Word to all, even to those who have wronged us. He is teaching us to be like Him. Christ Jesus, who died for you even as you sinned against Him, is training you to show love and give forgiveness like He does. And this is hard. It’s not what our sinful nature wants. In fact, this side of heaven we never will be fully trained. We have to wait until the last day, until we rise ourselves and share bodily in our Lord’s Resurrection to be fully trained, to be fully like our Teacher. But we are to strive to be like Him. We are to struggle, to work on this, to show more and more forgiveness.

So Jesus gives us an image to help us, to keep us in check and move us the way we should go. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” Tend to yourself and your own sin. That’s what Jesus says here. Quit your yapping and complaining about what the fellow next to you is doing. Why? Because your own sin is bigger – because you ought to be able to see your own sin so much more than you can see your neighbor’s sin. Because your own sin is great. It is big. However much that person has done to you – you’ve wronged God more. Plain and simple. That’s what we are to remember. When someone wrongs you, don’t think “Oh, I can’t believe what they’ve done. . . how could they. Well, I never.” Yes you have! In fact, when you are wronged, it should call you to repentance. Oh look, I’m still in the sinful world, surrounded by sin. Let me check myself and my own sin - oh yeah, I’m still a sinner, I still have my own problems to deal with, good night look at the size of this log in my own eye. When someone wrongs you, take a good look at yourself, and see your own sin. When that shoe of “he’s a sinner” is on the other foot, on your foot, you won’t be so quick to want to bash heads in.

Instead, God's Word and Spirit will focus you upon Christ. And this is where we give thanks and rejoice. None of us gets rid of the logs in our eyes. None of us get it cleared up enough in this life. But Christ Jesus has become our brother, the spotless lamb, without blemish or defect, without any log or speck in His eye – and Jesus comes to us, and He says, “Brother, I see that log in your eye. Let me handle that. I see your sin, and I forgive you and take it from you.” That’s what forgiveness is. It is Christ removing our sin. This is what Christ does to us freely and over and over again. That’s what He gives us – and what we give to others. When we have been forgiven, we see our neighbor’s sin, we see their struggles, we see the problems that they have, even the things they’ve done to us – and when we dwell, when we live in Christ’s forgiveness, we see clearly and say, “Let me get that for you brother – your sin is forgiven by Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s the way we are to be. And it’s a struggle. This is why we daily ask for forgiveness – Lord, forgive us our trespasses – because we need that forgiveness, and we nee d His strength over and over again so that we forgive the people He places into our lives. And so our Lord comes to us again and again – He speaks His Word of life to us and makes us whole.

Dear friends – God has not condemned you. Instead, He gives you forgiveness, and He spills this forgiveness up and over and through you into the people in your lives. He calls us here to His house to rejoice in His forgiveness, to receive it anew, and to give thanks to Him. To God our Father in heaven, all praise and glory be given for the abundant mercy He shows us through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A Pity-full God

Many of us are familiar with Luke 6:36, which reads: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."  That's the standard word that we use in translation - "merciful".  It has been since the days of Wycliffe.

But it's a fascinating word in Greek.  It's not "elaison" or any of it's variants - it's οἰκτίρμων - oiktirmon, which is the classic word for pitiful or miserable.  Be someone takes pity on others, just as your Father takes pity on people.

It's an interesting way to think about it.  Sometimes we can treat the idea of "mercy" as a matter of us "being the bigger person" - where we approach the mercy that we show as a sign of how great we are, how mature we are.  We're going to be the better person here, and hence we will show mercy instead of giving them the smack down that they need.

That undersells the point.  When God sees you trapped in sin, it's not just that He spares you, or that He holds back and doesn't crush you - it's that He actually feels bad for you.  He pities you. 

Sin makes us pathetic.  It does. Sin makes us stupid and hurt and just all messed up - and God sees how just messed up we are.  And so He has compassion.  He goes "you poor thing" towards us even as we rage against Him in our sin.

We forget how terrible sin is, how it traps people, how they get caught in sin's web.  We so often think of sin as "bad choices" so that person who sins gets what they "deserve".  God doesn't view your sin as your bad choices - it's a trap that you are stuck in, that you cannot get out of.  Or as Luther would have us sing, "Fast bound in Satan's chains I lay; Death brooded darkly o'er me."

Maybe we should remember to pity those trapped in sin, even sins that hurt and threaten us.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Trinity 3 Sermon

Trinity 3 – Luke 15:11-32 – July 6th and 7th, 2019

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Oh, you missed it – you picked the wrong day to be out of town on business. So, you know Ben, right? Oh, what a Maroon, what an imbecile. Yeah, Ben who lives on the south side of town, has that big farm just south. Yeah, loaded Ben. Two kids – older one seems alright, hard working. The younger one - meh. Yeah, that Ben – yeah, that was his kid last year, you remember that – walking on up to his dad - “Give me the share of the property that is coming to me.” Oh no, I couldn't believe either – I mean, the gall. I can't wait for you to die to inherit my share of stuff, so why don't you just either hurry up and die or give it to me now! Oh, if that were one of my kids, I'd have given it to him alright – I'd have given him the back of my hand and told him that was all he ever was going to get from me. I tell you what, you can't tolerate that sort of behavior.

Well, Ben, that sap, did. Last summer, gave the kid a fortune and off he went down the road – and Ben actually seemed sad about it. I think his life was better for the brat being gone – I mean, I would just kicked him out with nothing, but hey, oh well. Well, yesterday, I'm just minding my own business, sitting in the gate, chatting – and Ben goes streaking by. Yes, I mean streaking – tunic hiked up over the hips, barreling down the road for all the world to see. Oh, it was a sight – so I look on down the road, and what do I see? Way on down there, there's that no good brat come crawling back home – and let me tell you, he looked all the worse for the wear. I mean, not just some hard living worse for the wear – I'm guessing there was some of that – but down in the gutter, just crawled out of the pig sty hard living. Oh, gross – I wouldn't have touched him with a ten foot pole, I'd not want to catch anything from the boy.

But not Ben – oh no, he runs on up, big giant bear hug, kissing the brat. You would have thought a war hero came home or something. And at least the kid had the decency to look embarrassed, but Ben is just whooping and hollering – it was really embarassing. Has servants running around, has them bring robes, big old ring – then Ben parades his son through town – “We are going to celebrate, my son was dead and now he is alive. Come and celebrate with me.” Well, frankly I'm surprised he didn't die, but yep, the brat is back home.

Well, yeah, of course I went to the party – Ben might be a bit crazy, but he knows how to set up a table. And yeah, let me tell you, he knows how to fatten a calf. That was some good eating. Oh, but I'm not done. Ben wasn't done yet acting the fool. I don't know how many people saw it, because, with the music and the wine and the meat, it was a good party, and people were enjoying themselves, but I'd been sort of hanging out by Ben – I wanted to hear how he was going introduce this lout back to his neighbors – and Ben is just laughing, celebrating – when a servant comes up, whispers something in his ear. And Ben gets all concerned. Yeah, yeah – that look, you know it, that deep, pensive look – I can't even do it. So he excuses himself and slips on out. Yeah, from his own party. Up and left. Didn't even take a glass of wine with him. And of course, the servants start chit chattering – must have be something serious.

You know what it was? The old boy, yeah, him, good worker. Well, apparently he's out in the back 40 pitching an utter fit. So I move on down to the edge of the pavilion, and out there in the field is the older boy, just pacing around, arms crossed... and there goes Ben just walking on out to him Yeah, I know – I certainly wouldn't be doing that – when I need to have a talking with one of my boys I say, “Come here,” and they had better come. Oh, but it doesn't stop there – I couldn't hear it, but when Ben gets out there, his older boy starts yelling and screaming, full on pitching a fit and cussin' him out. And you know what Ben does? He stretches out his hand, and puts it gently on that boy's shoulder and leans on in and starts placating him. I would have put two hands on any of my boys who talked to me that way, and probably around their neck. I just shook my head and went back on in. Don't remember much after that – like I said, it was a GOOD party. But that Ben, making a fool of himself over his kids. Well, at least he knows how to throw a party.

Of course, there's another way to tell the same story.

So, uh, you've heard about what's gone on, right? Yeah, it literally all has gone to hell in a handbasket. Everything in the LORD's good creation is messed up now. Why? Those numbnutzes Adam and Eve. Here the LORD puts them as the pinnacle of His creation, and they blow it. How? They ate it. Yeah, the one thing the LORD told them not to do, and they did it. And you know what's worse? Creation is falling apart, Death is unleashed, that blow hard Satan is cackling, and what does the LORD do? He goes to check up on Adam and Eve. Oh, no, He didn't just blot them out and call a do over. It was ridiculous – they were hiding behind the bushes – oh, brilliant job there caretaker of the planet, go hide behind some bushes, surely the Almighty God will get fooled by that. No, He doesn't even yell – the LORD is patient with them. Talks them through it, and the kicker? He promises to defeat Satan for them, promises that He Himself will become man and do it Himself. Yeah, you heard that right, LORD, the Creator, would become man. Yeah, talk about humiliating.

You'd have thought that they would have minded their Ps & Qs after that, wouldn't you have? They don't. It just gets worse and worse. Cain kills his brother Abel, and instead of smiting Cain, the LORD puts a mark on him warning everyone away from killing Cain. It gets worse and worse – sends a flood but rescues Noah and his family, and you know what the first thing Noah does? Plants a vineyard and gets utter toasted. I know, these humans have no a lick of decency or common sense. On and on – The LORD will visit these people, bless them, make promises to them – and they just keep on being some sort of pieces of work. And still the LORD keeps being patient with them, still keeps His promises to them.

Until you get the Big One. He actually becomes man. And He doesn't just snap His fingers and show up as a mighty king. No, He's born. And to a poor family. Born in a barn – and there He is – the LORD, the Creator of all things, just laying there, waiting on His mom to change Him after He messed Himself. Yeah, that's what He meant when He said He'd be one of them and fix the problem. And He grows up, and He is fantastic. Teaches wisdom, love, mercy, starts healing people, fulfilling every promise – it should be clear as day that this is the LORD – and you know what they do? They complain. They grumble. They yell at Him. Oh, no He didn't smack them down – He lets it go on and on. And they arrest Him, and mock Him, and beat Him, and they kill Him. And He rises, and He blesses them again, says, “Peace” - says that He Himself destroyed death and bore the weight of sin for them. Utterly astonishing.

Of course, there's yet another way to tell the story.

So there you were. Conceived in iniquity as the Scriptures say. Born sinful, at emnity, at war with God. Hell bent, literally, hell bent on trashing creation and as many of the people around you as you could until you die. And yet, even before you were born, while you were still along way off, indeed, before the creation of the world, God planned out your salvation. The LORD would become man, and suffer, and die – and though it was all before you were born, it was done for you. For you good.

And then, He came to you with His Word and Spirit, and He washed you clean in Holy Baptism, declared you not merely a servant, not merely a laborer or slave, but His child. Once again an heir of all of His House, one who is to be a master of all of His good gifts, who will be a lord and master of the new creation, set above even the angels. And what happens? You still sin. Over and over and over. And sometimes it's brazen and bold and ends up with you in a gutter, and sometimes it ends up with you grouchy and pouty and condescending towards your neighbor. Either way, it's embarrassing. Our sin always is, even though we so often try to justify it. We so often try to work our way out of it – oh, I'll make it up to you God, treat me like a servant. We so often blame God - Oh, you lousy God, see all that I've done for you, why don't I have a pony, blah blah blah blah blah.

And yet, what does the LORD do? He keeps on coming to you, over and over again. Here – receive a Word of forgiveness. Here, take and eat, take and drink – be strengthened against that sin and temptation. And over and over He comes, He offers Himself to you and for you. And He keeps on doing this – no matter now long you were off blowing the gifts He gave you or pouting in wretched jerkitude. I'm sure somewhere there's a Church today where someone has walked back on in after 20, 30, 50 years of being away – and there's the Word and Spirit, doing their thing, bringing forgiveness and life and salvation.

Because that's who your God is. That's who Jesus is – pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression, showing steadfast love even at cost to Himself. And sometimes we take this for granted, we forget just how utterly insane this love looks to the world, how utterly astonishing it actually it. Doesn't bother God at all. For you, his child, were dead in sin and tresspasses, and now you are alive in Christ. And indeed, because Christ died and rose, you will rise to new and everlasting life, life once again sinless as God intended you to be. His party will go on for all eternity, and it will be for you. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +