Saturday, August 30, 2008

Proper 17 of Series A (Matthew 16:21-28)

“Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from Matthew chapter 16. Dear friends in Christ--- when dealing with Jesus, the most important issue to consider is that of identity. Who is this Jesus guy anyway? The answer to this question has divided churches, friends, and families throughout history, and it continues to do so. How we answer this question sets us apart from others, and declares where we stand. More than these earthly things, this question has eternal consequences. Jesus claims to be God, the only way to heaven. If we believe Him and He is lying, we are doomed. If we choose not to believe Him and He is speaking the truth, we are in trouble as well. The disciples were faced with this question just moments before our text for today. Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I AM?” This question demanded an answer, it demanded a confession, not only from the disciples, but from every person in every age. When we read and hear what Jesus says about Himself, we are faced with this question: “Who do you say that I AM?” When we confess the creed we will answer with Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus Christ is true God and true man, He is the Messiah who has come for our salvation. Peter knew who Jesus was, but did he know what Jesus would do, did he know what this confession meant?

Peter and the disciples were on cloud nine. He had made the bold confession on their behalf, and now they were ready to take on the world. But Jesus was not the kind of Messiah they expected. “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” There is one little word here that is absolutely key- ‘must.’ The Greek word behind ‘must’ is extremely important. It speaks of necessity, of compulsion, the absolute ‘have to’ of the cross. Jesus was under a divine obligation to go to Jerusalem and die. This was the Father’s will, nothing could change it, Jesus had no choice. Why? Because it was the only way we could be saved. Only blood could deliver sinful man. Ever since the first sin of Adam and Eve, all humanity was trapped in the bonds of sin. You were born sinful and you cannot stop sinning. God required blood to pay for this sin, but the blood of animal sacrifices throughout the Old Testament could never fully hold back His wrath. Instead, these sacrifices pointed to God’s ultimate plan- He Himself would provide the sacrifice, God the Father would place His own Son on the altar. Only the sinless Son of God could bear away all of our sins and take it to the cross. It had to happen, it was absolutely necessary. God could not simply look the other way at our sin- His justice demanded punishment. God could not simply let us all die without hope- His love demanded action. And so Jesus came, not to be a king on earth, but instead to fulfill the Father’s will, the divine ‘must’ of salvation. He loved you so much that He was willing to pay that price to take away all of your sin. And so He did, by walking to Jerusalem and bearing a cross to a hill called Golgotha, where His shed blood washed away all of your sin. But the divine ‘must’ did not only include death, it also meant resurrection. And so, just as Jesus said in our text for today, on the third day, He was raised, and now you have eternal life in His Name! God’s divine ‘must’ was for you, and Christ fulfilled it for your salvation!

But this was not the Messiah that Peter wanted. He had made the great confession, he had visions of the glory that the Son of God would bring, suffering and death had no part in the picture that his mind drew. “And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’” Peter did not want the cross, He did not want to see Christ crucified, but more than that, he knew what the consequences would be for the followers of Christ if Jesus was crucified. Peter saw his own cross in the words of Jesus, and so He tried to steer Jesus away. And can we blame him? We too often want a Jesus without the cross. We want a God, a Jesus who will make our lives easier, who will bring us glory. We don’t want Jesus to suffer, we don’t want ourselves to suffer, and if we were in Peter’s shoes, we would probably try to turn Jesus away as well. In this world Jesus often becomes a buddy, simply a friend, but not a Savior. Jesus truly is our friend, and He gives to us the comfort we need at every point of our lives. But Jesus is more than a friend, He is a Savior, and as our Savior, He must go to the cross.

Jesus’ response to Peter is stern and even a bit surprising: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.’” Anyone who attempts to derail Christ from His road to Jerusalem, from His road to the cross, is in league with Satan. The devil has sought from the very beginning of Jesus’ life to defeat this messiah, to prevent Him from carrying out the divine ‘must’ of salvation. Satan knows that if Jesus carries all of our sin and punishment to the cross, he is defeated, and mankind is saved. He enlists sinful humanity to help in the cause, turning one of Jesus’ most trusted disciples into an enemy. Satan wants Christ to grasp for the glory, but Jesus doesn’t bite- He instead goes to the cross for you and for your sins, bringing salvation to you through His death and resurrection.

Peter tried to turn Jesus away from Golgotha because he feared his own cross, and his fears ended up coming true. Peter would die for his faith in Rome crucified upside down. But even before his death, Peter carried a cross, as all followers of Christ do. Jesus has already told us about His own cross, the cross He would bear for the sins of the world, for your sins. Now, however, there is another cross to speak about- your cross. “Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” Because we follow Christ, because He has come to us to create faith within us through His Word, because He has washed us clean through the waters of Holy Baptism, we will bear a cross in this life. Not a literal cross as Peter did, but instead we will face difficulties and even persecution in our lives. And why is that? Because in being a Christian we have denied ourselves, we have given up our lives in service to Christ and one another. Because of what Christ has done for us, we give up everything to follow Him. We refuse to recognize or acknowledge our old sinful selves because our identity is in Christ, and because we are in Christ, we serve others selflessly, putting their needs before our own. The life of a Christian is one lived in denial of ourselves and instead focusing on Christ. We lost our lives for the sake of Christ in our Baptism, and now daily we lay our lives down in service to Christ and our neighbor, knowing that we have eternal life waiting for us in heaven.

This is not an easy thing to do. When we lay down our lives and deny ourselves in service to Christ, we will often face hardship, we will face persecution, we risk being trampled on. The prophet Jeremiah knew what it was like to live under the cross. For decades he served the Lord as a prophet to God’s people, bearing the word of the Lord to His people and suffering as a result. In our Old Testament lesson, he cries out: “Know that for your sake I bear reproach…I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation… Why is my pain incurable, refusing to be healed?” Yet, in the midst of the lonely, hard life under the cross, Jeremiah could still say: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jeremiah had hope and strength because the Word of the Lord sustained him, even as they caused him to bear a cross, they remained the delight of his heart. We too find strength to bear up under the crosses that this life sends our way, here in this place, where we receive God’s Word, and every time you come to that altar to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. We remember that we are called by the Name of the Lord because we were given that Name in our Baptism. We may face hardships in this life, we will bear crosses, but we have the promise of God: “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I AM with you, to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord.”

God is with us in our trials and tribulations, but here today, in this place, we are reminded that other Christians are with us as well. When we deny ourselves and lay down our lives for others, we also do so for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We help to bear them up in their trials, giving to them the comfort that flows from Christ, and the assurance that no matter what this world may throw at us, we have the promise of eternal life. Jesus repeated that promise today: “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Do not think that Jesus will judge you on the basis of your good works, here He is speaking of whether a person has believed, taking up the cross. When the Holy Spirit worked faith within you through the power of the Word, you were given a cross, and you now live a life under the cross. It is in this life that salvation comes to you. The Son of Man came in His kingdom on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and He came to give you salvation, to fulfill the Father’s plan. May the Lord sustain you in the faith that He has given you through Word and Sacrament, strengthening you under whatever trials and crosses come your way, Amen.

Monday, August 25, 2008

St. Bartholomew, Apostle (John 1:43-51)

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon today comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the first chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. Dear friends in Christ, today we celebrate Saint Bartholomew, one of Jesus’ disciples, a man we know very little about. And I think that is alright, because our focus on a saint’s day should not be on the saint himself, but instead on who that saint pointed to through his words and actions- Christ. Before we begin, I think I should clear up something that might cause a bit of confusion. This is Saint Bartholomew’s day, but in our text, we don’t seem to encounter anyone named Bartholomew. There’s Philip, Nathanael, and Jesus, but no one else. You see, some biblical scholars (and apparently the folks who put together our lectionary) believe that the man named Nathanael in John is the same person called Bartholomew in the other Gospels and in Acts. You can ask me for the specific reasons later, but at least we can all agree that for the purposes of this sermon, Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person. If so, then this is Bartholomew’s shining moment, his only recorded words in the New Testament. John the Baptist has only two days ago pointed to Christ as the one he was preparing for, and then on the next day, Jesus called Andrew and Simon Peter. In our text, the fourth day of John’s Gospel, Jesus called Philip.

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘follow me.’ Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” The amazing thing about Philip is that he does not stop to worship Jesus, he does not ask any questions, but he runs away. Now, I doubt that Jesus said ‘follow me’ and Philip turned tail immediately, but the important thing to note is that his first act as a disciple of Jesus was to find someone else to bring to Christ. I’m sure there are some of you in here who can relate, especially those of you who became a Christian later in life. The enthusiasm of your conversion though the power of the Holy Spirit sent you out to tell others, to bring them to the blessed waters of Baptism, to bring them into contact with Christ’s life-changing Word. For those of us, like me, who have been life-long Christians, we can often struggle to find that same enthusiasm, and even the enthusiasm of a new Christian fades away. Philip’s example is one that speaks directly to us- we go from this place where Jesus comes to us, out into the world, and what we speak are not our words, but instead they are the words of the Scriptures. Even when we are met with skepticism and rejection, when the Nathanael’s of the world scoff at us, we can simply say with Philip “come and see.” Come and see where Christ comes to people in His Word, in water, in His Body and Blood.

This sounds great, but Nathanael’s question should give us pause, even if it did not seem to slow down Philip one bit. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” If we stop to think about it, this is a ‘good’ question. The Greek word used here for ‘good’ has a strong practical, pragmatic meaning. It means that a person or thing has met a certain standard, and could easily be translated as ‘useful.’ Is Jesus useful? If you go to Barnes and Noble and search the ‘spirituality’ shelf, or even go to a Christian bookstore, you will find plenty of writers who think that He is. Jesus has been portrayed as a ‘good, useful’ teacher throughout history, and today is no exception. He has been claimed by almost every type of group on the face of the planet, from politics (did you know Jesus was a communist?), to food (did you know Jesus was a vegetarian?), to social issues (did you know Jesus was a homosexual?). Jesus has been found quite ‘useful’ by many people throughout history, but is this the Jesus of the Scriptures?

In the Gospels, when Jesus is called ‘good’ (with that specific Greek word) by someone, He almost always deflects attention to His Father. God the Father is good and useful, but Jesus does not look at Himself in the same way. Why? Because Jesus did not become man to be useful or ‘good.’ In fact, His coming had quite the opposite effect. In our text, we read how Saint Bartholomew came to faith. He would later die for that faith, in a gruesome, terrible way. Following Christ, for Saint Bartholomew and many others, was not ‘useful’ or ‘good,’ but instead it led to death. Following Jesus is anti-practical, anti-pragmatic, and it usually means a harder life under the cross. Christians in America don’t have to think about martyrdom very often, but even in a country where we have religious freedom, Jesus isn’t very practical. Following Christ does not gain us money, it does not solve all of our problems, it does not bring us an earthly life of bliss. Following Christ is tough, and it often means hardship, as we struggle to live our faith in a world that rejects it. I suspect this may be a reason we are reluctant to follow Philip’s example. We can only offer to the world around us a Jesus who often makes life harder. In fact, that is what tempts us to fall away. Why stand by Jesus when He only brings trouble?

So Nathanael is right. Nothing ‘good’ comes from Nazareth. Jesus is not practical, He is not useful, He is not pragmatic. He is in fact quite the opposite. Associating with Him means a cross, it means hardship, it may even mean death. God the Father is the good one- He created and sustains all of creation, bringing fruit from the earth and rain from the heavens. God is good, but Christ is something else entirely. What is He? If we look at the rest of our text, we will find our answer.

Nathanael’s skepticism melts away very easily. All Jesus has to do is demonstrate His divine knowledge and all-seeing eye, and Nathanael is hooked. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’” St. Bartholomew then confesses boldly: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” When you are reading the Gospels, one of the most important things to pay attention to is the names given to Jesus. This name, “the Son of God,” is very important. This is the foundation of our faith, that a man born in first century Palestine named Jesus of Nazareth, is true God. He is not simply a man, but He is God, and as God, He has taken human flesh, and He has taken it on to save.

And how will He do this? Nathanael’s second name for Jesus seems to give us the answer: “You are the King of Israel!” A king? Now this is truly ‘useful’ and ‘good.’ A messianic king will surely throw off the yoke of the Roman rulers and establish a kingdom on earth that will last forever. Two thousand years from his birth, Christians in upstate New York will live in luxury and security because they belong to this kingdom, the most powerful kingdom on earth! Nathanael is wrong! Something good did come out of Nazareth! And so many would think- and many still think this today. But the next time that Jesus would be called the ‘King of Israel’ or the ‘King of the Jews,’ He would be hanging on a Roman cross, giving up His life, shedding His blood for our sins. Jesus truly was a king, but He was not a practical, pragmatic, ‘good,’ or useful king. He was a king who could only establish His kingdom through His death. This death at the hands of sinful men, at the hands of those He came to save, would wash away the sins of the entire world, and establish a heavenly kingdom. When He rose from the grave triumphant on the third day, His kingdom was established and your sins were forgiven- especially your sins of not following Philip’s example and bringing His message to others. Christ was not ‘good’ or ‘useful’- He was a Savior, and as our Savior He endured the shame of the cross for you!

Nathanael’s bold confession causes Jesus to caution this enthusiastic new disciple: “Because I said to you ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’” This was not exactly Christ’s greatest miracle, and Nathanael’s response is a little too enthusiastic. Jesus does not want Nathanael to be carried in the wind by every desert preacher who makes a prediction or two. Jesus wants Nathanael to follow Him because He is true God and true man, and He is the one who will reconcile God and man. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This third name of Christ, the Son of Man, is only used by Jesus Himself, and it is used to designate His state of humiliation, as He walked this earth as a man, taking on all of our sin and the punishment we deserved and taking it to the cross. But after the cross came the resurrection, and after Easter Sunday Christ was enthroned on high, and his prophecy to Nathanael, to Saint Bartholomew, was fulfilled. In Genesis, Jacob has a dream where He sees a ladder to heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending upon it. God speaks to him and says, “In you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Christ is this promised offspring, and through His death and resurrection, all families on earth truly are blessed! Christ has replaced Jacob’s ladder as the link between heaven and earth, as the only means by which we can attain heaven. Christ is not ‘good’ or ‘useful’ in this life, but despite all the difficulties we may face, He will bring you to eternal life in heaven through His shed blood.

This blood has washed away all of your sins, as Christ has come to you in your sinful condition as the Son of God, as the King of Israel, and as the Son of Man. This forgiveness sends you back into the world to speak of Christ and the great things He has done for you. You cannot offer a God who promises an easy life, but you can speak of a Savior who has gone to the cross for all people and has delivered you from sin and death, you can invite those around you to ‘come and see,’ to come and see our Savior and our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. May this message sustain you and send you back into this sinful world carrying the light of Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Proper 14 of Series A (Matthew 14:22-33)

“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning comes from the Gospel lesson read just a few moments ago from Matthew chapter fourteen. Dear friends in Christ- Whew! The disciples had one long day! It may seem even longer to us, considering that we began it with the disciples in the sermon last week. We heard then from Pastor Werly how Jesus went to find a quiet place for reflection and prayer, for communion with His (and our) Heavenly Father, and instead found 25,000 hungry Yankee fans waiting for Him. Well, now He has finished feeding that multitude, the miracle is over, and it is time to go home. More importantly, it is time for Jesus to do what He came to do originally- pray. So the disciples are sent out to sea while Christ communes with the Father. But during this eventful day, even the night holds no peace. I don’t know about you, but one of the most frightening things I have experienced is to be out in the open during a storm. No shelter, no protection, you see it coming and there is nothing you can do. This is especially frightening when you are on the water, where the very surface you are traveling on is deadly. So we can easily imagine what the disciples felt like as things became dangerous: “The boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, and the wind was against them.”
Matthew does not tell us if the disciples cried out for help, but I think we can safely assume that they were hoping and praying for deliverance. Death was staring them in the face, and they needed help, they needed rescue, they needed safety. And so, off in the distance, Jesus comes to them. “And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.” Jesus came to them in their distress, He came to save, to comfort, as He has done so many times in your life. The fact that Jesus walked on water to come to His disciples is not nearly as important as that fact that HE CAME TO THEM. Their fear drove Him to them.
But the disciples retained their fear, they did not recognize their Lord, Savior and Teacher coming toward them. Matthew tells us: “But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear.” In the terror of that night, everything was a phantom, another agent of death. The disciples let loose a cry, a cry of fear, a cry of doubt, a cry of worry.
Their cry did not go unanswered. Immediately, at that very moment, in the midst of their fear and distress, Jesus answered their cry. Paul tells us in our Epistle lesson that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” And so they cried out, and Jesus called to them, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus spoke these words, words of comfort, words of courage, words of absolution. He did not calm the waves, but He simply spoke, and His Words held power to do what they said. First He said ‘take heart,’ encouraging them to stand resolute in the face of danger. Next came a statement of identity, ‘it is I.’ This English translation does not capture the significance of the words Jesus spoke. Jesus literally said, “Take heart, I AM.” Jesus is here invoking the Divine Name of God, saying that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the only True God, Yahweh Himself, the great ‘I AM,’ is here, and He is here to save. This man, born of a virgin in a stable is true God, and He brings salvation with Him. Because of who Jesus is as true God and true man, the Messiah sent from God, He can now say to the disciples, ‘Do not be afraid.’ These are the words of absolution, of true comfort. Their fear has been extinguished by the words of Christ. But do not think that just because Jesus was standing on water while He spoke these words that it is any different for you. You had reason to fear, you stood under the condemnation of God for your sin, but Christ came to you in your distress. He did not stand on water, but He used water to bring you into His kingdom through Holy Baptism. When the pastor said “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Jesus said to you, “Take heart; I AM. Do not be afraid.” God placed His name on you in your baptism, the same name that Jesus spoke to the disciples, the only name in which salvation comes to us. When Pastor Werly says “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Jesus said to you, “Take heart; I AM. Do not be afraid.” In these words, by these means, Christ comes to us, and He comes bringing salvation.
But for Peter, the words of Christ were not enough. This wonderful, blessed absolution from Jesus, spoken in the midst of the storm, did not satisfy Him. And so He calls out to Jesus “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” It is easy for us to sit here and laugh at the foolishness of Peter, who has once again stuck his foot in his mouth. But if Peter seems to make a habit of doing just that, it is only because he is a representative of all the disciples and of us all. We too have trouble believing the absolution; we struggle to trust Christ’s words. We seek confirmation, sometimes looking within ourselves for some sign that God really does love us, and sometimes looking to God, like Peter, demanding a miracle. Words and water, or even bread and wine, do not seem to carry the importance we would expect. Christ can’t simply just talk to us, place some water on us, or give us a meal for our salvation. There must be something that we can do, we must need to come to Christ, if only partway. This is part of the air we breathe in our culture today, especially our Christian culture. Words are not simply enough, we need miracles, we need to come to Christ, it can’t be so easy that He would only come to us. And so we step out of the boat with Peter, in search of a miracle, driven by the desire to come to Christ.
And like Peter, we might find that walking to Jesus seems quite easy. Matthew tells us, “So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” Peter asked for a miracle, and he received it, He wanted to come to Jesus, and it seemed to be working out. There is something so distinctly American, so distinctly human about us walking to Christ. Even if we are only walking on the water through a miracle, we can still be proud that we are the ones who stepped out of the boat and made the effort to come to Christ. But then, the storms of life continue to be around us, and suddenly things don’t seem so rosy. We go through a tough time at work or at home, or we lose a loved one, and we realize that walking to Christ is a lonely road. “But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” We will always sink when we are walking to Christ. For despite how much we talk about Christ as we walk, when we doubt His words of absolution we have rejected His coming to us and are attempting to walk to Him by ourselves.
But Christ, in His loving mercy, does not let us sink. We cry out for salvation once again, yearning to hear His words of Absolution, we cry out with Peter, “Lord, save me!” And Christ does save us, as He saved Peter. Our fears drive Christ to us. “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” Peter did not only doubt when he saw the wind and the waves, he doubted more importantly when he doubted Christ’s words of absolution, His coming to them, and instead struck out on his own. But Christ’s love for us compels Him to rescue us again and again, each time that we strike out on our own.
It was this love that brought us salvation in the first place. When Peter cried out “Lord, save me!” he wanted deliverance from the wind and the waves. But Christ did not come to this earth to simply calm storms. He came to rescue us all from drowning, from the fear of death and punishment that surrounded us, the terror caused by our fall into sin. He took away our fear and the punishment we deserved by taking it upon Himself, and taking it to the cross, where His shed blood washed away all of our sins. It is only through that sacrifice and the victorious resurrection on the third day that Jesus’ words “Take heart, I AM. Do not be afraid” have any significance. Without Good Friday and Easter, Pastor spoke empty words to you this morning in the absolution, and your Baptism simply made you wet. But with the death of Christ on Calvary’s cross and His victory over the grave on the third day, those words have meaning, they have power, they do what they say. They forgive your sins, they restore the broken relationship between God and man, they bring you salvation. And because He went to the cross for you, you can trust those words. You do not need to come to Christ, because He came to you in the midst of your distress, He calmed your fears, He forgave you through simple Words, water, bread and wine. As Saint Paul teaches in our Epistle lesson: “But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);” (Rom 10:6-8) The storms of life continue to rage, but through these means by which Christ comes to us we have the assurance that He has defeated the only storm that really matters in the end, that of sin and death.
And what is our response to this gift, this salvation conveyed to us in Word and Sacrament? As the disciples, we are moved to confession and worship. “And those in the boat worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” We confess what Christ as done for us to those around us, and we join all other believers to continue to receive these gifts, here in this place and every day. God’s Word sustains us and gives us the strength to face life’s storms. May the Lord use His Word and His Sacraments to strengthen and preserve you in the true faith, today and every day, Amen.