Monday, May 30, 2011

Easter 6 of Series A (John 14:15-21)

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from 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 the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. Dear friends in Christ, though it only consists of two letters, the word ‘if’ carries with it significance much greater than its size. It can introduce uncertainty and perhaps even doubt into our lives, it can make us stop and ponder what could happen in the future. So when we hear the word ‘if’ in our text, it makes us a bit uncomfortable: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If you love me, Jesus says. Our love is shown in keeping His commandments. Now, a little explanation is needed. What we have translated here as ‘commandments’ doesn’t mean just the moral principles that Jesus gave us. No, in fact, it encompasses all of Jesus’ words, both Law and Gospel. And to keep those words means to hold onto them, to preserve and cling to them. So this isn’t just keeping the rules, but instead believing in Jesus, holding to Him in faith. However, even with those explanations, we haven’t removed that little word ‘if,’ have we? There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether we can actually hold onto His Word, whether we can hold onto Him, and for good reason.

You don’t need me to tell you that this ‘if’ is a tall order. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Whether it is the commands of God that Jesus gave to us and clarified throughout His ministry, or the beautiful message of His death and resurrection for our sake, holding onto Jesus seems impossible, for we are struggling against a sinful world that cares little for Jesus or anything that He had to say. Sure, they like to claim Him for their own causes, listening to His Word when it is convenient for them. The whole Jesus? That is a bit too much for our world to swallow. Our world doesn’t want to be shackled to any morality; those around us are having too much fun living only for themselves. And that’s only the Law; the Gospel of Jesus is just as offensive. Jesus declares that “No one comes to the Father except through me,” but our world wants to see many paths to God. The world is deeply offended that ‘good people’ could end up going to hell. To hold onto the Word of Jesus in the midst of this world, which doesn’t believe in sin and therefore doesn’t need a savior, appears impossible. But there is more to our plight than simply an evil world. We can see ourselves as a firm rock in the midst of a raging river of unbelief and immorality, but we know that we are also struggling against ourselves. Our own sinful nature doesn’t want to hear any of Jesus’ words; we don’t want God to be in charge, instead we want to call the shots. Deep down we rebel against how Jesus has described the life of a Christian. Our sinful nature also rebels against the Gospel. It wants to work itself up to God, it wants to earn the favor of our Creator. Try as we might, we fail each and every day to hold onto Christ’s Word.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That ‘if’ is a lonely word. We love Jesus, but it is wearying to struggle against this sinful world. We feel like we’re the only one who care about Jesus, we feel alone. Why should I be the only one to even try to live according to God’s Law? Why should I be the only one who trusts in Jesus for salvation? What has it earned me but the scorn of the world, the ridicule of my neighbors, turmoil within my heart? Our friends don’t believe in Jesus, even our family has seemed to abandon Him. Our neighbors live in immorality, we read about a world that seems to be going more and more down the drain each day. Does anyone else even care? That’s exactly what Satan wants us to think. He wants us to feel alone, he wants us to feel orphaned. He wants us to be isolated, to feel like we’re the only Christians around. That’s how Satan works; he separates, he isolates. He wants us to wallow alone in our sin, he wants us to stay away from the comfort of others. He gives us reasons to skip church, to avoid the fellowship of believers, and when we take him up on his offer, he rejoices. He wants to deal with Christians one by one, he wants to make us feel like we have been abandoned by God, and you know that often he succeeds. It seems that Jesus has orphaned us, leaving us behind in this cruel, dark world with an impossible command. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That ‘if’ mocks us in our isolation. It’s almost like Jesus had said, “If you love me, but you don’t, you will keep my commandments, but you can’t.”

Satan paints that dreary picture, a picture of isolation, a picture of us standing alone in a sinful world. But the truth is much different. Jesus knows the challenges that you face in this world of sin, He knows Satan’s tricks. Jesus knows that the life of His followers here upon this earth will be a difficult, lonely road, and so He has not left us alone. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” The Holy Spirit is our helper, our companion in this dark and lonely world. The Father sends Him to us to create and strengthen faith, to be with us each and every step of our journey. The great promise of God in the Old Testament, spoken again and again, is that “I AM with you;” in Matthew twenty-eight, Jesus promises, “Behold I AM with you always, even to the end of the age,” and here Jesus teaches us that the Spirit, our helper, will “be with you forever.” The Spirit is the One who fulfills those promises by bringing us the presence of God, to comfort and strengthen us. The Holy Spirit isn’t known by the world, for He is the one who works faith within us, through the Word and through the waters of Holy Baptism. Where He is, there faith is being created and strengthened. The world doesn’t know the Holy Spirit, for it has rejected the Word, it has rejected faith. But in you, in me, the Holy Spirit is active doing the work He delights in. He has given you faith in your Baptism, He has strengthened that faith today and every day through the Word of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit is working, even if we can’t ‘feel’ Him; in fact the Holy Spirit is working especially when we can’t ‘feel’ Him, for He does His work in the midst of our weakness, as we struggle to hold onto Jesus in this world. We can only cling to our Savior through Him, for it is He, not us, that sustains our faith. He holds onto us, especially when our hold upon Jesus is weak and faltering. He keeps us in the faith, He keeps us in Christ’s Word, it is only through His work that we love Jesus.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is how Jesus fulfills His great promise: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” He is departing, going forth from the upper room that very night to accomplish salvation. “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more,” Jesus says. The world will not see Him for it will kill Him, executing Him by hanging Him upon a cross. The world refused to see Jesus for who He truly is, the Son of God come to free all creation from the bondage of sin, but instead they saw Him as a threat, as an imposter. They nailed Him to the tree, but in being killed Jesus would bring salvation for even those who condemned Him, even you and me. For He died bearing your sins, He died bearing your corruption. He died to forgive your lack of love toward Him or your neighbors; He died to forgive your inability to keep His Word. He loved you when you were unable to love Him; He kept His Word when you couldn’t. His departure means salvation, His departure means forgiveness, His departure means victory.

“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” Jesus departed to accomplish salvation, but He returned, just as He promised. He returned alive, victorious over death, bearing the wounds of salvation for all eternity. Because Jesus lives, because He triumphed over the grave, you also will live. You possess eternal life, for the Holy Spirit has worked faith within you through the Word and the washing of Holy Baptism. You have been baptized into His resurrection, as Saint Peter teaches in our Epistle lesson: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.” Because Jesus lives, because you have been baptized into His death and resurrection, you too will live. You will live, even though you die, for Jesus has conquered death. Because Jesus lives, you will abide forever in the fellowship of the Trinity: “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” The Holy Spirit brings us Jesus in this world of sin, and when we are joined with Jesus, we are in fellowship with the Father as well. You are not alone, for even now you are in the fellowship of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are in relationship with your God, for your sins are forgiven and you have been adopted as God’s children through the washing of Holy Baptism.

Jesus concludes our text by returning to the way He began it: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” In a sense, these words are just as daunting as when Jesus said them before; we cannot hold onto our Lord on our own. But with the words of Jesus in our text, we have the assurance that we are not left alone, that the Holy Spirit is working to create and sustain faith, faith which clings to Jesus throughout this life’s journey. The Holy Spirit reveals to us Jesus, He makes our crucified and risen Lord manifest to us, strengthening us in this world. Jesus was made manifest to His disciples in His resurrection from the dead; He is made manifest to you in the wonderful gifts of the Word and the Holy Sacraments, and He will be made manifest to you forever in the resurrection of the dead. Because He lives, also you will live. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! Amen.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Easter 3 of Series A (Luke 24:13:35)

“Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from 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 the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke. Dear friends in Christ, mothers have a way of seeing things that their children (or their husbands) are unable to. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times my mother sent me into a room to find something, and I couldn’t find it, but when summoned, she came and immediately tracked it down. Maybe it was superior knowledge of where things were stored, maybe it was superior techniques in finding the lost, or maybe it was just luck, but it seemed that she could see much more clearly than me. And she hardly broke a sweat. I could spend ten minutes searching drawers and cabinets, and she would come in and find it in five seconds. Now, I can’t remember my mother ever saying to us ‘are you blind!?’ but she would’ve had good reason to. Was I blind? Yes and no. I could see, but I just couldn’t see what I was looking for.

In the same way, the disciples on the road to Emmaus could see just fine, they just couldn’t see who they were talking to. “That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” Our text is dripping with irony, as Jesus plays the part of a confused traveler and these two men proceed to tell Him about the events of Good Friday and Easter morning. Like an exasperated mother, we read this text and say, “Are you blind!?” Yes and no. These two disciples have physical sight, but they are spiritually blind. They cannot see Jesus for who He truly is.

This is the result of the first sin. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sunk their teeth into the fruit they were not supposed to eat, Scripture tells us that “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Their eyes are opened, and they don’t like what they see. They see shame, condemnation, sin, and death. They see a world corrupted by sin, a world that is dying. And now that their eyes are opened to see sin and death, they are blinded to God. This is a tragic reversal of how it was when God created man. We were formed lovingly from the dust of the ground, God Himself breathed into our nostrils the very breath of life. Humanity had eyes completely opened to God and closed to all evil. We were in perfect relationship with our heavenly Father and Creator. But sin changed all that. We now have eyes closed to God and open to sin and evil. That is all we see around us, we cannot see God on our own. We look at ourselves and we ask, ‘Are you blind?’ Yes and no. Our eyes can see death all around us, we can see the sin that fills us and others, we can see the devil’s temptations, but God we can’t see.

Blindness then leads to misunderstanding. The two disciples on the Emmaus road give Jesus a confirmation lesson, and their teaching is, to say the least, lacking. “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” The crucifixion doesn’t fit into their conception of Jesus. It is unexpected, tragic, and surprising. They thought that He was a mighty prophet, but now He is dead. That little conjunction ‘but’ is filled with sorrow and disappointment. He was a mighty prophet, but He was crucified. We thought He was the one who would redeem Israel but He lays in a tomb. They were looking for a victorious Jesus, a Jesus who would back up His mighty miracles and amazing words with a demonstration of power in the holy city itself. God had protected His chosen people Israel before, He had preserved them against many foes, and they expected Jesus to be the greatest redeemer.

Does the cross fit into our conception of Jesus? Do we want a Jesus dying upon a cross, or do we want a victorious Jesus? Would we rather have Good Friday or Palm Sunday? Eyes blinded by sin want a bloodless Jesus, a Jesus that doesn’t have to suffer, a Jesus that redeems in triumphal victory. A redeemer that suffers? That’s almost embarrassing! Maybe that is one of the reasons we have trouble talking about Jesus to our friends and families. I’m told that for missionaries, it is often difficult to speak of the cross to tribal peoples. The message that Jesus of Nazareth was a mighty prophet but He died upon a cross doesn’t seem to appealing to people who worship gods of power. It isn’t much different for us. Eyes blinded to God and open to sin see suffering as evil, in our sin we can only think in terms of power, and a Jesus hanging upon the cross doesn’t look very powerful. Are you blind? Yes and no. You can see a dead Jesus upon the cross, but on your own you cannot see why.

Only Jesus can provide those answers, and now it is His turn to teach. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” The disciples saw the death of Jesus as an intrusion on the story of Jesus, as a tragedy that ruined all of His previous work. Jesus was a mighty prophet but He was crucified. Jesus changes their perspective. His death wasn’t a tragedy, it wasn’t unexpected, it wasn’t a roadblock on His march toward victory. No, instead His death was necessary. This is a divine necessity- it was necessary from God’s perspective that Jesus should suffer and die. Eyes blinded to God and opened to sin can only see suffering as evil; Jesus opens our eyes to see that His suffering was a tremendous good, the greatest good that the world has ever known. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” According to God’s Holy Scriptures, the suffering and death of Jesus was necessary. Why?

It is ironic that the two disciples would say, “But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” There’s that word again: ‘Jesus died, but we hoped He would redeem us.’ The irony is that ‘but’ doesn’t belong in that sentence. Jesus died because it was necessary for Him to redeem Israel. The disciples have the right term, they just misunderstand it. To redeem someone or something means to pay the price to set them free. The disciples on the Emmaus road knew that Jesus had come to redeem, they just misunderstood what He would redeem them from and what the price would be. Jesus came to redeem us from sin, and the price He would pay was His very own blood. Saint Peter gives us this proper perspective on redemption in our Epistle lesson: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” Jesus redeemed you and me from the bondage of our sin, and it was His suffering and death that would pay the required price. It was necessary for Jesus to suffer because it was necessary for your good, for your salvation. It was necessary because God loves you.

Jesus spends the rest of their journey teaching them from the Scriptures about the necessity of His suffering and death to redeem you and me. He opens up the Scriptures so that they see Jesus on every page, and their eyes are opened to understand all that He has done for them. But they still cannot see Jesus for who He is, not until He reclines with them at the table that evening. “When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And He vanished from their sight.” Only at the table, as Jesus breaks the bread, is He finally revealed to them for who He truly is. He is the same Jesus who was crucified, the same Jesus who lay in the tomb, but the tomb could not hold Him. He is risen, triumphant over death forever. The bonds have been broken, the victory has been won. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! These disciples have been taught, but only at the table do they truly see Jesus as their risen Lord. It is the same with us: in the Lord’s Supper we see Jesus, He reveals Himself to us as God in the flesh who has redeemed us with His death and resurrection. Teaching and the Lord’s Supper belong together. We cannot have one without the other. Teaching leads to the Supper, and the Supper cannot be understood apart from instruction. In both Word and Sacrament, Jesus is revealed to eyes blinded by sin. He works faith, He strengthens and feeds us, He forgives our sins. The risen Jesus is seen clearly in the gifts He offers, and in His rich grace He offers them to you.

Jesus came to open blinded eyes, eyes blinded to God and open only to sin. He came to shed His blood that this tragedy may be reversed. Jesus wants us to look upon our God with opened eyes for eternity, and He wants our eyes to be shut to sin and evil forever. As Isaiah writes, in the new heavens and the new earth “He will wipe away tears from all faces.” Jesus opens your eyes to see Him in the washing of Holy Baptism, in the faith worked through His Holy Word, and as with the disciples in Emmaus, in the breaking of the bread. Jesus opens your eyes to see Him as your Savior and Lord, the one who took upon Himself the necessity of shedding His blood and dying to redeem you from your sin. Were you blind? Yes and no. You were blinded to God and had eyes wide open to sin and death. Thanks be to the God who opens the eyes of the blind, who reveals Himself as our Savior in His great gifts! He has opened your eyes to see Him as your Redeemer, to understand His death and resurrection rightly. He has opened the eyes of faith to look to your Savior now and for eternity. Will you be blind? Yes and no. You will be blinded to sin, for it will be destroyed, washed away forever by the blood of the Lamb, but you will look to God with perfect eyes for eternity. The resurrection is the proof, the seal, the guarantee of this. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! In the Name of the God who opens the eyes of the blind, the one who redeemed us with His very blood, our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Easter 2 of Series A (John 20:19-31)

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from 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 the twentieth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. Dear friends in Christ, for the disciples, Easter Sunday was a day of suspense and amazement, fear and wonder. We can imagine them together that morning in the upper room, the same room that Jesus celebrated the Lord’s Supper with them before that long, dark, and fateful night. John tells us that the doors of that room were locked “for fear of the Jews,” fear that they thought was entirely justified. If an innocent Jesus could be killed without a fair trial, then what could happen to His followers? Then the women burst in. The tomb is empty! Peter and John investigate. The tomb is empty! Mary Magdalene comes in next, almost hysterical with joy and trembling. I have seen the Lord! He is alive, He is risen! Later that afternoon, as Saint Luke will teach us next week, two disciples pound on the locked door. We talked to Jesus on the road to Emmaus! He has conquered the grave! The disciples remain in their bunker all day, listening to the news as it comes in. Something amazing is definitely happening, though they aren’t quite sure what it is yet. We do not see joy in their faces, but confusion and fear. The doors remain locked.

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” Jesus comes to them, victorious over the grave, speaking words of peace. This is no idle greeting, but instead the very fruits of His resurrection. These disciples had fled at His most desperate hour, they had denied Him in their thoughts, words, and deeds. But Jesus here speaks no accusations, but instead He proclaims peace. His resurrection has won peace for those disciples and for you and me, the only peace that truly matters. The Jews will still seek the lives of the disciples, some will die on crosses like their Lord. Jesus doesn’t promise earthly peace for any of us. Instead, He brings peace between God and man, the peace of the Gospel, the peace won by His victory. Because Jesus took our sin upon Himself and paid the price for them, we are at peace with God, reconciled to Him forever. His wrath raged against Jesus; it will not touch you. To prove the basis for this peace, Jesus shows them the wounds of salvation. “When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.” This is no ghost, this is no imposter, but this is the same Jesus that died on the cross, bearing the same body He offered up on the tree for the sin of the world.

The response of the disciples is the same as the women at the tomb that morning. “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” They have the joy of the resurrection, the joy that comes only through faith in the risen Jesus. Their doubt and unbelief is driven away, and now the Lord has a mission for His chosen Eleven. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’” They will go forth into this darkened world to represent Christ, to continue His work upon this earth. Jesus was sent into this world by the Father to accomplish salvation, and now His disciples will go forth to deliver that salvation to all people. They are here changed from disciples, ‘learners,’ into apostles, ‘sent ones.’ And they will not go alone. “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’” The work of Jesus is that of forgiveness. Forgiveness brings the peace of Jesus, eternal peace between God and man. Here the apostles are given the privilege of going out to forgive sins, bringing the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection to sinful people. With these words, Jesus establishes the Pastoral Office, and He intends it to be an Office that is all about the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit goes with all those who hold that Office, for the men who hold it can do nothing on their own. They need the Holy Spirit for the work they are called to do, and Jesus in His grace gives this gift to them.

The Eleven apostles are given wondrous gifts that first Easter evening. Not only are they given the peace of the resurrection, but they are commissioned and ordained to take this peace into the entire world. But as John tells us, not all of the Eleven were present to receive these gifts of Jesus. “Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not there when Jesus came.” Why was Thomas absent? John doesn’t give us any indication, but simply reports that he wasn’t there. For some reason or another, Thomas excluded himself from the community of believers in their most desperate hour. And because he refused to join his brothers in the upper room, he missed the opportunity to receive the great gifts of Jesus. You know, it doesn’t really matter why Thomas was absent. People have all sorts of reasons for not going to church, some that are petty and insignificant, and some that indicate a very deep hurt that needs healing. Many of them boil down to the assertion that ‘I can be a Christian by myself.’ But the simple fact is that we are not Christians in isolation. We do not fly solo in the Christian life. We cannot believe for another person, but we do have a responsibility to support our brothers and sisters in the faith. That’s right, one of the reasons you go to church is to serve your neighbor. We are not just a collection of individuals here this morning, but a community, a family, a congregation, and when we exclude ourselves from the community we are hurting our brothers and sisters in the faith.

But as the account of Thomas indicates, we are most significantly hurting ourselves. For those who isolate themselves from the church cut themselves off from Christ’s gifts. And in the case of Thomas, this isolation was devastating. “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.’” The isolation of Thomas leads to skepticism and unbelief. He has cut himself off from the gifts of Jesus, and his faith withers away as a result. We call him ‘doubting Thomas,’ but that is really too kind. Instead, we should call him ‘unbelieving Thomas.’ He has placed himself outside of salvation through his unbelief, giving to all of us a stern warning of what can happen when we exclude ourselves from the community of believers

This could’ve been the end of the story, but we have a stubborn God, who continues to work on us and continues to draw us back to Him. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Thomas rejoins the community of believers again eight days later. He still has his unbelief, but like a church member who only comes a few times a year, at least he is in the pew. In that same upper room, Jesus launches a direct attack on his unbelief. “Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’” In the midst of the community, amongst his brothers and sisters in the faith, Thomas encounters the risen Christ. Jesus is present where He has promised to be present, in the midst His Church. In the Church He gives His great gifts, the peace that the world cannot give, and now Thomas receives this peace and sees the wounds that won peace between God and man. This proclamation of the Gospel creates faith within him, faith which drives away unbelief, and the response is one of the greatest confessions in the New Testament. “Thomas answered Him, ‘My Lord and my God.’” This same Jesus, crucified and risen, standing before the community bearing the wounds of salvation, is truly Lord and God, true God in human flesh for the salvation of all.

You have not had the opportunity to see the risen Christ as Thomas did, but you are not for this reason to be pitied. Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus may be chastising Thomas, but He uses this occasion to speak a blessing to all those who believe even though they haven’t seen Him. This includes you and it includes me. We are blessed, because the Lord has created faith within us, faith which drives out unbelief, through the proclamation of the apostles. They continue to preach the message of the resurrection through the Holy Scriptures, as John writes: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” Those who have followed the apostles in the Pastoral Office have the privilege and weighty responsibility to speak the words of forgiveness, the proclamation that brings true peace between God and man.

The primary place where this happens is in the Divine Service. We encounter the risen Christ each and every Sunday, when He comes to us through the Word and especially when He gives us His Body and Blood to partake of in the Lord’s Supper. Here in this place, once again this morning the risen Christ is coming to you, bringing you forgiveness, the peace of the resurrection. You are forgiven! You are at peace with God! The wounds that Christ will bear for eternity are the proof and seal of this truth. Only Jesus drives out unbelief and creates faith, and He does so through the proclamation of the Gospel here in the midst of His gathered people. Saint Peter wrote in our Epistle lesson: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” We are blessed, for even though we have not seen Him, Christ has forgiven our sins, He has created faith within us. Our salvation depends not upon our eyes, but upon His promises. Thanks be to God that Jesus still comes to us with His great gifts! In the Name of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, who drives out unbelief with the power of the Gospel, Amen.