Monday, September 24, 2012

Proper 20 of Series B (Mark 9:30-37)

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but Him who sent me.” 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 ninth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Mark. Dear friends in Christ, who is the greatest? How do we or anyone else become great? In our world, the great ones are determined by competition; a playoff system, sales figures, performance reports, elections. So much of our lives are spent trying to achieve greatness ourselves or speculating on who will become great. We are always competing, or watching someone else compete, all with the ultimate goal of greatness. Political campaigns and playoff races are the most obvious examples, but we are seeking greatness over others in all areas of our lives, from our work, to our family, to our community, to our church.

The disciples were no different. They competed, they jockeyed for position as the elite followers of Jesus. They each wanted the top spots in Christ’s coming kingdom, and they knew only one way to gain it—through competition. It was like watching the baseball season wind down, with twelve teams competing for the top spot. Peter was clearly ahead, and he only increased his lead with his great confession. But then he rebuked Jesus, and was knocked down a few spots. Jesus then took only three up on the mountain of Transfiguration—big points for Peter, James, and John!—and to make things worse, the other nine performed miserably in their absence. The race was heating up, and it seemed too close to call. Our Lord asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” They remained silent, for there was nothing else to talk about than the playoffs: “On the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.”

Who is the greatest? The one who places himself first. Great ones seek their own interests above all else. That is how they became great in the first place. The great ones don’t worry about the needs of anyone else, for everyone around them falls into two camps: either they will help them achieve greatness, or they are a hindrance and distraction. Only a clear focus on their own needs is going to achieve the greatness they desire, and so the needs of others must take a back-seat. The great ones are self-promoters, always seeking an opportunity to proclaim themselves and diminish their competition, to put themselves first, because only by declaring your greatness before others can you become great.

The great ones are concerned with being great. Any star athlete, hard-driving business man, or politician will tell you that without the desire to be great, it is very likely that you will never achieve greatness. Greatness does find those who didn’t expect it, occasionally, but it much more often finds those who have sought it out. Those who are great are then concerned with remaining great. They will do whatever it takes to stay on top, because there are plenty of others who want the greatness they have. The desire to become and remain great must be the most important thing in their lives; nothing, and nobody, should disrupt the need for greatness with their own needs.

Therefore, the great ones expect service from others. Everyone around them has the potential of service, to play a role in making them great. Whether it is a frenzied fan-base, a crowd of hangers-on and supporters, or literal servants, the mark of greatness is that others serve you. These servants are ready to provide for the needs of great ones, whether they pay them or not, simply because they are pursuing greatness. This is expected, it isn’t shameful in the eyes of our world. The great ones in business, politics, sports, families, and the church all have people serving them. The great ones are the ones who give the orders, who tell others what to do, and they have a right to expect obedience. It is a general rule that everyone accepts: the greater you are, the more people you have serving you. That is simply the reward of pursuing or achieving greatness.

Everyone can have a role in helping someone become great, and that is how the great ones see their neighbors in this world. The homeless man who is fed and sheltered may think he is being served by the great one, but actually he has simply become a tool or instrument to make the great one look better in the eyes of others, to earn favor before God or man. The great ones are always looking for servants, and even ‘good deeds’ shown to others are simply another way to enlist a person in the cause of making them great. The great do not ask, ‘How can I serve you?’ but ‘How can you serve me?’

Who is the greatest in this world? The one who places himself first and makes others his servants. That is the kind of greatness that the disciples argued about as they walked the roads of Galilee. That is the kind of greatness that you and I seek after. But this is not the greatness that Jesus calls for. Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Great ones put themselves last. They see others in need and they place those needs ahead of their own. They serve those closest to them, their family, and friends, but then all others. The great ones make no distinction among those around them; all are their neighbors, all are those in need, and they seek to serve those needs. They sacrifice, giving up their time, their energy, and their finances to provide for others, because the Lord hasn’t given these resources for their own use, but to serve those around them.

Great ones put themselves last, as Jesus Himself declares. ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when He is killed, after three days He will rise.” The Great One, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made Himself last. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death, even death upon a cross. The Son of Man, having might and authority over all things, delivered Himself into the hands of men, mere men, weak men, that in themselves were powerless before Him. He made Himself last, and God in the flesh was killed as a common criminal. He placed all people before Himself, their needs above His own, and was ready to sacrifice all, even His own life, for His neighbors in need. You and I were in desperate need; we needed salvation from sin and death, and Jesus made Himself last to provide for our needs. He became great, the greatest, by making Himself last in service to you and me.

Great ones serve all, even those who are weak and lowly. “[Jesus] took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but Him who sent me.’” The great ones have no servants, for they serve all. There is no one so small, so humble, so miserable that the great one doesn’t stoop down to serve them. They receive, they welcome the child, the infirm, the aged. They serve those who can give nothing in return. The great ones comfort the dying, treat the sick, and step into the filth of people’s lives in order to find some way of helping. They don’t serve to benefit themselves, but they serve solely to help the neighbor. They have no need of recognition or fame, God has no need of their good works; the great ones simply serve because their neighbor has a need and they have the ability to meet it.

The great ones serve all, even those who are so weak, so lowly that they seem beneath notice. Those are the kinds of people that the Great One, Jesus, served; He served you and me. He served you and me who so often chase after the world’s ideas of greatness, who fail to put ourselves last and become servants of all. Jesus served you and me, who sin and rebel against Him in a thousand other different ways. We are poor and lowly, miserable and pathetic, but Jesus served us. He served us by laying down His life as a ransom for all people, this entire sinful, corrupted world. He served us by dying while we were still sinners. He served us by seeing our need and knowing that only He could fulfill it, and only by His death. He was firm, He was resolute, He took on that service willingly, out of love for you and me, declaring openly to the disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when He is killed, after three days He will rise.” He served you by giving up His life into death to atone for your sin; He served you by rising in victory on the third day. 

And today, Jesus continues to serve. He places you and me ahead of Himself, declaring Himself as servant of all as He pours out His forgiveness upon you in water, word, bread and wine. He serves you, declaring that your sins are forgiven for the sake of His shed blood. He serves you by giving you His resurrection victory. Because He rose, you too will rise. In His resurrection, the last became first, as the one crucified as a criminal was exalted to the right hand of the throne of God, He was declared ‘great.’

Who is the greatest? How do we become great? In our world, the great ones are determined by competition: whoever is willing to put themselves first and make others his servants. But heavenly greatness isn’t given by the world’s standards. “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Heavenly greatness comes through humility. This humility places the needs of others before our own; this humility makes us last in the eyes of the world. This humility confesses our failures before God, our failures to serve, our chasing after the greatness of this world, and then receives with empty hands the forgiveness that Christ has won. He is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven because He serves all, even you and me. He is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven because He didn’t place Himself first, but last of all, even to the point of death. And that greatness is given to you; not by competition, not even by your service to others, but solely by grace. You are all the greatest in the kingdom of heaven because you are forgiven, because you are the baptized, because heaven is your treasure; Christ’s greatness, His exaltation, will be given to you. Who is the greatest? You, me, and all who cling to Christ’s merit and rich mercy. In the Name of Jesus, the Great One, who served all by putting Himself last, Amen.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Proper 19 of Series B (Mark 9:14-29)

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Mark. Dear friends in Christ, when Jesus descended the mountain of Transfiguration that day, having shown forth His glory to Peter, James, and John, He descended into a crisis. The other nine had been serving in their stead; trying and failing. One man stepped out of the crowd and said, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute… So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” This father is desperate; he has watched his beloved child live in torment for most of his life, and now the disciples of Jesus, the great Teacher Himself, cannot heal him! Can even Jesus bring relief? “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” He is ready to despair, and having seen the dismal performance of the students, he wonders if the Teacher can do any better. But Jesus replies, “If you can! All things are possible for the one who believes.” Jesus requires faith. To the one who believes, nothing is impossible. Mountains will be moved, the sick will be healed, demons will be cast out. But the unbeliever will get exactly what he expects—nothing. Faith is the key, faith is the requirement, the only test question. It sounds so easy: just believe, and it will happen!

But that’s exactly the problem. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” Belief isn’t as easy as it sounds, not for that father, not for you or me. Not when we have seen the ravages of sin in our lives, not when we afflicted with suffering. Can Jesus help us? We’re not so sure. We aren’t convinced that He is capable of healing, of delivering. We’re not sure if He truly is who He says He is, if He can do what He says He can do. “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” That ‘if’ comes from our lips, challenging Christ, daring Him to prove Himself. We will believe, after we see the miracle, after He demonstrates that He is real by some sign. Until then, we wonder if He is capable of healing, of delivering. Is Jesus really who He says He is? Can He heal my family? Can He heal this disease? Is He capable of forgiving this great sin? Did He really defeat death?

“I believe; help my unbelief!” The father has understood the situation perfectly. This isn’t doubt, this isn’t innocent speculation, this is unbelief. When we don’t think that Christ can help us, we don’t believe in what He has said about Himself. This is nothing else than unbelief. Does God even exist? Does He care for me at all? Can I trust any of His promises? When we call it ‘doubt,’ it sounds excusable, it sounds benign, a part of life. But we should call things what they are, as this father does; when we don’t think Jesus is capable of delivering us from our afflictions, we are living in unbelief. And Jesus has strong words to speak about unbelief at the end of the Gospel. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Faith is the requirement. Without it, you have nothing.

That is where we find ourselves—living in unbelief. “I believe; help my unbelief!” These are words of unbelief; our faith seems so weak, it feels like it has disappeared. In the quiet hours of the night, we wonder whether God even exists. We speculate whether Jesus actually said or did any of the things that the New Testament says He did. And even if we can convince ourselves that God exists, we wonder whether He truly loves us. We are envious of those who seem to live without fear of sin and death, who walk with confidence in Christ. Our lives are not so easy; we struggle with unbelief. “I believe; help my unbelief!” It’s a wrestling match—faith against unbelief, and unbelief has an entire world cheering it on, while the crowd is sparse in faith’s corner. Our faith is tried by tragedy, by suffering, by all the struggles of living in this world. Our faith is assaulted by others, both near and far, and it doesn’t seem to have much of a leg to stand on. “I believe; help my unbelief!” is our cry, but it may not be long before the strength of unbelief proves stronger than faith, and even the desire to believe will be gone.

At the foot of the mountain of Transfiguration, Jesus comes face to face with such unbelief. His disciples have it; they cannot drive out the demon. The scribes have it; they greedily capitalize on the show of weakness. The crowd has it; they are quick to abandon Jesus once the miracles run out. Even the boy’s father has it; he wonders whether Jesus is capable of healing his son. In exasperation, Jesus says, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” Jesus is weary of bearing the burden of our unbelief; it seems that He is ready to cast us off.

He has uttered a requirement that seems impossible to those wrestling with unbelief: “All things are possible for one who believes.” What is there to do? We can arrogantly pretend to have such faith, putting on a good show for Jesus and those around us, or we can humbly confess our unbelief and cry out Jesus for stronger faith, following the example given in our text: “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” We cry out for stronger faith; we cry out for help. We cannot do this on our own; our efforts are doomed to fail, for if left by ourselves, unbelief is the result. We call on Jesus to help us in the struggle, to fight for faith against the unbelief that attacks us. We cry out for strengthening of faith, we cry out for help for our afflictions, calling on Jesus to “have compassion on us and help us.”

And Jesus answers. He hears our cries, He knows our struggles, He knows how we have been afflicted in this world of sin and death. He comes down from the mountain of glory to do battle with unbelief, to do battle with Satan himself. “He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again!’” The father cried out for help—for his son, and for his faith—and Jesus answers. He answers decisively, driving Satan away. We cried out for help—for our afflictions, and for our faith—and Jesus answers. He answers decisively, crushing Satan’s head. The greatest and final exorcism is at the cross. The greatest and ultimate help is at the cross. There Jesus has compassion upon you, coming to your assistance in your hour of dire need. At the cross, Satan is driven away from you and defeated; he has no more power over you to accuse and condemn. It is at the cross and empty tomb that faith takes its stand. Do we believe that Christ truly has died for us, that His death atones for our sin? Do we believe in the resurrection, that His life is our own? With the father in our text we answer, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

These are words of faith; we confess our weakness; we don’t try to hide it under pious words or boasting. We detest the unbelief that is within us, that attacks us each and every day. We cries out to Jesus and to those around us, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Unbelief and faith still war within you; the new man, brought forth from the waters of Holy Baptism, believes firmly, clinging to Christ alone for salvation. But the old man still remains, and he is an unbeliever, and always will be, until he is finally destroyed with your last breath. But it is to you, the weak in faith, who struggle each day with unbelief, that Jesus gives His gifts. He gives His gifts to you because you need them; the sick have need of a doctor, not the healthy. The Word of Absolution, the remembrance of your Baptism into His name, and the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood are for those who confess, “I believe; help my unbelief!” It is those who need strengthening of faith that are called to this altar to eat Christ’s Body and drink His Blood. It is those who fight unbelief who need to be reminded of their Baptism and have their sins forgiven here in this place. The Sacraments are for those with troubled consciences and weak faith, because through these gifts Christ has compassion upon you and me and He condescends to help us.

When He sees our unbelief, Jesus cries out, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” The answer? All the way to the cross. Jesus bears with your weakness, your lack of faith; indeed He carried it upon His shoulders, along with all your other sins, and took them to the cross, doing away with them there. He bears all things perfectly, from the blows of His enemies to the burdens of His people, indeed all their sin. We disbelieving humans are difficult to put up with, but Christ still bears with us. Anyone else would long since have given up on us, but Christ does not. He bears with our weakness, He forgives it, and He helps our unbelief. How long is He to be with you? For eternity—strengthening faith and preserving you until He gives you the promised reward.

For Jesus has declared, “All things are possible for the one who believes.” To the one who believes in Christ, even though it be a weak and struggling faith, fighting each and every day with unbelief, all things are possible, even eternal salvation. Faith doesn’t have this power because it’s so strong, nor does it lose this power because it is weak and struggling. Faith has this power because the object of that faith is the One with the power to heal the sick, drive away demons, and even give forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Faith has this power because its focus is Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen one. Faith has this power because it is rooted in the cross and empty tomb. Faith is never alone; it always has an object. All things are possible for the one who believes because Christ has made all things possible; He has delivered you from the oppression of Satan, He has born all of your afflictions to the cross, and He has even defeated death itself. “I believe; help my unbelief!” is our cry as we live in this world of sin, but on the Last Day, the time of faith and unbelief will be no more, for we will see the object of our faith face to face forever. In the Name of Jesus, the object and sustainer of our faith, who had compassion upon us and helped us, Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Proper 18 of Series B (Isaiah 35:4-7a)

A garden. Lush trees, verdant pastures, flowering bushes. Springs, rivers, waterfalls. Adam’s hungry eyes drank them all in. Blue, perfect skies. Green, soft grass. The yellow of the sun, and every other color of the palate, each in its proper place. This is God’s creation, this is His garden. The trees? Laden with fruit. The rivers? Flowing freely. The plants and animals? Living in peace, living in harmony. For Adam, soon to be joined by Eve, this was home. Paradise was the garden. But in a moment, everything changed. With one uttered temptation, with one lustful look, with one rebellious bite, the garden was cursed. The garden was reversed from God’s place of peace and abundance into a wilderness, a desert of violence and scarcity. Their eyes were opened to see evil, and it was all around them. Their sin had cursed the very ground. “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The earth remains cursed. Barren trees, brown pastures, dried up bushes. Empty wells, failing springs, bare rivers. The corn turns from green to ugly dark brown, scorched and burned by the hot sun. The skies? Empty. Our hungry eyes search them for moisture, our ears greedily wait to hear of rain. Livestock are fed at enormous expense, or sold. Their pastures are dead, their corn is dead, and yet the sun still beats down on fields that have had enough. The garden has become a desert. Our world is truly cursed. Sickly bodies, failing organs, weak muscles. Our bodies fail, they wear out, much sooner than they should. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s. Our desperate eyes search the doctor’s face for news, our ears strain to hear a word of hope. And sometimes those eyes opened by sin are closed by that same sin, and ears are stopped. Violence, crime, abuse. Humanity sinks from one level of depravity to another. The cruelty that we can demonstrate to one another seems to have no end. And death; it claims the old, but also the young. Death has no prejudices; it afflicts rich and poor alike, kind and wicked, the infant and the nursing home resident. One day, it will claim you and me. Our world is truly cursed. Adam’s eyes opened to see a garden; our eyes open to see a desert.

We are wandering, wandering through this desert, this dry and barren wilderness, searching for relief, searching for deliverance. Our eyes have been opened by Adam and Eve’s sin, and what we see is sin, what we see is death. We are anxious, harried, persecuted by this world. We are hurried by sin; it pursues us, nipping at our heels, and we fear its power. We’ve seen its power, exerted in the tenacity of cancer, the strong grip of addiction, the unstoppable march toward death, and we are afraid. We cry out to God, but we fear that He is deaf to our cries. “To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.” His silence is deafening; we want Him to act, to deliver. We want the drought to end, the cancer to leave, our loved ones to be restored to us. If He doesn’t act, if He remains silent, we will sink into the pit, we are finished, the corruption of this world will have us, forever.

And so God will not remain silent; He speaks to His afflicted people. “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong! Fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.’” Be strong! Take courage, stand firm! Do not doubt, but take confidence, for your God isn’t deaf, He isn’t blind! His eyes are open to your affliction, His ears have heard your cry. He knows your sufferings, He knows that His perfect garden has become a terrifying desert. Do not fear! Do not live your life in fear of sin’s power, do not be motivated by timidity or weakness, but stand boldly against the evil that is around you. In a world filled with sin, sorrow, and death, do not fear! Be strong! Behold, your God! The God who created you is still with you, He is still your God. In Him you can stand firm, in Him you can live without fear.

For your God is coming. “Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.” Do not fear, for your God will come with vengeance. Be strong, for His recompense is with Him. He is coming to settle accounts, to give what is due to all of your enemies. The evil of this barren world has reigned over His beloved people long enough; it is time for the vengeance of our God. He will repay sin, death, and Satan for their tyranny—they will feel His wrath. All those who oppressed His people, all those who persecuted His beloved ones, will receive their due.

But for those who trusted in their Creator, who cried out to Him in faith in the midst of their afflictions, He is coming with a much different repayment. “He will come and save you.” Behold, your God! He is coming, and He is coming to deliver you from the oppression of your enemies, from the tyrannical reign of sin and death. He must defeat to deliver; He must destroy evil to save His people, and that is what He has come to do, to bring vengeance to His enemies and salvation to His people. Be strong, for salvation is coming, it will come. That is the sure and certain hope—God has said it, He is not blind nor deaf, and He will keep His word. Do not fear, for all that you fear will face the vengeance of your God. He will come, and He will save! Behold, your God! He will enter this creation to reverse its corruption!

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” Behold, your God has taken on your human flesh to redeem it, to bring you the promised salvation, to bring vengeance to your enemies. Jesus Christ entered the wilderness, He broke into the desert to bring an end to its corruption. When He comes, the reign of sin is driven away, He announces in word and deed that its time is done, that He has come to bring vengeance to His enemies and salvation to His people. “They brought to Him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged Him to lay His hand on Him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into His ears, and after spitting touched His tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue released, and he spoke plainly.” Ears made deaf by sin, and tongues made mute, are delivered from their bondage. These effects of sin cannot stand when God comes as promised to deliver His people. Be strong! Do not fear! Behold, your God has come to reverse the reign of sin!

Not every blind eye was opened, nor was every deaf ear unstopped. Sin’s effects were defeated in a handful to demonstrate that God had come to bring salvation, but Jesus came not to treat the symptoms, He came to destroy the disease. He came to reverse sin once and for all, to execute God’s vengeance upon the source. Behold, your God hangs upon the cross! He hangs there bearing the sin of the world; He sheds His blood to pay the price for it. He hangs upon the cross to rob sin of its power, to reverse all of its effects. A dying man is the defeat of sin, the crushing of Satan’s evil head, for this man is true God, Jesus Christ our Lord, and He bears your sin and the sin of the entire world upon Himself. On Good Friday, sin’s reign is done, it tyranny over, its mastery destroyed. Jesus reverses sin by dying, and He reverses death by rising. With sin paid for, death has no more power, and Jesus proves it by leaving the tomb empty on the third day. Sin’s greatest effect, its vilest power over us, is no more, as the empty tomb declares. God has come as promised in the person of Jesus Christ, and He has brought vengeance to His enemies and salvation to His people. Sin’s power is reversed; it can no longer condemn us to hell. Satan’s reign is reversed; his accusations have no power. Death itself is reversed; it is now the gateway to eternal life with Christ. Be strong! Do not fear! Behold your God has come, and He has come to die and rise again for your deliverance!
A garden. That is what the eyes of Adam saw when they first opened on the sixth day of creation. A desert. That is what our eyes have seen every day since this creation was plunged into sin. God’s perfect world was reversed, and sin, death, and Satan reigned over it. But now your God has come with vengeance, and His recompense is with Him. He has come and He has saved you by dying and rising. When Jesus told the ears of a deaf man, ‘Ephphatha—Be opened!’ it was a demonstration of what was to come. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” On the Last Day, our corruption will be reversed; the sick will be made well, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap, and the mute will sing. Yes, even the dead will be raised. The great reversal, revealed by Jesus in His miracles and enacted in His death and resurrection, will extend to all who believe. And this creation? This garden turned into a desert? It will become a garden once more. “For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.” Jesus will reverse this desert into a garden, a lush, beautiful, bountiful garden, to provide for all of our needs for eternity. Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God has defeated your enemies to save you, and He will bring you to His garden for eternity to live without fear forever. In the Name of Jesus, God in the flesh who came and reversed sin, death, and the power of the devil, Amen.