Monday, May 27, 2013

Holy Trinity Sunday (John 8:48-59)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 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 on this Holy Trinity Sunday comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the eighth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. Dear friends in Christ, today is a unique day in the Church Year. The rest of the Church’s calendar is shaped by the events of Christ’s life; we remember, we meditate upon, we receive the gifts won by His holy incarnation, perfect life, and innocent suffering and death. But this day is different; today we focus on a concept, on a teaching: the Church’s confession of the Holy Trinity. We examine the teaching of Christianity throughout the ages that there is one God, three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our God is triune; this is a profound statement, a controversial statement, and the Church struggled for centuries to determine how to confess it properly. Today, though, we take it for granted; our eyes glaze over while we confess the long, complicated, and repetitive Athanasian Creed. It seems that the doctrine of the Trinity has very little to do with my life as a Christian; it just seems to be some vague concept floating around that keeps professional theologians busy debating and writing books. What does it really have to do with me? What does the Trinity, three persons, one God, really mean?

The confession of the Holy Trinity means death, Christ’s death. Jesus confesses the Trinity to declare His unity with the Father, a declaration was the cause of His suffering and death. Jesus was put on trial, condemned, and executed for His confession of the Holy Trinity. Yes, it is that important. The Jews clearly understood that the God of Israel was the only true God, the God who had created all, the God who sustained all, the God who delivered them from bondage in Egypt, the God who promised salvation from sin and death. Their confession was also clear: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” But then Jesus came, claiming that only He truly knew the Father, the one God they worshipped. But even more than that, He claimed to be God Himself, the One God of Israel walking this earth in the flesh.

“‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty year old, and you have seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’” Only God can call Himself the I AM, as He did to Moses from the burning bush. God simply exists, He has no beginning and no end. And Jesus declares Himself to be that God. There is only one God, as the Jews confessed; and this man, this wandering rabbi, has included Himself in the reality of that one God. With these words, Jesus declares a plurality in the unity: there is one God, but multiple persons. That is what Jesus claims; and whether you think He is lying, He’s a lunatic, or that He is actually telling the truth, He has confronted all humanity with this confession: “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

The confession of the Holy Trinity means death. The world hates the confession of the Trinity; it always has. The crowd begins by calling names: “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” They end by becoming judge, jury, and executioner. “So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” Why did the crowd hate Jesus so much? Their hatred came from His confession of the Trinity, His declaration that He was in unity with the Father, the statement that only through Him can they know the Father. That is why they slandered Him, that is why they sought to put Him to death. That is why they did put him to death. The charge that Jesus was condemned under was His confession of the Trinity; He was killed because He claimed to be one with the Father.

The confession of the Trinity means death, both ours and Christ’s. Every Christian who dies under persecution is killed because he or she confesses the Trinity, just as Christ was killed for His confession of the Trinity. The world cannot tolerate the confession, from us or from Jesus’ own lips, that this man is also God. We think that we can honor God apart from Christ, that we can worship Him in any number of ways. We think that that they can have a religion apart from Christ, that we can conquer death ourselves, that there are many paths to God. But Jesus shatters these illusions. “You have not known Him. I know Him. If I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and I keep His Word.” Apart from me, Jesus says, no person can know God, and for that confession, He will be condemned.

The confession of the Trinity will mean Christ’s death; Jesus doesn’t claim to be God from a big ego, an exaggerated sense of His own importance, but from obedience to the Father, even unto death. “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” Jesus honors the Father by being an obedient Son. Jesus refused to glorify Himself; He left that up to the Father. “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’” Jesus is obedient to the Father’s will, and for that, the Father gives Him glory. He gives Him the glory for which He became man in the first place, the glory of death, the glory of the cross. There Jesus is exalted, there Jesus is glorified, executed because of His confession of the Trinity, sacrificed because He is the price for humanity’s sin. There, upon that bloody cross, Jesus is glorified as the obedient Son; the proof is Easter morning and the visible glory of an empty tomb and a risen Christ.

Jesus’ glory doesn’t come from men; the confession of the Trinity isn’t going to win Jesus or you any popularity contests. We’ve gotten so used to living in a so-called ‘Christian nation’ that we’ve grown soft, we think that our Christian faith can win us brownie points with others around us, that it can serve our own glory. We find it easy to forget that the confession of the Trinity means persecution and death; perhaps we will unfortunately have to learn this lesson again. We aren’t Christians, we don’t confess the Trinity, to impress anyone, to glorify ourselves. We confess the Trinity because it is the truth, and it is the truth that brings us life.

The confession of the Trinity means Jesus’ death; the confession of the Trinity means our life. The doctrine of the Trinity means salvation accomplished at Calvary and salvation delivered to you. The doctrine of the Trinity isn’t some abstract, ‘pie in the sky’ teaching; it is essential to our salvation. Only as true God can Jesus offer a sufficient price to pay for our sins. If Jesus were not God, He could die a thousand times and never atone for the sins of anyone. Only because He is God can His death have such effect; only because He is God can His Words give what He has won. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews thought this was impossible: “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’” How can you, Jesus, a mere man, claim that your words overcome death?

They were right. If Jesus was simply a man, then His words could do no such thing. But Jesus claims to be much more than simply a man. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He is God in the flesh, come to defeat sin, death, and hell, bringing forgiveness, life, and salvation. The Father sent His Son to give His life as the required price for your sin, to be glorified upon the cross. The Father and the Son send the Spirit to work through Word and Sacrament to make you a Christian and keep you in that true faith. The Spirit delivers Christ to you in His Word, so that you ‘keep His word,’ which is nothing else than believing in it through the faith that He creates. When the Holy Spirit comes as promised on Pentecost, the doctrine of the Trinity is completely revealed. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet there are not three gods but one God, and this Trinity works in unison to accomplish your salvation and then to deliver this salvation to you.

What does the doctrine of the Trinity mean? It means life, eternal life. It means that death has no hold upon you. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Christ’s words have authority because He is true God, because He Himself has gone to the cross to win victory over death, because He has risen to proclaim that victory throughout the world. The doctrine of the Trinity is indispensable because without it, we have no assurance of our salvation. Only if Jesus is true God with the Father can He offer the sacrifice for our sin, conquering death itself. Only if the Holy Spirit is true God with the Father and the Son can He create and sustain faith within us through the Word and Holy Sacraments. When Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” this is a word of pure Gospel, for it declares that the One who claims victory over death is the only One with the authority to make such a statement. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

There is a difference between dying and ‘seeing’ or ‘tasting’ death. You and I will die, but we will not see or taste death, for it has no hold on us; there is a reason that Scripture describes it as sleep. Those who are in Christ do not experience death as unbelievers do; they simply pass from death to life. In a sermon on this very text, Martin Luther declared: “I live, I let God decide how long; I die, God wills when and in what way; I pass away, I know where I am heading; I am mystified that I still am sorrowful.” We will still have sorrow over death, but it has no hold over us, we can face death calmly, without fear. The Holy Trinity, working together in unity, in unison, has brought us life, and their fellowship will be ours when Christ’s powerful, authoritative words come true, just as He has promised. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, three persons, the Trinity we worship and adore, Amen.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Easter 7 of Series C (Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price… He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” 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 final Sunday of Easter, the Sunday of waiting, is from the Epistle lesson read a few moments ago from the final chapter of the Bible, Revelation twenty-two. Dear friends in Christ, in a garden stood a tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This tree stood at the center of a place, paradise, where God provided for every need out of His gracious abundance. Every gift flowed from Him, the Creator, who had established all things and set them in order to bring to His creatures whatever they needed. This tree was beautiful, this tree had abundant fruit, but it was not for us. The God who had given us every good gift withheld this one tree from man. But we transgressed, our hand stretched forth to take the one thing in all creation that had not been given to us, and the garden was cursed. We were cut off from the other tree of the garden, the tree of life, by which we would’ve lived forever, and we were driven from that garden into a world of death. For our sin, for our rebellion, creation itself suffered, it was placed under a curse by the God who created it.

This is the same God who declares in our text, the last chapter of Holy Scripture: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” His return is swift, His return is soon, His return is certain. He has kept every other promise, and He will keep this one. He is bringing His recompense, His reward, His wages with Him. He will come to repay everyone for what they have done, for the rebellion of the garden. Are you ready? Do you live as if this day is coming? The last chapter of the Bible is a warning, a warning to be prepared. The righteous are ready, they are prepared. They are attentive to the words of their Lord; they worship Him and seek His will; they constantly pray to the coming One. They live as if the Lord could return at any moment; they wait in constant expectation, but this waiting doesn’t distract them from their tasks in this world. On the contrary, they live as those who bear God’s name upon their forehead, serving their neighbor in love, seeking always to do the works of the light. Their waiting makes them even more ready and willing to serve those around them, because they know that the Lord is coming, and the old order will pass away. The righteous are prepared: do you?

Or do you live as the wicked live, as if Revelation chapter twenty-two had not been written? They live as if the Lord who created everything, who subjected this creation under the curse, was never coming back. They live as if He never existed in the first place. They do the works of darkness, they live only for themselves. “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” The Ten Commandments have no bearing on their lives, they revel in their sin, living according to their own sinful desires, living how they want to. They refuse to heed the warning given by John: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” The wicked add to and take away from the Scriptures each and every day; making their own rules and listening to the devil’s first temptation, “Did God really say?” They are unprepared, they are unready, and so they will be excluded on the Day of the Lord, they will remain under the curse of the garden, the curse of the tree.

In a garden stood a tree, but this was no ordinary garden, and no ordinary tree. The tree was dead, and the garden was called Golgotha, the place of a skull. But in that desolate garden, that garden where death dwelt, God provided life. He provided for a humanity who was woefully unprepared for the Day of Judgment, for you and me who live as if that day will never come. In that barren garden, God gave every good gift, for in that garden, upon that tree, hung His Son. The same One who declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end,” is pierced hand and foot. The One who was present at creation, by whom all things were made, who watched us rebel with tears, is nailed to the tree in our greatest act of rebellion. This is the promised Messiah, who says about Himself, “I am the root and the descendent of David, the bright morning star.” Jesus hangs upon that tree, the Messiah come to shine in the darkness. Jesus hangs upon that tree, the Lamb come to shed His blood.

He dies in that garden so that the curse of the garden will be reversed, done away with, destroyed. The curse of one tree is overcome by another, for as Saint Paul declares, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” Christ was cursed to abolish the curse. Satan plunged us into sin and death by enticing us to eat of the forbidden tree; Jesus dies on another tree to deliver us from Satan’s tyranny. The proper preface for Holy Week trumpets forth the victory of Christ’s tree over the curse of Adam’s tree: “[Jesus Christ] accomplished the salvation of mankind by the tree of the cross that, where death arose, there life also might rise again and that the serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden might likewise by the tree of the cross be overcome.” Satan has been toppled from His throne; this garden is His undoing.

For in that same garden also stands a tomb, an empty tomb; the tomb into which Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb, the Alpha and the Omega, the bright morning star, was laid dead and then rose in victory. The victory in the garden of the cross and empty tomb overcomes the defeat in the garden of Eden. The same Jesus who gave His life to deliver us, who became a curse to destroy the curse is the same one who rose in victory, who ascended into heaven, and who says, “Surely I am coming soon.” His return is swift, His return is soon, His return is certain. He has kept every other promise, and He will keep this one. The night is soon ending, the time of the curse is almost finished; the suffering of this world is only temporary, the curse will end. He is coming soon: thanks be to God! When He returns, all evil will be abolished, and we will see our Savior face to face forever. “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more.” So if you are sick, if you are suffering from your sin or the sin of others, if you are afflicted by the darkness of this world, hear this promise and rejoice: “Surely I am coming soon!”

How are we prepared for His coming? Only by faith. The righteous, who rejoice at His coming, who wait for it, are those who believe, who trust in His promise. They are not those who are perfect, but those who are forgiven. They have washed their robes, but not in ordinary water; their robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb. They have Christ’s name upon their forehead because it has been placed there in their baptism. The wicked, on the other hand, refuse the light, and so they remain in darkness. They are those who are kept outside the gates, they remain under the curse because they have rejected the cure. Christ declares that when He returns, He will “repay everyone for what He has done.” Those who reject Jesus have refused forgiveness, they are left with their sins and judgment. But for you, me, and all who belong to Christ, who bear His saving Name upon our foreheads, “Blessed are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.”

In a garden stood a tree, the tree of life. We lost the privilege of eating from that tree when we ate what was forbidden, and the Lord cast us out of the garden. But that curse, that penalty, has been overcome by Christ Himself upon the tree of the cross; now the tree of the life has been given back to us, and through faith, through our baptism, we will eat of its fruit forever. In that garden, God will once again provide for all of our needs, He will be the source of eternal blessings. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” We will eat from the tree of life, and death will be no more; its leaves will heal us from the curse and corruption of sin. And we will drink freely from the water of life that flows from Christ Himself, yes, even from His pierced side. 

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” We who suffer, who struggle in a world of sin and darkness, who labor under the curse, yearn for that healing, we thirst for that water. And they are coming soon. That is Christ’s promise. “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’” The night is soon ending; your suffering is only temporary, it will soon be over. We long for the fulfillment of the promise, for the abolishment of the curse; our prayer is the same as Christians of all ages. Jesus promises, “Surely I am coming soon,” to which we cry, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Monday, May 6, 2013

Easter 6 of Series C (Acts 16:9-15)

“And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us.” 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 on this sixth Sunday of Easter comes from the First Lesson read a few moments ago from the sixteen chapter of the book of Acts. Dear friends in Christ, one of my favorite jobs to do on the farm was helping dad sort pigs. This was way, way back, when pigs were actually raised outside. When the herd was approaching market weight, dad needed to sort out which ones were ready for sale and slaughter. We would gather a bunch in our catch pen, and the fun of sorting would begin. We would run the pigs back and forth in the pen, and dad would sort out the ones who were ready for market from the ones who needed more fattening. The problem was, the pig didn’t always want to go where we wanted it to; it wisely wanted to stay with the herd. So, how do you make a pig, or any other animal for that matter, go where you want it to? You block off every other option, every door but the one you want it to use. That’s where having a couple boys came in handy. We would help separate the pig from the herd, giving it no other place to go, leaving only the chute. That wasn’t where the pig planned to go, or even wanted to go, but with a bit of work and some gentle encouragement, it was headed down the chute and into the trailer.

Saint Paul and his companions probably felt like herded pigs in Acts chapter sixteen. In the verses before our text, this band of missionaries is prepared to bring the Gospel to the nations, but they are stopped at every turn, not by Satan, but by the Holy Trinity. “And they went through the region of Phyrgia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” Isn’t the Holy Spirit supposed to be encouraging the Church to take the Gospel to the nations? It doesn’t seem like it to Paul. Everywhere he turns, all he sees is closed doors; closed by the One who has promised to help them spread the message of Easter. All of his ideas and plans are failing; he is being frustrated by the same God who sent him!

But then a door is opened. “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” These missionaries were being herded. Doors were being closed, one after another; their concept of how the mission of the Church should go forth was being shattered by the Holy Spirit, but now another door stood open. A door that they had not considered, the only door left. How do you make a missionary go where you want him to? You treat him like a pig ready for market. You block off every other option, every door but the one you want him to use. You separate the missionary from his own plans and ideas, giving him no other place to go, leaving only one option. That wasn’t where the missionary planned to go, or even wanted to go, but with a bit of work and some gentle encouragement, he was headed where you wanted him to.

Paul wanted to be in control, but he wasn’t. It is Christ’s Church, not his. His plans and designs didn’t matter one bit; only the plans of Christ Himself matter, and He knows how best to direct His Church. We are frustrated when we see closed doors all around us, when our witness doesn’t seem to work, when the activities we plan have miserable attendance, when we are confronted with apathy or opposition by those around us. We think we are in control, we think we run the church, that we have the best ideas, the perfect vision to expand the work of our congregation and the work of the Church at large. We think that because we are church officers, because we are leaders in our congregation, because we bear important titles, even the title of ‘pastor,’ that we are in control, that we direct the spread of the Gospel. We think that it is our Church. But it isn’t. The Church doesn’t belong to us, any more than it belonged to Paul. It is Christ’s Church, not ours, a lesson He teaches with every closed door.

When we spend so much time trying to pry open doors that the Lord has shut, talking all about what we think that the church should do, or when we sit around that closed door weeping and complaining, we usually don’t see the other door that Christ has opened. The closed doors shatter the illusions of power and influence that consume us. It is Christ’s Church, not ours. We are not in control; we simply serve, we are under orders. So when Christ opens a door, we are to go, no questions asked. “And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” It is Christ’s Church, not ours, and when He opens doors for the work of the Gospel, we don’t hesitate, we go!

The mission of the Gospel isn’t about us, it isn’t about our ideas, our thoughts, our vision; it’s about Christ and His work through the Holy Spirit. And what we find is that Christ works in unexpected ways. In fact, the unexpected seems to be Christ’s normal mode of operation. This is the same Jesus who brought salvation through suffering, victory through humiliation, life through death. The world wanted no part of a champion like that, for a Savior crucified like a criminal. In their eyes He had not triumphed, but had been triumphed over. But He rose in victory, against all human expectation, paying for sin, destroying death, and crushing Satan. Why then should we be surprised that Christ works in ways that we don’t expect to bring about the spread of the Gospel?

From the seemingly fertile fields of Asia and Bithynia, Saint Paul is driven to Macedonia, to Philippi, a city that seems to have no place for the Gospel to take firm root. Paul usually began his work in the synagogue, but Philippi had none. Christ had sent him to a city where there was not enough Jews to even form a synagogue, much less a Christian Church! But if Paul has learned anything in the last weeks, it is that it is Christ’s Church, not his, and so he seeks any foothold for the Gospel. “And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.”

It’s Christ’s Church, not ours. He directs the work; He opens some doors, and He closes others, reminding us that He is in control. And not only does He send us where He wants us to be, He is the one working when we get there. We cannot make anyone a Christian, no matter how hard we try. That, too, is Christ’s work, and His alone. Paul saw this first-hand when he gathered with the women at the river to pray. “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was being said by Paul.” The Lord worked through Paul’s preaching to open Lydia’s heart, and with that great work, Christ had established the Church in Philippi. Paul was an instrument in the Lord’s hands; herded to Philippi, Paul didn’t make a single Christian, but Christ did, working through the Word that Paul proclaimed.

Christ is the sole actor in salvation, from start to finish. He alone took on our human flesh and the burden of our sin. He alone walked the way of the cross. He was so alone at that moment that He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We were not there on Good Friday, and even if we had been, we had no part to play in His sacrifice. We have no ability to save ourselves, because we are broken and corrupted completely by sin. Jesus alone bore the sins of the world; He alone paid the price for them. And now, He alone makes Christians. We cannot make anyone a Christian; we cannot even make ourselves Christians, for all people, even you and me, are conceived and born in sin, completely opposed to God. If it were up to us, salvation would’ve never been won; if it were up to us, the salvation that Christ has won would’ve never come to us. But it was not up to us. Christ did it for us, and He alone, for only He could win salvation, dying in our place, and only He can deliver salvation, opening our hearts through the power of His Word. Christ has claimed you by that Word; He alone has done it, even if He used human instruments to proclaim that Word to you, opening your heart to receive the Gospel.

It’s Christ’s Church, not ours. This is stern Law. It shatters any illusions of influence, any desires for power, any thoughts and plans that we think are best for our congregation and for the Church. Now this doesn’t mean that we sit around and do nothing, waiting for a dream to tell us what to do, or that we run around claiming that the Spirit has given us some new direction to the Church. No, instead we are to look to where Christ gives the Church direction: in the Word. Christ directs His Church through the Word, and He opens doors for that Word in our lives, He places people that need the Gospel right in front of us. We are not the actors, we are simply instruments in the Lord’s hands. Let Christ be concerned with the results; simply go forth and speak the Word to your friends, family, and neighbors. Do not be frustrated with closed doors, but continue to proclaim the Gospel in your vocation, and pray that doors will be opened to you.

It’s Christ’s Church, not ours. This is beautiful, sweet Gospel. Christ has not abandoned His Church; He has not left us alone, but accompanies us as we spread the Gospel in this sinful world. He has not left the success or failure of His mission to the nations up to us; He is responsible for the work, and He will accomplish it, even despite our failures and pride. He accomplished salvation Himself, and He will deliver salvation Himself, as He has done to you and to me: our feeble and selfish attempts to control the work of the Church are this day forgiven! You are an instrument in His hand to bring His Gospel to the nations, just as He used others as instruments to bring His Gospel to you, the glorious message that Christ died for you, He rose for you, He forgives you. It is Christ’s Church, not ours. Thanks be to God! In the Name of Jesus, who herds His Christians wherever He has need of them, for He has not abandoned His Church, Amen.