Sunday, August 31, 2014

It Christ's Church, not yours! (September Newsletter)

I have said once or twice before that I want to put a sign on the pulpit, for only the preacher to see. It would say, “God once spoke out of the mouth of a donkey—you're not that important!” Pride certainly afflicts pastors, often more so than other people, and we clergy need to be put in our place as often as we step into the pulpit. It is certainly not about me, or any other pastor; it is all about Christ.

I've thought about that a lot as I've pondered calls. A wise pastor said that you don't take a call because you think that God can't get His work done in that place without you; nor do you stay for the same reason. It's Christ's Church, and He will take care of it. He doesn't need me to get His work done, as if I'm somehow essential to His Church, and the whole thing would collapse if I don't go to one place or stay in another. That's not how Jesus works. He is the Lord of His Church, His bride, and He will provide for her. He does this work not through the pastor in and of himself, but through the Office of the Holy Ministry, into which He places men, providing for His Church wherever she is found.

That goes for lay people, too. It's Christ's Church, not yours. In one sense, that is stern Law, for we often think that it is our Church, and we seek our own way, dominating others and making power plays just as if we were still in the world. We spend a lot of time acting as if Christ's Church is our own to manage how we want, and we need to repent. There is only one Lord of the Church; it isn't you, it isn't the pastor, it's Christ.

But there is also sweet, comforting Gospel here. It's Christ's Church, not yours. That means, despite your foibles, your sins, your stumbling, the Church will endure, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It means that it is not up to you to expand the Kingdom of God, that His Church will not collapse simply because you made a mistake. It means that you have the privilege and opportunity to serve in His Church, to spread the Gospel to the world, not because it won't happen if you don't but because God in His grace uses human instruments to accomplish His work. It is an honor to serve in Christ's Church, using the gifts God has given, loving God and neighbor by the vocation into which you have been placed.

The Church is built upon the Rock which is Christ, and because He is risen never to die again, His Church will endure forever. Even if congregations close, even as pastors stay or go, His Church endures, and it will shelter us as our mother until the day that Christ returns to call us into the Church Triumphant.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Proper 16 of Series A (Romans 11:33-12:8)

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” 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 is the Epistle lesson read a few moments ago from the eleventh and twelfth chapters of Paul’s letter to the Church of God in Rome. Dear friends in Christ, God is incomprehensible. He doesn’t act according to our wishes, He refuses to take our orders. He does things as He wishes them to be done, and He doesn’t ask for our advice. His ways are not our ways, His plans are not our plans. He is other, different, the Creator, rather than the creature, and as creatures, we should expect to understand God only by what He chooses to reveal to us. Saint Paul cries out, “How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” This is a terrifying statement for people who think that they are in control. But for Saint Paul, this is a statement of grace. How unsearchable His judgments, that God would judge His own Son guilty in the place of you and me. How inscrutable His ways, that Jesus would hang upon the cross for the very ones who nailed Him there, even for all sinners that ever lived or ever would live. That God would give the Gentiles the salvation brought into the world through the Jews was surprising, to say the least, but that was how God planned it. His ways are not our ways; He is not a tame God.

But we think we can control God, that we can domesticate Him. We think we can put Him down when He gets out of hand, or at least send Him to His kennel. Or maybe we think that we can give God advice, instruct Him on how He should do things. We have an idea or two about how this world should be run, but our advice comes most often on issues closer to home. We have plenty to say on how our own lives should go. But Paul says, “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” No one has, although plenty have tried. This is a far different thing than prayer. Prayer is offering requests, always understanding that He is the Creator and we are the creatures. Advising God, trying to domesticate Him for our own purposes, that is putting ourselves in the drivers’ seat, making His will bend to our desires.

Paul warns, “Do not be conformed to this world.” The world tries to exercise authority over both man and God, the world seeks its own power and glory against that of others. Those conformed to the world dominate their fellow creatures, seeking always to exalt themselves above those around them. Those conformed to the world attempt to control God, telling Him how He should do things, advising Him on matters great and small. It all comes down to pride. This world feeds on pride, pride which drives us to great exertions on behalf of our own success, prosperity, and happiness, pride which even exalts itself over against God. Pride calls on us to use what we’ve been given for our own good, to make our lives easier, more comfortable. We have different gifts, that is obvious, and in our mind that means that some gifts are worth more than others. Pride calls on us to exalt ourselves over others on the basis of what we’ve been given.

That’s exactly what Paul warns us about. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” You are not of the world, you are of Christ. You have been transformed by the renewal of your mind. You were transformed on the day you were converted, rebirthed, made new; the day that you were baptized into the Triune name, the day when you were brought from death to life, from sin to righteousness, from Satan to God. You are continually transformed, renewed each and every day as you return to your baptism in repentance and faith. You are not conformed to the world and its prideful ways that lead only to death, you are transformed, you are made new to live differently than the world.

This new way of life is characterized not by pride, but by sacrifice. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The Jews knew about sacrifice, the killing of bulls and goats for the sin of the people. Christians know of the sacrifice of Christ once for all people, once for all sin. The sacrifice of the New Testament people of God is in imitation of Christ; we no longer give to God the life of an animal, we give God everything we have. Since you have a body, you can sacrifice; you have become a priest in your baptism. Since you are never without you body, worship is constant. Since your body is visible, all sacrifice becomes a witness and a proclamation, a lived doxology to God; God is glorified in your service to others. This sacrifice is constant, it is comprehensive, it involves all you have at all times; the Christian is always sacrificing.

That is what your gifts are for; not to satisfy your own pride, to puff you up in the sight of your neighbors, but for the good of others. Your gifts are to be laid down on the altar as a living sacrifice in service of your neighbor’s needs. Our gifts are not to be used to impress men, and they certainly have no use in impressing God. Saint Paul asks, “Who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?” No one has ever put God in his or her debt; God doesn’t owe us anything. That is paganism, to think that we have anything to give to God. That’s not the way salvation works; eternal life is a gift to you through Christ, it doesn’t depend on you giving Him anything at all. It’s the same with everything else we have in this world. All that we have to offer Him comes from Him in the first place. The one who is conformed to the world says, “My money, my time, my talents.” There is only talk of ownership. The one transformed by Christ says, “We give thee but thine own; this money, this time, these talents are not mine at all, but gifts from God, and I will use them for the good of others.” That is what we call stewardship.

Paul exhorts us to humble stewardship: “By the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” Pride destroys service; the prideful person wants nothing to do with offering up his body as a living sacrifice, but will seek only his own good. That is not what your gifts have been given for. You are not a free agent; your gifts, your talents, your treasure, your very self, have been given to you for the good of the whole. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” 

You have been given specific gifts for the good of that body. God didn’t ask you what gifts He should give you, any more than He asked you how He should accomplish salvation. But He has given each and every one of you specific, individual gifts. But these gifts are to be used, in concert with other members of the body, for the good of the whole. For none of these gifts belong to us in the first place; they are gifts of God, and we are simply stewards. And we lay them all down, we lay our entire lives down, for the good of our neighbor. Paul says, “Think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” See how God has blessed you and seek to use those gifts, not for your own pride, as those conformed to the world do, but for the good of others, for you have been transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Has God blessed you with an income? Sacrifice it for the good of your neighbor; your spouse, your children first as your nearest neighbors, but then a portion for the good of your community, the good of your congregation. Has God blessed you with talents, skills and aptitudes? Sacrifice them for the good of your neighbor, seeing how you can serve those with a variety of needs all around you. The Christian life is one of placing others ahead of yourself, seeking to serve the needs of others with the unique gifts that God has given you. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
In this way, we preach a powerful message to and against the world. We stand in opposition to worldly pride, refusing to be conformed to selfishness. You won’t do this perfectly, you will certainly stumble into the trap of pride, but the same blood that forgives all your other sins forgives those sins, too. You are forgiven—this day and every day, by the blood shed upon the cross in self-sacrifice for you. Our self-sacrifice points to that greater sacrifice, the sacrifice that redeemed the world, that redeemed you, that transformed you for service in this world. Your life of self-sacrifice is God’s bridgehead in this evil world, an outpost of Christ’s love in a place that knows only the love of self. You lay down your life for your neighbor because Christ laid down His life for you. 

A life of self-sacrifice is not an easy life; it involves putting to death one’s sin through repentance and faith, confession and absolution. Being a living sacrifice means the scorn of the world, as it certainly did for Christ. The Church doesn’t look like much as it stumbles through this world, making itself low for the good of the neighbor. But the Lord who bought her with His own blood has a promise, given by Jesus Himself in our Gospel lesson: “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Body of which you are a member will never be overcome, for it is Christ’s Body, and He is risen from the dead never to die again. This world can rage all it wants, but the victory belongs to our Lord, and His victory is the Church’s victory, it is your victory. Our desire is to give praise to God for that great promise, to offer with our words and with our lives the doxology of praise sung by Paul in our text: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Proper 15 of Series A (Isaiah 56:1, 6-8)

The woman was dirty, smelly, she hadn’t bathed in weeks. She had crossed the border two days ago, escaping violence, escaping poverty, but poverty had followed her here. She had no place to sleep, no food to eat; rainwater was her only sustenance. No one would help her; all eyes turned away. She came from the wrong place, she spoke the wrong language, her skin was the wrong color. She was outcast, even from her own people; the ones she had traveled with had abandoned her, her homeland was a place that held only death, and it seemed a faint hope that here, in a new land, she might find some grace. She found herself at the doors of a church, its steeple standing as a silent sentinel against the night sky. Locking the door was the pastor, having finished with a bible study ten minutes earlier. “Sir,” she said, “Have mercy on me; I haven’t eaten in two days, I haven’t slept in three.” But he did not answer her a word. What swirled in his mind was his own comfy bed, his wife’s cooking that was surely waiting for him. What he thought of was the hassle this would cause, the trouble that could come. He was sent to administer Christ’s Word and Sacraments to the good people of his parish, not to feed migrants. “Send her away” was the whisper inside his head, and so he said, “The things I have to give are not for dogs like you.” There, he had said it; he had put this woman in her place, he had made her understand who she was. She had no right to demand anything from him or his church; she was no member of this community—she was an outcast.

You are an outcast. You are an outcast among your family, you are an outcast in your community, you are an outcast in this world. You are an outcast because you are different, far different than those around you. Among the poor, you are outcast because you have money. Among the rich, you are outcast because you live paycheck to paycheck. Among some, you are outcast because you don’t know enough. Among others, you are outcast because you know too much. Among conservatives, you are outcast because you are too liberal. Among liberals, you are outcast because you are too conservative. Among the healthy, you are outcast because you are sick. Among the sick, you are outcast because you aren’t using the right treatments. Among religious types, you are outcast because you are the wrong religion or denomination. Amongst atheists, you are outcast because you are religious at all. Among the immoral, you are outcast because you don’t participate in debauchery. Among the ‘good people,’ you are outcast because you can never be good enough.

You are an outcast because you have sinned. You are an outcast from your family because you have sinned against them, driving them away through anger, betrayal, or stupid, silly mistakes. You are an outcast in your community because you have stumbled against the law, because you have fallen into substance abuse or other great shame and vice. You are an outcast in the church because you have fallen into sin, and despite your repentance and the words of absolution, no one looks at you the same. You are outcast everywhere you turn in this world because you are different; different in behavior, different in appearance, different in language and culture, different in every way.

You are an outcast. You are outcast from men, but more importantly, you are outcast from God. You are an outcast because you have sinned, you have broken His every command. You are an outcast because you have used God’s name—His holy name—frivolously, dragging it through the mud. You are an outcast because you have been bored in this place, going through the motions as God gives His gifts. You are an outcast because you have rebelled against God-given authority, placing your own desires above all else. You are an outcast because you have hated a person that God loves, that God created, letting your anger murder them in your heart. You are an outcast because you have committed indecent acts with a person who is not your spouse, using your mind or your body. You are an outcast because you have sought to cheat others out of what God has blessed them with, using the ways of the world to get what you want. You are an outcast because you have destroyed reputations with your words, bringing others down to raise yourself up. You are an outcast because you have desired that which is not your own, refusing to be content with the blessings God has given to you. In short, you are an outcast because you have sinned, because you have made your own desires your idol.

You are an outcast from birth; the color of your skin, the language that comes from your lips, the culture your practice in your home may make you an outcast among men; the simple fact that you are human makes you outcast from God. You are outcast from men because you are different; you are outcast from God because you are the same. You are no different than any of your neighbors; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all outcasts, standing outside of God’s glory with no way to come in.

But you are outcast, scattered no more. You are gathered, gathered to God. You are gathered because God has acted to gather you. “The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, ‘I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.’” You are gathered because Jesus Christ came to fulfill that promise. You are gathered because Christ has come to gather you back to your God, to make you no longer an outcast but a beloved child. You are gathered because Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, to search this earth for lost sheep and bring them back to their Lord and God. “These I will bring to my holy mountain, to make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

You are gathered because you are forgiven. You are gathered because Jesus shed His blood on your behalf. You are gathered because of the cross. You are gathered because of the empty tomb. You are gathered because His blood has made your offerings, poor and sinful as they are, acceptable to God for Christ’s sake. You are gathered because while you were still outcast, Christ died for you, and you are joined to Him. God promises that those who are joined to Him will dwell on His holy mountain. You are joined to Him in Baptism, you are joined to Him by faith in His promises. You, who were an outcast, are joined back to your God through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You are gathered because you are accepted by God, not on your own merits, but because of Christ. You are gathered, and your home is God’s holy mountain, His house which is a house of prayer for all people; for outcasts among men, for those who were outcast from God.

You are gathered to men because you are gathered to God; if you are cleansed and forgiven, no longer an outcast before God, then you certainly are not outcast among each other. You were all together outcasts, and now you are all together gathered, all by the blood of Christ. You are gathered to the house of the Lord, His holy mountain, which in Jesus is truly a ‘house of prayer for all peoples.’ You are gathered to where God is, because Christ has destroyed all that made you outcast from His Father. You are gathered to His altar; no longer outcast from His presence, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Him because you are joined to His Son. You are gathered because despite all the differences that separate you from others in this world, that make you an outcast from friends, family, and neighbors, you are all together outcasts gathered to God by Christ.

You are gathered, no longer an outcast in this world; in the Church, in God’s house of prayer for all people you find acceptance, not because of who you are, but because of what Christ has done for you. You are gathered both to men and to God because of the cross; you dwell at the very center of the cross, where the vertical beam of reconciliation between God and man meets the horizontal beam of reconciliation between you and your neighbor. You who were outcast in the world, who were outcast before God, come to the Church, for here you are gathered, to men and to God. Here you will dwell, and here you have joy, the joy of salvation, the joy given by Christ. “These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

The woman looked at the pastor, who had in a moment decisively put her in her place, who had demonstrated quite clearly that she was an outcast, deserving of nothing from him or from the Church. For a brief second it appeared that she would give up, make a rude gesture and leave, but then she said, “Yes, sir, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” She owned it; she was called a dog, an outcast, someone who deserved nothing, and her response? “Yes, sir.” She agreed! She was an outcast, she deserved no grace, no help, no love, but she asked for it anyway, because the table she stood before was Christ’s table, and His table has grace even for the dogs, even for outcasts. She was throwing herself on the mercies of a God who had grace even for outcasts, especially for outcasts.

The pastor stood there, shocked. His rudeness hadn’t driven her away, it had brought her near. The God he served, the God he preached, was a God for beggars, for those who were outcasts and knew it, who cried out for bread and knew that the crumbs were for them. He was a God for beggars, for outcasts; beggars and outcasts like this woman, beggars and outcasts like the Caannite that Jesus received; beggars and outcasts, he suddenly realized, like me. Despite all that separated them, this suburban pastor and this illegal immigrant were exactly the same where it counted—before God. We are all beggars, it is true, he thought. And as one beggar to another, he told her where to find bread, the bread to fill her hungry stomach, and the bread to fill her hungry soul. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire!” he cried. And the doors of the church were unlocked and opened again, and two beggars went through, seeking the abundance that comes only from the table of Christ, a table overflowing for outcasts like me, outcasts like you. In the Name of Jesus, who came for outcasts, for beggars, Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Proper 14 of Series A (Romans 10:5-17)

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” 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 Epistle lesson read a few moments ago from the tenth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Church of God in Rome. Dear friends in Christ: Do you trust God’s Word? Do you actually believe what it says to you? This is a much different question than, ‘Do you believe the Bible is true?’ I don’t care today about historical evidence, creation vs. evolution, archeology, and all that. You can believe that the Bible is absolutely, one hundred percent true and still not trust God’s Word. Do you trust God’s Word? Is God’s Word enough for you? God’s Word says some pretty amazing things to you, some of them it said to you here today. God’s Word says, “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” God’s Word says, “Behold, I am coming soon.” God’s Word says, “This is my Body; this is my Blood.” God’s Word says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” God’s Word says, “I baptize you into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” God’s Word says all these things and more, in the pages of the Bible, from this pulpit, altar, and font—do you trust that Word? Is God’s Word enough for you?

Probably not. God’s Word is rarely enough for us; we want more than words, more than promises we can’t see. Words are never enough, we desire works, we desire miracles, we desire signs. Why else would life-long Lutherans, who have been hearing of the free forgiveness of their sins every single week for decades, come to their deathbeds wondering, ‘Have I done enough’? Why else would we snatch up the latest best-seller, looking for a vision, a personal testimony to tell us that the things we hear in God’s Word are actually true? Why else do we work ourselves into a flurry of anxiety and worry, struggling with doubt? We don’t trust God’s Word; we certainly don’t think that it’s enough; something more must be added.

We think that words are abstract and fleeting; when it comes to human speech, we’ve certainly seen the deceptiveness of words. What we trust is the tangible, what we can see and touch. Words just float out there, works we can grab onto, we can measure. Our trust is then not in the words of Absolution, “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” but instead in what we have done, “Tell me I’ve lived a good life.” We want to contribute to our own salvation, we want to build a ladder that reaches up to God. We don’t trust the Word that speaks of God coming to us; we try and try to get to Him. Paul says, ‘fine, go ahead, take that path if you want.’ “Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the Law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.” If you don’t want to trust the Word, if the Word isn’t enough for you, then take the path of works. Just know that the Law is never satisfied, and only the one who does the commandments—all of them—will live by them.

Do you trust God’s Word? Is His Word really enough for you? Or do you need something more? Do you need miracles, signs, visions from others, or is the testimony of God’s Word enough? We want to ascend to heaven, to see if it’s really there; or at least we want someone else to, and then tell us about it. We flock to hear about these visions and experiences because the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ just aren’t enough. We ask for miracles, signs, something tangible to confirm the Word, to show us that it is actually true. It isn’t enough that God’s Word tells us about angels; we have to see them. We make deals with God, challenging Him to prove His existence by intervening miraculously in our lives. This is little different than trusting in our obedience; we want God to show us something, something tangible, something seen, something we can hold.

Do you trust God’s Word? Is His Word really enough for you? Certainly not. “The righteousness based on faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).’” The person who doesn’t trust the Word, who doesn’t find its promises to be enough, will never be satisfied. You will never be satisfied with your obedience because the Law is never satisfied with it; you will never do enough to outweigh your sin. You will never be content with miracles, with signs; once you start, you can’t stop, you’re always searching for the next ‘high.’ You will be constantly looking for someone new to ascend into heaven or descend into the abyss. The one who is not satisfied with the Word will not be satisfied with anything, no matter how much obedience they pile up, no matter how many signs they see.

The righteousness based on the Law always wants more; more obedience, more signs, more visions, more miracles. The righteousness based on the Law asks for what is impossible. Who will ascend into heaven to bring Christ down? No one can do it. Many have claimed to have seen heaven, including a few prophets and Saint Paul himself, but none of them came back with Jesus. Only God brought Jesus out of heaven and into our world, and He did that great sign and wonder in the womb of a Jewish girl two thousand years ago. Who will descend into the abyss to bring Christ up? No one can do it. Many have claimed to travel from the grave back to the land of the living, including Lazarus and Dorcas, but none of them came back with Jesus. Only God brought Jesus out of the grave and back into our world, and He did that great sign and wonder in a Jerusalem tomb two thousand years ago.

God did what we could not do. Our works could not bring us to Him, because His perfect and holy Law is never satisfied by the miserable, sin-stained deeds of fallen humans. Visions and miracles couldn’t save us; even if we know that heaven is real, we still don’t know how to get there. We couldn’t bring God down to us, but God could, and He did; we couldn’t bring anyone back from the grave, but God could, and He did. He sent us Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again to do what the Law could never do, to bring us back to our God. “The person who does the commandments shall live by them,” the Law says. Jesus did the commandments, but He still died under them, for He died in your place; His perfect life in the place of those who could never do enough; His death paying your penalty.

Christ doesn’t just tell us that heaven is real, He opens the way for us, and He takes us through it. How? Through His Word. Salvation was won centuries ago in a place far away; it can only come to you by the message proclaimed by the apostles, Christ’s Word, clung to by the faith of the heart, the confession of the lips. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” It is not up to us to run ourselves ragged trying to pile up obedience, it is not up to us to search the world for signs, visions, and miracles. The righteousness based on faith doesn’t attempt to climb to heaven, instead, it says, “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the Word of faith that we proclaim).” Trust in works keeps us far from God, it will only bring shame on the Last Day, for we can never do enough to satisfy the Law. But you will not be put to shame, for Christ has done it all for you, and He has delivered that salvation to you through the Word.

That is the great work that God does through His Word, and only through His Word: He creates faith, faith which clings to Christ, faith which calls on Him in trouble. Who do you call upon when you sin, when you are confronted with death? You call upon Christ in faith, the faith that God has worked within you through His Word; His Word read, His Word preached, His Word attached to water, His Word attached to bread and wine. Do you want something tangible? Look at the living, breathing human being God has sent to preach to you, to absolve your sins. Feel the real, wet water that was poured over your head. Touch and taste the bread and wine which are His Body and Blood. God’s Word is more real than anything in this world, because His Word gives you Jesus.

Do you trust that Word? Is that Word enough for you? By faith, the very faith worked by that same Word, the answer is yes. God’s Word is enough because it gives you everything you need, now and for eternity: forgiveness, life, salvation. You don’t need to pile up obedience to impress God, living under the never-satisfied burden of the Law; Christ has fulfilled the Law, He has done it all for you. You do not need to search this earth for proofs that Christ’s promises are true; He gives you the assurance that heaven is real and that it’s your destination through the forgiveness of sins by the Word that is brought near to you. That is why God established the preaching office, to proclaim to sinners that Word which brings you Jesus.

“But how are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” How beautiful indeed, not because of who they are, but because of the Word they bear. Jesus gives you His Word to assure you, to comfort you in distress, and it is enough, because through the Word you are given everything. Your sins are forgiven, heaven is unlocked, the victory is yours! Jesus died for you, Jesus rose for you, Jesus lives for you! On the Last Day, you will not be put to shame, for your Lord has taken away all your shame and covered you with Himself. The Word is near you, to comfort you, to assure you, to bring you Jesus during your pilgrimage through this world of sin. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” In the Name of Jesus, who gives us His Word, the Word which gives us everything, Amen.