Monday, May 22, 2023

Sermon - Easter 7 - John 17:1-11


Learning From Jesus’ Prayer

Our Lord Jesus Christ loves prayer.  He was praying at his baptism, and at his transfiguration.  He prayed alone and he prayed with his disciples.  He prayed for the children, for his disciples, and for the church.  He taught his disciples how to pray.  He prayed blessings on the food he fed to 5000 and to the 12 in the institution of the Sacrament.  He even prayed as he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead – though not for himself, but for the benefit of those listening in on his prayer.

In John 17 we have recorded for our us Jesus’ “Great High Priestly Prayer.”  Our text, this morning, is a portion of it.  This prayer is the longest prayer of Jesus recorded.  And while the “Lord’s Prayer” is the prayer he has given us, his people, to pray.  In the High Priestly prayer, he prays for us, his people.  Here, especially he prays for his disciples – though later he will include also those who would come to believe in him - including you and me.  Nonetheless, we can learn so much from Jesus’ prayer, and even this first portion of it. 

As portions go, it is rich fare.  Each phrase and word of it loaded with deep meaning worthy of our attention.  One famous preacher said he could never preach this text, for it was too deep and full of meaning, and yet insisted that, on his deathbed, someone read him Jesus’ prayer from John 17 three times.  We could read it many more times and still not exhaust its teaching.  But this morning, we will make a go at it.

Consider with me this morning, as we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest just a portion of Jesus’ great prayer for his people.

A handy little aphorism I’ve found myself repeating lately, is that “Everything Jesus does, he does for you.”  Jesus is born for you.  He suffers for you.  He dies for you.  He is buried for you.  He is resurrected for you.  He even ascends into heaven for you!  And he will come back, some day, for you – and for all of his people.

Here again, we see it is true.  Jesus prays – for you. 

Indeed he prays for all of us.  Beginning with his disciples.  But what he prays for them applies to us as well.  The content of his prayer, and even the fact that his prayer is recorded by John for us to read and learn from- Jesus prays not for his own benefit, but for that of his people.  It is an act of love that Jesus prays for you.  And who better to pray for you than Jesus himself, the one in whose name we pray to the Father, and without him, not a single word of ours would be acceptable to the Father. 

One thing that might strike us about the way Jesus speaks here, and in the Gospel of John in general, is that it sounds very strange to our modern, western ears.  The line of reasoning is sort of hard to follow, because it’s non-linear.  Rather than going from point A to B to C, with an introduction and a conclusion, Jesus seems to wander – dwelling on certain points, then repeating them later in a different way.  He strikes themes, sort of chews on phrases, and speaks of things in poetic fashion. This is certainly not because he is confused or means to be confusing.  But it can be a challenge for us.

Jesus prays about the hour that has come.  Of course, here he means the time – the completion of his earthly mission – including his arrest, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension.  In all of this, Jesus prays, God would glorify him.  It is indeed a great mystery that even though Jesus is the Son of God from eternity, and thus is worthy of all honor and glory for that fact alone – he is glorified particularly by his work of salvation for us – and most especially in his suffering and death.  It is a strange kind of glory, this theology of the cross.  It is backwards from the world’s glory.  But it is precisely divine.  And by thus accomplishing his mission, the Son brings even more glory to the Father.

Jesus, who has been given all authority, wishes to use that authority to give eternal life to all that the Father has given to him.  Notice the prevalence of the word “gift” and “give”.  17 times in this chapter alone, emphasizing the giving nature of our God – everything is a gift from him.

And perhaps chief among those gifts, given from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to his people – is his word.  A word which is believed – and that faith itself a gift.  A word that creates certainty that Christ is sent from the Father.

A close study of this reading draws us into ponder the two natures of Christ – true God, and true Man.  As true God, he had glory before the world began.  As true man, he receives glory from the Father.  And through his word Jesus reveals the glory of the Father to us.  He is true man for us, and he is true God, for us.

It also prompts us to recall the two states of his work for us – the state of humiliation, in which he sets aside or doesn’t fully exercise his divine attributes of power and knowledge and such – and the state of exaltation, in which he gradually and then fully exerts these divine attributes again.  Jesus knows he will return to the Father in a glorious ascension to the throne of heaven, and rule all things for the good of his people.  His time of humiliation is ending.  His time of exaltation is beginning.  He is humiliated for us.  He is exalted for us.

He prays for those that belong to him, but not for the evil and unbelieving world.  Jesus knows who belongs to him and who does not.  This doesn’t mean he desires only SOME to be saved.  But it is a comfort to those of us who do believe, that he knows us, prays for us, and keeps us in his care.

And here’s another observation:  He is also glorified in them, his people.  So not only is he glorified from eternity as the Son of God, not only is he also glorified by accomplishing his saving work, but he is also “glorified in them”.  That’s not to say that they give him glory by a bunch of good works done in his honor.  Rather, it is to say that he is glorified in them by his work in them – work of justification and sanctification.

It was in the 5th century that the church father Clement of Alexandria remarked that in this prayer Jesus was acting as our high priest.  And so we have called this his “High Priestly Prayer”.  You may, of course, consider that the Old Testament priests made the sacrifices, and that the high priest, of course, made the most important annual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.  Jesus is our High Priest by virtue of him making the highest sacrifice of all – himself – his own precious blood of the covenant, shed for the remission of all sins.

But it is also the high priest’s role to represent the people before God in prayer.  To pray on behalf of, and for, all the people.  So Christ does here, for us, in John 17.  And so he continues to do seated at the right hand of the Father.  “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” 1 Timothy 2:5  Or we might say here is only one High Priest between God and man, and that’s Jesus Christ. 

We need his mediation because we can’t come to God on our own.  We need his glorious work, because we are so caught up in our poor self-glorification.  We need his priestly sacrifice for our sins, and his priestly prayer for all blessing.  We need forgiveness for our flagging and failing prayer life, for shallow and selfish prayers, and for stronger faith to cling to his promises.  If we had to rely on our prayer for salvation, we’d be far from the kingdom.  But we can, and we do, rely on Jesus – and on his prayer, for the Father has great joy in answering his Son.

And Jesus continues to bring our prayers to the Father, and so we pray our prayers, “in His name”.  He continues to pray the same things for his church as he does in John 17: Steadfast faith, unity in the truth, glorification of his name through more coming to believe on his name.

Yes, dear Christians, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed for us, and prays for us to his Father, who is our Father.  And we have nothing to add but the word of faith, which says, “Amen”.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Sermon - Easter 6 - John 14:15-21


John 14:15-21

“Goodbye, Jesus?”

In the play, “Romeo and Juliet”, William Shakespeare wrote, “Parting is such sweet sorrow” But that phrase has lived on in our cultural lexicon.  We acknowledge that saying goodbye can be a difficult thing.

Whether it’s a High School graduate heading off to college. A good friend who retires and moves to somewhere with cooler weather. Or putting that child on the school bus for the very first time. These kinds of partings are such sweet sorrow, a mixture of emotions. Even though you'll miss your loved one, there is a joy for their new venture, or phase of life.

But then there are those goodbyes that are not bittersweet, but simply bitter. Getting fired from a job you love. The couple who divorces after years of marriage. Or perhaps the worst goodbye of all, death itself. And worst among those, an untimely death. A soldier who goes off to war, and dies, leaving behind a wife and family. A teenager who dies in a car accident the week before prom. Some of the most difficult goodbyes are those we don't expect, and out of which no good seems to come.

In this section of John’s Gospel, Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. He is preparing them, by his words, for his departure. He spoke of that departure – his “exodus” -  on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah. He spoke openly about it with his disciples, telling them just what was to come. “The Son of Man is going up to Jerusalem, and he will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he will be crucified...” The Gospels say he spoke plainly about this. Jesus was going away.

But what sort of departure will this be? Will it be a hopeless goodbye? A senseless tragedy? Or will there be, behind the sorrow, a cause for hope, even joy?

Last week, at the beginning of John 14, we heard about how he would be going to prepare a place for us in the many rooms of the Father’s house.  He promised to come back and take us to be with him there.  And he showed himself to be the way to the Father, the only way, the truth, and the life.

Still, he’s going away, at least in some sense. 

In today’s reading from the next part of the chapter, Jesus' words hold out a promise. “I will not leave you as orphans”.  Let’s dwell on this for a moment.

What's a worse goodbye than seeing your parents die and leave you behind? What's a more hopeless situation than to be an Orphan?

Perhaps you remember Little Orphan Annie, and her “hard knock life” in the orphanage. No family. No tenderness and concern. No one to tuck her in bed or buy her Christmas gifts. But then the story turns when she is adopted by the wealthy Daddy Warbucks, and her whole life goes from rags to riches.

In a way, we've always been orphans. But cut off from our Father by the sin of our own choosing. There was the beginning of all sad goodbyes. What a bitter departure it must have been for Adam and Eve to leave the garden. Not just because it was a beautiful paradise, but it meant leaving the place where they walked with God.

Since then, in our fallen nature, we've all been on the outside, looking in. Our sinfulness estranges us from our Lord, and in it, we are dead to him. And every time you, personally, sin, it's as if you say to God, “drop dead, Dad.” Every time you tread all over the commandments you drive a wedge between yourself and the Holy One. We live as if God truly has left us, and we’ve rebelliously struck out, entirely on our own. 

We need repentance. We need forgiveness.

But Jesus takes us from our orphanage of sin, our hard-knock life of suffering and death, and brings us to the mansions of heaven where he has prepared a place for us. He comforts us, even now, with that promise, and with his constant word. Even better, he sends his Spirit who helps us to remember, and to believe in all he has said. And by his grace alone do we live as children of God here in the world.

So no, those who are in Christ won't remain orphans, though now their Lord would be going away for a while. He promises them that even in this departure there would be hope and blessing. He promises them the Holy Spirit. The Helper. The Spirit of Truth. He would help the disciples to remain in the truth, and remember all his commands and promises. And Jesus himself would give them life – because of his life. For even though he was about to die, he would soon rise to life forever. And his resurrection means our resurrection. So there is hope.

And in this departure that is quickly coming, the world will see him no longer, but he promises, “you will see me”. And this is the paradox wrapped in an enigma. Jesus is going, but he is staying. He won't be seen, but he will be seen. He is dying, but he will live and so will his disciples. He is going to the Father, but he will be with you always, even to the end of the age.

This Thursday, the Christian church marks the Ascension of our Lord. For the last few years, we’ve been offering a Divine Service to He would rise to the heavens in the sight of his apostles. But this wasn't the end either. Now seated in his rightful glory at the throne of God, and the Father's right hand, Jesus rules all things for the good of his people, the church. But even this isn't the end.

He will return, and take us to be with him. Whether that return happens when you pass through the gate of death – or should we all live to see the last day when he comes again in glory – Jesus will not leave us forever. And yet even though he's gone, he is here, among us, in his word, by his Spirit. In our baptism, and at our altars.

And in the meantime, let us not put aside what else Jesus talks about here – loving God and keeping his commandments.  These are the implications of the Christian life, the necessary expression of the faith that clings to his promises.  Christians who are no longer orphans, but adopted into God’s family, cannot help but to love God and keep his commandments. 

Oh, the flesh in us will say otherwise, the flesh will kick and scream and exert his selfish will.  But the flesh is not all that is in us.  We have the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit of God who dwells with us and in us.  And that is no small thing.

It is by that Spirit that we can (and do!) keep God’s commandments – first to love him, and then to love our neighbor.  Notice this is less a command and more a promise:  If you love me, you will (YOU WILL!) keep my commandments!  The new Adam in us walks before God in righteousness, even while the old Adam clings to sin and death.  Here is a mystery that can only be apprehended by faith, and words of Jesus that ring true, even when appearances seem to the contrary.

There are times when we feel orphaned. Alone in the world. Like even God can't understand our suffering. Maybe especially when we have to say the bitter goodbyes. But for the Christian, there is hope and even joy in such goodbyes.

Or to put it another way: with Christ, there really is no goodbye, only a “see you later.” For Christians, there is the same. We keep his commandments as we walk in love with Christ and also with the Father.  We look forward to the grand reunion of eternity with all the saints in heaven. And especially with our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. God will not forsake us. He has already forsaken Christ on the cross. Our sins won't make him hate us, he's already poured out his wrath on Jesus. For us, adopted children of the heavenly Father, there is only love and comfort and peace. There is an eternal home. There are loving arms of embrace. Even to eternity, in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Sermon - Easter 4 - John 10:1-10


A “figure of speech”. Sometimes Jesus spoke plainly. But other times, not so much. Always Jesus spoke the truth, but sometimes that truth was given in a way that wasn't as obvious, especially to the unbeliever. 

Today is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, our readings draw us into the grand scriptural metaphor of the shepherd and sheep. It's a favorite metaphor used by Christ, and an important theme, really, throughout all of Scripture. 

Consider these important Old Testament figures who truly were shepherds: Abel, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, David, Amos – and many others. The kings of Israel were also seen as shepherds – guarding and protecting the flock of their kingdom.  And woe to the shepherds that lead the sheep astray! 

And of course, our well-loved Psalm 23 tells us, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”. Jesus aptly picks up on this depiction, and calls himself the “Good Shepherd”. 

Today we take one of the passages from John in which Jesus strikes this theme. Let's note three key ideas there, and we'll expound on them further: 

Jesus is the true shepherd, as opposed to false shepherds. 

Jesus knows the sheep, the sheep know him. 

Jesus is also the gate or the door to the pen, our way to safety and abundant life. 


Then, as now, there were many false shepherds. Jesus offered this as a warning to his people, his sheep. Watch out for those false shepherds! They climb over the gate... they sneak in or barge in... but they have no right to be there in the sheep pen. They are not the true shepherd. Only Jesus is. 

So who are they? Doubtless Jesus referred to the many false Messiahs that had come before – false shepherds who led the sheep astray, or fail to defend the sheep, or steal from the sheep, or even prey upon them. False shepherds who either claimed to be the Christ, or claimed to do what only Christ can do. 

We have many false shepherds today, too, of course. False teachers who would lead people astray into false belief and false living. Some of them are wolves-in-shepherd's clothing. They may appear to be good and nice, and maybe even religious. Maybe even Christian.  A pastor who fills up a stadium and sells lots of books and smiles big and tells engaging stories.  He must be doing something right, if all these people listen to him.  He must be blessed by God, he must be worth listening to, some poor sheep conclude.

Some False shepherds are clad in the priestly garments of white lab coats, claiming “Science! Science!”  As if worldly knowledge and the theories of man can hold a candle to the divine revelation of the Creator.  This new tower of Babel holds a false promise, even of eternal life, for those who seek to transcend creaturely limitations.

Some other false shepherds are wolves in cap and gown, academic garb, propounding anti-Christian worldviews and philosophies that lead many of our young people astray.  History, society, reality and truth themselves are taught through the lens of power dynamics, oppressors and victims, social justice and other concocted ideologies – and not sin and grace, law and gospel, biblical truth. 

Or the false prophets of politics, who imply or outright claim that only they can save you, save your family, save your country!  If you’ll only vote, speak up, or donate – we can solve all the problems and defeat all the enemies.  But Holy Scripture warns us to “trust not in princes”, and points us to the kingdom that is not of this world. 

And there is the great danger, when false shepherds lead the sheep away from the safety of the pen, from the shelter of God's grace in Jesus Christ – out into the wilderness of their own shabby good works. There the sheep will starve for lack of food, for the sheep don't live on bread, or grass, but on the word of God. There in the wilderness, the sheep will quake in fear of the enemies – which abound, of course. And who will protect them from the beasts of sin and death? And there, in the wilderness, should the sheep remain, they will surely die. Oh, the false shepherd may wear a smile on his face, but he is a thief and robber. He cares nothing for the sheep. 

We are tempted to follow these false shepherds. Even worse. Sometimes we are even our own false shepherd. When we make our own way, define our own rules, rationalize our own reasons for sin. When we fear, love, and trust in “me”, and not “he”. We lead ourselves astray. We are not following Christ. 

There are dangers, so many dangers, all around.  Enemies and predators, thieves and destroyers.  And sometimes the worst enemy is myself.  What’s a poor sheep to do? 

And then there is the true shepherd, Jesus Christ. He feeds and cares for and protects his sheep. He is worthy of our trust and faith. He will not disappoint. He will not flee in the face of danger. His steady hand holds and unwavering rod and staff that comfort the sheep. 

Jesus is the true shepherd. And Jesus knows the sheep, and the sheep know him. 

In those days, a group of shepherds would often house their flocks in the same pen. When it was time to depart for the day, each shepherd would call his own flock, and they would separate into their respective groups, each following the voice of their own shepherd. 

The sheep know the voice of the shepherd. We, the people of Christ, know the voice of Christ. But how? With so many false shepherds out there, with all their appealing teachings and attractive ideas... how can we know the voice of the shepherd? 

We know it through his word. We hear Jesus speak when scripture speaks. We know it to be a word of both law and gospel, judgment and grace, sin and forgiveness. And the more we listen, the better we know his voice. It is the only voice worth following. It is the voice of our shepherd. A voice of authority, a voice of power, but more – a voice of love and mercy for poor lost sheep. Sweet music to our sore sheep ears. The sheep know the shepherd. 

But more importantly, the shepherd knows his sheep. Jesus knows us. Each of us, personally, better than we know ourselves. He knows what it's like for us, after all he went through everything we do – yet without sin. He knows each of us by name, as we belong to him in holy Baptism. And even though he knows we are wayward sheep, he does not deny us. Instead he seeks us, finds us, claims us, and brings us to himself. 

Jesus, the true shepherd, stands in contrast to the false shepherds. He knows his sheep, and we know him. And remember, he is the gate to the sheep-pen. 

Yes Jesus is not only a good shepherd, he is the only good shepherd. He is the only door, the one true gate, the exclusive way to safety. No one comes to the father but by him, he says a later in John’s Gospel. But here, the metaphor of the sheep-pen. A safe place to spend the night. Protected and fed, this pen is the safe-haven of his kingdom. Here, the sheep take refuge. Here the sheep rest secure. 

But there is only one way in. And he is that way. Jesus is the gate. Only through him do we have any hope at all. But in him, and through him, we have life, and have it abundantly. 

See, the true shepherd is also the true lamb- the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. For he died to save the sheep from sin, and he rose to bring this life to the sheep.  And so he is also the true door or gate – the way, and the only way to the Father, and to the eternal security of the heavenly sheep-fold. 

So follow him, you sheep of his pasture and pen. Watch out for the false shepherds! Hear and listen to the voice of your shepherd. He is the true shepherd. He knows you, even better than you know him. He brings you to the safety of his care and keeping. And he feeds you even now.  He calls you to take and eat, take and drink, and be forgiven.   

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Sermon - Easter 2 - John 20:19-31

The disciples were in lockdownNot for fear of COVID, but for fear of the JewsThey saw what happened to Jesus, and they didn’t want to be nextMaybe if we just hunker down here this will all soon blow overWhen the coast is clear, we can go back to Galilee and figure out what’s nextBut the women are saying some strange things, and Peter and John confirmed it, the tomb is emptyCould it possibly be that Jesus did what he said he would do, that he rose from the dead? 

And directly into this swirling mess of fear and confusion and doubt, comes JesusHe simply appears in their midst, with no explanation, and needing no invitation. 

He doesn’t scold them for their cowardiceHe doesn’t come to berate them for leaving him out to dry in his darkest hourHe doesn’t come to punish them for their failuresHe comes in peace. 

“Peace be with you” he saysAnd already in this greeting, we can tell everything is going to be all right.  

He shows them his hands and his sideThis is his divine ID.  And it is a grand summary of the GospelIt proves it’s really him, in the fleshIt proves he really diedAnd by virtue of the fact that he’s standing there with them – he shows them he is aliveHe’s done it all for themIt’s all come to pass, just as he said. 

And in those wounds, and in his risen body, and in his merciful greeting – the disciples have peaceSo also, for us. 

We stand a week away from Easter, and a little more from Good Friday, and we too can find ourselves hunkered down in fearOur fears are different, to be sureBut we also have confusion and doubtWe have hurt and painAnd we surely have sinWe have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection, but we have lived as if that doesn’t matterWe have the spiritual memory of goldfish, rejoicing one day, despairing the nextWe are like Paul, doing the evil we hate, and not doing the good we desireWretched man, indeedWho will save me from this body of death? 

And there stands Jesus – alive – with the answerOnly Jesus can do itAnd Jesus has done itIn those wounds we find the peace that Jesus proclaimsPeace with GodPeace with consciencePeace and not guilt, shame, fear, or doubtThe disciples were then gladSo are we. 

But he has more to offerAgain he repeats his peace, but now with a mission for these disciples“As the Father sends me, so I am sending you”.  The word there – sent one – is “apostle”.  Jesus, the original “apostle”, the one sent from the Father, now sends these men, apostles them, with a mission of their own.   

He empowers them with the Holy Spirit, breathing that very Spirit on themAnd then he says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” 

And so he establishes the Office of the Holy Ministry. 

These words of Jesus were fulfilled again this morning, in our Confession and AbsolutionYou came, gathered in the name of the Triune GodBut the first order of business, the first item on the liturgical agenda is dealing with the elephant in the room – sinHow can a sinner stand before Holy GodHow can a worm like you, or me, withstand the presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy One? 

We confess our sinsPartly because we know it’s safe to do soWe know that our Lord Jesus Christ brings peace, not condemnationAnd so we are honest with our God and ourselves. We say what he has said about us – that we sin in thought, word and deed – sins done and undoneLove for God and neighbor failingWe cover it all. 

And then, and then! The best partJohn 20 springs into actionThese words of Jesus come alive for us“If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven!”  The servant God puts in this place speaks the words of forgiveness Jesus commands: 

“In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ”  I stand here in his steadIt’s as good as if Jesus himself was standing here saying these thingsAnd you know that because of is commandNo pastor dares take it upon himself to forgive sins of his own rightNo one can forgive sins but God aloneBut when Jesus, who is God, commands us to do soThen His word is good, even if it’s through a buffoon or a scoundrelAnd there is great comfort for all of us. 

Jesus would repeat this charge to his apostles, and also to Peter whom he commanded, “Feed my lambsTake care of my sheep.”  And these apostles passed the blessings on to the next generation of pastors – to care for the next generation of sheep, and on through the ages of the churchGod continues calling men to preach and teach and forgive sinsJesus continues speaking through themAnd so his sheep, you, his people, are well cared for.   

Now on to ThomasHe missed the first visitBut Jesus goes out of his way to include himHe makes a special visitJust like the Good Shepherd to go after the one lost sheepAnd he uses Thomas’ own words of doubt to call him to faith“You want to see and touch, do youOK, Thomas, put your fingers out – touch my woundsStop doubting and believe!”  He knows just what Thomas needs. 

But not just ThomasJesus knows that others will believe, even without seeing the risen Christ or touching his woundsThomas was blessed to see and touch JesusWe are blessed to hear and come to faith by the word. 

Christ comes to his people in various ways, bringing peace and forgivenessHe washes us in baptismHe absolves us in the word of the pastorAnd he also invites us to His Supper. 

The Lord’s SupperWhere the risen Christ comes to be with us in a miraculous wayThe Supper – in which he appears, not with nail-scarred hands and spear-pierced side, but under the humble forms of bread and wineThe SupperThe meal that brings us peace and forgiveness of sinsThe Holy Sacrament in which we do touch the body of the Lord, and he unites himself with us through eating and drinkingAnd also, in this means of grace, does he strengthen our faith – and call us to “stop doubting, and believe!” 

Finally John tells us the purpose of his book – his gospelAnd really, by extension, it’s the purpose of all Holy Scripture – these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and by believing, you may have life in his name. 

Jesus wants he people to have his gifts – peace, forgiveness, faith, and lifeAnd these words of his, like all his words – deliver what they promise. 

His word brings peace – for we know that the risen Christ is with us in mercy. 

His word brings forgiveness – so surely and personally, for he has instituted an office to deliver that forgiveness in his stead. 

His word brings faithIt comes by hearing, yes, as the Spirit works to convict our hearts and minds – with the gift of repentance and the assurance of Christ’s blessing. 

And his word brings life – for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvationWhere there is faith – he who believes in me will live, Jesus saysAnd that life is strong, and sure and unwavering and unquenchableFor Jesus himself lives, and in him we have lifeJesus has conquered death, and we too shall riseJesus paid the penalty of the law, so that we can say, “Where, oh death is thy sting?”  Jesus gives life, and gives it abundantly. 

Here we are, his disciples, gathered again in the echo of EasterHere Jesus comes among us with his giftsHere brings peace, forgiveness, faith and lifeLet us stop doubting and believe, and receive these gifts in great joyWith Thomas we confess, he is, my Lord and my GodAnd, Christ is risen…..