Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy Thursday - "The New Testament in My Blood."

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Dear Fellow Redeemed and Heir of Heaven:
"Therefore [Jesus] is the mediator of a new testament, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first testament. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death ... ." (Hebrews 9:15-17a)
God doesn't really mind it that much when we remind him of what he has promised to us. Actually, God loves it when we remind him of his promises. That's the difference between fallen people such as you and me and our gracious gift-giving God. Too often we have little patience when someone goes on about what we have promised to them, especially when it makes our lives more complicated and difficult and stressful and burdensome. "I know, I know. You don't have to remind me!" we think or even say out loud. But, as Martin Luther once said, God loves it when we rub his promises in his ears and — in faith — allow him to do what he loves to do: be faithful to what he has promised on behalf of undeserving, wandering and wayward sheep.
That's the life of true faith: to hold on, come what may, to the promises — the promises that come not from our mouth, but the promises that come from the merciful mouth of the Lord. It's his promise, his commitment, his doing, his faithfulness, his follow-through, his sacrifice of himself on behalf of a people who could not even begin to make amends for their sins and sinfulness.
When the children of Israel heard the Book of the Testament read at the foot of Mount Sinai, they mistakenly believed that it was all about them. "Do this and don't do that, and then you'll be saved." is what they heard. But everything outside of faith can only go one way, and that is the way of the Law and contract and two-way deal. "I'll do this for you if only you first do that for me." is the way a fallen world and a fallen nature always operates — a way that can only lead to one of two spiritual dead-ends: pride or despair.
But God announced his one-way covenant with his people and desired that they would respond with a simple "Amen." But in their fallen-ness the children of Israel replied, "We'll do our duty. We'll fulfill our part of the bargain God, and then we expect you to keep yours."
Yet, for even that sin of believing our redemption begins and ends with our decision and commitment and will-power and action, God freely offers forgiveness undeserved.
Tonight we again hear and take to heart the covenant God made with his people at Mount Sinai and Mount Calvary, a covenant like no other covenant in it's character and its effect. A testament given to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob — a testament that is, from beginning to end, a one-way arrangement: from a faithful God to unfaithful sheep caught tight in the brambles of their sin.
The covenant of the Lord is a one-way covenant. It is the Lord's covenant and promise and testament, in the same way it is the Lord's Word and the Lord's Baptism and the Lord's Supper — despite all our foolish attempts to make it something that we do and accomplish.
The Lord will have no talk of two-way deal-making when it comes to the deliverance of his enslaved people. At Passover he comes to save — simply because he loves to show grace and mercy and forgiveness, even when it costs us nothing and costs him everything.
That was the Gospel at the foot of Mount Sinai and that was the Gospel as Jesus stooped at the feet of the disciples in the upper room. "Salvation will be secured eternally through one great sacrifice for your sin and for the sin of an entire fallen world." Jesus is saying. "But it was to my blood that the sacrifices under Abraham and Moses pointed. I have come to not only usher in another covenant and testament and promise; I am that new testament and the final Word on salvation. I am that gracious, saving promise first given to Adam and Eve and to all who would receive it in faith. In the giving up of my life-blood, blessed communion between God and his people is restored. Fellowship at heaven's table is, this night, resurrected with my sacrificial death and the pouring out of my life before God's altar."
On the night of the Passover, the Lord delivered sinful, undeserving people through his Word of grace and promise in, with and under the marks of life offered up and blood shed. There was no "Do this for me and then maybe I'll get you out of your helpless situation." — at least from God. God saves because he loves to save. God forgives because he loves to forgive. God offers up his beloved Son because he is a God of abundant grace who will spare nothing that his people might again enjoy that perfect fellowship given to man before the Fall.
Scripture is very clear: there is no redeeming testament without the shedding of blood. There is no purification without the death of the appointed sacrifice.
God has little need of our great-sounding but empty promises to perfectly obey him and make him proud of us by never sinning again. Christ came to wash us from our sins and take upon himself the dust and dirt of our transgressions.
Christ came to establish forever the eternal, once-for-all new testament, a last will and testament that could only go into effect with his death on the altar of the Cross. And he bids us to simply respond in faith with the words, "Amen. Let it be so for me."
Everything in this miserable world that will not acknowledge and receive in faith the verdict of the last will and testament established by the Lamb of God stands condemned.
Because, when it comes to your salvation, God will hear nothing but the voice of his Son, our High Priest. His cries for us from the manger. His cries for us as he submits to circumcision and the Law. His cries for us as he looked upon helpless and wandering sheep. His cries as he looked to heaven, gave thanks and broke bread as he fed his own with — himself.
Tonight we have been gathered to receive God's pure and saving gift. We have been gathered to hear salvation announced, salvation promised, salvation offered, salvation secured, and, trustingly receive it — as the last will and testament of our Lord is spoken, and the fruits of his death are taken in and extolled with cleansed lips and hearts.
Tonight, around the Lord's Table, we take to heart again the great and final Word on our salvation from John the Evangelist:
"Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." (John 13:1 ESV)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Palm Sunday — Passion Sunday 2008

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Everything was going as planned.  Jesus of Nazareth had performed many signs as Messiah, from the changing of water into wine at Cana to the healing of the man born blind.  And now, rumor had it, that he had even raised the dead man Lazarus.  Nothing could stop what was now in motion.  Jesus was coming to the holy city, God's own city, to deliver God's holy people.  No more oppression!  No more slavery!  No more suffering under the foot of foreign enemies who had made life pure misery for the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The wheels were beginning to turn as Jesus of Nazareth approached Jerusalem in grand style, with his disciples cheering, with the children of Jerusalem singing, with the crowds making a royal highway with their cloaks and palm branches.  Soon it would be the time for battle as God's people followed the Messiah in rising up to defeat the foe who had their foot on Israel's neck.
"Hosanna!" they shouted. "Lord, save us!"  Save us from our political enemies.  Rid this land from the stench of the Romans that we might be free to live as we wish, worship as we want, believe as we desire to believe.
On that first Palm Sunday, Jerusalem was on edge.  The Jewish religious leaders were anxious and the Romans were tense with anticipation.  The crowds could feel it in the air.  The time was ripe for battle and rebellion and insurrection.  The normal population of the holy city and the outlying suburbs had grown from about 20,000 to 60 or 80,000.  And everyone knew more than a few Jews on that Palm Sunday were armed with more than a palm branch just in case the fighting broke out that afternoon.  "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Bring it on, Jesus!" they cried.  "Now save us!"  Begin in ernest what we've wanted you to do since the beginning of your public ministry!  Put us back in power.  Restore the glory we once enjoyed as a people in the days of Solomon and in the days of Solomon's Temple.  Bring it on.  We're ready to follow you into battle!"
That Palm Sunday everything was going as planned.  God had finally sent the One to overturn the tables and bring the good life back to the children of Israel.  Jesus would make the Romans respect the power of the Lord and his chosen people.  No more suffering.  No more doubt.  No more sadness and disappointment and uncertainty.  And it all would begin with this triumphal entry by the anointed Son of David.
But the royal steed on which the conquer rode ... .  Couldn't have his disciples found something a little more impressive?  A young donkey that seemed to be noticeable uncomfortable with this small stature of a man upon his back?  A young donkey that still needed to have its mother lead the way?  A much too common-looking beast of burden for the conqueror's procession?  How was that going to put fear into the Romans and instill the desire for battle in the hearts and minds of the Jewish population?  A poor, miserable donkey?
But, everything was going according to plan.  For, you see, although there was no one in and around Jerusalem that Palm Sunday that had a clue what this triumphal entry really meant, everything was going according to plan.  God has sent his beloved, his one and only Son from heaven, for just this day and just this entry on just this kind of animal. 
There had been no last-minute mix-up.  The Anointed One, the Christ, the Son of David and David's Lord, processes into the City of David, Mount Zion, to take it by storm: mounted on a donkey.
Not many years after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, Roman soldiers mocked Christians as they were led into the Coliseum to be torn apart by bears and lions.  They mocked them in hurling insults at them, and they mocked them by drawing graffiti of their Savior: Jesus of Nazareth, ridiculed by being depicted as a donkey crucified upon a cross.
A donkey king?  How is it that for two thousand years the Christian Church has seen fit to glory in a donkey king?  
That's what the last six weeks and the next seven days are all about.  For even today, everyone sees the signs Jesus revealed, but no one sees where those signs actually point.
The crowds that met Jesus that day were caught up in the ecstasy of a Messiah that could heal and raise the dead and provide wine for celebration.  The crowds that waved palm branches and shouted "Hosanna!" were caught up in a Jesus of their own making, a glory of their own making, a deliverance of their own making, and not much has changed — even in our day.
Do we really know what Jesus comes to accomplish for us and for all who would, in faith, follow him?  Do we really know what enemy Jesus has come to defeat?  Do we really grasp the real glory and power and might of the Anointed One sent from heaven?
For anyone here this morning who will listen, the animal upon which Jesus rides is a key into the hidden meaning of this day, the true meaning of Christ and his salvation and our spiritual condition and the world's refusal — our old nature's refusal — to have anything to do with any of it. 
Jesus comes to his own, to you and me, on a borrowed beast of burden, as he bears the burden of sins not his own.  His entry is not only a humble entry, it is the first step in his great humiliation in delivering us from what really oppresses and strangles us. 
This is the way our enemies will be defeated.  This is the way we will be released from all that oppresses and binds and smothers and suffocates us.  This is the way God promised to save the likes of Adam and Eve and all their poor, miserable, helpless and rebellious children: through the poor, miserable, innocent suffering and death of the One who could change water into wine, heal the blind, cure the lame, and even raise the dead, but could not, would not save himself from the unspeakable horrors of suffering under the burden of our sin.
Everything was going as planned, just as it had the first time Jesus had rode on a donkey: as his mother Mary took the hard road from Nazareth to Bethlehem only to give birth to her firstborn son in a stable cave, among the most unlikely of witnesses: the lowliest beasts of burden, animals fitted with reigns and yokes and saddles, the marks of bondage and hard labor.
We cried out for a glorious Savior, and God sent his King upon a donkey.  We clamored for a powerful Deliverer, and heaven sent the most common-looking of men who could do unimaginable miracles and signs, who exhibited unlimited power to restore health and life, but, strangely, refused to out-smart the betrayer's plot, refused to release himself from the bonds of those who arrested and abused him, refused to stand up and defend himself before Caiaphas or Herod or Pilate, refused to even find a horse upon which to ride into Jerusalem. All for your redemption.
"And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it."
Jesus placed all things into the gracious hands of his heavenly Father, and, according to his Father's will, laid aside his glory and the honor due his name, to come to us and do everything in our place, as our substitute.  
Jesus was born in your cave.  Jesus was born in the chill of your fallen-ness and the poverty of your sin.  Jesus lived — to die under the crushing burden we rightly were called by the Law to bear.  And he rode into Jerusalem as the donkey king to be fitted with a crown made from the thorny fruit of Adam's betrayal to take his seat on a throne of mercy and forgiveness and nothing-withheld loving-kindness for you and for an entire undeserving world.
God will indeed save his people from their enemies: sin, death and the power of the devil, but he will not deliver them with a war horse and the sword.  He will break the oppressor's rod with the blood of his precious Son; he will defeat the captive's chains as his one and only freely offers up his life as the one, eternal sacrifice for sin.
This hour, the King of Israel comes to you.  He comes not to shame you or strike a bargain with you or force you into submission.  He comes humble and hidden to all but the eyes of faith, in, with and under the most common of means: bread and wine. In his very body and blood, given up for you, offered for you, sacrificed for you upon the Cross, for the forgiveness of all your sins.
Hail, to the Lord's Anointed! Lord, save us!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lenten Sermon: The Cross and the Peculiar Office of the Church

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Dear Redeemed in Christ:
The Christian Church can do a lot of really good things: help people with their loneliness, give parents a place to educate their children, keep teenagers off the streets on Sunday mornings, organize family camping trips, teach people how to sing or play a musical instrument, offer a basketball court to the neighborhood kids, and enjoy potlucks and sauerkraut and jell-o — and dessert.
But what makes a Church that calls itself "Christian" the one, holy, Christian and apostolic Church is something very peculiar — something very uncommon — something very strange, unexpected and, to more than a few, something very unsettling.
That isn't pointing out to the world our holy living and it's moral failings.
The peculiar thing about the true Christian Church is not that we have some pope or an archbishop or a synodical or district president.
The peculiar thing about the true Christian Church is not that we have a great sanctuary that will take your breath away or a hand-carved altar imported from the Black Forest.
The peculiar thing about the true Christian Church is not the presence of expensive paraments draped over pulpit or lectern or altar or pastor.
The peculiar thing about the true Christian Church cannot be discerned in silver-plated chalices or gold-plated offering plates.
The peculiar thing about the true Christian Church is "peculiar" because it is something that God has called only his Church to be and to do. Not the psychologist, not the politician, not the welfare agency, not the hospital or the school or university or athletic club.
And, contrary to popular thought, this peculiar "office" is not found among the clutter of the pastor's study. It is not the kind of office with a door, desk, phone and stapler. It is a peculiar role, calling, duty, responsibility, command given only to the Church by the Lord and Ruler of the Church: Christ himself.
And to properly understand that special calling, we turn to two special passages of Scripture: Matthew 16 and John 20.
Now if you attended the Bible studies on the Gospel of Matthew several weeks ago you might remember that Matthew 16:13-20 is the culmination of the entire three year ministry of Jesus with his disciples, a three year ministry of Jesus preaching faith into the disciples, and the resulting fruit of faith as Jesus' asks the Twelve: "But who do you (plural) — you all — say that I am?" Hear what the disciples confess through their spokesman, the first among equals: Peter. (Read Matthew 16:16-19.)

Only upon this confession of faith — a confession of faith that faithfully reflects what God himself has revealed about his Son through his Word and Spirit — will Christ build his Church.
But what a peculiar Church it will be: a Church under Christ exercising it's peculiar calling to bind and release one specific thing: sin.
This is what so much of what calls itself Christian today has forgotten or neglected or disdained as it trumpets it's own ability to release people from a spirit of low self-esteem or a demon of arthritis or the bonds of financial insecurity or the burden of a seemingly unfulfilling marriage.
The forgiveness of sins — real, unconditional, free, no-strings-attached forgiveness of sins — is the peculiar mark of the true Christian Church because only the true Christian Church has been given the call and authority to use the God-given keys that unlock and open — and close and bolt shut — the gates of heaven.
That is why we confess in the Creed that we believe in "the forgiveness of sins" when we talk about the saving work of the Holy Spirit as he creates and sustains the Church of Christ.
No Holy Spirit, no true Christian Church. No true Christian Church, no office of the keys. No office of the keys, no forgiveness of sins. No forgiveness of sins, no chance of heaven for hopeless sinners.
Now maybe some days we aren't all that convinced that the freeing and binding of people and their sins is all that peculiar or special or essential when it comes to the Christian Church. Why else would millions and millions of people walk away from congregations who spotlight the office of the keys in order to join a church that never mentions forgiveness, let alone that little three-letter word "sin"?
For anyone wondering if the office of the keys is a big deal to Christ and should be a big deal to the Church and to each of us as Christians, take a good hard look at John 20 and re-discover the first things Jesus had on his mind as he greets the Twelve (minus Judas and Thomas) on that first Easter Sunday. (Read John 20:19-23.)
The gracious gift of the crucified and risen Christ brings the gift of the peace his Cross secured. The gift of the redeeming presence of Christ brings the gift of the Holy Spirit and the call to be the body of Christ as he — through his Church and his pastors — forgives those who in faith confess their sins and look to Christ alone for their forgiveness — and retains the sins of those who will not lay their sins before the crucified Savior.
Now on some days we might think that the Church can't be the Church if the electricity goes out or the water main breaks or someone forgot to brew the coffee and pick up the donuts. But this afternoon / tonight God gathers us to again remind us that the true Christian Church can actually survive very well without all the conveniences that we've somehow made into necessities.
There is one thing that robs the Christian Church of its peculiarity, its uniqueness, its calling and duty and responsibility and obligation — and gracious privilege — as the Body of Christ: the absence of the exercise of the office of the keys, the releasing and binding, the locking and unlocking, the forgiving and retaining of sin.
Listen to me closely. Christ has not called the Church to make the world admire her or obey her or behave like her.
When it comes to everything outside of Christ and his body, the Church, the only authority any congregation is called to exercise is the authority to forgive the sins of those who look to Christ as their gracious Redeemer and Substitute.
Martin Luther, preaching on John 20:19-31, admonishes us when he says, "Christ's mandate to his disciples was not to have secular authority, but to preach the Gospel and to have authority over sins. Christ himself defined the commission and the authority: preach the Gospel, and remit and retain sins. The power of the apostolic keys, first and foremost, is to preach the Gospel of Christ, to bind and to loose sins." (Klug. Sermons of Martin Luther: The House Postils. 2:62.)
Well, O.K., the Church may do many things pretty well, but there's one peculiar thing it has been called to carry out: announce forgiveness to those who look to Christ with repentant hearts. — But what does all of this have to do with having our faith strengthened and our hope and comfort in Christ and his grace deepened?
Let's take another look at the Small Catechism, as it shows what Scripture reveals about "the Office of the Ministry."

What do you believe according to these words (John 20:22-23)?
I believe that, when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by his divine command, especially when they exclude manifest and impenitent sinners from the Christian congregation, and again, when they absolve those who repent of their sins and are willing to amend, this is as valid and certain, in heaven also, as if Christ, our dear Lord, dealt with us himself.

Yes, there is the stern warning that those who are not repentant, those who will not look to Christ and his work upon the Cross for their deliverance will in no way have their sins forgiven. The Church is called to uphold that truth and prevent it from being watered down or put into the storage shed out back.
But for those who are hear today struggling with a sinful act or an impure thought or a word said that seems too great for even the Church to forgive — I say to you: Christ has given his life, lovingly, for all of your sins and for the sins of the entire world. He has taken upon himself on the Cross the weight of your sin. The sin that terrifies you and gnaws at you and binds itself to you has been — through your baptism — dragged to the Cross of Christ to be forever buried in his tomb.
And the same Christ who forgave his disciples for their unforgivable unbelief and doubt and cowardice and sent his Church out to preach the Cross and forgive the penitent who put their faith in it — that same Christ forgives you and gives you his saving peace as you hear the pastor declare, "Upon this, your confession, ... I forgive you all your sins."
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"My Eyes" Sunday - John 9 - March 2, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Dear Brothers and Sisters Enlightened in the waters of Baptism:

It is confessed every time we sing "Amazing grace."
It is confessed every time we remember our Baptism or receive the Lord's Supper.
It is confessed every time we gather as the sun sets for the service of Evening Prayer:
"Jesus Christ is the Light of the world; the light no darkness can overcome."

We have heard it since our days in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.
We have seen it depicted in our illustrated Bibles and stained glass windows.
We have joined the disciples on the road to Emmaus as we find ourselves in the saving presence of Jesus and cry out to him,
"Stay with us, Lord, for it is evening, and the day is almost over.
Let your light scatter the darkness and illumine your Church."

For generations this Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, has been referred to as OCULI Sunday -- "My eyes" Sunday -- ever since the words of Psalm 25 were used as the Introit for this particular week in Lent: "My eyes are ever toward the Lord, ... ." (Psalm 25:15 ESV); and the words of Psalm 123 were read or sung as the congregation readied itself for the reading of the Holy Gospel: "To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!" (Psalm 123:1)

But even though today is referred to as "my eyes" Sunday, the object of the verb is not our eyes but the object upon which our eyes are drawn. "To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!"
This morning God has, in his abundant grace, gathered us around his Word and his Son and his Light and his Sacraments, that we might receive them with the eye of faith and put our trust in his saving treasures: the enlightening work of our compassionate Lord on behalf of all who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. (Luke 1:79)
The ninth chapter of John has always enjoyed a special place in the hearts of God's redeemed people. As it is with many other sections of the fourth Gospel, this chapter soars in setting before our eyes a sign -- a manifestation -- of Christ's glory, that we might see salvation come not only from the hand of Christ, but especially his mouth, and respond with both our mouth and hand in an offering of thanksgiving.
Sadly, such is not the case with everyone who sees with their eyes and hears with their ears God's final revelation of salvation in his Son. We see that clearly and dramatically in this chapter of John's Gospel account, but for the catechumen, the believing student, of the fourth Gospel, it is no surprise.
For you see, everything has already been laid out before our eyes in the first few verses of Saint John's inspired Gospel. Redemption by the very Word of God taking upon himself our fallen flesh, that the light of God's grace might shine into the darkness of our sin-diseased hearts. Notice the themes of light and darkness and the gift of sight as we read together the first 18 verses of John. (Read John 1:1-18)
Those 18 verses reveal more about God and his grace and Moses and Christ and the wretched state of this fallen world and our spiritual blindness than just about every book sitting on the shelves in today's Christian bookstores.
In our Gospel today we see Jesus confront the darkness that has not only clouded and obscured our minds and our hearts but made us rebels that rage against the light, the light that exposes so that it might then illuminate, the light that uncovers our wretchedness so that it might be covered with the righteousness of God's Son who came to tent -- tabernacle -- among us.
Now the Gospel of John is structured around seven signs that shock all who see it and provoke a response that is attentive to the Word that follows, the word from Jesus that scatters the darkness and illuminates our darkened souls.
The first "sign" John presents is the miraculous gift of wine during the wedding at Cana, and the healing of the man born blind is the sixth, to be followed by (seemingly) the final sign as Jesus brings forth Lazarus from the dead.
But as we see in this ninth chapter, the miracle is given as an occasion to look upon the greater revelation from the lips of the Savior -- the gracious promise hidden to all but the eyes of faith as Jesus says: "Go, wash."
This section cannot be properly used to argue that we are not born sinful any more than it can be used to argue that it was the blind man's obedience and good work of following orders that ultimately account for his healing. Hidden in Jesus' instructions is his promise that creates trust to go and wash, just as it does when we hear the words, "Take, eat. Take, drink."
The Word made flesh created the heavens and the earth from nothing. He spoke and by his gracious will it was. And that same Word, now made flesh, created faith in the man born blind -- faith that believes Jesus as he says, "Trust in me and my salvation. With the same clay from which I created your first parent, I now re-create your sight and the greater gift of faith that looks to me for the redemption of this sin-blinded world."
A man born blind suffered the debilitating effects of a dark and dying world and to it was added the judgment of neighbors and passers-by who believed that somehow he -- or someone else in the family -- had deserved it.
My family is, today, in the Lutheran Church because -- in the midst of a family member born deformed and dying -- good-intentioned Christians told my parents that this was a direct result of some secret sin the two of them had committed -- a sin that they needed to make amends for before my brother's condition worsened.
In my parent's struggling with what Scripture revealed about sin and the effects of sin they were guided to the faithful counsel of a Lutheran pastor who simply sat down with my parents and a Bible and said, "Every one of us has been born into a sinful and fallen world and every one of us manifests that fallen-ness in different ways. I don't know why your son was born so sick. But let me tell you what I do know: God is a God of grace who has allowed this tragedy into your lives for the strengthening of your faith and ultimately for his glory."
We are, outside of God's grace and the redeeming Word of his Son, spiritually-blind people suffering in many and various ways the effects of our first parent's fall.
And regardless of what the TV and radio evangelists say, our hope is not that we have opened our eyes and decided to think good thoughts and make the world a little more like heaven.
Our hope begins with the confession that we were conceived and born with sin-infected eyes that refused to see anything farther than the illusion of gaining heaven by our own good works.
Our hope, this Fourth Sunday in Lent, or any other day, is to be found not in our fallen eyes, but in the eyes of another, who, passing by, saw us with the eyes of divine grace: the great I AM who's eyes are eyes of mercy and forgiveness, eyes of a loving-kindness that will not rest until all has been given to secure and offer son-ship in the kingdom of glory.

Jesus ... having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:35-39 ESV)

Christ comes to reveal signs and wonders, that he might then reveal the glory of his redeeming grace. He is the great I AM. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He is your healing substitute and sacrifice. And he has looked upon you with his eye of forgiveness -- from the Cross.

A blessed OCULI Sunday to each of you — in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen