Saturday, April 18, 2009

Life After Easter - Only in the Word Crucified.

In the Name of our Crucified and Risen Lord Christ. Amen

Dear fellow Christians redeemed through the blood of Jesus:

In the old days, the Church pulled out all the stops for services on Easter Dawn and Easter Morning — and Easter Evening and Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday. Forty days of Lent followed by fifty days of Easter Light, Easter Joy, Easter Alleluias. Fifty full days of responding in faith — with our mouths and hearts — to the announcement of the angels, "You seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen. See the place where they laid him."
But these days we are all wiped out after Easter Morning. Our energies are spent, our batteries dead and our service to the Lord and his Church worn out. No wonder why, more often than not, in Christian Churches around the country, this Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, suffers from the worst attendance of any Sunday of the Church Year. "What's wrong with this picture?"
Is there life after Easter? And if so, what kind of life is there for the Church, for us as Christians, for all who are true children of God and his salvation given through Christ's Word and Spirit?
Life for the believer in the light of Easter is to be understood in light of seven verses in the third chapter of the book of Genesis:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:1-7 ESV)

The temptation to follow our fallen eyes instead of our redeemed ears is as much a reality for us as it was for Eve in the Garden under the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The world, in it's unbelief, knows everything about seeing, but very little about listening. Our old nature will always prefer what is glorious to the eyes over the truth and hidden glory of the Word. As Satan whispered, "Look at it. Touch it. Feel it. Take it." to our great-great-grandmother, so he whispered to the disciples and to Thomas: "Seeing is believing. Follow your eyes and finger and hand. Don't trust mere words. Don't put your faith in what comes out of some man's mouth. Demand evidence that you can grab and hold on to."
The women had — despite their great fear and the great possibility that the disciples would write them off as silly — faithfully reported what the angel at the tomb had announced. As the first Easter dawn witnesses of their Lord's resurrection, the women had not only reported what they had seen, but, bottom line, what they had heard from heaven's messenger:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, [just] as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:1-6 ESV)

There are too many congregations that believe the center of the saving Gospel in light of the Lord's Resurrection is: "Jesus isn't dead anymore. He lives on." But Easter is as much a celebration of Jesus not being dead anymore as Good Friday is a funeral service.
This is the dirty little secret that the devil, the world and our old sinful nature loves to perpetuate. This is the Gospel that isn't really the Gospel at all. And this is the reason why we feel so burned out and lifeless after all the busyness and hoopla of Easter activities.
The festival of the Resurrection of our Lord can't be an event "for our eyes only." It must be a fifty day "Amen!" to what we have heard from heaven, a fifty day "Alleluia!" to the words of the angels, a life-long response in faith to the Word of God — the Word of God in, with and under the prophets and apostles; the Word of God in, with and under water; the Word of God in, with and under bread and wine; the Word of God in, with, and under human flesh and blood.
When Saint John began his inspired narrative of salvation fulfilled in Christ, he focused not on Jesus' good looks and charismatic personality that made teenage girls scream and faint. Saint John follows the revealed history of creation when he presents the history of creation restored by centering not only the first chapter but the entire Gospel account on the Word — the Word with a capital W. The Word that creates and redeems and restores a fallen creation and a sin-enslaved humanity.
Thomas doubted the reports of the women and the other disciples because he let his unbelieving old nature lead. "I need proof — proof that my eyes can see, my finger touch, my hand confirm. Without evidence that I can grab on to — I will never believe!"
That's why churches have thrown out the hymnal and the pipe organ and the piano and the choir and replaced it with sub-woofers, liturgical dancers and a drum set. "I don't want to hear the worship service, I want to feel it." they say.
But feeling that Jesus is alive again does us no good at all. Sometimes, when it comes to the true Christian faith, seeing isn't believing.
That was exactly the problem with the Jewish religious leaders. They demanded signs because they didn't want the Word of God given in grace and received in faith. They hungered for a religious circus. The religious leaders at the foot of the cross became the mouthpiece of Satan himself as they tempted Jesus with the words, "Come down from the cross, that we may see and believe!"
They followed evil King Herod himself in demanding that Jesus perform for them. "Show me." Herod demanded. "Do a little performance for me, and maybe I won't do to you what I did to your friend, John the Baptist."
But, as Jesus had told the Pharisees, no performance would be given. No song and dance for those who refused to hear the Word of the Lord — for those who refused to open their ears and hearts to the Word of God made flesh and blood. No miraculous sightings in bleeding marble statues. No miraculous appearances in patterns of granite cut for a church altar. No miraculous images on bagels or tortillas or Cheetos or frozen fish stick. Nothing we can see today save the words handed down from the pen of the prophets and apostles; the words of the Divine Service, the words of the Creed; the words of the hymnal and Small Catechism; the words from the font and altar.
So when Jesus shows up before the disciples in the upper room that first Easter Sunday evening, the first thing our Lord does is not give out hugs or pull a rabbit out of his tunic. He speaks as the Word of God — the Word of God crucified, dead and buried, raised on the third day.
He speaks as the great Good Shepherd — the great Good Shepherd who bears in his wrists and feet and side the marks of laying his life down — for the eternal salvation of sheep that loved to wander.
This is the only thing that could bring the shaking-in-their-boots disciples peace, and it is the only thing that can give any of us the peace that surpasses all human understanding. Jesus is giving witness to all that he had been sent to accomplish as he shows the marks of his sacrificial death in his hands and feet and side — marks of the crucifixion that will bear witness to God's grace and Christ's love for the world — even in eternity.
Only with Christ the crucified can we hear the Word of eternal peace graciously given for doubting, grumbling, unbelieving, rebel children of Adam and Eve who would rather see a floor show than close their mouths and listen to the Word of God with the ears and heart of faith.
"Peace be unto you." our risen-from-the-dead Lord announces on that first Easter evening. "I given you my peace — the fruit of my birth, for you; the fruit of my perfect life, for you; the fruit of my agony in the garden, for you; the fruit of my passion, for you; the fruit of my bitter suffering and death, for you; the fruit of my three day rest in the tomb, for you; the fruit of my resurrection and ascension into heaven — all for you and for the world."

When Jesus appeared to his disciples it was in the same upper room in which he instituted his Holy Supper: the culmination and fulfillment of everything the Passover and Exodus pointed to. The same room in which he announced how this particular peace would be won. "Take, drink. This is the cup of the new testament [my last will and testament] poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin."
This is how central the forgiveness of sins is for the Church and for each of us as Christians — because it was everything that Christ came to fulfill for us all. Eternal, life-giving peace between God and neighbor through the forgiveness of sins. That is what was on Jesus' mind during the Last Supper, the walk to the Garden of Gesthemane, the agonizing prayer a stone's throw away from sleeping disciples, the scourging, the mockery and temptation from the foot of the cross, the unimaginable forsakenness upon the Cross. "This will win peace for the world. This will secure forgiveness for all my Father's children."

There is life after Easter — only if there is life given and received and kept safe in our Lord Christ. Even after the Easter lilies have faded and the family get-togethers forgotten and the Easter left-overs consumed, there is life in Christ wherever he is present to announce: "Stop being faithless and believe that I have secured the forgiveness of sins through my sacrificial death and resurrection. Freely I give to you my saving Word. Hold tight to it as I declare unto all who will receive my Word in faith: Peace be with you — always."
May we, with Thomas, hear the Word of God with redeemed ears, that we might respond with a mouth and heart of faith, "Alleluia. He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity — for me."

In the Name of our Crucified and Risen Lord Christ. Amen

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Vigil Sermon - John 1:5

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters Brought into the Light of Christ:

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (Mark 15:33 ESV)

Things couldn't have been darker on that Good Friday. The sun and the moon hid their faces from the unimaginable. The earth quaked at the sight of the very Son of God receiving the cruelest of deaths as a barbaric murderer, a capital offender, a renegade deserving no show of humane treatment. Those who passed by turned their heads at the sight. The disciples had looked on from a distance, and then left, overpowered with grief and trembling with fear.
The darkness of the sky paled in comparison to the darkness of despair, for now the Promised One, the Messiah, the Savior and Redeemer of the World hung suspended motionless between the heavens and the earth, slain at the hands of evil men bent on preserving their power and prestige at any cost.
Jesus had announced the coming of "the hour" throughout his three and a half year public ministry — to his mother, to his brothers, to the disciples, to the Samaritan woman at the well, to his heavenly Father. And now the hour had finally arrived.
On the day that our Lord Christ was sacrificed upon the wood of the cross, the God-appointed substitute for an entire rebel race was plunged into the dark chaos of time before God spoke his Word of light and order and life. The Light of the World lay lifeless upon a borrowed Cross. The Light of the World lay lifeless in a borrowed tomb.
The night of despair for those who had placed their trust in this Jesus of Nazareth kept the disciples and the women who had followed him from any sense of certainty or peace. There was no consolation. There was no solace. There would be no restful sleep this night.
And so the women threw themselves into making preparations for their Sunday visit to the tomb to array the dead body of Jesus with their tokens of love and devotion.
Yes, the darkness was suffocating for Christ's own. The silence and cold damp of the night. The wrestling of mind and heart. "Why had Jesus walked down this road? Why didn't he see what was coming? What are we to do when we have no power to bring him back to us or restore the light of life in our souls? How can we meet another day void of hope and gripped in confusion and fear? Who will rescue us from this overwhelming darkness and despair?"
The hour of darkness had fallen upon Jesus, and all his disciples who found themselves blindly groping for anything that would help make sense of a completely senseless situation. We see that unshakeable despondency in the disciples on the road to Emmaus, in Mary weeping at the tomb, in the disciples cowering behind bolted doors, in Thomas' pledge to himself that he would never be hurt this way again.

But Christ had not left them without his Word. He had announced that his Passion would be followed with his being raised form the dead. He had preached the sign of Jonah. He had proclaimed that he was the fulfillment of the very Passover eaten by the children of Israel the night before their deliverance from the darkness and death of Egypt's oppression. He had promised them deliverance and life and light.
But they were asking themselves, "What use are mere words now that darkness has overtaken us?" That's the question each of us as believers must settle in our own hearts and minds. "What are mere words in the midst of such dark uncertainty — in the midst of such dark sin and despair and death?"
That is the question of the hour this hour as we await in darkness — in faith — as we await the appearance of the Light of salvation. That is the question that frames the entire fourth Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
The Holy Gospel According to Saint John, the first chapter:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18 ESV)

For those of us who are on the verge of despair, for those of us who are fighting against the enveloping darkness of our sin, for those of us who are shaking in the cold damp of our helplessness and hopelessness, God announces clearly that there is One who was before the darkness, One who is above the darkness: the enlightening Word of God through whom all things were made; the life-giving Word of God who overcame the darkness — through the darkness of the sky on Good Friday, through the darkness and chill of the grave on Holy Saturday.
For, when it comes to the redeeming Word of God made flesh, it is as the old proverb says, "The darkest hour is just before the dawn."
Moses confirms that the darkness of night gives way to the light of day when he writes, "God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day." (Genesis 1:5 ESV)
And so the faithful, even in the midst of darkness, wait in faith for the morning light to come and restore all things.
Faith, created by the same Word that created the sun and the moon and the stars, keeps vigil for the appearance of Christ, even on the most hopeless of nights. Faith in the Word of God that keeps us awake and alert and watching for the first rays of his appearing.
This is the Christian faith that triumphs over fear and sin and death itself. This is the gift of trust in the Word of Christ that prevents us from scurrying back into the darkness of our ignorance, guilt and shame when the Light of Heaven reveals himself to us.
Christ has not come to simply expose our sin and then leave us to our own pitiful abilities to rescue ourselves out of the gloom of our own spiritual quicksand. That was the job of the Law and Moses and the Ten Commandments: exposing sin in the light of God's holy will for his creatures.
No, Christ has come to bring sin to light, that he might take it and drag it to Calvary.
The light of Easter morning is the light of God's own revelation —that Christ's sacrifice for sin has been accepted, — that Christ is raised to life never to die again, — that the Light of all Grace and Mercy has illuminated our hearts and minds as the Word comes and announces: you are now baptized into my name, my death and resurrection.
The Holy Gospel According to Saint John, the Sixteenth Chapter:

[Jesus'] disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:29-33 ESV)

As the first rays of Easter dawn approach, let us sing the praises of him who is our light that no darkness can overcome. Let us give thanks to him who by his death destroyed death. Let us offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to him who has brought life and immortality to light for all who believe.

Mighty Victim from the sky
Hell's fierce pow'rs beneath you lie;
You have conquered in the fight;
You have brought us life and light. Alleluia!
(At the Lamb's High Feast We Sing. LSB 633:5)

Let us pray:
O thou that art the Light eternal, the Sun of Righteousness, evermore arising and never going down, giving light, food, and gladness unto all, mercifully vouchsafe to shine upon us, and cast thy blessed beams upon the dullness of our understanding and upon the dark mists of our sins and errors; for thine only merits, who art alone our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Maundy Thursday Sermon "God's Unexpected Grace."

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters Redeemed by the Grace of God in Christ Jesus:
For all intents and purposes, we should have finished our journey through the book of Jonah last Wednesday. The plot seemed straightforward enough: Jonah is called by God to preach to Ninevah. Jonah, for whatever reason, decides otherwise and heads the opposite way - to Tarshish via the open sea. God intervenes. Jonah is rescued from destruction by a great fish. Spit out on dry land, he journeys to Ninevah and preaches the city's immanent destruction. Ninevah repents; God relents. End of story.
But similar to some contemporary movies that have a scene or two after the credits roll, we suddenly realize that there is more to the book of Jonah, even after everything seems to have come to a pleasant end. Like the last chapter of the Gospel of John, here we have a kind of epilogue as Jonah stands and watches Ninevah repent and the storm clouds of God's wrath subside. Here we get a glimpse of the inner struggle within God's called and ordained prophet as he witnesses God's unexpected grace and mercy toward the most undeserving of people.
The book of Jonah, the third and fourth chapter:

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. (Jonah 3:10-4:2 ESV)

This unexpected "narrative after the narrative" begins with what should have been received as good news. God's justice and power serving his mercy and forgiveness. God's Word, despite the inadequacies and weaknesses and sin of God's prophet, has it's way with the inhabitants of Ninevah. The severity of the Law brings a confession of sin and, in the midst of hopelessness, a hope that maybe God would turn from delivering upon their heads what the Ninevites knew they had coming as a result of all the evil their hands had done. God sends the sweetness of his Gospel to those found in sackcloth and ashes.
"However, it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry." Our ESV translations soften the force of the original Hebrew text. A better translation into English might read, "However, it was evil to Jonah — a great evil — so that it inflamed him." (R. Reed Lessing. Jonah. 350)
God's Gospel of amazing grace was truly amazing to the people of Ninevah — and, in a completely different way, to God's own prophet Jonah.
Now we see clearly the inner-workings of Jonah as faith wrestles with unbelief, as the desire to forgive struggles with the desire to never forgive, as the Word of God goes head-to-head with the words of fallen Jonah.
The unbelievable had happened: God had relented of what he had said he would inflict on these undeserving people. And, because of this, the even more unbelievable had happened: Jonah calls God's declaration of unearned grace to the Ninevites not only unexpected and unbelievable — but evil — a great evil.
This revelation of the depravity of Jonah's sinful heart is the shocking kicker to the plot of the book of Jonah. We heard about some great things in the first three chapters of this book of the Bible. The greatness of the city of Ninevah. The greatness of the storm God hurled at the boat to bring pagan sailors to a confession of their sins. The greatness of the fish that rescues Jonah from his desire to drown in the sea rather than preach to those he had written off as undeserving of God's gift of a second chance. The greatness of Ninevah's repentance, from the king right down to the least of Ninevah's lowly animals.
And now we see up-front and center the greatness of Jonah's resentment — a resentment that calls God's great and amazing grace a great and amazing evil.
Jonah shakes his fist before God. "I knew you were going to do something unbelievable like this. I knew you might relent of your threats if they acknowledged their sin before you. Why didn't you follow through with what they had coming? Why are you so easily persuaded to give another chance to those who shouldn't be given any more chances, even if they should repent? Showing divine mercy to the unmerciful. Showing loving-kindness to the unloveable. Showing grace to those who had committed great evil is an even greater evil!"
Jonah had slid into something greater than mere confusion or displeasure or frustration. He was inflamed with anger. He had become enraged. He was seething with resentment.
And in the heat of his anger he prays a very different prayer than the one offered after being consumed by a sea creature. Jonah is now consumed with an unrighteous, sinful anger that cries out for something completely different than deliverance by God's gracious hand: unrestrained punishment for a city that, from Jonah's perspective, was not worth even the thought of saving.
"Why did you have to go and forgive them?" is Jonah's furious cry. "And why did you have to call me to deliver your almighty Word that brought about their repentance and pardon? Why did I have to be the one to bring your Word to these undeserving Gentiles? Your Word that allowed you to then come as a God of grace and mercy and loving-kindness, slow to bring punishment and disaster on the heads of those who deserve to drink your cup of wrath to the last drop? Your caving in to these Ninevites' plea for pardon is unfair and unjust and inexcusable. How dare you let your grace have the final word!"
The fact that God, in his heart of hearts, is a merciful God who's Word of Law serves his Word of Grace is a stone of stumbling to more than just an indignant Jonah. It consumed Cain and lead to the murder of his own brother. It consumed the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' day and lead to the murder of the Son of God.
"This showing mercy to the undeserving is unacceptable." is found coming from not only the lips of the fallen prophet Jonah but also from the lips of Caiaphas and the Pharisees and scribes who took issue with Jesus' liberal dispensing of deliverance — salvation to even low-life tax collectors and sinners.
Jonah was a prisoner of his own sinful nature, a sinful nature that, in anger, cries out to the merciful Lord of heaven and earth: "If you are going to forgive the unforgivable sins of those people — if those kind of people are going to be graciously included in heaven — then I don't think I want to be a part of your plan of redemption. If Christ died for the deserving — the people I would approve of — the people that I can forgive — then all well and good. But there's got to be a limit on who Christ atones for."
That, unfortunately, is the teaching of many who call themselves Christians. "Christ died only for the elect," they mistakenly believe. "Those who God knew would do the right thing and change their heart and give some reason for God to offer them salvation. Everyone else is outside God's grace and mercy."
It makes sense to our old, sinful nature and to the world around us. God showering his grace on us is one thing. God showering his grace on others less deserving is quite another.
But sin is sin. Breaking God's holy and perfect will is breaking God's holy and perfect will. Deserving of God's wrath and punishment is deserving God's wrath and punishment.
Nevertheless, God's grace is God's grace. It is, by it's very nature completely undeserved, completely unexpected. Complete gift that has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with our Father and the one he has sent to save.
And as gift it can't be bought, earned or regulated — even by the old nature of God's called and ordained mouthpieces. The amazing gift of God's grace is always pure gift. That's what made it so foreign to Jonah's fallen way of thinking. God's grace for even foreigners. God's mercy for those who didn't have a clue how redemption would be revealed — how redemption would be won and secured for a sinful Adam and Eve and all their lost children.
When asked "what is the most difficult petition of the Lord's Prayer," some privately confess that it is the phrase, "thy will be done." That was the petition that also got Jonah's nose all out of joint. "Not my will, but yours be done" was perfectly prayed by only one: our Lord Christ on the night he was betrayed, on the night Judas gave himself over to the belief that Jesus' dispensing deliverance to the undeserving — even undeserving tax collectors and prostitutes and Gentiles — needed to come to a very quick end.
Jesus prayed for God's good and gracious will to be done. And tonight he calls on each of his own to join him in praying that God's Law would always serve his Gospel of forgiveness and restoration. That we would ask God to graciously forgive us as we, at the same time, are given the grace to forgive others.
Some things are out of our control. The way our sinful nature stains even our best intentions and seems to get the upper hand just when we think we've got him under control.
Some things are out of our control. The way God works all things for our ultimate good and the good of his people. The way the Word of God comes, even through poor and miserable sinners, to bring to despair those secure in their sins, and bring comfort to those who despair of any attempts to earn God's forgiveness.
The older brother of the prodigal son became incensed at what he saw as an unacceptable injustice in his father's gracious restoration of a son who didn't deserve restoring. But, thanks be to God, our heavenly Father replies to the old nature in Jonah — in each of us — with an affirmation of who he is — of who he cannot but be. This is the confession of faith found on the lips of Moses and all who are being saved:

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin ... ." (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV)

Tonight we remember in faith the culmination of God's revelation of his redeeming grace for the undeserving who have nothing to offer their Lord but their many sins. Tonight we see clearly for who's sake "the many" — Ninevah, the sailors, Jonah, Israel and each of us — are freely, lavishly, eternally forgiven.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the [new testament], which is poured out for [the] many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28 ESV)

By his grace, may God keep us from the great sin of being offended by the generosity of heaven's Gospel to those we don't believe it should be extended to. May our Lord through his Word open our lips, that our mouth would declare the amazing, unexpected grace of our Heavenly Father in Christ — in our lives and in the lives of all for who Christ died. Amen