Even the Dogs…

In his one of his accounts about his journeys entitled, North by Northeast, Walter Cronkite recalls the following incident:

Sailing back down the Mystic River in Connecticut and following the channel’s tricky turns through an expanse of shallow water, I am reminded of the time a boatload of young people sped past us here, its occupants shouting and waving their arms. I waved back a cheery greeting and my wife said, “Do you know what they were shouting?” “Why, it was ‘Hello, Walter,'” I replied. “No,” she said. “They were shouting, “Low water, Low water.'” Such are the pitfalls of fame’s egotism.

I seriously doubt that Walter Cronkite is alone in his egotism. We want to see ourselves as the ones who matter. We want to see stores, holidays, laws, celebrations, and even schools cater to our needs, our preferences, and our ideas of social equality and equity. Is this not what leads to 95% of our disagreements? We want to be included. We want life to be about us. Pride, hubris, arrogance, narcissism, haughtiness, self-importance, or whatever term you might choose to identify it, has led to a general pining for inclusiveness amongst our society. We want everyone to be bidding us a warm welcome and calling us by name. We want to be included in all of the good things, and protected from all of the bad things. We want to rid ourselves of any possible reason that someone might want to exclude us. The idea of someone being excluded from some benefit on the basis of nationality, race, gender, age, or even sexuality offends our senses… it stirs up dissension in the ranks… it causes protests, riots, and many other hateful things. This might be why this account of Jesus and the Canaanite woman seems to ruffle our feathers a little. For people who fancy themselves as disciples of Jesus, we might find this passage a little offensive. So, we might be liable to try to defend Jesus. We may want to run to His side and explain his motives. We might try really hard to show that Jesus is not really saying what He is saying. Just in case you weren’t paying attention, Listen to the passage again. You can even follow along in your bulletins if you like.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.

A little bit of explanation is helpful here. Jesus had just been in the area of Gennesaret. When He had arrived there, the people started bringing all the sick and diseased to Jesus, as was the case most of the places that He went. While He was healing people, some scribes and Pharisees came from Jerusalem to ask Him why His disciples did not wash their hands when they ate. Now, Gennesaret was roughly 75 miles from Jerusalem. That’s a long way to travel by foot just to ask a question about cleanliness. But, cleanliness was important to the Jews. It was important for their laws. Cleanliness was next to godliness as the saying goes. So Jesus explains to them that cleanliness comes from the inside of a man. It doesn’t have to do with what you put into your body. Evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not mean anything. It’s all about perspective. So after this encounter, Jesus leaves the area and heads out of the “comfort” of Israel towards the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon. These places were definitely NOT clean in the Jewish sense of the word.

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word.

 So, in this pagan place, a seemingly pagan woman interrupts the disciples and Jesus on their getaway. AND she wants something. They always want something from Jesus. They want to be healed. They want their family members to be healed. They want something to eat. People always want something from Jesus. He has just traveled the almost 100 miles to the region, and here is another charity case. But obviously this doesn’t mean a whole lot to Jesus. He doesn’t even answer her. But she is persistent.

And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Wow! This is where we, as Americans, start to get a little bit uncomfortable. I mean, yeah, we understand that Jesus would be a little ticked that every time He tries to get away for a little R&R people interrupt Him. The disciples even seem to know what’s going on here. They just want Jesus to get on with it so they rid themselves of the presence of this woman. “Send her away. Give her what she wants!!” is the connotation of their words here. But Jesus remarks that He has not come for this woman. She’s not part of Israel. She’s a Canaanite. But this is a little exclusive. Isn’t it? Only sent for the lost sheep of the house of Israel? That seems a little cold. I mean we can understand if He doesn’t want to do anything because He is tired. But to exclude this woman on the basis of nationality? Religious preference? That’s not very… well… nice.

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

And here is where we really get uncomfortable. This poor woman is begging… on her knees in the dirt of the road… “Lord, help me.” The disciples had seen this before. Jesus always has compassion when this happens. He always ends up helping. The man with a withered hand, the men with demons, the woman bleeding, the paralytic, the centurion’s servant and the crowd that followed, the leper, they all get healed. Surely, Jesus is just stringing this woman along.

But then His response, “it is not right to give the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus does not only ignore her initial request. Ignore the disciples’ request to give her what she wants to get rid of her. But now He calls her a dog? At best, she is some sort of household pet who is way down on the list of those who get fed. At the worst, she is an unclean scavenger of dead prey and garbage. Either description seems kind of harsh for this poor woman with a demon-possessed child. But in a strange turn of events, the woman actually consents to this description.

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters ‘table.”

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Wait… What??? Is she really begging for a crumb from the master’s table? Did she really agree with Jesus’ assessment of her? She’s ok with being a dog? That’s not how this is supposed to work! She’s supposed to march herself right into the office of her lawyer, bring Jesus up on charges of discrimination. She’s supposed to march in the streets with signs that say, “Health and Wellness for All!” She’s supposed to lead campaign after campaign to try and change the public’s perception of CWDD’s (Canaanite Women with Demon-possessed Daughters). That’s what we would do, isn’t it? But she doesn’t. She continues to beg and plead with Jesus. “Even the dogs get to eat when the scraps fall from the masters table.”

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

HA!!! We knew it! We knew it was coming! We knew it was coming. We knew Jesus would heal her! We knew He was just kidding! We knew that He didn’t mean to call her a dog! He didn’t mean to say that He only came for Israel! He was just stringing her along. HA HA HA HA HA! We knew He wasn’t serious. Wait… He wasn’t serious? Then, why did He do that? That was actually kind of cruel. Why did He put that poor woman through that? To teach her a lesson? To teach the disciples? To teach us? That was really cruel. Pretending He wasn’t going to heal her was no bueno… not cool! Jesus actually comes off looking even more like a…. well… a jerk.

Until you take off your American hats and set them to the side for a minute. Let’s quit rushing to judgments or trying to explain Jesus’ actions. Let’s just listen to His Words. Let’s look at the passage just one more time.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters ‘table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Whenever we read a passage, we always want to identify with someone in the passage. I think that betrays us a little here when we read this account. We want to identify ourselves with the disciples. We are God’s people. We’re in, if you will. We’re not outsiders. Our church is almost 175 years old. Our families have sat in these pews for generations… a certain pew as a matter of fact. Many of us went to Lutheran schools, were confirmed, and have been faithful attenders for most of our lives. We give our offerings. We sing the hymns. We go to the potlucks, the servant events, the meetings. We are the disciples.

And yet, how did we start this morning’s service? “Almighty God, merciful Father, I a poor miserable sinner confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserve your temporal and eternal punishment.” Does that sound like someone that is in? Does that sound like God’s elect? People ridden with sins to numerous to list. Not according to the world! But according to Christ? Yes! Of course, that is what it sounds like. It sounds like the words told to you later, “Almighty God, in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I announce the grace of God to you. And in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins.”

When Jesus tells the disciples that He only came for the lost people of Israel… When Jesus tells the woman that it is not right to take scraps from the children and give them to the dogs, He is not calling the woman a dog or saying she is not good enough because of her nationality. He is changing the definition of Israel and the definition of the children sitting at the master’s table. HE HEALS THE WOMAN”S DAUGHTER! HE FEEDS HER AND RESCUES HER! Her faith has made her part of the kingdom. Even though she is sinful and fallen, and so not the right “kind” of person, her faith makes her pleas acceptable. Faith is the key ingredient in salvation.

It’s not about pews. It’s not about offering envelopes. Its not even about being German. Its always about Christ. His death for your sins. His grace given in your Baptisms. His strength and forgiveness given in His Supper. His calling you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Yes, we might be dogs. But Christ makes even the dogs to be children of God. Amen.

The Christian and the World: Silencing the Cacophony of Voices

SHUT UP!!! JUST SHUT UP!!! I AM TIRED OF HEARING IT!!!!

This was my inner monologue as I perused social media last night. As I read article after article about the recent death of Robin Williams, my agitation was at a pretty high level. The reason for agitation was the dialogue that I was witnessing across the Twitterverse, FaceNation, and the interwebs. It went something like this (these are paraphrases, of course):

So sad to hear of the passing of Robin Williams.

 

I hope shines light upon the need to care for those who suffer from depression.

 

So sad that we lost one of the great actors.

 

Why are we focusing so much on this one man? People die everyday without the fanfare.

 

As a Christian, I appreciate the talent of Robin Williams, and I pray that He looked to Jesus in His final moments.

 

We lose our minds over the loss of a comedian, and we are silent while many Christians are killed for their faith in Iraq. #MessedUpPriorities

 

As Christians, why should we care so much about a man who killed himself and showed no evidence of faith in his life?

 

How dare all of you self-righteous haters cast derision at such a beautiful soul?

And it went on. And on. And on. And on. And on. I was dangerously close to having my head explode right there on the couch. That would be a horrible mess for my wife to clean up, so I had pity on her. I put down my phone. I did dishes. I went for a walk. I pondered.

I found myself conflicted. Did I mourn the loss of Robin Williams? I really did. As an avid observer of pop-culture, many of his movies were very close to my heart as I grew up, came of age, and continued into adulthood. I owe part of  my love of literature and writing to Dead Poet’s Society. I owe part of my compassion for the lost to Good Will Hunting. And even though it was an extreme aberration of theology, I owe part of my imagining of heaven to the cinematic masterpiece, What Dreams May Come. This says nothing of Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Fisher King, or Hook. So… did I mourn the loss of Robin Williams? Do I still have the picture of Aladdin hugging Genie as my Facebook cover photo? Do I hope against hope that he had some faith at his death so I can have the hope of seeing him again one day? Yes. Yes. And yes.

However, was his death tragic? Yes. Was it abominable? Yes. Is suicide sinful? Yes. Does it damn him to hell for eternity? No. Does it bring up the topic of suicide, depression and mental illness? Yes. Do we need to have those discussions, and do we need to be careful how we portray suicide in a culture that is fascinated with freedom through death? Yes. And OF COURSE, we need to be concerned about the Christians being martyred in Iraq and other places. However, it is still ok to mourn the loss of a person who had such an impact on pop-culture… EVEN and ESPECIALLY if there was not faith present. He becomes one for whom we should truly mourn.

So, if you feel yourself conflicted, as I did.

Mourn the loss of Robin Williams. Thank the Lord for the talent and joy that he brought to people while he was alive. These are good things. Say a prayer for his family and friends that they might find hope in Christ amidst their loss.

Continue to pray for those who are persecuted in the world. Continue to pray for those who are struggling with addiction and depression.

Continue to pray that God’s will would be done in the world and that all people would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

May God grant you the peace that transcends all human understanding… the peace that causes you to turn off your phones, shut your computers, and silence the cacophony of voices that surround us.

The Lord’s Prayer: The Hardest Part is the Best Part

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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We are so accustomed to praying the Lord’s Prayer that we often go through the words without a second thought. However, in light of the recent events and bloodshed in the Middle East, this phrase has often caught me unawares and off-guard. Being a Christian, can often seem to be a losing battle. We pray and pray and pray and pray for God’s will to be done on earth. Yet, all around us, we see the devil with all of his rage and spite. We see Christians murdered in Iraq, Iran, and Northern Africa. We see small internet campaigns to bring awareness, but see very little of this news in the mainstream media. We pray for God’s will to be one on earth as it is in heaven, and we see violence and death. We see what we often take to be the very opposite of God’s will. We see His people suffering.

We do not even have to look overseas to get that feeling. Our own lives are racked and full of the evidence of the will of the devil and his minions. Divorce. Domestic disputes. Addiction. The death of a loved one. Abused children. Battered wives. Emotional wounds that leave deep scars. Lost jobs. Tanking economies. And, yet, we are encouraged to pray all the more:

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

What does this mean?
The good an gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may done among us also.

How is God’s will done?
God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.

So what gives? If God’s will is to break and hinder every plan of the devil, why does it seem like evil is holding sway in the world? Why does it seem like Christians are the ones who are suffering? This can often be the hardest part of the prayer to pray… when we think like the world.

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However, as people of God, we also know that our hope and our comfort is beyond this world because this world is doomed to destruction. Our hope is in the will of God that is seen in Christ. God’s will is seen in Christ as He dies on the cross, as he rises from the dead, as He comes back one day in the future. This world will pass away but the words and promises of God are forever. The promises that tell us that He is with us every step of this life and the next. The promises that encourage and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted and martyred overseas. The promises that our sins are forgiven and that through baptisms, proclamations of the Word, and through His Supper, God’s will is done in this world. What is that will of God? That all men are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

The violence should not surprise us. Luther has the following to say in the Large Catechism:

Therefore we who would be Christians must surely expect to have the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies and must expect that they will inflict every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed, and bears fruit, there the holy and precious cross will also not be far behind. And let no one think that we will have peace; rather, we must sacrifice all we have on earth – possessions, honor, house and farm, spouse and children, body and life. Now, this grieves our flesh and the old creature, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us.

…Such a prayer must be our protection and defense now to repulse and vanquish all that the devil, bishops, tyrants, and heretics can do against our gospel. Let them rage and try their worst, let them plot and plan how to suppress and eliminate us so that their will and scheme may prevail. Against them a simple Christian or two, armed with this single petition, shall be our bulwark, against which they shall dash themselves to pieces. We have this comfort and boast: that the will and purpose of the devil and of all our enemies shall and must fail and come to naught, no matter how proud, secure, and powerful they think they are. For if their will were not broken and frustrated, the kingdom of God could not abide on earth nor his name be hallowed.

Take heart! Many still believe in the midst of persecution. Your faith is still present and strong enough for your trials. You have all you need. You have Christ, and He has you.

The Lord’s Prayer: Kids of the Kingdom!

Line-of-Kids

Kids of the kingdom
That’s what we are
Kids of the kingdom
That’s what we are
We love Jesus
We love the Lord
We love Jesus
We love the Lord

I grew up going to Vacation Bible School, Lutheran School gatherings, Sunday School, and a Lutheran camp. I sang the above lyrics more times than I care to count.

Seriously.

So. Many. Times. Still. Have. Nightmares.

The sentiments of the above children’s tune are admirable, but they are a little misleading. We are “kids of the kingdom”, that is true. However, we are not kids of the kingdom because we love Jesus. We are kids of the kingdom because Jesus loved us. And died for us. And rose for us. And called us through baptism. And enlightens us with His Word and Spirit. And feeds our faith with His holy Supper. Because Jesus loves us and does all these things… because we have been made part of His kingdom, we seek to love Jesus with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul.

Throughout Scripture, the english word kingdom is used quite often. It is usually in reference to the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. However, the connotations that go along with kingdom are different than our present conceptions. The term had much more to do with the reign of a king (i.e. their specific actions of rule) as opposed to a delineated physical kingdom. It dealt more with the actions of the king to care for his people and territories. Luther takes this kind of approach in his explanation of the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean?

The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come?

God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

God’s kingdom comes among us when God visits us with His grace and favor, and when that grace and favor empowers us to live as His people showing love and mercy to one another. The work of the Holy Spirit is active in extending God’s kingdom through His means of grace. Through these actions of God, we see His reign in our lives. It is an impressive and ever present power that gives us comfort in all of our vocations.

As a pastor, I am quite positive that God is working through me to be His instrument in this world. Proclaiming law and Gospel. Forgiving sins. Administering the Sacraments. As a father, I am a vehicle for God’s reign as I teach my children God’s Word. As I instruct them in the faith, the reign of God is reaching yet another generation. It is so wonderful when God gives us glimpses of His kingdom amongst us. When we are hidden from it or distracted from seeing it, we can still be sure that His promises are sure for He commanded us to pray in this way. May the peace and comfort of God’s reign visit you each and every day!

Find Rest for Your Souls

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light

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Jesus had just exploded the minds of the disciples and His hearers all across that Galilean countryside by the time that we arrive at our Gospel reading for this morning. From the time of the great Sermon on the Mount of Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus had healed a leper, a centurion’s servant, a paralytic, some woman who touched the edge of the cloak He was wearing, two blind men, two men with demons, one man who couldn’t speak, Peter’s mother-in-law, along with the countless droves that descended upon the house afterwards, and He raised a girl from the dead. Just for fun, in the middle of it all, He calmed a storm out on the Sea of Galilee.

The most recent spectacle had been centered around Jesus’ teachings. He began taking on the Pharisees and Scribes at every turn. He talked about the persecution that His disciples, His little ones, would have to endure. The very teachings and life of Jesus would act like sword that would sever relationships even those who were family members. He encouraged His followers to not fear though because there was One who was mightier behind it all. And like we heard in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus was pulling back the curtain to reveal the God who was behind all that was transpiring… for everyone who receives Christ, receives the Father. Ultimately, the life of a disciple of Jesus isn’t about who is greatest. It isn’t about rewards. It is always and only about Jesus.

The disciples weren’t the only ones losing their minds either. John, who was imprisoned and, unbeknownst to him, was awaiting his execution, hears about all of the things Jesus is doing. He hears about all of the things Jesus is saying. While it is not clear if John is doubting, he is certainly confused at the least. So John sends his disciples to ask Jesus a simple, straightforward question: “Are you the One that is supposed to come? Or should we look for another?” In other words, “Yo! Jesus! Please tell me that you know what you’re doing!” Jesus responds back using the language of the prophecies of Isaiah, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” And just in case anyone had their doubts about John, Jesus puts those down also – “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

While those with ears were listening, Jesus had a few more things to say, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were the regions that had seen first-hand the works of Jesus. The healings. The raising to life. The demons cast out. The blind seeing. The deaf hearing. The mute speaking. The works foretold by Isaiah. These all happened in their midst. And, yet, they are skeptical. Shame on them.

Then, in a somewhat surprising twist, Jesus turns His focus from the world to His disciples… those that had also seen and heard everything to this point… and gives a prayer of thanks to the Father. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” The wisdom of God and the plan of salvation is hidden from the wise and given to the little children… the disciples of Jesus. Earthly wisdom and worldly stature cannot reveal the plan of God. Yet, the simplest of minds can understand it when the Spirit reveals it to them. This is truly the working of God. [Head explodes]

Then Jesus turns to His disciples, in the midst of their confusion and bewilderment, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Jesus knew the road that He had to follow to Calvary. He knew the road that most of the twelve would follow. Crucifixions, torturous imprisonments, vile executions, beatings, tears over the lost, never-ending endeavors to gather God’s lost sheep, the toil of managing a growing church in the midst of persecution. Jesus knew it all. And He speaks these words to them. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the Old and New Testaments, there are really two separate ideas used when it comes to the metaphor of a yoke. In the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament, the metaphor of a yoke bears the idea of an animal yoke. It is something that weighs you down, and something of which you struggle with all of your might to rid yourself. It is something to which two animals might be yoked together so that the work might be more bearable, in and of itself it is a burden. However, in the rest of the places in the New Human yokeTestament, the metaphor of a yoke is used to talk about the yoke that a human might wear in order to make the work that he has to do easier. Yes, the person will yearn to rid himself of the yoke when the work is done, but it is, nonetheless, something that allows you to accomplish a task that is before you with more ease than if you had to bear it on your own. Notice the tenor of Jesus’ statement now. He knows that there is labor and toil ahead of those believers that will weigh them down. It will discourage them. It will be impossible to do by themselves. So Jesus, extends His yoke. This life will not be easy but when we find ourselves wearing Jesus’ yoke, we find the peace and rest our souls need… even in the midst of the worst turmoil and grief.

This is no metaphorical peace and rest because our grief and pain… our turmoil and temptations are real. The calamities and sin in our lives and the lives of others bring about real delusions, real devastation, real weariness and trepidation. A metaphorical relief to these things would be of no solution to you. It would amount to nothing more than a pat on the shoulder from your old buddy, Jesus, telling you to buck up because things are going to get better. Don’t worry! There’s always tomorrow! However, when tomorrow arrives with the same problems as today, the shortcomings of our weak hope will only darken the hallways of life. We would be left with the same question as John the Baptist. “Is Jesus the One, or should we look for another?”

Jesus knows our grief and pain. He knows what it is like to lose a loved one expectedly after a longsuffering disease, or unexpectedly… so fast that it turns your life upside down. Jesus knows the proverbial monkey of addiction that you carry around. He knows the hidden prayers you mutter as lies and deceit burn another bridge. He knows the empty promises and the hopelessness out of which they are made. He knows that worry about the future that plagues every moment that you are awake. He knows the worry doesn’t go away but only intensifies when you go to sleep. He knows that the income and the bills aren’t zeroing out. He knows the hurt that is left by an unfaithful spouse. He knows the guilt you carry when you are the unfaithful one. He knows when you that you stole one extra pen from the bank. He knows that you told one little white lie that only you and Him will ever know. He knows when you’ve faltered. He knows how hard you try to keep on going. He knows that your yoke is heavy. He knows that the weight you carry is crushing you. So He gives you real comfort and real rest in the midst of your real pain.

He gives you your baptism. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life- giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St Paul says in Titus, chapter three:“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” The real salvation that Jesus won for you on the cross is actually given to you in Your Baptism. You are given the yoke of Christ in those wonderful waters combined with the all-creating Word of God. The Word that creates faith… that creates life… even and especially amongst dead sinners.

He gives you His Words of forgiveness in the words spoken by your pastor. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”What do you believe according to these Ordinatinowords?I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself. There is a reason that this congregation has called three fellow sinners to stand in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus… so that you would know for certain that all of your sins are forgiven… those forgiven corporately or privately. In forgiveness, Christ, again, reminds you that His yoke is the one you wear.

He gives you the Supper. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.” Brothers and sisters, do not deny yourself the very gifts that Christ brings! For what do we receive at this table than the very real body and blood of Christ for our very real lives of sin, death, and trials? Here is where we receive the very yoke of Christ. Every promise is fulfilled to us in these Means of Grace… these yokes of Christ… which allow us to persevere until that day when we need no yoke and we bask in the blessings of our Savior for eternity with the innumerable saints of heaven. May God bring this to completion in the day of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.