27 April 2020

Homily for Easter 3 (Misericordias Domini) - 2020

"Where Our Shepherd Leads"
1 Peter 2:21-25

Listen here.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jesus is the Good Shepherd; we are the sheep. Where the Shepherd leads, we sheep naturally follow. When He leads to green pastures, we happily go. When He leads in paths of righteousness, we joyfully go there too. When He leads through the valley of the shadow of death, we follow close behind Him. When we follow Good Shepherd Jesus, we actually follow in His footsteps. Our feet actually fall in the same tracks where the shepherd has gone before us. As we follow in His tracks, Shepherd Jesus leads us through suffering and into life.

What kind of example is Good Shepherd Jesus? St. Peter says, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you mighty follow in His steps.” What kind of example is that? Many people look to Jesus as some sort of example. Some see Jesus as a good example for moral virtues. Since Jesus was sinless, they conclude, He must be a good example for behaving as good, upright, moral people. If we can just follow Jesus’ perfect example, they claim, then we can be pretty good too. But there’s a glitch. Jesus knows better. He knows what kind of evil, rotten sewage comes from the human heart infected by sin and death. He knew it would take much more than a good example to cleanse and heal you.

Other people look to Jesus as an example of social justice. They claim Jesus challenged the social customs and the religious establishment of His day. He preached equality for all; He sought to rescue people from oppression—political and social oppression, they say. But, again, there’s a glitch. The oppression that Jesus rescues you from is your slavery to your own ego and your bondage to death and the devil. You don’t need a role-model; you need a Rescuer.

Today, let’s learn to think like a teacher in a schoolroom. The example that Jesus leaves for you comes from the schoolroom. The Greek word for “example” gives the picture of a schoolroom teaching method. The teacher writes a letter or a word on the slate. We might say on the paper or even the digital device. The student traces that same letter or word. That’s the example—tracing what the teacher has actually done. Jesus did not come merely to be your role-model for moral values or social justice. No, Jesus came to be your Savior from sin and death. He took on our flesh and blood to restore us to God’s image. He suffered, died, and rose again to give us life with God once again. That’s what the Master actually did. That’s the example—the tracing—He gives to you. Christ also suffered for you, leaving you [a pattern to trace].

What kind of suffering do we trace? St. Peter wrote to Christians who were persecuted simply because they trusted and confessed Jesus to be the Savior. He told them, and he tells you, to expect the persecutions, expect the ridicule, expect worshiping together in God’s house to be deemed “non-essential,” expect the sufferings for the faith. If Christ suffered, His followers can also expect to suffer—especially for doing good. Suffer for doing good? Suffer for doing what is right and trusting Christ? Sounds so unfair! Sure, to our desires and our egos. But “this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (1 Pet. 2:19-20).

Yes, this goes against every fiber of your being. This goes against every decent thought you want to have. You don’t like pain or suffering of any kind. The American way is to avoid any and all pain, discomfort, inconvenience, or suffering at any and all costs. Throw money at it, escape it, compromise what you believe, do anything to avoid the suffering—even complain and place blame. We Americans can be pretty soft, spoiled, and immature when it comes to hardships. Though now for a time perhaps we’re learning how to suffer.

And we really don’t know what it’s like to suffer simply for being Christians. We hear the stories of Christians put on trial or imprisoned in foreign lands, and we pray for those who are persecuted. By and large, God’s grace has preserved us from such things in our country, but there’s no guarantee this will continue. Exhibit A might be the social warriors targeting Christians for so-called discrimination. Exhibit B might be governing leaders ticketing Christians who gather for “drive-in church” and social distance by staying in their cars. What would we do if persecution came to our door? Would we try to avoid it at all costs? Would we compromise what we believe so it wouldn’t hurt so much? Would we think that we are too good to suffer? May God preserve us from such pride!

The pattern that Good Shepherd Jesus sets down for us to trace is different. It’s better. It’s salutary. St. Peter outlines the footsteps of our suffering Shepherd Jesus: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.” Jesus was innocent, yet He still suffered at the hands of us sinners. “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, he did not threaten.” He did not appeal to His civil rights. He did not cry for justice or a fair hearing. He certainly did not say, “Just you wait….” No, Good Shepherd Jesus absorbed all of our wickedness because He knew His true Source of help and strength. “[He] continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” He left the matter to His heavenly Father. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

Where our Good Shepherd leads, we sheep will certainly follow. You may expect the suffering, especially for “doing good”—for fearing, loving, and trusting Christ as your Savior, your Life, and your Forgiver. You may expect to be unpopular, even labeled, when you trust God’s Gospel Message of life and salvation. So, when you suffer wrong—either in a misunderstanding or from outright hostility—don’t argue or complain. Rather, learn to suffer it. Learn to be forgiving and loving. Learn to absorb it and take it in. You get to trace and practice what Jesus does and teaches. You get to follow in His tracks. You may be innocent; you may be insulted. But let no deceit or threats come out of your mouths. Instead, entrust yourselves to the Father who judges justly.

What kind of Shepherd is Jesus? Jesus is the Shepherd, you and I are the sheep. And my, how the sheep love to go astray! “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Is. 53:6). Even as sheep of the Good Shepherd, we go astray every day and in many ways—especially in not wanting to trace the footsteps of our Good Shepherd.

But He is still your Shepherd. He still gathers and leads you as His flock, even when we cannot gather together ourselves. Let that comfort and strengthen you! Jesus tells you today, “I Myself will be the shepherd of My sheep, and I Myself will make them lie down…. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice” (Ezek. 34:15-16). When you wander—and you do; I do; everyone does!—Good Shepherd Jesus seeks you out and brings you back to Himself. You can be certain of that. When you are broken and injured by your sins and sufferings, Good Shepherd Jesus binds you up and strengthens you. Let this comfort you: you have a Shepherd, an Overseer of your soul and life. His name is Jesus, the Son of God.

What kind of Shepherd is Jesus? He is “the Good Shepherd” who “gives His life for the sheep.” He trampled down death and conquered it by His own death. He fends off sin, death, and hell. He defends you against the wolves of insults and persecutions, of doubts and trials. Yes, we sheep may be powerless and helpless, but our Shepherd is not. He is our Strength and our Shield.

What kind of Shepherd is Jesus? He is the Good, True, Beautiful, Noble Shepherd who leads His flock with His voice. His voice calls you by name in your Baptism. His voice speaks words of Absolution through the pastor’s lips. No, this is not an imagined voice. You can’t just sit at home and pretend or presume that Jesus is speaking to you. No, His voice is heard in His words read, proclaimed, sung, and spoken into your ears. When you hear the words “I forgive you your sins,” Good Shepherd Jesus is speaking; it’s His voice. And your Good, True, Beautiful Shepherd prepares a Table before you in the presence of your enemies. It’s the Table of His Body and Blood. In His meal of life, He strengthens you with His very own goodness and mercy. And if you are hungering and thirsting for His meal of life, please let me know. We can make an appointment.

May God grant us His grace to help us follow where our Good Shepherd leads—in the footprints of His suffering and in the life of His tender care and bountiful mercy. The Lord is your Shepherd, you shall not want. By His grace and mercy, you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.

19 April 2020

Homily for Easter 2 (Quasimodo Geniti) - 2020

"Peace in Forgiveness"
John 20:19-31

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! The Easter celebration continues for a whole week of Sundays. The color on the altar remains white. Easter joy continues. In fact, here is an amazing thing. We actually have the exact same number of worshipers in church this week, the Sunday after Easter, as we did last week, on Easter Sunday itself! Has that ever happened before? Wait! I see three more than last week. Oh, it’s just pictures of them. I guess they just wanted to be here so badly—in picture if not in body!

Perhaps Easter, though, seems distant in our minds. We are frightened. We are agitated. Last Sunday—Easter Sunday—multiple tornadoes hit several southern states, bringing death and destruction. Coronavirus continues to disrupt our lives. And local leaders have now extended lockdown orders “indefinitely.” On a good day, the 24/7 news cycle easily distracts us from Easter and the resurrection, but now that news cycle is all COVID, all the time. We are locked in our homes and stripped of our liberties for fear of a disease.

We really need today’s message from God! The disciples were frightened and agitated. So are we. They needed peace. So do we. They needed Jesus Christ and His new life in the forgiveness of sins. And so do we. Our risen Lord Jesus delivers His new life of peace through the forgiveness of sins.

On that first Easter Sunday, the disciples were huddled together, cowering in a room. The Jewish leaders had taken their Teacher and killed Him. The disciples feared they would be next. Not only that, but these same disciples had run away from Jesus when He was arrested. Hence the fear. But then Jesus came to His disciples. Somehow Jesus entered through the doors, even though they remained shut and locked. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Perhaps they expected a rebuke for deserting Him in His hour of deepest need. Nope! Jesus doesn’t work that way. Jesus forgives. “Peace be with you,” He told them. It was not a wish. It was not a figurative way of speaking. It was a blessing and a gift. Jesus’ words accomplish and deliver what they say. Jesus delivered His cross-won peace to them.

But still, we are so like those disciples – frightened and agitated. Perhaps we are frightened by the joblessness, the economic shutdown and the infringing on liberties. Perhaps we are agitated by tensions with far off lands. And those irksome illnesses and dreaded diseases! Such things remind us just how fragile life is in this world plagued by death. And when we look in the mirror, we are reminded just how frail and fragile we are.

What else might frighten us? Each of us would have a different laundry list of fears. The better question is this: Why are we afraid? The Christian writer Oswald Chambers once said: “If you fear God, you will fear nothing else. If you do not fear God, you will fear everything else.” Why are we frightened and agitated? It’s quite simple: because we don’t fear and trust the God who loves us and wants us to enjoy life with Him.

Perhaps we fear the false god of pleasure. We think everything in life is about smooth sailing, feeling good and having fun. Perhaps we fear the false god of wealth. We think money is simply for us to use for private, personal enjoyment. Perhaps we fear the false god called “Self.” We like to depend on “Self” for anything and everything, including matters of faith. Perhaps we picture God as a stern father whom we must butter up in order to get on His good side. And if this picture won’t do, then perhaps we picture God as a drill sergeant who barks orders and expects us to carry them out like obedient little soldiers. And so we may try to rely on ourselves to make God happy with us and love us.

In all of this we are denying the risen Christ. It’s as if we are running away from Him, just as the disciples did when He was arrested. It’s no wonder, then, that we are frightened and agitated. We’ve taken our eyes off of the Savior who loves us by dying and rising for us.

Jesus knows the fear. He saw it in His disciples that first Easter evening. And He tells you the same thing He told them: “Peace be with you.” He gives you His peace—not commands, not orders, not guilt trips, but peace. And notice where His peace comes from: He showed them His hands and His side. His peace flows out of His wounds. His suffering was not in vain. His death means your life. His wounds are the fountainhead and wellspring of peace and joy for you. Then Jesus talks about Holy Absolution: If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven.

Our risen Savior Jesus forgives and calms your fears. He forgives your lack of trust in Him. He says, “You don’t need to fret over the state of the world. I have all things under My control.” He says, “You don’t need to wring your hands over money. I always provide for you.” He says, “You don’t need to despair when you face the diseases. I bring your best healing.” The best way to overcome the fears and agitation is to fix your eyes of faith on Jesus the risen Savior. After all, He gives peace with God, and His peace comes in the forgiveness of sins.

When Jesus breathed on His disciples, He gave them the Holy Spirit. He gave them His life with God. It was a replay of the Garden of Eden. There God took a lifeless lump of clay, moulded it into a human body, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being (Gen. 2:7). Jesus giving the Spirit was the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of a valley full of dry, dead bones. God made the lifeless bones come together. He put muscles, tendons and skin on them, but they were still lifeless. Then God’s Spirit—God’s Breath—breathed life into them. God also breathes life into our lifeless bodies and souls. It’s called the forgiveness of our sins, our very breath of life.

So as we continue the Easter celebration, we get to enjoy the real, sacramental ways in which our risen Lord comes to give His peace and forgiveness. In our second reading, the Apostle John talks about overcoming the world by believing in Jesus Christ the Son of God. Then he says, “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.” Our risen Savior still comes by the water of Baptism and the blood of His Supper. And what does He bring when He comes? Peace and forgiveness that overcome our worldly fear – peace and forgiveness with God, and peace and forgiveness with each other. And let’s not forget the precious Sacrament that Jesus Himself institutes in our Gospel: the Sacrament of Absolution. “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” Our risen Lord gives His Church—His Christians—the authority to forgive sins. He wants us to speak His words of forgiveness and life and thus speak peace to one another.

So take heart! The peace that Jesus breathes out to us in the Gospel does comfort and console. The forgiveness that He delivers in Baptism, Absolution, and Communion does restore hope and renew purpose. “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world,” St. John boldly says. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Yes, worldly concerns of disease and economy have hit hard. But our risen Savior has won the victory. We may trust Him—and His peace in forgiveness—to console and comfort, to sustain and direct us.

What makes all of this possible? The very peace and forgiveness that flow from the wounds of the risen Christ. As Jesus told His disciples, “Peace be with you.” Amen.

12 April 2020

Homily for the Resurrection of Our Lord (2020)

You Cannot Ruin Easter!
Mark 16:1-8

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

You cannot ruin Easter! You cannot cancel it. You cannot put it on pause, mute it, or make it stay home. Just as Jesus burst forth from the tomb that first Easter Sunday, Christians will alway find a way to celebrate this soul-healing, life-changing day. And we will always find ways to bring other people into the sheer joy of it all.

A dark shroud of gloom enveloped the two Marys and Salome as they finally left home to perform their act of loving devotion. Their Lord had died. They had to shelter in place on the Sabbath day until Sunday morning before finishing the task of giving Him a proper burial. But what about that huge stone? Who would roll it away? Their gloom of grief was multiplied by their anxiety over the stone. They were afraid they would not be allowed to care for the dead body of their Jesus.

What gloom envelops you? What anxiety has seized you? What fears of late have shackled you?

Then the women noticed the stone had already been rolled away. So they went into the tomb and saw the young man dressed in a white robe. The other gospels use the term “angel,” but Mark says, “young man.” He’s communicating vibrant life, new creation, and hope renewed. Then the young man tells the women, “Do not be alarmed.” There’s good reason not to be alarmed—for them and for you. Not only had the huge stone been mysteriously rolled away. Not only would the young angelic man not harm them. But “Jesus of Nazareth…has risen; He is not here”…in the tomb, that is. The women were invited to “see the place where they laid Him.” No body; just empty grave cloths.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Then the women were instructed to go tell His disciples, especially Peter, that Jesus was alive and He would meet them in Galilee. And as they fled the tomb, trembling and astonishment seized them and they closed their lips. “For they were afraid.” Even after hearing the joyous news that Jesus had risen, even after seeing the evidence of empty grave cloths and empty tomb, they still succumbed to fear. Sounds a bit like the disciples themselves forty days later on the mount of the Ascension. As Matthew tells us, even when they saw Jesus in Galilee, “they worshiped him, but some doubted” (Mt. 28:17).

What are you afraid of? What doubts swirl in your soul even as you worship on this most bizarre Easter? Whatever it is, you cannot ruin Easter.

There’s really only one reason we are celebrating Easter in this unprecedented way, on this day, in this year, separated from each other, not able to be in church together, forced to watch online instead of rejoicing live and in person together. No, it’s not the social spacing. It’s not the city or state stay-at-home orders. It’s not even Coronavirus or COVID-19, believe it or not. On the surface, these are the reasons. But they’re not the ultimate reason. There’s only one reason we’re celebrating Easter in this strange fashion.

It’s the same reason we celebrate it every year. I know, in other years we get to gather together. In other years, we’ve been able to have Easter breakfasts, see each other in brand new, festive Easter clothing. In other years, we’ve been able to sing “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” and then actually get to feast together at the Table of the Lamb’s resurrected Body and Blood.

But not this year, unfortunately. And there’s only one reason for it. That reason is DEATH—the Grim Reaper, the rider on the pale horse in the book of Revelation. He and his buddy Hades “were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:8). Death just happens to be raging in a novel way right now. But there’s nothing new under the sun. Death has reared its hideous head in many and various ways since the Garden of Eden. It may be your loss of a loved one. It may be your own pending funeral. It may be the black plague of the 1300s or the plagues Luther dealt with in Wittenberg or even our current pandemic.

Because Death is raging, we are growing accustomed to rising death tolls. As of this morning, Death has taken just over 20,000 lives in the U.S. by means of Coronavirus. Worldwide, Death has taken over 108,000. (WHO, CDC).

Death has been quite busy all year in all sorts of ways. Here are some death toll figures thus far in 2020 for the whole world (source: worldometers.info, accessed 4/12/20):
  • Death by Seasonal flu - 136,000
  • Death by Malaria - 275,000
  • Death by Suicide - 300,000
  • Death by Road traffic accidents - 378,000
  • Death by HIV/AIDS - 471,000
  • Alcohol-related deaths - 700,000
  • Deaths caused by smoking - 1,400,000
  • Deaths from cancer - 2,300,000
A LOT of people are dying all around the world just so far this year! And, trust me, Jesus knows a little something about death. He went there. He did that. He spilled His blood and gave up His spirit to forgive you all your sins. And then He burst a gigantic hole in Death’s belly. Now for all who trust Jesus—for you who trust Him—death no longer has dominion over you, just as it has no dominion over Him. (Rom. 6:9).

You cannot ruin Easter. If anything, now is the time for Easter take center stage and brightly shine. Now is the time to trumpet Easter’s joyous message from the housetops and over the internet. (After all, what else to you have to do while you’re hunkering down? :-)

How did St. Paul proclaim it? “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” We know the world needs to hear that, especially now! While our eyes, ears, hearts and minds seem to be swallowed up by the current method of Death’s raging, we—you and I, with all the saints around the world—we know better. Death has been conquered. Jesus reigns victorious. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” You cannot ruin Easter and you certainly cannot make it stay at home.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jesus’ resurrection in the body means resurrection in the body for you. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor. 15:22-23). This is most certainly true no matter the ailment or cause of death. So even when Death rages with a newfound fury, even when death tolls mount, even when everyone around us succumbs to fear and panic, we have hope. We have peace. We have a promise. “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”

You cannot ruin Easter. Nor can you push the pause button on it. Do you realize the golden opportunity we in the Church now have? People are dying. The world is consumed with death. And we alone have the only message of life. We may not be able to meet together right now to sing His praises, but our risen Lord still wants to use our lips and tongues to tell the Good News.

Later in Mark 16, after our Gospel reading, Mary Magdalene did go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen. Then Jesus appeared to two others—the two on the road to Emmaus—and they went and told the rest. Then Jesus appeared to all of them and said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:15-16). He takes His frightened little bunch of followers—both in Mark 16 and in the year 2020—and uses them and their voices to bring His healing Gospel to all of creation—to the anxious, to the sick, to the despairing, to the dying, to everyone. What a golden opportunity! What a joyous privilege and honor!

You cannot keep Jesus, the only good man, down. You cannot keep His Christians from speaking, praising and singing His name. You cannot prevent the message of life, now and into eternity, from getting out. You cannot ruin Easter!
“Death’s flood has lost its chill
Since Jesus crossed the river;
Lover of souls, from ill
My passing soul deliver:
Had Christ, who once was slain,
Not burst His three-day prison,
Our faith had been in vain:
But now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
But now has Christ arisen!” (LSB 482:2)
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

10 April 2020

Homily for Good Friday (2020)

Judgment, War Time, and Victory
John 18-19

Listen here.

“Is this God’s judgment?” I’ve heard that question several times as we battle this current pandemic. “Is God trying to tell us something?” some ask. And if so, what is He trying to get through our thick skulls? Could this Coronavirus and COVID-19 be God’s judgment? The short, brief answer is, “Absolutely!” Just as terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Just as tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes in their seasons. Just as world wars and lesser wars. Just as other plagues through history. Just as that seasonal cold or flu you get every so often.

So what is God trying to tell us? That would be the trickier question. I remember the Flood of ’93. Some local preacher claimed it was God’s judgment for—get this—the gambling boats coming into vogue back then. Possible? Who knows? What is God trying to tell us with a never-before-seen virus that’s so contagious? What is He trying to tell us when government and medical officials lock us down to slow down the spread? What is He trying to tell us in the countless media reports driving us to constant fear and panic? Unfortunately, our God does not specifically tell us in His Word, at least on these details.

We are also told that we as a nation are now on a war footing. We speak of doing battle against this “invisible enemy.” The military is even involved in erecting and staffing hospitals in the hot spots. Closer to home for most of us, we too are doing battle—making sacrifices to our lifestyles and liberties; standing in lines—six-feet apart, of course—just to buy food and other necessities; and, yes, doing battle against the loneliness and the mental, emotional anguish of uncertainty.

In this time of judgment and war against an “invisible enemy,” we are frantically searching for victory, some victory, any victory. What will that be? Flattening the curve? More COVID-positive patients leaving the hospital than coming in? Getting back to work and a more normal life? Some speak of victory by means of a vaccine. Some speak of defeating this virus. Is it possible to defeat a virus? After all, we routinely battle the flu virus every year. But when will such victories come? How will we know? And who will be our saviors—the president? the governor? the doctors and medical professionals? the government money? you and I with our mitigation efforts? These may be gifts from God, but saviors for victory?

We know from Scripture that, yes, God uses times like this for judgment. Consider it an urgent wake up call, an authoritative knock on the door, a time when God Himself says, “Hey, I’m still here. This is still My world. You still belong to Me. Stop ignoring Me.” We know “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope” (Rom. 8:20). And what hope does God Himself have in subjecting His creation to futility and a time such as this? “That the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

We know from Scripture that, yes, we are on a war footing. We always have been, always are, and ever will be until the Last Day. “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The critical battle is not really against a virus. It’s not against any other human being, even the politician you may dislike, whichever side of the aisle. The battle is against sin, death, and the devil. Oh, and Satan loves times like this! If he can get you to fear, panic and despair, he dances with glee. If he can get you to place your hope for rescue in officials, vaccines, money,  or your own sacrifices, then he can claim, “Job done!” After all, he does not want you looking to God at all.

And we know from Scripture that the victory has already been won. You just heard the story—the military log of the historic, cosmic, life-changing final battle. The victim became the victor. By dying, the suffering servant achieved the ultimate conquest. “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5). “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Is this God’s judgment? Yes! God judged His own Son guilty of your sin and death, even your sins of fear, anxiety, and panic. He also judged you forgiven and innocent, healed and whole. Is this God’s war time? Absolutely! With a blood-soaked cross your God has fought and won the victory over all sin, all curses of the Fall, and all schemes that the devil uses to lead you away from Him. This is God’s victory! “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32).

The second century pastor Melito of Sardis (On Pascha, 100-105, pp. 65-67) proclaimed it poetically this way:
The Lord clothed himself with humanity,
and with suffering on behalf of the suffering one,
and bound on behalf of the one constrained,
and judged on behalf of the one convicted,
and buried on behalf of the one entombed,
rose from the dead and cried out aloud:

“Who takes issue with me? Let him stand before me.
I set free the condemned.
I gave life to the dead.
I raise up the entombed.
Who will contradict me?”

“It is I,” says the Christ,
“I am he who destroys death,
and triumphs over the enemy,
and crushes Hades,
and binds the strong man,
and bears humanity off to the heavenly heights.”
“It is I,” says the Christ.

“So come all families of people,
adulterated with sin,
and receive forgiveness of sins.
For I am your freedom.
I am the Passover of salvation,
I am the lamb slaughtered for you,
I am your ransom,
I am your life,
I am your light,
I am your salvation,
I am your resurrection,
I am your King.
I shall raise you up by my right hand,
I will lead you to the heights of heaven,
there shall I show you the everlasting [Father].”

He it is who made the heaven and the earth,
and formed humanity in the beginning,
who was proclaimed through the law and the prophets,
who took flesh from a virgin,
who was hung on a tree,
who was buried in earth,
who was raised from the dead,
and ascended to the heights of heaven,
who sits at the right hand of the [Father],
who has the power to save all things,
through whom the [Father] acted from the beginning and for ever.

This is the alpha and omega,
this is the beginning and the end,
the ineffable beginning and the incomprehensible end.
This is the Christ,
this is the King,
this is Jesus,
this is the commander,
this is the Lord,
this is he who rose from the dead,
this is he who sits at the right hand of the [Father],
he bears the [Father] and is borne by him.
To him be the glory and the might fore ever.

Homily for Good Friday Tre Ore (2020)

"Favorable Time"
2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2

This homily was delivered for the concluding segment of the St. Louis South Circuit Tre Ore service held at Ascension Lutheran Church, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

When St. Paul speaks of “a favorable time,” he’s thinking back to the days of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah had proclaimed God’s judgment on Israel. That judgment would come in the form of 70 years of exile in Babylon. But Isaiah also promised restoration for God’s people. “Thus says the Lord: ‘In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you’” (Is. 49:8). God’s time of favor is His day of salvation.

It turns out that Isaiah was also thinking back to former days. He was thinking back to the Year of Jubilee established in the days of Moses (Lev. 25). Every seven years was to be a time of rest for the people and the land. Then every seventh round of the seven years—49 years altogether—it was time for jubilee. On the Day of Atonement a trumpet would sound to “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (Lev. 25:10). The 50th year would be a year of freedom, rest and restoration. Every individual would return to the family property. The land itself would rest from cultivation for a whole year. The people would rest and God would provide for them.

Dear friends in Christ, we have just heard that trumpet call proclaiming liberty to us who are captive in sin and death. That trumpet call proclaims God’s favorable time of salvation and restoration. That trumpet call has just sounded in the seven words of our Lord from His cross:
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
Today you will be with me in paradise.
Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
I thirst.
It is finished.
Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.

His cross-won forgiveness brings us into Paradise with Him. Even as He is forsaken by His Father, He binds us together as His family, His people restored. And for what did He so deeply thirst? To finish, once and for all, our liberty from sin and death, to ultimately bring us back to the Promised Land of life with Him. And when He committed His spirit to His Father, He also committed us into the Father’s caring, providing hands. All of this is the favorable time.

And so the “old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The old you has passed away; behold, the new you—yes, you, the new creation in Christ—has come. And this is not from you, not from your strivings to love Jesus more or live a better life. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and give us the ministry of reconciliation.”

So the day Jesus hung on that cross and spoke His seven-fold trumpet call is God’s favorable time. The day He called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, and sanctified and kept you in the true faith is His favorable time. Every day you receive His fatherly care, every day you rejoice in Jesus’ death and resurrection, every day you live in your Baptism—they’re all His favorable time. You see, it was “for our sake” that God made His Son “to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

We may wonder, then, why we have come to such a time as this in 2020—a time of plague and pestilence in our land. How can this be a favorable time? Shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders prevent us from joining together on these most sacred three days. COVID-19 kills many and ravages many more in our city, our nation and around the world. Media reports and those ever-present tickers of how many people are infected and how many have died not only inform us; they also frighten us. How can this be a favorable time?

It IS a favorable time because our Lord has given us “the ministry of reconciliation.” “We are ambassadors  for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” He still sends us into this sick and dying world to proclaim His favorable time, His year of jubilee in Christ crucified and risen. No pandemic and no government quarantine orders can change that. Our Lord even puts the words in our mouths: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

You see, when you have Christ and Him crucified, when the infection of your sin is washed away and healed by His blood, when you are enlivened in your Baptism, you have the ultimate healing. That immunity can then be shared with others who have the sin-virus. After all, it’s only the sick who need a physician. And the One who suffered, bled, and died on the cross is that Great Physician. His favorable time on the cross heals you, not only to receive the grace of God, but also to proclaim His time of healing from sin, liberty from death, and jubilee forever and ever. Amen.

09 April 2020

Homily for Holy Thursday (2020)

"Washed and Fed to Love"
John 13:1-15, 34-35

Listen here.

What a strange Holy Thursday this is. On this night, when our Lord was betrayed, we must forego receiving the very Meal that is the hallmark and focal point of the festivities. Instead of joyfully dishing up this heaping portion of forgiveness, life and salvation, I am forced to make you simply hunger and thirst for it. Believe me, that can be very disorienting and discombobulating for a pastor!

And yet we are not without our Lord’s sustenance for faith and life. We also know this day as “Maundy Thursday,” from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “mandate” or “command.” A new commandment I give to you, Jesus said, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (Jn. 13:34).

But how was Jesus’ bickering band of disciples supposed to love each other? How are we? This group of men who argued over the seats of honor in Jesus’ kingdom—how were they to love one another? How are we in our current forced separation and distancing? Didn’t the Law already command us to love our neighbor as ourselves? What’s  so new about this “new commandment”?

We cannot fully grasp Jesus’ mandate to love apart from His Supper, but we can still take His point. Jesus’ words to love one another also go hand in hand with His servant act of washing His disciples’ feet. It all happened in the Upper Room: foot washing, Lord’s Supper, and Jesus’ new mandate. It all happened on the night when He was betrayed into death. So we cannot speak of our self-sacrificial giving of ourselves to one another in love apart from Christ’s self-giving of His Body and Blood in the Supper and on the Cross.

John’s Gospel doesn’t give us the Institution of the Lord’s Supper. For that we look to Matthew, Mark, Luke and St. Paul. But St. John is catechizing us. The Lord’s Supper is woven into the background. St. John is expanding our horizons on what it means to cling to Jesus’ love and actually love one another.

The Lord’s Supper is in the background when Jesus turns Old Testament washing water into New Testament wine at the wedding of Cana. The Lord’s Supper is in the background when Jesus feeds the five thousand and proclaims Himself the very Bread of life. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink,” He said. “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in me, and I in him.” (Jn. 6:55-56) The Lord’s Supper is in the background of the whole sermon Jesus preaches in the Upper Room on this night of His betrayal. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5)

Baptism and Lord’s Supper go hand in hand in John. They are as bound together as the water and the blood that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus at His crucifixion. They are as close as the foot washing and the Supper in the Upper Room the night before He was crucified.

Jesus knew what lay ahead of Him that night. He knew one of His own disciples would betray Him. He also knew that all things were given to Him by His Father, that He had come from God, that He was going to God. He knew that the time of His Passover was near—the time when His blood would paint the wood of the cross so that death might pass over.

So, knowing all this, Jesus rose from the table, laid aside His garments, tied a towel around His waist and poured a basin full of water. He knelt down. He began to wash His disciples feet. Then He dried them with the towel He was wearing. Jesus did what no Hebrew slave was asked to do: wash feet.

Now foot washing was a crucial part of social etiquette in Jesus’ culture. It was something like our moms saying, “Don’t forget to wash your hands before supper.” They did that, but they also washed their feet. Remember, Jesus and His disciples reclined on pillows at a low table, instead of sitting in chairs as we do. That put your neighbor’s feet very close to your face, and vice versa. Thus, foot washing!

And yet foot washing was one of the lowest and most menial tasks. Only the lowest rank of slave would do it. But here in the Upper Room, the Lord of heaven and earth, the Incarnate Word through whom all things where made, sets aside His own garments and puts on the lowly vestments of the humblest slave. What extreme humility! The One called Teacher and Lord washes the feet of His students!

Peter objected. “You shall never wash my feet!” Peter is too proud to have Jesus bend down and wash his feet. That same sort of pride keeps us from Baptism, Absolution, Lord’s Supper, and the Gospel proclaimed. It also keeps us from bending down to wash the feet of brothers and sisters in our midst. Surely Jesus is more glorious than a bath, a spoken word of forgiveness, and a bit of bread and wine! Surely washing feet is not a proper use of our great spiritual gifts! Isn’t the real Jesus more glorious, more “spiritual,” than some crucified foot-washer?

But that’s not faith; that’s unbelief. “If I do not wash you,” Jesus says, “you have no share with Me.”

We too must be washed by Jesus, bathed as little children, baptized into His death and resurrection. We cannot wash ourselves. We wouldn’t even if we could. Like little children who play in the mud, we rather enjoy the filth of our sin. We’ve grown accustomed to it. So Jesus bends down to us in His humbled, crucified humanity to wash us. He reaches down to the dirtiest and most deeply soiled places in our lives, down to the soles of our feet, where we touch the earth from which were made, the dirt to which we return in death. He reaches down to the place where the dirt of our earthly life is ground in and stubborn. And washed by Jesus, baptized into His death, we are cleansed from head to toe.

Jesus’ washing drowns our stubborn pride and the ego of our old Adam. It frees us from the bondage of our pride to serve others in the humility of Christ. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” Jesus shows us the posture of the disciple before the world: stooped down as a servant with towel and basin, washing filthy feet. To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus means having your feet washed by Jesus so that you may, in turn, wash the feet of others. It means being loved by a humbled and crucified Christ so that you may be humbled and crucified to love one another, in Him.

Now if we could receive the Supper this evening, I would say that once we’re washed by Jesus, we are clean and ready for Supper. We could recline, relax at His table, and let down our defenses. But, alas, we’re not able to do that right now. We rightly long for Him to be our host, servant, and main course all at the same time. We long for His precious Body to eat and His Passover blood to drink. But take comfort and strength from this: He is still the true Vine; we are still His branches grafted into Him through faith. His life still flows from the cross through the cleansing water of Baptism and the Word of forgiveness you hear. And His life in us always bears fruit. His love for us overflows to one another.

It’s in this context that Jesus gives His “new mandate.” He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” What’s “new” with this commandment? It’s not the love. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the old commandment, from Moses. What’s new is Jesus’ washing and His feeding—His Baptism and His Supper of Body and Blood. These are Jesus’ “mandates” for you. This is how you learn to love one another. Right now, oddly enough, we even learn to love one another as we forego His Supper, caring for those most vulnerable to this dreaded disease.

Jesus’ new mandate to His disciples is to receive His love in all the ways He has to give it. Jesus’ new mandate means being loved by Him so that His love flows through you to one another. His love is poured out for you in His death and poured into you in His Baptism and His Supper, which you will receive again. His love bears fruit as it has its way with you—leading you to bend down, leading you to wash each other’s feet, leading you to serve each other, leading you to live for each other’s benefit.

As we learn to be filled with Jesus’ self-giving love, His love flows through us to each other. As the hymn sings: “My song is love unknown, My Savior’s love to me, Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.” Amen.

06 April 2020

Homily for Sunday of the Passion (2020)

"According to Plan"
Matthew 27:11-54

Listen here.

For some, it seemed to be little more than a tragic accident, a miscarriage of justice. But it was not. Everything we just heard went precisely according to plan—God’s plan; His divine will from all eternity.

The same is true of all we are enduring today. Some may hold that what we experience in this time of pandemic and stay at home orders is a product of random chance. But it’s not. Our gracious God is still in charge, and He still works all things for the good of those who love Him and those who are yet to love Him. God works all things according to plan.

In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther helps us put things in perspective—the things we just heard in the Passion reading, the things we will celebrate this week, and things going on in the world. And Luther does this in one brilliant gem of a paragraph as he explains the Second Article of the Creed (Large Catechism, II:28-30). Let’s walk through it.

First, Luther writes: “For when we had been created by God the Father and had received from Him all kinds of good, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil [Genesis 3].” God did not create the sin, death and evil. God did not invent viruses or unleash  brokenness. All of that came by way of us disobedient humans spurred on by the devil. No, God created all things good—His world, His light, His sky and sea, His dry land, His sun, moon and stars, His fish and birds, His animals and His dearly loved humans. “All kinds of good,” as Luther said. So all of the sickness, the brokenness, the doubts, the fears, the mistrust and even death itself—that’s all on us. And yet God still works all kinds of good. He even does so by means of this broken, fallen world full of suffering. He even uses diseases and pandemics to bring us back to Him in repentance.

Next, Luther writes, “So we fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved.” Don’t picture God’s wrath and displeasure as something erupting from a short-fused tyrant. Instead, picture it as a loving parent’s response when a deadly disease takes control of their child. “I hate it! It angers me what this disease is doing to my child!” That’s God’s wrath. Yes, burning and justly so. But also coming forth out of love for His fallen creatures.

Now ponder what happened to Jesus on the way to Calvary and while hanging on that cross. That should have been you, me and every human being. That’s what we all deserve for our disobedience, mistrust, and rebellion against our loving Creator. It puts the proper  perspective on all we suffer in this broken world. Whether it’s natural disasters, terrorist attacks or deadly plagues, we cannot say that we do not deserve it. We do. When such things happen, we remember Jesus’ words: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3).

And yet, despite what we truly deserve, our Father shows and gives His deep, eternal mercy through His Son. Next, Luther writes: “There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us [John 1:9].” Remember St. Paul’s wonderful words: “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). In God’s mercy you do not get what you truly deserve—punishment for your mistrust and lack of love. In His grace you richly receive what you really don’t deserve—the righteousness, forgiveness and life of God.

Luther explains more: “So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free [Romans 8:1–2], and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace.” Because of Jesus’ bitter pains, torment and death, there is now no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus. You are now free from the law of sin and death.

In Christ, you are now free from all fear—all fear of God’s wrath and punishment, all fear of whatever you may suffer in this broken world. In Christ, you are now free to live in repentance—repentance for your own sins and shortcomings, repentance when you suffer things you cannot control. In Christ, you are now free to rejoice—rejoice “though now for a little while…you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Pet. 1:6), rejoice that in your Suffering Savior you have the hope of the glory of God. Since the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

Finally, Luther writes of the glorious goal of God’s eternal plan: “He has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection [Psalm 61:3–4] so that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.” Because Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, because He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, we have peace with God. With His wounds you are healed. Now you belong to Him. Now you live under Him in His kingdom. Now you may serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

When your own sins of thought, word and deed plague you, know that your Lord Jesus is your refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. When this current pandemic frightens you and leads you to worry, take refuge under the shelter of God’s protective wings (Ps. 61:3-4). Your almighty God is in control of all things and all things proceed according to His plan. He has obviously allowed this pandemic to befall us. Never forget: He is still in charge when we clearly are not. Our sin and our current pandemic may be overwhelming for us; but for Him they are not. Your Lord who suffered and died for you to bring you all kinds of good will not allow even a pandemic to separate you from His love or His life from you.
Now He who bore for mortals’ sake
The cross and all its pains
And chose a servant’s form to take,
The King of glory reigns.
Hosanna to the Savior’s name
Till heaven’s rafters ring,
And all the ransomed host proclaim
“Behold, behold your King!” (LSB 444:4)

01 April 2020

Homily for Lent 5 Evening Prayer (2020)

"Covered by Innocent Death"
2 Samuel 11:1-12:14 & Matthew 27:32-66

This homily was prepared before this evening's Lent Evening Prayer had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To prepare for the homily, read the Scripture readings above.
My, how we love to cover up our sins! David sets the example, and we gladly follow in his footsteps. He was Israel’s greatest king, after all, a man after God’s own heart, a good role model, to be sure. But notice how he, a man who could sing God’s praises like no one else, could also cover up his sins like no one else.

It began before the cover-up, before the murder, before the adultery, even before the coveting of another man’s beautiful bride. It began as David neglected his vocation, his God-given calling. It was “the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle.” It’s what kings do. It’s in their “job description” under the heading “Defend and protect the citizens of your nation.” But that one time David neglected that duty. He presumed he had better things to do, more important things to accomplish—like play peeping tom and ogle the topless beauty next door. “Who is she? Oh, Bathsheba. Bring her to me. But keep it hush, hush. No one needs to know.”

God knew, though.

Then David, the suave, debonair, romantic lover, easily concealed his sin of neglecting his vocation. And one sin led to another, all too naturally and all too easily. A little sweet talk. A lot of passion. Don’t worry about the guilt or others finding out. After all, he’s the king. Surely he knows how to keep such things under wraps. They don’t call it “Secret Service” for nothing.

Then the big “Uh-oh!” She’s what? Pregnant? Oh, my! Everyone will know soon enough, especially when she starts showing. Hmm. How to fix this? How to clean up this unfortunate mess? Ah-ha! Bring hubby home. Get him to sleep with his wife. Everyone will think it’s Uriah’s child. No one will be the wiser.

Except God.

It turns out that Uriah the Hittite, the foreigner, the little man from an unbelieving people, had more honor and integrity than powerful, respected King David. Enjoy the comforts of home while his army buddies were still out suffering the heat of battle and the fog of war? Perish the thought! And perish David’s cover-up plan too, as it turned out. Even stone-cold drunk, Uriah displayed more honor and integrity than King David, who’s sole intent was covering up his sins. So when Uriah would not participate and cooperate, David would eliminate, in the battle, where it would be sad, to be sure, but only natural. Who would suspect a thing?

God would. And God did.

Notice the pattern. David’s first unnoticeable sin—neglecting his vocation—led to another—coveting—and then another—adultery—and then another—murder—and all under his man-made cloak of secrecy. But God’s X-ray vision sees right through the sheer and flimsy strategies we use to cover up our many transgressions.

God sent Pastor Nathan to confront and rebuke King David. Not only was Nathan risking his very life—because the King could easily say, “Out of my sight and off with his head”—but he was about to do the more dangerous task of exposing sin. So Nathan shrouds his rebuke in an innocent story: a poor man cheated out of his only lamb by a rich man who should have taken from his own God-given wealth. When David heard the innocent-sounding story, his passion for justice burned hot. You see, covering up your own sins often makes you quite self-righteous, hotly indignant, and overly judgmental about the sins of other people. All of that pent up energy from keeping your own sins under wraps explodes and erupts at the least little transgression … of someone else.

Nathan’s rebuke of David comes in the simplest of words: “You are the man!” He might as well point the finger and say those same words to each of us: “You are the man! You are the woman! You are the boy! You are the girl! Yes, you are the one who has sinned. Cover it up all you like; you cannot hide it from God. Conceal it under your every excuse and rationalization; hide it with deeds that appear honorable and even devout; but you still cannot fool God. As He says elsewhere: “Whoever conceals his transgression will not prosper.” Man-devised cover-ups never work. No way, no how!

But here is where David becomes a salutary role model in a better way. He simply confessed his sin and sins—no excuses, no justifications, no more covering up. “I have sinned against the LORD.” They are words for you too—and words to utter with no excuses, no justifications, no more covering up. “[I] have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what [I] have done and by what [I] have left undone.” “Lord, to You I make confession: / I have sinned and gone astray, / I have multiplied transgression, / Chosen for myself my way. / Led by You to see my errors, / Lord, I tremble at Your terrors” (LSB, 608:1).

Then, for David and for you, God’s words delivered through the pastor’s mouth come rushing in to heal, to restore, and to give life. “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” Sins exposed, forgiveness uttered, life bestowed! What a sweet and glorious moment! What a life-changing and liberating message! God’s own forgiveness comes through the voice of a man, a fellow sinner. As God says in the Proverb: “but he who confesses and forsakes [his transgressions] will obtain mercy.”

There’s a curious little conclusion to David’s confession and absolution, however. Yes, David confessed, but that’s not why he was forgiven. Merely confessing and forsaking our transgressions does not earn or achieve God’s life-giving forgiveness. Listen to God’s words uttered through Pastor Nathan’s mouth: “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”

At first we might hear these words as God unfairly withdrawing His absolution, or suddenly hiding His mercy behind a cloak of retribution. But let’s take these words as glorious and comforting Gospel instead! The LORD put away David’s sins; he would not die. But the Child born to David—the Son of David yet to come, ten centuries down the road—He would die, and He would die carrying David’s specific, concrete, and now-exposed sins. The Absolution was certainly free for David, just as it’s free for you and me. But it is very costly for the Child of David named Jesus. No, you will not die for your sins, God says, but the Son of David will. The Son of David has. As we sing: “For Your Son has suffered for me, / Giv’n Himself to rescue me, / Died to save me and restore me. / Reconciled and set me free. / Jesus’ cross alone can vanquish / These dark fears and soothe this anguish” (LSB 608:3)

And we—like role-model David before us—are now covered by an innocent death. Instead of feebly covering our sins, and multiplying them exponentially in the process, we can take comfort in the innocent death of the sinless Son of God and Son of David. When Jesus died on that cross, the centurion marveled saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” He could have said just as truly, “This was the Son of David—the innocent Child whose death covers our sin.” And when the greater Child of David covers the sins that we expose in Confession, they remain truly covered—covered by His innocent blood, covered from God, covered from us, covered and never to be exposed again. The Lord who has suffered and died for you has put away your sin; you shall not die. Amen.