Monday, June 30, 2014

Bored at Board [Trinity 2; St. Luke 14:15-24]


Jesus speaks to us today, saying,
             “But they all alike began to make excuses.”

As if this banquet were boring.

The history and origins of the word “boredom” are very interesting. It is a very new word, in the grand scheme of things, not coming about until the 19th century. From that century, we also get Charles Darwin and his book, Charles Dickens (who is actually noted as coining the word), the Renaissance, and the tail end of the French Revolution.

What does all this have to do with boredom? Well, all these movements of thought were all reacting to a golden age orthodoxy in the Church. Though it was 3 centuries earlier, the Reformation sparked a move away from establishment. Granted, this was an unintended consequence, but none the less, the resulting freedom given by the Reformation to the common man reaches this far.

By the time we get to the Renaissance, there has been almost a completed move of authority. The individual is now in charge of the interpretation of all things. Ideas not focusing upon the human side of things are completely rejected and are exchanged for the idolatry of man.

This climaxes as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declares, “God is dead.” In other words, God is so boring, we need to put Him and us out of His misery. We can not stand His religion of pity and must move on, if we are to make the most of things. For, truly the Boredom Movement, as I will now call it, creates nothing, but complains about everything.

Though it may be life-saving, the world now has a word and a state of mind with which to describe and make excuses about repetition. “It’s boring.” What you really mean is, “I’m not interested”, “I’m not being entertained”, “I’m not getting anything out of this”, and “I despise this”. If any or all of those things happen to be true at any given time, then you are bored.

Now, the true test of a philosophical system is its application. So we put this way of thinking to task and apply it as a principle of every day life. Immediately we think of watching TV or listening to music. Maybe you don’t like your house or your car, so you get new ones. There are just some things that entertain us and some things that don’t.

You think that even life should entertain you. You have been tricked into thinking that your life should be full and free of drama and bad energy. So, you apply this to being a child. You are bored with being a son or daughter and so you rebel. You are bored with being a neighbor so you gossip and slander. You are bored with being a father or mother and so you divorce, abort, or abandon.

This philosophy fails. Once you reach your goal, then what? You will get bored again. A good movie will never tell you the full after story. It will always end on the high of having fulfilled a dream or saved the day. There is no “what comes next”, because that’s boring.

Repent. You have fallen victim to this lie and don’t even know it. You find that the easy use of this word and thought patterns it produces don’t really mean that you hate or despise anything and yet, when applied to life it causes the destruction of families, relationships, and the truth.

Because the Truth is absolute. There is one truth and it will always be the truth. The Word of God will never change. The Church will always sound and feel the same. The Sacraments will always stay the same. And that is BOOOORING.

Jesus is boring. In the Old Testament reading from Proverbs, Jesus is talking about a Feast. Adam and Eve had things to eat and not to eat, given by God. Abraham communed with the Trinity. Moses ate with God on the mountain. Israel ate manna in the wilderness. Even the prophets speak of God setting a great Feast on the Last Day.

Boring. You’d think, with all the power in the universe, God would be new and innovative. Boring. Boring. Boring.

Look in a mirror, my friend. Where does boredom come from? Your heart. You are the originator of this. If you would not feel it or say it, it would not be. You are the one getting bored. This is the shift of thought that the 1800s brought about. Really, this is the shift in thought that sin has brought about. No longer is the focus outside of ourselves, but inside.

Think about it this way: if your parents were to switch and change, hair, clothes, plastic surgery, mannerisms, etc., would you recognize them? If God decided that food was boring and instead made food something else, would you know where to find it or what to eat to survive?!?

You wouldn’t dream of getting bored of being a parent and leaving your children fatherless, neither would you dream of getting bored of paying taxes or paying back a loan.

The Word of the Lord endures forever and has no shadow of change in it. This is a comfort. The fact that Jesus doesn’t change in appearance or thought or word or action gives us peace. Home is always where it should be, especially after a long time away.

When the Christian comes to the Divine Service, it is a return to the real. All day everyday, the world is on an attention deficit disorder trip, trying to persuade you of this one second and that the next. All lies crying out for attention, investment, and support. With none of them giving anything worthwhile in return.

The Great Feast is not something that happens over and over again. It is a one time event that lasts to eternity. Heaven is one big party and you’re invited. This is why we always hear of God “setting a table” and this is why Isaiah says we will recognize this God as our Lord: because He is feeding His people (Isa.25).

The Divine Service, then, is nothing more and nothing less than the Great Banquets of the Bible fulfilled. Since this is the Lord’s Supper and His own Word institutes it, this tiny, meagerly set table is the Feast of heaven. Because Jesus, crucified, died, and raised again has declared forgiveness of sins here at this Altar, the infinite comes to dwell in the finite.

There is nothing to get bored over here and there is nothing to wear out or to make less special by eating and drinking often, anymore than you would get bored with life-saving medical treatments. The Lord of all gives life, light, and salvation in this Feast and that never changes. We change, our Lord does not.

And there is still greater peace to be had. Even though we feel that we take communion too much or that we have already had it more than enough this year, Jesus’ word does not change. Though we think in our hearts that it is no longer special, Jesus does, and always will say, “Take and eat. Take and drink.”

 The Peace that passes all understanding is that Jesus, true God and true man, has descended and ascended. That He has suffered and died in order to purchase and win all righteousness for us and that is not boring.

Your Faith is alive and vibrant. In forgiving your sin every day, the Holy Spirit raises you to new life, every day. Each and every time we are forgiven, we are reminded that we have been remade into the true image of God.

There is no boredom in Life. There is no shame in salvation. And there is no end to how much our Lord gives us. Have you just had communion? Was it enough? If you have to ask, it is probably not enough. Has the Lord said anything different in His Holy Scriptures?

As evidenced by Easter, Jesus is all about life and a lot of it. If you have already heard His Gospel, great. Now, you should want it over and over. You should want hymnals in your home so that you can even sing it. Just so that those sweet words of life can echo throughout your whole life.

 True boredom is the devil and the world dancing around, day in and day out, to distract you from the Word.
True wisdom has set the Table. True Life has risen from the dead. And both are present in the true Body and true Blood of Jesus Christ, given and shed for you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Because baptism [Trinity 1; St. Luke 16:19-31]


The poor man died and was taken to heaven by angels and the rich man was buried. Jesus speaks to us today and says,

Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things.”


Jesus is talking about heaven and hell. The real places where the actual dead, raised from their factual graves, will live forever. Indeed, as we confessed last week in the Athanasian Creed, it is by your works which you have done, or left undone, and the life you have lived that you will be judged as going to eternal life or eternal fire.

Being created and saved by a holy God, as you claim to be, you are a holy people. You are called to live holy lives. Sin is to be far from you. You are not to live or associate with evil-doers. You are to deny yourselves, cut off or pluck out offending limbs, and be perfect, lest you fall into eternal torment and death.

How is that working for you? Have you cleansed your life of sin yet? Have you volunteered, paid, and or prayed your self into heaven with your good works?

Since you have all claimed this Christianity of the Bible as your own, then I don’t have to ask. By saying you are a Christian, I know you have already done those things, as Jesus commands you to do.

There will be no sin in heaven, neither will there be any sinners. The Lord has created all things, but He did not create sin; He did not create evil and He did not create death. And yet, all three of those things run rampant in this world. Those things rule this world and man has the audacity to create his own laws against them. How is that working out?

Repent. You, like the rich man, are prosperous. You would say that you are blessed. You have earned those things in life which allow you measures of comfort. You can care for your own family. You have a nest egg set aside for later, and you have a cushion for emergencies. You are an upstanding citizen and you have your stuff together.

Yes, you are like the rich man, and Lazarus, kicked to the curb, has done nothing. Nothing except offer his entire life in trying to be a neighbor. Look, Lazarus, in some way shape or form, seems to be the rich man’s ticket out of hell. But, Lazarus is ignored. His pleas and his state are left on the roadside, even though he uses his last ounce of strength to reach the rich man.

Jesus is the Plain as Day neighbor that lies in front of us. Jesus, true God, has descended from heaven and was made man. He suffered, was buried, and descended into hell. In this way, Jesus becomes the rich man for you. Jesus takes on the sin of the world and bears that impossible load to the cross. Though He is not guilty of sin, He claims your sin as His own.

Jesus, true God and true man, offers His perfect life for you. Jesus shows the love of a real neighbor as He dies on the cross. Though you treat Jesus and His Word like the rich man, deserving acknowledgement, but not worthy of true belief, Jesus lays His person, work, and words at your feet, just as Lazarus was laid at the gate to be trampled on by the world.

God, in the flesh, was made poor, that you would become rich. Where you want to embellish yourself with God’s Name or put up a good front. Where you want to justify yourself in ordinary, worldly affairs or even in difficult matters of faith and doctrine; Jesus wishes only to die for you and forgive you.

The world will not remember this day nor will anyone ask you when you were baptized, for this very reason. The water, like Lazarus seems to accomplish nothing and are no good for anything as opposed to the rich man who can change the world, if he wants to.

But that would change nothing, for works did not get the rich man into hell, neither did works get Lazarus into heaven. It is only by knowing where each end up in eternity, do we have any idea about what was important in their lives and what their works were working towards. For Lazarus did not look like he was going to heave and neither did the rich man look like he was going to hell.

This is the hidden work of Faith. Someone can claim all the holiness, charity, and good works they want in this life and it will do them no good. Likewise, someone can claim all the filthiness, poverty, and humility they want, but you are not getting in that way.

It is only the door that allows a person entrance and the door only opens for the Lamb and those He gives entrance to. For Jesus is the Way and the Door. The only way in is to be the Lamb, so this is exactly what the Lord gives. Jesus gives us His Name.

In Baptism, you are clothed with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but Christ lives. It is no longer your works you do, but Christ’s works. It is no longer your words you speak, but Christ’s words. And with the Word of God, along with the Faith that trusts these words, the water in this font is a life-giving water, rich in grace and good works.

In this way, Lazarus’ good works would fill up too many books to even write out. Because he had been saved by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, he was in heaven. There is no other explanation. Likewise, because the rich man despised the Word of God and did not believe, he was in hell.

Only the works of Jesus will gain entrance to heaven and these works we can not, and do not want, to do. Yet, Jesus offers them freely. He joyfully hides His glory in the rags of human flesh, is lifted up on the cross, and is again lifted up from the dead, never to die again.

There will be no sinners in heaven, because of Jesus. All will look like Him, speak like Him, and act like Him. They will all be members of one Body. They will all be holy and they will all have good works accounted to them. They will be dressed in blazing white robes, such as no fuller on earth can make, having been saved.

For Jesus says, whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. We have been justified by His grace. The Holy Spirit is here, outpoured through Jesus Christ, that even you would become an heir of God, having the hope of eternal life.

For though we were dead in our trespasses; though we were sinners, Christ died for us. You were baptized into the poverty of God and are made rich. You were baptized into the death of God, and are raised to new life to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

All because water can do such great things, as the words and promises of God declare.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sure & Certain [Trinity Sunday; St. John 3:1-15]


In celebrating Trinity Sunday, we get to speak of God as everyone else loves to speak about Him: Almighty, All knowing, and present everywhere. Today, as we have just confessed and sung, The Name of the One Who created all things is praised.

Yet, this almighty, all-knowing, all-present God has something strange about Him. For we have just gone through the Church’s Festival Season, Advent through Pentecost, and we have heard God be anything BUT almighty, all-knowing, or all-present, in becoming a man.

In the following passages, we hear of this One Who has come from above:

The Lord, instructing Moses on the Divine Service says,
Ex. 25:22 “There I will meet with you from above the Mercy Seat…” in the Holy of Holies

The Lord, giving Isaiah His Word, prophesies of Christ,
Isa. 45:8 “Drip down, O heavens, from above,
             And let the clouds pour down righteousness;
              Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit,
            And righteousness spring up with it.”

The Lord, before the judgment of Pilate and speaking of authority,
St. John 19:11 “You would have no authority over Me,
                    unless it had been given you from above;
                   for this reason he who delivered Me to you
                    has the greater sin.”

And one last one from St. James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Finally, hear Jesus speak to you today, once again, saying,
               “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again,
                   he can not see the kingdom of God.”

Now, anyone can pick out the discrepancy here. I have quoted Jesus in numerous passages speaking of “what comes from above” and yet in His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus says “again”; as in “born again”.

Well, as you can imagine, Jesus does not simply say “born again”. He even says to not marvel at this saying, but we are going to. We are going to because it is the Lord speaking and what He says to us is literally, “…unless one is born from above he can not see the kingdom of God.”

The word is anwqen and it almost sounds like our word: “another”, for there is also the meaning of “again”, but what does that mean? Does “born again” simply mean having a personal, emotional experience?

In Holy Scripture, we find that nothing is personal or private. If God is doing something or telling someone else to do something, everyone knows about it. In the portion I read from Exodus, the Lord is in the middle of telling Moses to construct and arrange God’s tent, where He will live with His people and forgive their sins. Paid for by offerings, there was to be an ark, above which the Lord would sit, as we heard. There was also to be gold everywhere. Lamp-stands, tables, bowls, dishes, pans; anything that had to do with the Divine Service was to be of precious material.

For what is most important to us, we spend the most on, right?

Hearing Isaiah speak of the heavens opening from above; this is also not private. The sky can be seen from anywhere on earth. If there is going to be an opening, it will be to all people and for all people. Likewise, as Jesus says in front of Pontius Pilate, if there is going to be authority, it’s going to come from above, just as St. James confesses.

If Jesus is simply speaking about being “born again” and it is exactly based on how we feel, then you had better make sure you have rock solid feelings. You had better be sure that that one sin that always beats you is not around the day the Lord comes back. You had better be sure that you are perfect, before that day, then you will not have to worry at all.

You invest so much into sure things. You spend hours going over your finances and never put a cent where you don’t think a sure thing is bound to happen. You spend countless hours pouring over your plans for life, depending on certain things to be in place: job, family, friends, etc.

Your whole life is spent on making sure. Yet, when it comes to the Word of God, you feel that it is open to interpretation. You don’t want God standing somewhere, but would rather have Him moving around to suit how you feel about things at that moment, especially your salvation.

For if God changes and allows loopholes and work-arounds, then you are always free to do what you want. However, if God has taken a stand; if He has said “thus far and no further”; if He has stated “unless one is born again, he will not enter the kingdom of heaven”, then you are in trouble.

It means that God is making a way; a solid and sure way. Not just filled with rules and regulations, but with guiding lights to assure you. You hear God saying “be baptized” and to you it sounds like the man putting you down again.

Repent. The Lord of all has come to earth and has already caught you in your sin. There will also be a future coming, but the Lord knows all and sees all. Your doubts are exposed, your sins are noted, and your hiding places are swept away. The Triune God comes.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit come from above and demand justice. They come from above and demand answers. No justice is found and no one steps up to answer, but answers must be given and justice must be meted out. Thus, the Son of God steps down from heaven.

Jesus comes to be the man you can not be. Jesus comes to be the follower of God you do not want to be. Jesus comes, not to judge the world, but to save it and buy it back from sin, death, and the devil. He comes from above, does His work, and returns above to continue to work salvation.

Dying on the cross and rising again, Jesus has been given the Name above all names. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. He sits on the throne of heaven and His enemies are His footstool. He is God. He is all knowing, almighty, and all present and He uses this power to save you, from above.

Nicodemus doesn’t understand Baptism anymore than we do. “Born again”, “born from above”. These are things that do not make sense. They are just a great a mystery as Jesus using such a thing to save us and give us faith. We don’t know “how”, but we know Who and why.

Jesus and because of the cross. For today is the day that John 3:16 makes sense. The Triune God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son to save it. That believing in Him, having been given the gift of Faith from above, we have eternal life.

What is mind boggling is that water can do such great things. Even more so, is the fact that this Great God bends all of His will, effort, and power towards this thing. Towards His creation; towards you.

Being “born again” is impossible. It can not be done. Being “born from above” is also impossible and can not be done and no amount of spiritual energy or power will enable you to accomplish such a thing.

In order to be born again, the Man who has lived again must make it happen. In order to be born from above, the God Who is above, must do it. The only way to be saved; the only way to choose Jesus, to confess His Name, and to believe must be a gift given from above, without price.

Without price in its value and without price in its sale. No greater or free gift have you been given than that you find in the Words and promises of Christ. Jesus has created all things and saved all things. You are given a clean heart, a new tongue, and praise of the Triune God is endless in song, prayer, worship, and investment.

God is God, because of Jesus. The Trinity is the Trinity, because He is revealed upon the cross. Love, eternal life, salvation, and forgiveness are all to be found in the baptismal gift that Jesus Himself has purchased and won for you and administers Himself.

You are born again because Christ has baptized you in His Font. You are born from above because Heaven is brought down, with Jesus, to His Church to wash you, to speak with you, and to feed you salvation. There is no other Name in heaven and on earth, because no other name brings heaven down to earth, as the Son of God’s does.

You were a saved, born again Christian on the day of your baptism and this is a trustworthy statement, for Jesus has said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”

At the close of the Festival season, then, we find that this was what all the work was for. Advent, Christmass, Epiphany, the Gesimas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost were all worked through, by the True God, to get you saved. Merry Christmas, dear Saints, the Son, Who bears the Name of the Triune God, has set you free from your sin.


Amen.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dee Word, dee Word! [Pentecost + confirmation; St. John 14:23-31]


On the front of your bulletin is quoted a 9th century hymn that has been dedicated to the celebration of Pentecost and captures the very heart of the Festival:


"True Promise of the Father, Thou, Who dost the tongue with speech endow."


This stanza supports what Jesus says in verse 26:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
In Acts chapter 1, before the Ascension of Christ, Jesus sent His Apostles saying, “You shall be witnesses for me to the very ends of the earth” and in the 2nd chapter of Acts, heard today, the fire-filled sermon of St. Peter is perfected in the baptisms of all that heard it.

And what our 9th century hymn confesses to us is that the Holy Ghost, God and Lord, gives the tongue what to say. There will never have to be the question of, “I have a friend who doesn’t go to church, how can I speak to him”, because the Spirit gives us the words.

What is meant by the word “witness”, both in the reading and on our banner is so much more than “telling someone about Jesus”. The word there is “martyr” and being martyred includes dying for the Faith. Here, we recall Jesus telling us to deny ourselves, take up or cross, and follow Him.

If we deny ourselves completely, as Jesus demands, then we will have no problem being a witness. Not only would we give all we had to our neighbor, and more, but we would also solely rely on God to speak. We would wait for Him to speak so that it would not be our words, but God’s.

What does this mean? Is this simply sitting around in silence, hoping that God will speak out of nowhere? Is this a command to follow our hearts? What this means is that we must learn a new language. Jesus says that WE will be witnesses, which means, ready or not, you’re it.

But God does not speak out of nowhere. His voice doesn’t bump in the night, nor does it come in some disembodied silliness. In fact, what you Catechumens have been doing these last few years, is learning this language. You have been struggling to peel away your old words, in order to learn new ones. Words of forgiveness and life.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He kills and He makes alive. He is the Lord and giver of Life. In our terminal sin, the Holy Spirit drowns us and our sins, killing the Old Adam. This is how it is done. We need only look to Jesus for this example. He was baptized also, and you see what kind of witness He gave.

The Holy Spirit is our teacher and Jesus is the curriculum. So we must be witnesses for Christ in how we act, how we live, obeying the Commandments, by our speech in public AND private, and by professing our faith. In the face of the Church’s foes, we must testify, for the role of a witness is fulfilled most perfectly by shedding one’s blood in Jesus’ Name.

Now that sounds backwards and scary. You’d think that, in order to spread your message, that others would have to die off, especially those who spoke against you. You’d think that and you’d be wrong.

Jesus has instituted His Church, has sent the Helper to teach, and shows us how its done. God took on the flesh of man and lived with and preached to an entire world that is against Him. Not even His closest followers had any inkling of what it meant to deny themselves and be witnesses.

And Jesus tells them, “I will no longer talk much with you…” meaning, there is nothing left to say. Jesus has taught of all the secrets of God, all the wisdom of God, and all the will of God. Now it is time to act. Now, Jesus is going to show them the other half of the lesson. Now, Jesus will be handed over and crucified.

Remember how I always told you that class time is only 50% of what you need to be learning and the Divine Service is the other 50. In the same way, Jesus’ words are only half of what it is that He came to do. Really, the only reason Jesus gave us His words was to point to His death and resurrection.

Jesus is a God of action. Not just action, but physical action. Jesus is not a spooky, disembodied voice, demanding obedience because He is all powerful. He is a man. He is one of us; thinking, acting, speaking, eating, and drinking. Jesus is His own first witness and what He witnesses to the world is the Love of God.

For God loved the world so much, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him, would have eternal life. How do you believe? You hear the words of the Holy Spirit. How do we get the words of the Holy Spirit? You hear the Holy Scriptures.

You want power? You want spiritual energy? You want strength to witness? Its all in the Word of God. For without the Word of God, they are just plain words and no power. But with the Word of God they give life. With the Word of God, it is a Baptism. With the Word of God, it is the Gospel, and with the Word of God it is the true Body and Blood of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is sent to teach about the Truth. The Holy Spirit is sent to teach about the Word and we have a name for both of those things: it is Jesus. The only thing the Church, and every Christian, claims to know is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sin. The only confession you will hear on your own lips will be that of “Jesus crucified for me.”

The power over evil in this world is quite simple. So simple its almost offensive. It is simply this: you are baptized into Christ. You are given the gift of hearing God’s Word and believing Him. You are God’s own child, Whom He personally feeds the forgiveness of sins, in your mouth.

Against this, the gates of hell will not prevail. Against this Word of God, death can not steal you. Jesus has secured a place for you in heaven. He has also secured His Words and caused the Holy Spirit to treasure them in His Church. Which is where you hear, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them so that they course through your entire being.

Jesus does not leave us speechless. We need only speak of Jesus and His work on the cross. We need only return to His Word and receive His sacraments as often as possible. In this way, we are witnesses. In the Word of God, we witness to its veracity. In the sacraments of God, we witness to their truth.

All by simply sitting in a pew and receiving these things. For this is what Jesus has said He will bring to us and the Holy Spirit causes us to remember and believe, for the gift of God is free. We have prayed for the Holy Spirit and He has come. With tongues of fire, we hear the Word of God and believe that our sins are forgiven.

In the Name of Jesus.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Orphan-less [Easter 7; St. John 15:26-16:4]


From the Gospel heard today, Jesus says, “I have said all these things to keep you from falling away.”

 

Leading up to the Ascension of our Lord, we had been following Jesus ever since He said, at His tomb, “I go ahead of you to Galilee.” It has been revealed to us, through Holy Scripture, where Jesus is, where He is going, and where He is going to be; and that is in His church and in His Body.

 

Yet, we who live many moons after these events, have nothing to show for it. We do not have the signs and wonders promised to the Apostles. We do not have the resurrection appearances and we do not have a visual on the Ascension. What are we to do with an Ascended Jesus? We find ourselves stuck on the Sunday after Easter, with Thomas, demanding a sign.

 

For, equal in importance to where Jesus is, is who Jesus is and we get a clue in our Alleluia verse where Jesus says, “I will not leave you comfortless”. Now you would think, that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, so here, Jesus is saying that He will not leave us without sending the Holy Spirit, as He said He would do.

 

That is true, however, the word used for “comfortless” is not “comfort”, but “orphan”. Jesus is saying that He will not leave us as orphans, that is, without Him. Now, I am not an orphan. I was fortunate enough to be born to a mother and father who kept me and gave me a family.

 

Maybe, though, we can come close to understanding. There have been enough movies made on this sort of subject. All the really great super-heroes are orphans (read Batman) and so when their stories are heard, you get a small picture of what it’s like. It is not a full picture, but we come close.

 

Yet, it is still in our imagination. We can only imagine what life would be like without family. We can only, if you really want to, make-believe that our family has been taken away from us by whatever reason and that we have had to go through life without them; without their love, guidance, or support.

 

This is why, last week, St. James urged the visiting of orphans and widows to be of the true religion. For, what kind of God leaves His creation, especially one that wants to be called “father”? This is why divorce and sexual immorality continually pop out of nowhere in the Bible. The destruction of the family, by whatever means, is not God’s plan.

 

And yet, here you, and so many others, are. You are stuck by yourself with only yourself to rely on. Maybe you have a family, but they can never understand you like you do and you still find that you have to get away from them. Indeed, sin corrupts you so much that the one thing the orphan desires, you would rather do without.

 

Repent. The lonely way is not the way. The “go it alone” and “have faith in yourself” is not what things are supposed to be like. Jesus “leaving” is not how things should be and it is because of sin, that we think we face all things alone. It is because of sin, that we think we only need ourselves to do it and it is because of sin that we no longer see Jesus.

 

Dear Christians, the Ascension has not taken Jesus away. We do not have to be cowed or intimidated by those who say, “You can’t see God so He’s not there”. The Ascension has brought Christ even closer to us than if we were to have been one of the Apostles.

 

In the Ascension, Jesus elevates the body. In His body, He has been raised to God’s right hand, which is everywhere. This means, that even our bodies have the hope of redemption. Jesus has taken on our flesh in order to redeem it and restore it to factory settings.

 

This “new” Body that Jesus has is now able to gather all people to Himself. It is able to forgive all sins, maintain the universe, and visit the widow and the orphan. St. John says that when we hear about Jesus, we are hearing Him. Holy Scripture says that when Jesus is preached and His Gospel is heard in its fullness, there is the Spirit of Truth.

 

The Gospel is that Christ has been crucified: Body and Blood. This is the Good News that we are freed from the guilt, the punishment, and the power of sin. Because Jesus kept the Law and because of His suffering and death for us, we are saved eternally. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom. 10:4)

 

Now, baptized into this true Body of God, there are no more orphans. We are children abandoned by sin, death, and the devil, and yet Jesus has redeemed us and claimed us as His own. We were alone in darkness, but now we are in the Light of God. Jesus has effectively made the word orphan meaningless.

 

Where the Spirit is, so too, are the Father and the Son. Where the Trinity is, there is the forgiveness of sins. Where forgiveness is, there also, is life, light, and salvation. Where those things are preached and taught, there the Church is. And where the Church is, there is the great white host.

 

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt. 19:29)

 

This hundred fold is the Church. In the Church of Christ, we all have hundreds of relatives. We are all baptized into the one Body of Jesus that has ascended to the right hand of God. We all commune in the same Blood, that has been shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus has said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. For if you were truly left alone, you would fall away.

 

We are not left alone. Faith gives us ears to hear the Gospel and tongues to sing the Gospel, that by the cross, Jesus has created a whole host of believers. We are surrounded with clouds of martyrs bright who wave their victorious palms toward the cross. Then Faith, seeing the Lord crucified for our redemption, fires us on.

 

Not to be perfect, but to receive perfection from the hand of the risen and Ascended Lord, for that is who He is. He is the Risen; the Ascended; the Sender and the Giver. And today, He gives His Body to us orphans for the forgiveness of sins.