Faith
  • "Give Me Your Son," by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    "Give Me Your Son"

    Sermon Preached by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based on 1 Kings 17:17-24

    September 22, 2007,
    Jyväskylä, Finland

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    Dear friends in Christ Jesus. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:2). Amen.

    1 Kings, chapter 17, gives us a clear understanding of why God executes judgment upon a nation, even when that nation is His own people. Our minds cannot begin to understand how loathsome man’s sins are to God. Throughout Israel’s history there were times when sin, iniquity and evil seemed to have simply run rampant. It was in these difficult times that God raised up prophets whom He sent to speak His words. The prophets called people to repentance. Sometimes the call to repentance fell on deaf ears. God’s appointed spokesmen then had to announce words of judgement. God hates what is evil because He loves people. Thus God has to intervene in the lives of men. He is both “just” and “loving” when He has to deal with sin.

    Our text for today has much to say about God’s love. It speaks about God’s election by grace and of His providence in our lives, viz., how He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” and “that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Room. 8:28). May God open our eyes to see that He also loves and cares for us.

    Our text begins with Elijah’s proclamation of judgement to King Ahab. When Ahab ascended the throne of Israel the religious life in Israel took a nosedive, it took a giant step into wickedness. Ahab earned for himself the following distinction given in verse 30, in chapter 16: “Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.” He was a wicked king, and his wife Jezebel was also very wicked. She was devoted to the Phoenician and Canaanite false god, Baal. She was determined to make Baal the official god in Israel and eradicate the worship of Jehovah, Israel’s true God. Jezebel put some muscle into her plans by having temples and shrines erected throughout Israel. She also had the true prophets of Israel hunted down and killed. The religious life of Israel was threatened with extinction!

    Into this dire situation God sent Elijah, who is one of the most remarkable men in Scripture. He came out of the desert and confronted Ahab and challenged the prophets of Baal. By this time in Israel’s history the Jews had become polytheistic, which means they worshipped many gods. They would worship both the Lord God of Israel and idols that were made by the hands of men. Baal was known as the god of rain and agriculture. Israel treated the Lord God as if He were the God of the desert. Elijah then pronounced God’s judgement on Ahab, saying: “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

    God then sent Elijah to a place called Brook Cherith. There “the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook” (verse 6). But as the drought went on, the brook dried up and Elijah lost his water supply. So, God gave Elijah these instructions: “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you” (vs. 9). Here we have an example of God’s love. In His providence and through His grace God chose a gentile widow to serve Elijah with food and shelter. It is amazing, that even in the midst of Israel’s idolatry, the wickedness of its leaders, and now the drought that caused much suffering, God’s love was at work. He chose a lowly Gentile widow of Zarephath, one who wasn’t wealthy nor did she have the resources to take care of Elijah. Notice that God did not choose any of the many widows in Israel. Jesus reminded the religious leaders that salvation is not earned but comes as a result of God’s grace and election. It is the work of God, not man’s. He said: “but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow” (Luke 4:26).

    Things could not be any bleaker. However, Elijah spoke to her with these words: “Do not fear” (vs. 13). These are God’s words, which we find throughout the Scriptures. These words were spoken by His prophets, proclaimed by angels, and by our Lord Jesus Christ. Elijah was not speaking his own words but God’s words to this widow. God’s Word is powerful, they are creative, meaning, they create what is spoken. Take for example how in difficult situations you often hear someone say, “Oh, don’t worry, things will be OK.” But, those are human words and no matter how sincere or how many times you tell a person to not worry; you cannot dispel their fears and doubts. Things are completely different with God’s Word. He only needed to speak and He brought all of creation into existence. God’s Word creates faith; His Word is “living and active” (Heb 4:12). Elijah was a mere, mortal man sent by God to widow of Zarephath. However, the words he spoke were life-giving words, words that would create faith in the widow. God word put the widow’s fears to flight. They would bring peace to her soul, a peace that she had never known before. Such is the power of the Word. This same powerful and creative word is spoken to us by our pastors. God has also sent them, but the power is in the Word of God. He has chosen us, and speaks to us in His mighty Word.

    Elijah then bids the widow to do something strange, he told the widow to feed him first, and then she and her son could eat later. However, Elijah’s words were followed with a promise: “For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘he bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth’” (vs. 14). Through the preaching of Word these ‘faith-giving’ and ‘miracle-producing’ words enabled the widow to believe that God was faithful to His word and promises.

    “Some time later...” the situation changed. “... the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him” (vs. 17). The widow at Zarephath had been through a lot, both bad and good. Oh, how her heart had to be abounding with hope and with life. But then suddenly, her son died and so does her thankfulness. She had some very harsh words for Elijah: “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” She blames the prophet, accusing him of killing her son. She also accuses herself, thinking the death of her son had something to do with her past and her sins.

    Elijah tells the widow, “Give me your son.” This son was all that this woman really had in life. I am sure that she was depending on him to take care of her in her old age. “So [Elijah] took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” Elijah now tells God what the widow told him, “You killed her son!” Nevertheless, he looked beyond what he saw and felt and trusted in God.

    Elijah then “… stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him” (vs. 21). The child was restored to life, Elijah returned him to his mother, saying: “See, your son is alive” (vs. 23). The widow then made this confession of faith: “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth” (vs. 24). Dear friends, such simple faith confesses to the truthfulness of God’s Word!

    What can we learn from Elijah and widow of Zarephath? God permitted all that had happened; the drought, facing death through starvation the death of the widow’s son. All of these things happened, but they happened according to God’s permissive will. He allows things to happen in our lives, as well. Of course, God is NOT the Author of evil; He does not start wars, He is not cause or the agent of suffering, He does not willy-nilly give people cancer. However, whatever God permits He is also working in these things for good!

    God is the author of good, of faith and in saving those who despair of life. The widow of Zarephath was not looking for God, but God came to her through the preaching of the Word. God began a good work in her, but her young faith needed to grow stronger. And the same is true with us. The trials in life are never meant to hurt. If anything, they come to strengthen our faith and not to destroy it. It is in our trials that God is at work. We are reminded of the verse in Scripture that reads: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

    The widow at Zarephath, her son, and even Elijah experienced great suffering. We remember how the widow blamed Elijah for her son’s death, thinking that his was on account of her sins. Then we heard how Elijah, one of the most famous of all prophets, he too, questioned God. Elijah certain had feet of clay. And even this man of God needed his faith to be tested. Elijah would later face the death of God’s prophets because of Jezebel, who was eagerly seeking to kill Elijah. Elijah wanted to give up and die. Yes, his faith was being tested while staying with the widow of Zarephath.

    Faith is tested and strengthened through trials. It does not hold to what it sees or understands. The widow’s faith was sustained and strengthened through the preaching of the Word. She needed the creative power of God’s Word, working faith in her. She needed to hear “Do not fear” from God Himself. Oh, how we need to hear such words ourselves. Everything depends on the Word.

    The real time of testing came for the widow through the death of her son. There were angry words, there was fear concerning past sins. Nevertheless, it was faith that enabled the widow to give her son to Elijah. The same is true for us. A lot of things happen in our lives. Being a Christian does not exempt us from trials and tribulations. Some Christians have actually many troubles simply because of their faith. Again, think of Elijah. He was the one person that Jezebel wanted to silence the most.

    Dear Christians, God has been sustaining your faith through the preaching of the Word, and He is doing so right this very moment. Are you in the midst of trial? Do you find your faith being tested? The widow was strengthened in her faith and so are we. God gives us faith so that we may GIVE HIM OUR TROUBLES! Again, the Apostle Peter reminds us: “[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps for some among us, your sins have come to your remembrance, you find it hard to let go of the past. God bids you to give Him your sins and not try to deal with them through your works or through wrestling in prayer. Again, we remember how Elijah bid the widow to give him her son. And, that she did. She did not hold on to him. This was because God was at work in her life through the Word. Her faith was sorely tried, but she believed and did as Elijah said.

    Oh, dear friends, God has given you faith! Yes, you have faith. Jesus is the Author of that faith and He will bring it to completion! Jesus dealt with our sins on cross. Like the prophetic act of Elijah, stretching himself over the corpse of the boy three times, we remember how actions and prophecies of all the prophets pointed to Jesus, Who stretched Himself over our sins in His body on the cross. Through His innocent suffering and death in our place He has removed our sins, the memory of our sins, and all of the guilt of our sins. His death meant that we would live forever as His own in the light of His forgiveness. Oh, dear friends, when I think of how the widow of Zarephath struggled with the memory of her sins, I think of song that we sing in English. As I close, let me read you the precious words of this hymn. It sums up what we have heard and learned from our text today.

     

     

    I lay my sins on Jesus,

    The spotless Lamb of God;

    He bears them all and frees us

    From the accursed load.

    I bring my guilt to Jesus

    To wash my crimson stains

    White in His blood most precious

    Till not a spot remains.

     

    I lay my wants on Jesus,

    All fulness dwells in Him;

    He healeth my diseases,

    He doth my soul redeem.

    I lay my griefs on Jesus,

    My burdens and my cares;

    He from them all releases,

    He all my sorrows shares.

     

    “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

    "I Lay My Sins on Jesus" by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1899

    Text From:

    THE LUTHERAN HYMNAL

    (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941).

  • "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

    Based on Matthew 9:1-8

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

     1Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. 2And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." 3And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5"Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? 6"But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" – then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." 7And he got up and went home. 8But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:1-8 NKJV

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7). To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood (Revelation 1:5b). Amen.

    One the most beautiful of all the accounts of Jesus' healings in the New Testament is that of the paralytic in Capernaum. When the people there heard that Jesus had come, large crowds began to gather. So much so, that there was no room left to gather to hear Jesus, not even outside the door. Some men came, carrying with them a paralytic. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, they lowered the bed that the paralyzed man was lying on. "We see in the action of these four men evidence of both their faith and of their love. God grant that we may always act in faith and love in the case of our sick ones" (Carl Manthey-Zorn).

    The paralytic was laid before Jesus' feet. Scripture does not record him as saying even a word to Jesus, or making any request. He lay there quietly and looked at our Lord. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven" (vs. 2).

    Jesus words were the answer to the longing of faith which He saw in the soul of the paralytic, and even his four friends, for we are told expressly that Jesus saw their faith. When we experience severe sickness or troubles in life we often begin to think or reflect on our lives and we become conscious of our sins. Ever since man fall into by the seduction of Satan, sin in turn robbed man of many things, it "hurled him from the peak of the most blessed good fortune into darkness, death, and ruin, and made this world an arena of misery" (C.F.W. Walther). The justice of God has required that man and nature suffer. The fields have their thorns and thistles. Man and beast have their diseases. All must die.

    The suffering of the paralytic, however, was not due to any one particular sin. His paralysis did not mean that he was a worse sinner than any of his four friends, or any among the crowd that gathered to hear Jesus. But there he was, lying at Jesus' feet. Looking at the Savior, he probably began to think of not only the need for his body to be healed, he also saw himself as a sinner, and that his greatest need was the healing of his soul. Jesus saw his faith and so He took care of the more important healing first and said, "Son; your sins are forgiven." Here we have an example of the power of absolution and how it affects our lives just as did the paralytic.

    However, C.F.W. Walther makes a good point of how Jesus speaks and applies the forgiveness of sins directly and personally to troubled sinners. Walther noted that Jesus "usually proclaimed His grace to sinners in general. For example, when He wanted to comfort the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, He said only that "the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). But on the occasion recounted in today's text, he spoke the forgiveness of sins directly to a highly troubled sinner. Why didn't He speak the general preaching that every penitent can obtain forgiveness?"

    "The reason is not difficult to find. The paralytic was so frightened by his sins that they created more affliction for him than even his severe sickness, and he was thus in need of a special comfort. For another example of this, consider Christ's dealing with a very sinful woman. When, with a contrite heart she drew near to Jesus, crying bitterly, wetting His feet with her hot tears, and drying them with the hair of her head, Christ did not tell her that grace is for all sinners. Instead, He turned to her and said, "Your sins for forgiven"" (Luke 7:48).

    "Here we see the very special comfort" Walther writes, "that lies in private absolution. This not, of course, the only means by which God speaks forgiveness to the sinner, for He also does this by the general preaching of the Gospel, by the giving of Holy Baptism, and by the eating and drinking of the body and blood of His Son in the Holy Supper. Whoever in faith, holds firmly to these three testimonies of God’s grace toward all penitent sinners has the forgiveness of sins and can be joyfully certain of it. But Christians know from experience that even among those who hold God’s Word as true, those who do not doubt that God wants to be gracious to all sinners when they believe, there can be doubt in an individual's heart as to whether he, too, is in this happy state. When that happens, he may need to be comforted with more than general promises of grace."

    I am sure that we, too, need to be comforted. We see and feel our sins, which bite and gnaw and frighten us. We turn to the Scriptures and read of such sinners as David, Manasseh, and Peter, and how they obtained forgiveness. However, our doubts get the better of us, we begin to say within our hearts, "Yes, if I were a David or a Peter and my repentance were as thorough as theirs, then I might well believe that my sins, too, have been forgiven" (Walther). We might also read in our Bibles or hear the pastor preach of how God does not desire the death of any sinner, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom, [Paul said], I am chief" (1 Tim. 1:15). We remember also of those familiar verses, such how "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). But, are there not times when someone might be so focused on their sins that they begin to struggle with terrible doubts.

    One might think, 'Yes, God wants to save others, but my sins are too great and terrible. I have excluded myself from any possibility of being forgiven.' Perhaps one might hear a forceful and powerful sermon that proclaims the riches of God's grace and mercy for all. He hears of the kindness of Christ and of His faithfulness as the Good Shepherd that seeks for lost sheep, and His burning desire for the salvation of the greatest of sinners, the lowest of the low. However, one may still doubt all of this, he remains assailed with the devil's fiery darts and begins to think, 'Oh, if only I could know and believe that God has such a burning desire ever for me and for my salvation!' Many Christians, yes, even you and me, are there not times when we doubt? Do we not sometimes wish that Jesus would personally come to us? We wish that He would say and do to us what He did to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

    Christ said to the apostles, and consequently to His whole Church, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them…" (John 20:23 NKJV), "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19). Again, Walther wrote, "When a Christian receives and rests upon private absolution, is he not raised above all doubt? Must he not say that when forgiveness is spoken to him in Christ's name, it is just as if Christ himself had come down from heaven and spoken it to him with His own mouth? What more certain comfort can there be than when it says, "your sins are forgiven" when Christ has declared that such an utterance shall also be valid in heaven (Matthew 9:2)?"

    What can be more precious to a troubled soul than the words of absolution from our Lord? But we might ask, "How are we to use this truth in our daily lives?" Do we just do nothing and keep this precious gift to ourselves while we wait to be brought to heaven? I see three things that our Lord would have each of us do. First, we diligently continue to "keep" our Lord’s words. "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death" (John 8:51). Martin Luther taught that this means that we are to firmly believe in our hearts that with Christ’s sufferings and death, and with His crimson blood shed on the tree of the cross, He has submerged, drowned, strangled and destroyed our sin. The faith that Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the Word is such a faith that holds firmly to the Word, and living one's life in the light of God’s Word.

    Secondly, as Christians we don’t use God’s forgiveness as a license to sin, as if we can go ahead and sin and simply think that all we have to do is ask for God’s forgiveness. Indeed, God’s grace is not a license to sin, but quite to the contrary (Romans 6:1-12). The apostle Paul tells us, "We should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin" (Romans 6:6, 7). Therefore, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1).

    Absolution is simply an announcement and the delivery of God's forgiveness, it is a pardon from God, just as pardon is given to a prisoner and he set free. "But how would it help a prisoner if he heard that he is pardoned but then refused to leave the prison and exercise his freedom? It would not help him at all. So it is with the forgiveness of sins, which can be spoken to us both by every preacher of the Gospel and by every Christian. If we want to use this forgiveness rightly, we must depart from the prison of our sins. We do this by heartily accepting our absolution, by comforting our self in it. In other words, it is by maintaining a firm and certain faith" (Walther).

    Lastly, absolution, the proclamation of God’s forgiveness of our sins, it lifts our eyes away from our self, our past sins and our guilty conscience. God's words of absolution enable us to forgive ourselves of our sins. A reason why so many find it hard to break away from sin and a guilty conscience is because they cannot forgive themselves. If we do not forgive ourselves, then how can we protect ourselves from the devil’s accusations? How can we sever the cord by which Satan binds us to sin? How can our hearts ever be changed? Absolution is believing God, believing His Word and His forgiveness. It is in the means of grace — in the preaching of the Gospel and in the Holy Sacraments, in the spoken Word of Holy Absolution — the Holy Spirit works and sustains such a childlike faith that enables us place all our faults, sins, and shortcomings on the shoulders of our merciful Lord. We offer God our highest praise, and give Him the great honor and worship by listening to the words of absolution rather than listening to our depressed and sinful conscience. Such faith doesn't focus on our sins or on our past. Rather, it receives what God places in our hearts, namely, His forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through absolution the Holy Spirit works in us a certainty of the incomprehensible and inexpressible mercy and love of God toward us. It us assures us that our merciful heavenly Father saw that we were oppressed by the curse of the law and held under it. On our own and through our efforts and strength, we never could have freed ourselves. But God did in sending His Son. For God so the world, so great was His love for us and for you, that He put all the sins of all the people on Jesus. Though Jesus was without sin, He became sin for us and reconciled us to God.

    Absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, these are God’s means to get our eyes off our sins, and onto Christ. Absolution is God's way of redirecting our lives from a life of sin, guilt and estrangement, to life of faith expressing itself in love. Absolution works faith, a faith than now permits God to do good to us, and thus, it works love in us to do good to our brother. "Love does to its neighbor as it sees Christ has done to us. This is the Christian life" (Luther). Absolution is true voice of God, the voice of our loving Father that speaks to you and to me personally. It is loving voice that says, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven" (vs. 2). We, too, are absolutely awestruck; we cannot help but glorify God, "had given such power to men" (vs. 8). Amen.

     

     


     

     

     

  • Harvest Festival, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Harvest Festival

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based on Luke 17:11-19

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    "Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you."

    Harvest Festival

    11Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. 17So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18"Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" 19And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:2). Amen.

    In our precious Savior, beloved hearers!

    The gospel lesson for today is the familiar account of the ten lepers. The main focus of the account lies not in the fact of the healing of the ten lepers but in the response of those healed. The gratitude of the despised outsider, the Samaritan leper, stands in sharp contrast with the ingratitude of those beneficiaries of grace who considered themselves to be within the community of faith, the nine lepers of Jewish background. Jesus' rebuke was directed toward the ungrateful ones, because "they did not acknowledge their Deliverer. They thought more highly of their cure from leprosy than of Him Who had healed them" (St. Athanasius).

    I am sure that the account of the ten lepers is one that is very familiar to all of us. The account goes like this. Ten lepers met Jesus as He was passed "through the midst of Samaria and Galilee" (vs. 11). They were afflicted by the worse disease imaginable in Jesus' day, a disease that was incurable. Leprosy is a very contagious skin disease. In most cases it was fatal. It slowly eats up the whole body. Those who had leprosy were not allowed to come close to clean people. Thus lepers banded together. Isolated from their families and society, those afflicted with leprosy became known as "the living dead." Many people thought of lepers as those who were struck by God with this disease. Leprosy became a mark of being a vile sinner; lepers were seen as outcast of both God and man. Thus, there were the ten lepers, ten men dying a living death, they met Jesus and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" (vs. 13).

    It is interesting to note that the lepers "lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (vs. 13). They were asking for more than physical healing. Their cry for mercy was an example of true worship, they cried out to God for mercy. The word mercy contains within it a confession of sin that acknowledges the justice of the punishment for sin. Since the fall of man into sin, both man and nature have become subject to suffering and death. When the lepers asked for mercy, they admitted that they deserved the leprosy and much worse because of their sin. Their cry for mercy was a cry for salvation. Not only did they want to be delivered from this living death, they wanted God’s grace and mercy.

    Like the lepers, we too, need God's grace and mercy. We too are sinners. The sufferings of man’s fall into sin touches each of us. We struggle with sickness and all other common problems that everyone shares in. We were all born with sin, a spiritual leprosy that shows itself in our thoughts, words and deeds. Sin eats at us. Like leprosy, it seeks to consume us. We are in constant need of mercy! But, isn’t what we say in the Divine Service? Every time we gather to worship, we pray the same prayer as that of the 10 lepers. In the Kyrie we also cry out to God. The Kyrie is the first prayer of the gathered congregation.

    Lord, have mercy upon us.

    Christ, have mercy upon us.

    Lord have mercy upon us.

    The Kyrie is an expression of our emptiness without God and our need for Him to be present and fill us with his grace. The Kyrie is the heartfelt cry for mercy that our Lord and King would graciously hear us and help us in our necessities and troubles. This most basic prayer is encountered frequently in Scripture, for example, the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15: 22 and the Ten Lepers (Luke 17: 13). Thus the words of lepers become our words. We, too, cry out for God’s salvation!

    When Jesus saw them, He did an unusual thing. He didn't touch them as He frequently did when He healed people. He didn't wash them as He had done with one healing. He didn't even pray for them. All Jesus said was, "Go, show yourselves to the priests" (vs. 14).

    Luther wrote: "How very friendly and lovingly the lord invites all hearts to Himself in this example and stirs them to believe in Him! There is no doubt that He desires to do for us what He does here for the lepers... The Lord desires that we should joyfully and freely venture to build on his favour before we feel or experience it..."

    "The lepers have taught us how to believe, Christ teaches us to love. Love does to its neighbour as it sees what Christ has done to us. This is a Christ life, it does not need much doctrine, nor many books, it is wholly contained in faith and love" (Martin Luther)

    Our text then says, "And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed" (vs. 14). Suddenly, miraculously, incredibly, they were no longer lepers. Nine of them happily went on their way, perhaps returning to their families, loved ones and perhaps their former way of living. Only one, however, turned back and returned to Jesus. And of this one our text says, "was a Samaritan" (vss. 16). He returned to Jesus, glorifying God the Father for the one of many miracles that He was bringing to the world through Jesus. "The glory that he gives to God is expressed in worship and thanksgiving to Jesus, who is God in flesh, and whose cleansing atonement supersedes the cleansing rites of the priests in the temple. Jesus then said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" (vs. 18). Notice that Jesus is not chastising the Samaritan for the absence of the other nine. Rather, He is simply wondering why the others did not come to the same conclusion and confession of faith as this Samaritan did. He alone had faith that God's presence is now in Jesus and with that presence comes God's mercy and cleansing."[i]

    The Samaritan's praise and gratitude is an expression of worship, which is simply a confession of faith. True faith always has Jesus as its object. Faith sees God’s presence in Christ, "that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:19).

    The faith of the Samaritan leper can be likened to that parable of the seed and the sower in Luke, chapter 8. The seed fell on fertile soil, which represents "those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15). With the other nine, however, they are like "those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).

    Jesus then addressed the cleansed Samaritan with these profound and life-changing words, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you" (vs. 19). He had been healed in soul and body. His sins were forgiven and his body had healed.

    My dear friends in Christ, the very same Lord speaks such wonderful and life-changing words unto us, gathered here this Harvest Festival day at Siitamaja. I am sure that we came here today to give thanks for all God’s blessings; not only for this year's harvest, but for all the ways He has sustained us with food on our tables and a roof over our heads. Yet, more than this, we thank God for his spiritual harvest. In Him we find mercy and forgiveness. We see how he had met our greatest need, the need to know Him "who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood" (Revelation 1:5).

    Jesus says unto each of us, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you." He is the very same Jesus that personally meets with us in the preaching of His Word. Jesus, the Son of God, cleansed ten lepers. "By that act He points us to the great gift and benefit He earned for all humanity. Jesus cleanses us from spiritual leprosy,"[ii] that is, He cleanses us from all our sins and transgressions through the forgiveness of sins. According to our human way of thinking and understanding, the lepers were as good as dead; they had been banished from the land of the living. Jesus, however, "showed himself to be the Savior who delivers from death, from eternal death as well. The greatest, actual gift and kindness of God is the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal life. Faith, like that of the Samaritan leper, recognizes and grasps this gift of God. Whoever believes like this will joyfully acknowledge: I have enjoyed God's mercy; the Lord has done great things to me… He has redeemed my life from corruption, and delivered my soul from death."[iii]

    True faith is the knowledge of God's gifts and blessings. God draws to His heart the hearts of those who recognize and lay hold of these gifts and blessings. Faith, true faith, is fellowship with God, fellowship with Jesus Christ, the Savior who has taken hold of us by his grace and accepted us as his own. Whoever believes has come to know God; he knows his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and says to him: You are mine, and I am yours. Gratitude thrives naturally in faith like that."[iv] Such faith and healing the Lord gives to you, dear friends. "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well" (vs. 19).

    [i] Luke 9:51-24:53 Concordia Commentary, Arthur Just, Concordia Publishing House, 1997, pg. 655.

    [ii] George Stoeckhardt. Trinity 14.

    [iii] Ibid.

    [iv] Ibid.

  • Luke 24:13-35. First Sunday after Easter, Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

     

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    First Sunday after Easter 

    Based on  Luke 24:13-35

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland 

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    "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 1.7)


    Dear friends in Christ,


    This Gospel lesson presents us with an example of the power and fruit of Christ’s resurrection. He proves by word and deed that He was not dead, as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had come to believe. Even before the two knew who Jesus was, His Word was already at work in opening their eyes and giving them faith to believe. They confessed to each other: "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" (vs. 32). Such is the power of the Word and preaching of Christ. May our risen Lord’s words work deeply in us, opening our eyes and strengthening our faith in Jesus.

    The very same Jesus, who walked with the disciples on the way to a village called Emmaus, He is here with us through His Word! "Lo, I am with you always," (Matt. 18:20) said our Lord. He is with us just as real and as personally as He was with the disciples. As "He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (vs. 45), my dear friends, this very same Lord is with us to do the same!

    Through Word and Sacrament, Jesus continues to come to us and govern the whole Christian Church. He carries on His work through His Word. "His purpose is to show and teach us that the power of His resurrection and dominion will be exercised here on earth, and it will manifest itself in this life only through the Word, and through faith which holds fast to Christ, though it does not see Him." (Luther).

    Looking at our text, the two disciples were very sad and dejected. Like many others, they thought that Jesus was the promised messiah, the One that would redeem Israel. Now all their hopes were dashed into pieces, everything seemed lost.

    So, as they headed toward Emmaus, the Lord appeared to them. However, they could not recognize Him. He was unknown to them at first. We are told in the Gospel lesson that "Their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him." Nevertheless, Jesus came to them and walked with them. Before their very eyes was the selfsame Christ whom they had so often seen and heard and known full well. Though they could not recognize Him, He was present with them nonetheless! Luther wrote that "It was not [Jesus] who had been changed, nor was it His will to remain unknown to them, but their hearts and thoughts had become estranged and far removed from [Him]."

    So, the two men were talking together, talking about all those things which had taken place concerning Jesus' death. And while they were talking and questioning each other, Jesus came along and joined them and began walking beside them. He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Here we learn in our gospel lesson for today how we can count on our Lord to come to our aid when all seems lost in life and we are left feeling sad and downcast. Jesus cares about us. He knows our hearts and He sees through all our thoughts and anxieties. Jesus is always prepared to help us, to comfort and uplift us, just as He did with the two disciples.

    Now, Cleopas, one of the two disciples, answered and said to Jesus, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see" (vss. 18-24).

    Indeed, the disciples were sad because their beloved Master had been ripped out of their lives. It seemed that their hope for redemption had also almost completely vanished. After all, what could one expect from "Christ crucified", a dead Jesus? Not even the reports of women, who reported that they had seen an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead, not even their report would help Cleopas and his dejected friend.

    If I may be very honest with you, and you with me, I wonder if we can see a little of ourselves in these two disciples. We believe in Jesus. Time after time, with the words of the Apostles' Creed, we confess that we believe in God the Father almighty; in Jesus His only Son; and in the Holy Spirit. We believe what we read and hear preached from God’s Word. But there are difficult times in life that we go through. We sometimes feel like the two disciples. Our faith is tested and our hearts waver with anxiety. We ever despair of hope and not even the encouragement of others is of any help. The truth of the matter is that, "sometimes we feel and experience nothing of what we believe and confess. It is as though Jesus were dead, as though what others say of Jesus is pure delusion, as though we had lost Christ and His redemption from our heart. The heart is filled with terrors about sin, death, and hell. O, sure, others have told us, Scripture tells us that Jesus lives, but our hearts feel nothing of it." (Stoeckhardt).

    So, how did the Lord help these two men headed for Emmaus? He began by saying unto them: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Before the Lord starts to console the dejected disciples, He carefully rebukes them for their unbelief. These two men, like many others, believed some of the things that had been written by the prophets, such as that the Messiah would come and establish his kingdom; but they did not believe all that had been written. They overlooked the very things that were so essential to this Messiah and his kingdom, namely that this Messiah would suffer and even die for sins of the world. He would face death and God's full wrath in the place of all people, bearing their sins and iniquities. His death would overcome the devil and it would be the death of death. His resurrection is proof of God’s acceptance of his substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection is proof of our own coming resurrections! What the disciples and all people needed was a real Messiah, one that would save them from sin and where His kingdom would reign over the hearts of all men. Many were looking for a Jew Rambo or Arnold Schwarzenegger. They obviously didn’t read ALL of what the prophets had written.

    Another lesson we learn from these two disciples is the importance of Scripture. Moses and the prophets certainly wrote concerning Christ, but we learn that it is necessary not only to read the Scriptures, but also to understand what they say. The Bible is a book that must not only be read and preached, but it requires a true interpreter, that is, as Luther writes, the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus abides with us through His Spirit, opening our minds and revealing how He is at the heart of all Scripture. Just as He lovingly and caringly taught these slow of mind disciples, our Lord opens our minds to His Word so that we might understand and know His saving power and grace, and that we would firmly believe in Him.

    We, too, dear friends, are slow to understanding Scripture. We possess a sluggish mind because of our Old Adam. Like the disciples, we have our own expectations of Jesus and what we would like for Him to do in our lives. Have we read from Moses and the prophets what we wanted to hear? Do we sometimes find ourselves to be sad and downcast, plagued with problems and difficulties in life that seem overwhelming and more than we can bear? Our Gospel lesson teaches us something about the nature of faith. Faith does not demand a miraculous sign from God; nor does it expect that God would treat us differently than He does those to whom He also gives His Word and Sacraments to. The same Jesus that walked with the two men to Emmaus, He is with us through His Word and Sacraments. The Gospel lesson teaches us that Jesus strengthened the disciples faith even though at first, they didn’t recognize Him. Neither did Jesus use His resurrection as sensational gimmick to “ooh and ahh” them as a means of entertainment. Jesus didn’t take away their problems, neither does He instantly take away all of ours. But one thing is certain, He expounded from Word and in doing so, He opened their minds. In verses 29 to 32 we see how they asked Jesus to remain with them. Later, when they reclined at the table, Jesus "took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight." Our risen Lord meets us in His Word and in His holy supper. In these He takes hold of us, He speaks to us, He strengthens our faith which we need the most. He assures us that He is involved in our lives and orders all things to the glory of His name.

    Lastly, we note that the disciples returned to Jerusalem and told others of the risen Lord. Their gloom and sadness, their doubt and thoughts of unbelief were driven away. So it is in the life of every Christian, it goes from sorrow to happiness, from weakness to strength, from doubt to faith, and then from faith to faith, from strength to strength, from joy to joy, from light to light, from certainty to certainty. And whoever has personally experienced in his heart the power of Christ’s resurrection and comfort of redemption, he cannot help but testify to others about it (Steockhardt).

    Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [1] Amen.

    Pr. Edward Brockwell
    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland
    Jyväskylä

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    [1] Philippians 4:7.

     

  • Taking Jesus at his word, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    TAKING JESUS AT HIS WORD

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based onJohn 4:46-54

    The Twenty-first Sunday After Trinity  

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!" Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!" Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

    John 4:46-54 NKJV

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7). Amen.

    Today's Gospel pictures to us a remarkable example of faith. By means of the Word, faith fully brings the Lord Jesus with all his riches home to every man. Luther wrote that, "one Christian has just as much as another, and the child baptized today has not less than St. Peter and all the saints in heaven. We are all equal and alike in reference to faith, and one person has his treasure just as full and complete as another" (Luther).

    The point that our Gospel lesson speaks of is that "although faith fully possesses Christ and all His riches, yet it must nevertheless be continually kept in motion and exercised, so that it may have assurance, and firmly retain its treasures. There is a difference between having a thing and firmly keeping hold of it, between a strong and a weak faith. Such a great treasure should be firmly seized and well guarded, so that it may not be easily lost or taken from us. I may have it indeed in its entirety, although I hold it only in a paper sack, but it is not so well preserved as if I had it locked in an iron chest" (Luther). St. John carefully notes at three different times that the nobleman believed. What we learn from the text is how his faith was be exercised, tested if you will. Jesus was strengthening the nobleman’s faith. Instead of a faith that rested on signs and miracles, it became a strong faith, one that took Jesus at His Word.

    In the same way, Jesus leads us to strive to lay hold of the treasure of faith more and more firmly and securely from day to day. We must see to it how faith may grow and become stronger. If our faith is not continually kept in motion and exercised, it will weaken and decrease, in fact, it can even vanish. Sadly, we do not see nor feel this weakness ourselves, except when we are in need, go through difficult times, or struggle with temptation; when unbelief rages too strongly. And yet for this very reason faith must have struggles and temptations in which it may exercise and grow.

    There was a certain nobleman, whose son was critically ill and about to die. He had heard about Jesus, a Prophet whose powerful teaching was backed up by miraculous works, such as the turning of water into wine. When the nobleman heard that Jesus had come to Cana, which was in the same general region, he went to Him there to implore His help. From this, we can see that the nobleman had faith in Jesus. It may have been faith that had a long way to grow in terms of perceiving the fullness of who Jesus was, but it was faith nonetheless.

    The faith of the nobleman looked to Jesus for help. He traveled a very long distance, even while his son was close to death. Cana was about eighteen miles away from Capernaum, easily a day's journey on dirt roads. That meant that he would have to be away from his dying son for at least two days, traveling to Cana and back. How could this man leave the bedside of his child for such a long time, unless he believed that Jesus could really help? Indeed, the nobleman had faith in Christ. He traveled those eighteen lonely miles until he came to Jesus to plead for His help.

    You are not unlike this nobleman. You are here today because you have faith in Christ. You are here by God's grace to seek the help that only He can give. You believe that Jesus can do for you what no one else can do, namely, forgive your sins, restore your life from whatever is troubling you, and give you the assurance of eternal life as you dwell in these bodies of "sin and death."

    In our text, Jesus answers the nobleman but in way he wouldn’t expect of Jesus. Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe" (verse 48). Jesus' reply to him, though sharp, was necessary. A faith built only on miraculous signs is not a complete faith. Many people hesitate to believe in Jesus apart from seeing miraculous signs and wonders. The nobleman wasn’t even asking for a sign. Why would Jesus respond to him that way?

    First, I believe that Jesus was testing the nobleman’s faith with the sole purpose of making it stronger. Would the nobleman continue to seek the Lord’s help after his rebuke? Or, would the nobleman give in to doubt and despair? Not all believers have a strong faith. The nobleman had faith, but his faith was not yet strong enough. Jesus, who knows men’s hearts better than they do, surely saw the true needs of the nobleman. The nobleman was genuinely concerned about his dying child, but Jesus could see clearly that it was not only the dying child that needed help. The situation did not need a "quick fix." Jesus wanted to give something that was needed and would continue after His miraculous healing of the nobleman's son. Jesus gave the nobleman a strengthened and lasting faith.

    I am sure that Jesus could see how the nobleman was clinging only to the seeing and the experience of the Lord’s bodily presence. The nobleman's faith was quite different to that of the centurion in Matthew, chapter 8, who said to Jesus: "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed" (verse 8). Jesus' response to the centurion was quite different also. He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"

    And, it wasn’t only the nobleman who struggled with a weak faith. The Disciples, who were with Jesus for three years, day in and day out, at times Jesus rebuked them for their weak faith. At times, their faith clung to what only they saw and could experience. For example, Jesus chastised the disciples in the boat, when a terrible storm came and He said to them: "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 8:26). It was as if to say, "Where is your faith now? Therefore, however good and genuine faith may be, it falls back when it comes to a battle, unless it has been well disciplined and has grown strong" (Luther).

    What are we to learn from this? First, we should never think that it is enough that we be begun to believe, or have that we have believed all our lives. We must diligently watch that our faith is strengthened and remains firm or our faith will vanish. Luther reminds us that "you are to see how you may retain this treasure you have embraced, [namely our faith]; for Satan concentrates all his skill and strength on how to tear it out of your heart. Therefore, the growth of your faith is truly as necessary as its beginning and indeed more so; but all is the work of God" (Luther). We learn that Faith in Jesus is absolutely necessary, no matter what trials and tribulations touch our lives, or the lives of others. It is hard to persuade ourselves that distance of time and place are no obstructions to the knowledge and power of our Lord Jesus. Our faith then must always rest in Jesus and not in any signs, wonders, feelings or experiences!

    The nobleman was in no position emotionally to argue his case theologically. All he could plead for was mercy, "Sir, come down before my child dies!" (Verse 49). Jesus' calm reply to the official’s desperate request created a crisis. Jesus announced, "Go your way; your son lives" (verse 50). If the official really believed that Jesus could make a difference in Capernaum, he must also believe Him now in Cana. The nobleman took Jesus at His word, "he believed the word that Jesus spoke to him." Again, Luther writes, "By means of this faith he saved his son's life. So indeed every person approaching God should believe that he will receive what he requests, or he will not receive it."

    On his journey home, the nobleman must have pondered Jesus' promise all throughout his long journey home. Instead of holding on to signs and wonders, he believed the words that Jesus spoke to him. The nobleman was changed from merely seeking signs to faith in Jesus' Word. In our text we read how his servants met him with good news. His boy was living. The nobleman asked when his son recovered. They told him that it was at the seventh hour. The healing was no accident, for it occurred at the exact moment Jesus made His promise to him. The nobleman’s faith continued to grow, "he himself believed, and his whole household" (verse 53).

    Jesus wants to do the same with each and every one of us. Perhaps you do not have a loved one at home dying, but perhaps there is a different kind of struggle going on in your life. Perhaps there is a sickness in the family, or a wayward son or daughter, perhaps you are undergoing a financial burden, or you are struggling with temptation. Alas, perhaps you have been struggling with difficult losses and crosses, leaving you very discouraged and your faith at very low ebb. Whatever the problem is, it is too difficult for you to handle. Yet you are much like the nobleman, you are looking to Jesus for help. But instead of asking Jesus to your home to perform a certain miracle, perhaps your prayers request that Jesus do something special or specific, rather than simply leaving all your needs and requests with Him, trusting in His good and gracious will.

    Like the nobleman, we have God’s Word. In fact we have all of God’s Word that He has chosen to reveal to us in the Bible. God knows that our faith needs to be exercised and even tested, but this is only so that our faith will be approved. In the epistle of James, chapter 1, we read: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." This powerful text tells you that whatever difficulty you are going through in your life, God wants to use this to strengthen your faith, making you " perfect and complete, lacking nothing." He doesn’t want your faith to be “tossed by the wind”, or even to dwindle and die. This is why every one of us is in need of having our faith strengthened.

    But, how can our faith be strengthened unless we have Jesus words to take hold of? We are in constant need of hearing God’s Word. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Jesus simply told the nobleman to return home, his son lives. Contrary to his thoughts, his feelings, what he saw or didn’t see, the nobleman took Jesus at His word. He held Jesus' words above all that he saw, felt or could understand. Jesus' words, His simple promises, guided the thoughts and actions of the nobleman. Jesus didn’t consent to the nobleman’s request to go with him to heal his son. Jesus simply gave him His word which were enough. His Word is powerful. Just as God spoke and by the power of His Word He created the world out of nothing, so Jesus, God in human flesh gave his powerful words to the nobleman. Jesus has given you His Word, His same powerful and efficacious Word. These very words will help you in your struggle, no matter what it is. Hold these words before you, before your reason and feelings, and look only upon God’s Word. And so count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith will lead to a stronger faith, a faith that takes Jesus at His Word!

    Dear friends in Christ! "Wondrous things are found in Christ’s Gospel, wondrous things which are so great, no heart and no one’s faith can fully comprehend them! (Phil. 3:12). For what can be a greater wonder than this: The holy and just God loves the sinful and godless world? And He does not love it just moderately, but with such a great and fervent love that he gives His one dear Son over to shame, derision, suffering, intense agony and death on a cross for the redemption and salvation of the sinners of the world! Through this dear Son whom He has raised from the dead and set at His right hand in heaven, He wishes to bless and pardon us and to adopt us as His children and save us slaves of sins, death and Satan from all our sins, "that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life" (Luke 1:74, 75)."

    Faith, and only faith, makes us rich with the treasures of salvation that are in Christ and totally translates us onto a heavenly course. Faith brings us into genuine participation in God’s merciful and fatherly love. It loosens our tight lips and ignites our cold hearts to give praise and thanks to God for His good works and as Luther says, "it makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Ghost."

    So, dear friends, whatever is happening in your life, take Christ at His Word. Live your life only in the light of His promises and grace. The trial, pain and struggle you are going through, is only because your faith is being exercised, developed and strengthened. Take God at His Word. He has closely bound Himself, His presence and grace, to the Word. Like heat and light are united in fire, so that you cannot take one from the other, then know that God is with you through His Word. Thus you not only have God's Word, but He is present with you through the Word. You are not alone.

    "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us" (Ephesians 3:20). "Go your way,” (John 4:20), "for the LORD is with you." (2 Chron. 20:17). Amen.