Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent 1 2013 Midweek Homily

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor” (Lk. 4:4)

The season of advent is not a time to sugarcoat things.  We live in a fallen world.  All is not well.  And I’m not just talking about shoveling out our cars and the trouble of salting our walkways.  Many of us are suffering.  Some of us are suffering from extraordinary loss.  Our health is failing.  Perhaps most of us are suffering from some sort of chronic pain.  Not just physical pain but also emotional.  And no amount of medication can really truly fix what ails us all.  There are real assaults of satan that seek to destroy our faith and the faith of those we love.  We are tempted, troubled, and tainted by sin.     

Advent is really a time to take inventory over our lives and recognize the reality that not all is well.  Some of our children have renounced their baptisms and are no longer present in Christ’s church.  And we pray for them.  But we also pray ourselves.  Our lives are not hallmark specials.          

This past Sunday we heard the cries of the crowds of Jerusalem.  They watched their Savior ride into Jerusalem on a donkey – a beast of burden.  They cried out Hosanna…Hosanna…Hosanna in the highest.  Hosanna simply means save us now.  Come quickly and save us.       

Advent – the coming of Christ is not for those who love their lives.  The Gospel and the Christian religion is not for those who are confident, self-assured, and happy with themselves.  Jesus himself said whoever loves his life will lose it and whoever hates his life for my sake will find it.  The Gospel is for those who know they are in darkness.  Christ is for those who know they are lost and damned.  He is for those who desperately desire to be saved – and know they are helpless.    

Tonight Jesus opens up the holy scrolls of the book of Isaiah and reads a prophecy about himself.  I have come to preach good news to the poor.  I have come to heal the broken-hearted.  I am here to proclaim liberty to the captives – those who feel trapped and burdened by their sins.  I have come to give sight to the blind and give liberty for all those who are oppressed – oppressed by demons, depression, and despair.  Jesus reads Isaiah to show that he is the one to whom all the Scriptures point.

The promised Son of God, is now here.  The seed of the woman promised to Adam and Eve.  The sacrifice for sin that would crush the serpents head.  The Savior spoken of by Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Joseph.  The God of Moses.  The long await Savior in the flesh - born of Mary – predicted by Isaiah and all the prophets which bear witness to him.  Now he is come.  He will die for sins.  Destroy death.  Restore life.            

Jesus appeared at Nazareth in our reading to proclaim that the era of God’s salvation is breaking in with him.  But the people are evil.  They want wondrous deeds instead.  They want power.  They want to drive out the Romans.  They want results.  They prefer darkness to light.  For them, Jesus does not measure up.  He is not doing what they want him to do.           

Jesus preaches the Gospel to the religious crowds and they reject him.  People are angry.  He is not the Messiah they want.  He talks too much about sin.  He stirs the pot.  He ruffles too many feathers.  He calls the people to repentance.  And several verses later the crowds rise up and drive Jesus to the outskirts of town – to a cliff.  They try to grab him and throw his body over the cliff but somehow he is able to escape.

The beginning of Jesus public ministry shown here tonight is really a foreshadowing of what’s to come.  Angry mobs will hunt Jesus down his whole ministry and eventually they will get the best of him.  He will be handed over to be crucified.  The same child born in a wooden manger will be tied to a wooden post and beaten for your sins.  He will wear the yoke of man’s rebellion against God on his back.  His mother Mary’s heart will be pierced and her Son will bleed for sins he did not commit.  He will carry the wood of the cross to make a fiery altar that Isaac escaped from.  The ram caught in the thicket has arrived.  He is caught in a crown of thorns.  And there is no escape.       

The father offers up his Son.  And the Son, willingly goes.  Sins are paid for.  And the fiery wrath of God is poured out.  Our Jesus drinks vinegar from the cross and gives up his last breath of love.  Payment is made.  Satisfaction is complete.  Justice is done.  The Father raises the Son from the dead to give us all what we need.  Comfort for troubled consciences.  Drink for dry and tired souls. 

The Gospel is for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  This God is for the poor in spirit who long to be rich with the righteousness of Christ.  God is only for the broken.  He is only for the spiritually crippled.      

God is for those who are oppressed and afflicted.  He is for those who are deeply troubled by their sins. 

The Kingdom of God has its arrival in Jesus.  Jesus is coming.  And the first words out of his mouth are “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here.”  The Kingdom of God comes through preaching, teaching, and baptizing.    It comes by His Word and Sacraments. 

God’s way is a donkey sort of way.  An unexpected way.  A humble way.  A preacher, a word, a pulpit and a promise.  God’s Kingdom comes among us.  A congregation of dying sinners but also a congregation of living saints.      

There is no salvation in anyone but him.  There is no darkness in your life which Jesus himself does not know.  He too knows betrayal, emotional anguish, he knows despair and sorrow.  He too knows what it’s like to be rejected by his own children.  But his love for you remains the same.  God cannot deny his love for you.  Jesus Christ remains the same, yesterday, today and forever    

Jesus enters into Jerusalem this week and tonight he tells us that he is the long awaited Messiah.  He is our Savior.  A real savior who brings health, fortune, and happiness through the forgiveness of sins and the promise of His abiding presence.  He alone is the light that disperses all the darkness that surround us.  He lifts the clouds of sadness that covers us. He is the light of the world.  And He is coming.  Therefore our prayer is.  Come Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.      

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent 1 2013

Every year we have the same religious ritual.  We gorge ourselves with turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole.  We wash it down with beer whiskey, and football and thick gravy courses through our veins.  The high from the triptophyn only lasts so long.  The packers can’t pull it off – and even the Badgers are capable of disappointment.  The real world comes crashing back in.

We return to mundane lives with difficult people to deal with.  The excitement of thanksgiving dulls and we realize we can’t eat stuffing and pumpkin pie every day but have to settle for tomato soup and grilled cheese instead.  We no longer eat in the company of friends, family, and children but now take lunch alone. 

Our bosses are difficult to deal with.  Our work is not appreciate.  It becomes long and tedious, perhaps unfulfilling.  Our critics grow and friends grow tired of our company.  At school we return to the same mean bullies.  And have to deal with the same embarrassments at recess.             

However our biggest problem in life is not the packers, it’s not dry turkey, and it’s not even a demanding boss or rude coworkers.  The biggest problem in life of course is our own sin.  We are afraid of everything except God.  That’s why are medicine cabinets are filled.  We trust in everything except God.  That’s why are closets are packed and attics are filled.  And we treat God, like the strange uncle at thanksgiving – who is fine as long as you don’t get stuck next to him at the table and have to talk to him.  We give him a passing glance and a grunt but not much more. 

After Thanksgiving, what do we do?  Buy more stuff of course.  We go out and shop till we drop on black Friday - literally.  Every year there is at least one person who dies in a stampede at malls and shopping centers.  This year was no exception.  Weeping and gnashing of teeth, as crowds stretch out their claws for video games and ipads.            

But all the evil is not just with them.  It’s with us too.  Do we really want to notice when our children are fornicating.  For the fathers out there can your children recite the ten commandments?  Can you?  If not, how can you expect your family to know right from wrong?  The worse problem is that we have placed our hopes in the passing pleasures of this life, it’s allurements.  We prefer entertainment to prayer.  And to top it all of – we are satisfied with ourselves.  We think we are doing just fine.  We like God as long as He keeps a safe distance from us – just like the estranged uncle at Thanksgiving.

Our sins are worse than what we think.  Our standing before God is not good.  And his expectations are much more demanding than Santa Claus.  You better watch out.  He’s checking his list and he knows who is naughty and nice.  God knows your secret sins.  He knows your heart.  But unlike Santa Clause, he won’t pass by your house.  And he doesn’t reward you according to what you deserve.

You need a Savior.  A Savior who will be punished for what you deserve that you would be God’s poster child.  You need a God who does not just show up for one family meal a year but comes every Sunday.  You need a rescue mission – an escape from all the passing allurements, and dissapointments of this life.   

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a beast of burden – a slavish animal - created to carry baggage - in this case your sins.  And this God will not disappoint.  He is going to die a criminals death and to be cursed with the sins of the world pressed upon his innocent head. 

The people in Jerusalem cry out Hosanna…Hosanna..Honsanna in the highest.  Hosanna literally means “save us now.”  They are crying out save us from our sins…die for us…make atonement…make payment for our sins…save us now they cry out.   

You sing the same thing every Sunday when you sing Hosanna..Hosanna…but maybe you haven’t looked in the hymnal to see what the word means.  But that’s what you are praying for to be saved.  For Jesus to come quickly and to save you.      

This is a new year of grace.  Advent is a time to set the clock back.  The first week of Advent is really New Years Day in the church.  A time to start fresh and open the doors of your hearts to Christ.  A time to open your ears once again to the promises of God.

Our thanksgiving is even better this morning – with one another.  For God rides into our church not to fill stockings but to fill hungry mouths and to gladden tired  hearts.  For here we gorge ourselves on the promises of God.   We eat the risen body of Christ and drink his blood.  Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” 

And he heals us from all that ails us.  He satisfies us.  Our sports teams will nearly always disappoint but not Christ. He has already stormed the field, torn down the goal posts of hades and stormed the gates of hell.  He has pulled the teeth out of death itself and has destroyed the power of the devil.  All of the evil bullies have been routed.    

Risen and fresh from the grave he rides into our town and places himself on our altar.  He prepares for us a feast.  Here you never eat alone.  But you eat with angels and archangels and with all the whole company of heaven.

A child will be born in Bethlehem.  He will be your judge.  He is coming.  And He does not come to punish you for your sins, but rather to forgive them, wipe them away, cast them as far as the east is from the west.  He knows all the trouble that you are in.  He knows the sorrows that depress you, he knows the tears that you secretly shed.  This King is gracious and loving.  He hears your prayers and your sighs.  He wants to dry your tears, protect you, and finally to redeem you and lift you to heavenly places by His blessed death. 

Your King who is coming is not just willing to do this but is also able to because he is the Son of God.  Therefore lift up your heads and greet him.  You won’t see him on a humble donkey, but in humble bread and humble wine, where he comes to bring you everlasting peace.  In Jesus name.  Amen.          


Thursday, November 7, 2013

All Saints Day

This morning we remember our brothers and sisters in arms who have past from death to life.  Our comrades who have completed their course – and finished their labor.  They are arrayed in white with palm branches in their hands and singing gladly surrounding the lamb of God in his kingdom.  They have been transferred from the church at war to the church at rest - from the church militant to the church triumphant.    

We remember Lee Wolf, Jodi Behreandt, and Delores Ann Buntrock.  We remember Edeline Young, Armin Schmidt, and Glenn Alfheim.  We remember Wilmarth Arthur Thayer, Isabelle Borchardt, and Austin Matson.

Now they see God face to face and God has wiped away every tear from their eyes.  These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”  They sing before his throne and see God face to face.  They see with their own eyes what we believe in with our hearts.  They have passed from death to life.  They have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and have been raised to new life.  With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. 

Their lives are different than ours.  They have been rescued from this valley of sorrow and have been brought before the throne of God to worship him there and sing his praises.  They don’t worry about not having enough money.  They don’t suffer from their own sins.  They are not plagued by their past.  They are not abused or mistreated like us.  They are comforted.  They are blessed.  They are beautiful.  They are loved by God.  And like Christ himself they shine like the sun. 

Their good shepherd has guided them to springs of living water and God has wiped away every tear from their eye.  For us, some of them have been taken much too early.  But it’s not too early for God.  We should be certain that God takes our loved ones from us not out of anger but he takes them out of great love for them and for us.  Blessed in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.  

Saint Paul writes “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”

In Romans Paul says “For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we will also live with him.”  Jesus says “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”   

This morning we remember to keep our eyes on the prize – which is none other than our Lord Jesus.  It was he who died our death.  He burst forth from the grave and destroyed death’s power.  Satan has been cast down.  Death has lost its sting.  And the grave no longer kills us but has rather become the portal to everlasting life – and the gate of paradise.

But for you this morning who continue to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.  Take heart and have courage.  This Jesus has saved you too.  You too are blessed.  And you may mourn for awhile.  Your saving may dwindle – you will be taxed too much.  You may worry about your children and your marriage may be on the rocks.  And like everyone else your health will fail.  But these things too will pass.  Repent and believe in the Gospel.  Christ has been raised from the dead.  Death has passed over you.     

Your life has been redeemed.  You’ve been bought for a price.  Your sins have all been pardoned.  You are a holy one of God.  A Saint!  He has placed a white robe on you and covered all of your shame.  You too worship with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  God is pleased with you.  His blood coveres you from head to toe.  You are scrubbed clean with baptismal waters and are numbered among God’s elect from every nation and every tribe - who surround the Lamb of God. 

Heaven comes down to earth in this holy supper.  And we don’t call it holy communion for nothing.  For not only do you commune with the Father and the Son.  You commune with the whole company of heaven who have passed through this valley of tears and have been carried by our Good Shepherd to a much brighter and happier shore.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reformation Sermon

We make a mistake when we look back at the Reformation and make a judgment on how people were stupid because they believed they could buy their way out of purgatory, bought indulgences, prayed to the saints, and struggled trying desperate to find a way to be saved.  

But these were not stupid people.  In the 16th century people wrestled with big questions – adult questions about their salvation.  How will I be saved from sin, death, and hell.  They wrestled with serious, adult questions such as: “How can I ever meet God’s expectations of me?” “What do I do about God’s anger that I feel deep down in my bones?” “How can my family and my children avoid eternal death and damnation?”

In our foolishness we might look back and say how they could be so stupid.  But we are the stupid ones.  We don’t have adult questions but childish ones.  Why is my cable and internet bill so high?  We spend more time concerned about the packers injury report than the injuries we inflict on others because of our own sins.      

Our modern generation is a childish and fickle one.  In many ways we are much worse than Luther’s day.  We’re not concerned about our salvation at all.  Like our Gospel text, we arrogantly presume like the Jews that we have Abraham as our father because we were confirmed once upon a time and our grandfather helped build the church.

We let our children and grandchildren fornicate like rabbits and don’t have the common decency to loving rebuke them when they fall into sin.  Whatever happened to bringing our children up in the fear and instruction of the Lord.  In our vanity we prefer just getting along rather than being faithful to God’s Word.      

Repent.  We need a reformation.  We don’t need praise bands, stewardship campaigns, nicer pastors and flashy buildings.  We need repentance.  We need to change.  We need to pray.  We need to reform our families.  And most importantly we need to reform ourselves.  When it comes to Reformation Day and Luther’s call to repentance we need to go to the very source of the problem.  Our own sinful hearts.   

We need to learn to be more offended and scandalized by our own sins rather than the sins of others.  We need to contemplate the carnage we have caused with our own mouths which have destroyed the reputations of others and mutilated the very people whom God has called us to love the most.  We should busy ourselves with the questions of Luther’s day.  How can I be saved?  Is God pleased with me?  How can my family and I be spared from eternal death?  How can I escape the wrath to come?      

But tonight we can do one better than remembering Luther nailing his 95 theses to the wooden doors in Wittenberg.  Let us remember Christ who was nailed to the wood of the cross for sinners like us.  Nailed to a cross for grumpy and complacent backbiting lcms Lutherans like us.      

The greatest words in the Gospels is when the Pharisees cry out in anger that Jesus sits and eats with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes.  To be saved by faith alone.  To be a Lutheran is actually to  recognize that we are the seedy and shady characters with whom God chooses to eat.  The best thing we can bring to God is our sin, our broken marriages, the spiritual neglect of our children.

Let us bring to God our backbiting attitudes and complaints about our churches.  Hand that over to God and lay it all upon his back.  Because Jesus had to be lacerated, whipped, and beaten like an animal for such sins as these.    

God dies for sinners, complacent lcms sinners.  And this is good news.  Death could not hold Christ in the grave.   The father raised him from the dead – he ascended into heaven precisely so that he could come and be with you tonight.  Tonight God sets a table with a meal much better than brats and kraut.

He sets before you Himself.  His innocence – His righteousness – His holiness.  It is free for the taking with no strings attached.  And oh boy do you need it.  His body which is the bread from heaven.  To fill hungry sinners with the righteousness of Christ.  And his blood is painted upon your hearts and souls and death itself passes over.  He exchanges his life for your death.  He exchanges your hell for his heaven.  He sets you free.

What does this mean?  It means God loves you.  He’s not in any way embarrassed to call you his child.  The Father beams with pride over his Son – and therefore God delights over you.

Come one and all – sinner pastors and church leaders.  Gossiping lay folks and backsliding Christians.  Your life has been redeemed and you have been bought with a price – a heavy price – the suffering, crucifixion, and death of God himself.  The Father’s expectations of you have all been satisfied.  Your Father is just as satisfied with you and he is satisfied with his Son. 

The same blood that covers St. Paul, St. Peter, and the blessed Dr. Martin Luther covers you and your children.  And God is pleased with you.  Therefore let us come gladly to the altar and receive rest for weary hearts.   And heavenly drink for thirsty souls.  In Jesus name.  Amen.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Sunday of The Birds and Lilies

 Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6, Trinity 15).

In short, this Gospel text is about the evil sin of greed and incessant worry – a sin which clings deeply to all of us.  The whole world is engulfed by a hunger for more, nearly everyone is discontent is some way with what he has received from God and everyone wants more.  No one is truly content. 

Our closets are bursting with clothes, but our souls are empty.  And our anxiety is just as great as our greed.  As soon as the apple crunched in paradise we have been scared stiff at the sound of a rustling leaf.  We worry about everything.  We doubt whether God is capable of caring for our own children.  We worry about our aging parents and how we can possibly care for them.  We worry about the future of our church even though He has said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Yet more than anything else we worry about money.  We don’t think we have enough of it.  Our retirement didn’t go exactly like we might have hoped.  We think God is holding out on us.  The dirty little secret is that we don’t trust in God to take care of us.  That’s why worry occupies our thoughts.  And we are worrying ourselves to death!  Our wrinkles and stomach problems bear witness to that.  And so do our medicine cabinets.     

In Greek mythology the most famous king was named King Midas.  Everything he touched would turn to gold.  This king was so greedy that he wished everything would turn to gold.  So he touched his coat, his table, his bed, doors, and pillars of his house.  Everything immediately turned to gold.  The knife which he ate, the bread, the wine, and the cheese turned to gold.  As a result the king, in his addiction to wealth had no bread or drink and starved himself to death.  Even if you stock pile your riches.  We cannot eat our gold, our IRA’s or mutual funds. 

And as God himself tells us Man does not even live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  A God who in loving kindness gives us everything we need.       

This morning Jesus gives us a wakeup call.  He wants us to put the brakes on our incessant worry and misplaced trust.  He wants us to learn to stockpile up riches in heaven rather than stockpile treasures on earth.  He wants to restore our weary souls and find comfort in our Father’s loving arms.  He wants our hearts to find rest in him.   

So he tells us about birds and flowers.  Jesus says “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Our dear Lord holds before us the example of birds, that we might model our lives after them.  Birds don’t have a care in the world.  They don’t worry.  They don’t stockpile any seed.  They trust that God will take care of them.  They consider their kitchen table as long as the earth is wide.  Their barns are always full as they look from sea to shining sea.  They believe they have a heavenly Father, who will provide – the same heavenly Father who wants nothing more than to feed you.  Birds don’t worry like us.  When a storm comes their way in the dark of the night and shakes their nest to the ground.  They still sing the next morning when the sun rises.   

The birds of the air ought to shame us.  We should learn to be like them.  We should learn to believe like them.  We should sing like them.  Like the birds we should let God be God.  We should allow our heavenly Father, actually to take care of us.  And only then can we truly be as happy and joyful as the birds of the air.

And then our dear Lord starts talking about flowers.  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin.  The flowers that bloom on the side of the road as we come to church are preaching a magnificent sermon to us.  These flowers that bloom are endowed with beautiful colors, reds, and violet, blue, and pink.  Their loveliness should put us to shame!  If God so adorns flowers with such beauty, which barely lasts a couple days in the field, how can you doubt whether he will clothe you and feed you!

But dear Christian, you are more valuable to God than birds.  And to Him you are more radiant than the brightest flower.  And how can this be?

Because He himself has already worried about your salvation so that you wouldn’t have to.  In the garden of gethsemane he was so anxious for what was coming his sweat became drops of blood.  He has already toiled on the dusty and blood soaked path toward the holy cross.  He has toiled and spun on the cross in agony that you would be spared the darkest night and fiercest storm of God’s wrath.  This Son of God was clothed with your shame that you would be dressed to the nines in His righteousness!  His mouth was dry on the cross and he thirsted for vinegar – so that you would be able to whistle and sing like a bird of the heavens.  And the morning has now come.  The eternal Son has risen.         

The demons have been cast down, and death has been destroyed.  St. Paul writes in Romans chapter 8:  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Jesus says do not be anxious, saying, “what shall we eat or what shall you wear?  Your Heavenly father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”  

Dear Christian, in Christ your retirement is more than secure and your future is a good one.  In the Kingdom of God you are richer than Kings and Queens.  And for you there is no need for worry, for you have a God who has already done that for you. 

Your parents will be comforted.  Your children will live and be restored to you.  Your church will be blessed by God.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself, sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Sunday of the Good Samaritan Trinity 13

This morning a lawyer stands before Jesus and calls out “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus says to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus looks at the lawyer approvingly and simply says, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

The funny part is that the lawyer actually thought he was on the right track here.  He thought he was on the way to eternal life.  He thought he was a good person.  He made a good living.  He came to the synagogue.  He tithed the 10 percent commanded by God.  He was a member of the Lions club and town board.  He’s a good guy everyone said of him.  He kept his nose out of public scandal and shame.  His reputation was impeccable.  And he knew it. 

But this successful, well thought of man, lacked one thing.  He did not have a proper faith in God.  He did not fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  He trusted in himself.  And this man, seeking to justify himself, said to Jesus, “well, then who is my neighbor?” 

Jesus then tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.  A man came down from Jerusalem and he fell among robbers, who stripped him, beat him to a pulp and left him half dead on the side of the road.  First the priest passed by – he didn’t want to get his hands dirty and he passed by on the other side.  Then the levite passed by as well – he was much too above the business of getting involved with something as unsightly as this bloody beaten mess of a man on the side of the road.  The priest and levite were members of the religious establishment.  In the Old Testament it was ritually unclean to touch the dead.  So they passed by – they didn’t want to dirty themselves in the ghastly scene. 

But then comes along the Good Samaritan.  And unlike the priest and levite, the Good Samaritan took notice.  Our text says that the Samaritan felt compassion.  And this is a decent translation but the original greek text is more interesting.  It says that the Samaritan was so moved in his compassion – that his bowels became contorted or twisted.  The greek word is spagna which is actually the origin of the english word for our spleen.  That is to say, this Samaritan – this outsider – was so deeply moved in compassion that the innermost part of his very being was troubled to the very core. 

This Samaritan man was so profoundly troubled at this man’s injury that his spleen – his intestines became upset.  Indeed the Scriptures elsewhere says when one member suffers all suffer with him.  In a very real way the Samaritan was suffering with the beaten and half dead man.

So that Samaritan did not pass by.  But ran to the man in need.  And using an ancient yet very effective first aid kit – he began to help him.  He used oil which not only cleans – but also a skin moisturizer and soothing lotion.  Wine, of course is a disinfectant – it cleans wounds and helps heal. 

The Samaritan hoists the man on an animal – a beast of burden and carries the man to an inn – and didn’t just drop him off but stayed the whole night with the wounded man.  Probably continued to nurse him back to health through the night.  Then he paid the innkeeper, saying “Take care of him, I will repay you when I come back.”    

Jesus concludes the parable by asking the lawyer the following question: “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers.”  The lawyer said “Well, the Samaritan - the One who showed mercy.”  Our Lord then says “You go, and do likewise.”

Over the last couple hundred years it has been a common practice to just assume that Jesus is telling us a story about how to be caring and compassionate.  The Good Samaritan is compassionate and therefore be like the Good Samaritan.  But this is not really the point of the parable.  As with all other parables, we need to get over the idea of thinking the parables are about us when they are really about Jesus.  With the early church fathers and with Martin Luther they understood that in this parable – Jesus is actually speaking about himself. 

The man who has been robbed, stripped, beaten and left half dead on the road is Adam (sinful humanity) – that is you and I!  When God warned us from turning away from him.  He said that in that day you shall surely die.  Through one man’s sin death entered in.  Saint Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2 that you were dead in your trespasses and sins.  Not sick or injured but dead.  Dead just like the man in this parable.  Who are the robbers who beat the man? 

The robbers are sin, death, and the devil – the same robbers that beat you up.  Adam(sinful humanity!) then leaves Jerusalem (Jerusalem is paradise) he is beaten up by the robbers of sin, death, and the devil.  The priest who passes by represents the law of the Old Testament which cannot save.  The Levite who passes by represents the prophets of the Old Testament.  But then comes the Samaritan, the outsider whom is Christ Himself.  He heals our wounds, which is our disobedience. 

We are placed on the beast of burden, which is the body of Christ.  Jesus himself says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Jesus carries our sorrows and bears our sins – fulfilling the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.  He is the Passover Lamb. He is the beast of burden.  He carries the sins of the world upon his back. 

And when this Good Samaritan gets on his knees and pours out oil and wine – what should we think of?  Since the earliest days of the church oil has been associated with Holy Baptism, where we are washed and cleansed and anointed in the baptism of Christ.  And what is the wine that this Good Samaritan offers but the sacrificial blood of Christ!  A sweet wine  which is poured unto sin-parched lips – to refresh and bring back to life dying sinners like us.  Here in this parable you have Baptism and the Lord’s Supper! – The very means by which dying sinners are resuscitated from death and raised to new life! 

 And where does the Good Samaritan carry the beaten and robbed man – that he might be taken care of – and nourished – and healed?  He takes him to an inn.  And what is the inn but the one holy Christian and apostolic church.  Our church – here at St. Paul - our hospital of grace – our heavenly Jerusalem to keep us safe – the church!   The Good Samaritan hands over the man to the Innkeeper, simply saying take care of him, until I come back.  The innkeeper is the pastor charged with dispensing the means of healing, baptism, Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the Gospel.

The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper that he is coming back.  He is speaking of the Second Coming and the day of judgment.  When Christ will come again. 

Who is the Good Samaritan?  There is only one who is truly good.  It is the Good Shepherd – Jesus – who heals you.  Annoints you with the healing water and oil of baptism.  Gives you food for hungry souls and drink for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  He puts you on his divine shoulders and carries you, with all the children of God to the heavenly inn of eternal life.  In Jesus name.    

Trinity 14 The Sunday of the Ten Lepers

This morning Ten Lepers come to Jesus.  Together they cry out saying the same words that we said together this morning.  Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ have mercy upon us.  All ten were healed but out of the Ten only one came back to thank the Lord and worship him. 

It’s somewhat difficult for us to fully appreciate how awful leprosy is.  We don’t have many folks with it around here.  But leper colonies continue to exist in many parts of the world.  In the ancient world lepers had to live separately.  They were outcasts and they could not be seen.  Folks were frightened of them.  Nobody wanted to be near them.  It was thought that God has forsaken them – forgotten them and left them behind. 

But for the Ten Lepers this morning, they had a problem that was more than skin deep.  The 10 lepers this morning ought to call to mind the Ten Commandments.  And these commandments reveal a problem in all of us which is much more than skin deep.  A deformity much worse than a bad complexion. 

The most deformed part of us is not our skin, but our sinful hearts. These Ten Lepers call to mind that 10 Commandments which have separated us from God’s love.  These commandments clearly show us our spiritual leprosy and the diagnosis – that in that day you turn away from my Word you shall surely die. 

The ugly truth is that we do not pray as we ought to.  We do not care and love our wives as we ought to.  We do not honor our parents the way we should. We do not fear, love, and trust in God – we may look like a Christian on Sundays but may act like an atheist the rest of the week.  We have broken the fifth commandment by refusing to help our neighbor in every physical need, we have slandered the reputations of others, and lacerated our own friends with our sharp tongues.

Our epistle text this morning warns us of our spiritual leprosy.  Saint Paul writes that the works of the flesh, which damn us are evident; sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, fights and bickering, anger, envy, and drunkenness.  Saint Paul writes that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.     

Repent.  But be joyful.  Christ has died for your sins.  He who knew no sin has become sin.  The Son of God became the leper so that in baptism you would be born a child of God – with skin softer than an infant child, fresh from the womb.  You see Jesus Himself has become what we are that we might become what he is.  He became ugly on the cross that you would be beautiful now and in eternity.  Your sins are forgiven. 

We ourselves have been healed by God.  This morning he has poured down the sunlight upon our town.  He has given us family who wait upon us – friends who lift us up – rain to water the crops for a good harvest.  We have food in the fridge, clothes on our back, and the eternal promises of God’s love and mercy to spiritual lepers like us.  By the cross we have all been healed.  We should rejoice, we should open our hymnals and sing as loud as we can. 

After all, just imagine that you had found out you had a terminal disease and would die within a few months.  But now a doctor has burst into the waiting room.  He cannot hold back his smile and giddiness as tells you that your illness is gone, not a trace of it remains.  You have been miraculously cured.  And not just that but when you die angles will carry you to heaven – to sing eternally with God in paradise – to bask in His love forever. 

We who had a terminal disease which brought eternal death by God’s law have now been redeemed by the Gospel.  His grace covers us.  His blood washes us clean from all the sins that stood against us. 

But the sad truth is that we live our lives like the 9 lepers who refuse to thank God for what he has done.  We expect great things to always happen to us as if we deserve nothing but good and then we are shocked and angry when things don’t go our way.  We blame everyone else for our problems and we refuse to recognize that we are the ones who have made a mess of our lives. 

But with Jesus, He did not just die for our sins of adultery, anger, rivalries, and our unbelief.  He has died for our ingratitude. 

So this morning we have a clean heart and a good conscience.  Jesus died and rose for sinners and spiritual lepers.  You are back from the dead.  By Jesus glorious resurrection he gives you a new life.      

St. Paul tells us this morning that the fruit of the spirit is love not hatred.  Joy, not unhappiness.  Peace, not division.  Patience, not a quick temper.  God calls us to be patient and kind.  Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Remember you belong to Christ Jesus.  And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  It is no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you. 

You belong to Jesus.  You are His and he is yours.  Nothing separates you from God anymore.  His blood washes over you.  You are cleansed you are healed.   

In closing there is something important about the Christian life that should not be ignored.  Not only should we learn to be grateful, but we should learn to develop the virtue of putting up with ingratitude from others.  If we want to be Christians, be faithful to God and serve others we should learn from Jesus and not be bothered that for every 9 people who criticize, only one will return any thanks.  

Jesus does not let the ingratitude of 9 lepers stop him from continuing doing good to others.  And neither should you in your life.  Children are rarely truly thankful for the sacrifice and love they receive from their parents.  Students rarely thank their teachers for the life-long work of study and passion devoted to the very task of educating and helping them. 

Congregations are rarely all together thankful for faithful pastors who preach God’s Word, and pastors are perhaps never as thankful as they ought to be for their own congregations.  We should all repent! 

God makes the sun shine not just on people that thank him, but upon all, even the wicked and those with no gratitude at all. Like Jesus, you should never become bitter when you do not receive any thanks.  After all, you have one in heaven above who will thank you in their stead.  But this morning, let us all be like the healed leper.  Let us draw near to God with a thankful heart and thank him for what he has done.      

Thursday, March 28, 2013

a helpful quote to stay the course with preaching through holy week!

"I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills… and flush them all down the drain!  The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross–and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.

But preachers can’t be that naughty or brave unless they’re free from their own need for the dope of acceptance. And they wont be free of their need until they can trust the God who has already accepted them, in advance and dead as door-nails, in Jesus. Ergo, the absolute indispensability of trust in Jesus’ passion. Unless the faith of preachers is in that alone–and not in any other person, ecclesiastical institution, theological system, moral prescription, or master recipe for human loveliness–they will be of very little use in the pulpit."

Robert Farrar Capon

Wednesday of Holy Week Homily (John 13:16-38)

Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Every time Jesus talks about His glory He is talking about his bitter suffering and death.  That’s it.  When Jesus talks about entering into his glory he is talking about Good Friday.  When Jesus speaks about God’s glory he is speaking about his death – Good Friday.  It should be noted that there will be roughly half the people here on Good Friday than on Easter.  When it comes to our spiritual lives folks generally prefer Easter over Good Friday.  Easter is more palatable.  It’s more in line with our personal version of God’s glory.  There is trumpets, banners, easter lilies, and hot breakfast.  And who doesn’t like that?

But Good Friday is different.  We enter our pews in silence and see God beaten and whipped like an animal.  The crowds spit on him.  They nail him to a tree and mock him.  He is naked and cries out “My God my God why have you forsaken me.”  Who can look without turning his face in horror?  What glory could there possibly be in that miserable sight? 

On holy Wednesday we must contemplate this holy mystery.  If you do not love the cross you are no Christian.  If you do not want God the crucified you have God at all.  St. Paul writes “I have resolved to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.” 

Jesus makes atonement for the sins of the whole world.  Lifted up high on the cross – his lips crack under the heat of the Father’s wrath.  He cries out to his executioners and he prays for you when he says “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  God stretched out his hands and embraces the whole world with all of its sin, all of its immorality, all of its hatred against himself – all of its rebellion. 

This isn’t a mystery you can set aside and say, well I already understand that.  I know that already.  Of course Jesus forgives me my sins. 

No.  There is joy in this.  Your life which you have made a mess of has been redeemed by Christ.  There is happiness in this.  Because it means you can lie down with your spouse and feel no shame.  It means you can look your own father in the eye with nothing to be embarrassed about, even if you don’t live up to his expectations.  It means the sun shines brighter, the sky becomes a deeper shade of blue.  The birds sing in a more lovely way.  Your food tastes better and your cheap beer tastes like the expensive stuff. 

All because God’s love has destroyed the evil that dwells within you.  Your life is good because of Good Friday.  God loves sinners and God loves you.  You can at last hold you head up. 

When Jesus speaks of the glory of God he is speaking of His own crucifixion.  If you want holiness and righteousness, and if you want a little glory for yourself you can only find it at the cross.  Not up in the clouds but down here.  In the muck and slop of a sinful and messy world, in your ordinary somewhat fractured relationships with those closest to you.  Find glory in your love for one another. Both in giving it and receiving it.

In tonight’s Gospel when he tells his disciples to love one another, he does it while setting the table.  He takes bread and wine and shows them the altar that father Abraham had seen on Mount Moriah 2000 years earlier.  And now you too by the eyes of faith can see what he saw – except all much clearer.  God will provide for you.  For he gives you Himself.  And what else do you really need?  In Jesus name. 


Monday of Holy Week Homily (John 12:1-23)

Here we are six days before the Passover at the home of Lazarus.  Six days before Jesus is made the Passover Lamb – sacrificed and bled for the sins of the world.  It's a dinner scene. 

Martha is there and her sister Mary, perhaps Mary Magdalene, who used to run around with too many men in town.  Lazarus is there whom Jesus has earlier raised from the dead.  The disciples are there.  They recline with Jesus at the table.  He teaches, they listen.  For faith cometh by hearing.

Mary does something strange.  It’s not just strange to us.  It’s strange to the disciples too.  It’s a party faux pas of the worst sort – and an awkward one.  She takes a pound of perfume and anoints Jesus feet for burial.  She delicately and affectionately dries his feet with her hair.  This is not any perfume – it’s worth 300 denarii meaning – that it was easily an entire years salary. 

Judas the betrayer of Jesus got all bothered about this and thought it was a waste of resources.  St. John the evangelist tells us that Judas was not interested in the money going to the poor, he just wanted to line his pockets.  Judas was the comptroller, he was the stewardship committee, he was the money guy, and of course that was his downfall. 

Mary loves Jesus.  And Judas loves himself.  If you are wondering whether you are Mary or Judas.  You are both.  Christians are at the same time saint and sinner. 

Simultaneously you are spirit filled Mary and demon possessed Judas.  This is what Martin Luther is getting at in the Small Catechism on baptism when he writes that the old man must be daily beaten down  and die with all evil desires and that a new man must arise daily before God.  The old adam must die and the new man must live.  The Judas in you must die and the Mary in you must arise and worship God with everything that you have.

Mary is a saint of God and one to be emulated.  The thought that pouring a years salary on Jesus feet was somehow excessive did not cross her mind.  She longed to anoint and kiss His feet.  We are too nervous to pray in public, and we think bowing at the altar is overdoing it – perhaps too catholic and showy maybe. 

Repent and stop carefully calculating like Judas.  When it comes to worship of God you can’t overdo it.  Jesus loves a prostitute like Mary – and just and more amazingly he loves you.  God befriends sinners and eats with them.  He doesn’t just forgive sinners but he loves them. 

Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus feet for burial.  She was the first to the tomb on Easter morning.  That’s why Mary gets it and the disciples don’t.  After riding into Jerusalem on a donkey Jesus tells his disciples that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  He’s speaking about his death – his glory is there.  

The glorified Christ is the crucified Christ.  God wants you to see his glory there and that is why Mary anoints his body for death with her tears and her hair.  It’s no secret that there will be twice as many people at my congregation on Easter Sunday.  Most folks will stay home on Good Friday.

And with all due respect, they don’t get it.  But that’s ok Jesus loves them anyways.  It took the disciples a while to figure it out and perhaps someday they will do.  God is patient.

Jesus dies for unbelieving disciples.  He dies for prostitutes.  He dies for Judas.  The only difference with us and them is that we are a slightly better at concealing our crimes.  So God be praised he dies for us.  You are free from scandal.  And free from sin.   

You have a reason to be glad.  If you want to worship like Mary and kiss the feet of God then come to His supper – recline at his table.  Receive his body and blood – for this is the highest form of worship.  Like Mary he adores you and remembers you.

Come recline at the table with St. Mary and Martha, with Lazarus, and with all the angels.  The tomb is empty.  And you too are already raised from the dead.    

Homily for Palm Sunday

“Hosanna to the Son of David!...Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Jesus rides into Jerusalem the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers.  He rides in on a donkey, a beast of burden - in humility.  No chariots here.  No war horses and farefare. 

Our God does not show his muscles and his strength.  In the words of the prophet Isaiah he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hid their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

This is our God.  To the children who wave palm branches and welcome their king this morning.  Mark this message well.  This king Jesus is not like other kings.  And this God is not like other.  This is true God.  Jesus is true God.  And God is man.  Behold your king.  He rides into Jerusalem to make all things new.

He is betrayed by his own disciple, denied by his best friend, and handed over to sinful men.  As Isaiah foretold  he opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter.  My kingdom is not of this world he says.  They yell out crucify him.  He is condemned and bound.  As Barabbas the murderer goes free – just as you go free.   

They beat him and spit on him.  They mocked him and stripped him naked.  They put on purple clothes to mock him.  Bloody and beaten he carried his cross up the mountain.  They put nails in his hands and a spear through his feet.  His body pounded to a cross.  They raised him high.  The crowds cried out to him “You said the temple would be destroyed and raised on the third day. But you can’t even save yourself!”

God sacrifices his own son.  Darkness covered the earth and Jesus cried out with a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Hosanna in the highest.  This is why we wave palm branches.  This is our king.  He suffers for the betrayal of Judas, and the denial of Peter.  He suffers for gossip and adultery among us.  He suffers the penalty for our vulgarity, our cold hearts.  He carries in his body your sins and is crucified for them. 

Because God is love and because God is just he does not permit evil.  And because we are evil he should surely go after us.  But as Abraham believed, God would provide the sacrifice.  And he does.  The Father sends forth his Son whom he loves.  Jesus lies down on the altar that Isaac escaped from.      

He is made guilty that you would be declared innocent.  His case would be tried so that your case would be dismissed.  He suffers hell so that you might receive heaven.  He receives God’s wrath that you would receive God’s love.

Hosanna in the highest.  Behold your king.  A suffering, beaten, and bloody king.  He comes.  A Lamb who goes uncomplaining forth.  Led to the slaughter.  Pierced for our transgressions.  He dies for our sins which brought us death.  He destroys death by dying.

Hosanna literally means rescue us now.  And this is the sort of rescue you need.  Whatever scandal or shame you feel in your heart.  Whatever pain haunts you – hand it all over this morning.  Hand it over to Christ this morning – this start of holy week.

Like the crowds on Palm Sunday throw your sins at his feet.  Donkeys carry baggage, and Jesus carries sins.  Dump all your baggage on him.  Dump on him all of your brokenness.  Give to him your mistrust, your failures, your anxiety.  Let him bear your shame.  Let him carry your sorrows and your scandals. 

Remember his words.  Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Leave your sins with Jesus.  That’s why the crowds throw down their cloaks at Jesus feet when he rides in.  Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Hosanna in the highest.

Jesus dies for the sins of the world. He breathes his last breath.  The curtain of the temple is torn in two.  The earth shakes.  The tombs and graveyards are emptied.  And the bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep sang and danced their way to the holy city. 

Your Savior has arrived.  You too can dance on your grave – and ride into the holy city.  Behold your God!  He rides into your ears by His holy Word and into your mouth by this most holy sacrament. 

The processional on Palm Sunday points to the Sacrament of the Altar.  The Lord’s Supper.  God comes in ways that you do not expect.  He comes in lowly ways.  A donkey sort of way.  A body and blood sort of way.  Bread and a sip of wine way.  A preacher sort of way.  Your sins are forgiven.  You slate is wiped clean.  Hosanna in the highest.  In Jesus name.                        

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fifth Week of Lent (Judica) Midweek

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:27-29). 

Martin Luther would say to his congregation “God be praised, a seven year old child knows what the church is: holy believers and the little sheep who hear the voice of their good shepherd.”  That is why we pray our Father who art in heaven.  And confess “I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic church.

Sheep are not known for their brilliance.  They are dumb.  They get lost, easily separated from the flock.  They are easy prey for wolves.  Sheep are an easy meal. 

On your confirmation you didn’t feel like a sheep.  That day you stood, tall and proud, dressed in a white robe.  And pledged that your life would be one of faithfulness to God’s Word.  You promised to be present in weekly worship.  To receive His sacraments every week.  To remain faithful to God – and suffer death rather than fall away.  That was your intention: to remain true to God – to remain steadfast in the faith in which you were baptized.

What happened to your good intentions?  You would say that life happened.  The real world got in it’s way, with all of its demands and obligations.  You were busy.  And your children were busy – maybe they had to kick a ball around.  Other things became more important than being in God’s house each week. 

We have mimicked the way of the world rather than mimicking the ways of God and his holy commands. The truth is we have despised preaching and God’s Word. 

No wonder our children flee from church.  No wonder that vast majority of our confirmands we never see again.  We often talk about church like a crushing obligation.  We speak of worship and receiving the gifts of Christ as if it were a curse rather than a blessing. 

Repent.  The Pharisees in tonight’s Gospel reading are stalking Jesus, finding reasons they should not believe in him or worship him.  Perhaps we are actually more like them – and much less like the sheep.  But no matter what.  Repent.  Whether you are a Pharisee or a sheep.  Repent.  No matter when you were baptized, or when you were confirmed, tonight, you are in the right place. 

The Good Shepherd who loves you does not come for the religious experts.  He comes for lost sinners.  He comes for confirmation - breakers.  He comes for the broken and hurting.  He comes for those who have broken their vows.  "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."  Confess that you have loved the world more than God.  Confess that you have spiritually neglect your own family. 

Confess that the image that you have created for others of yourself is a mirage – and a fraud.
Don’t imagine that a sheep can survive on its own.  Sheep need a good shepherd.  And sheep need a flock to keep them warm through the long winter. 

Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  Confess that your hearing has become weak.  You have lent your ear eagerly to the words of the devil and followed in his footsteps.  Repent.  Turn again toward the Lord who loves you. 

When you broke your vows – Jesus fulfilled them.  When you went wandering your own way.  Jesus walked steadily toward the cross.  When you followed your will, he prayed that his father’s will would be done. 

The sins of your past have been bound to the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord.  They have been dealt with.  The payment is complete.  His blood covers all your sins.  You are covered in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness.  You are brighter than the day of your confirmation.  You have a fresh start.  Your sins are forgiven you.             

Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  Return to the Lord. He loves you.  He lays down his life for you.  He doesn’t just forgive you.  He actually likes you.  He adores you.  You are His.   

And now, you, little sheep, can stare down the infernal wolf.  He cannot have you.  You belong to God and Him alone.  He will not break his vow.  And no one will snatch you out of his hand.  In Jesus name.  Amen.