Monday, May 31, 2021

The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity (B)

May 30, 2021

Text: John 3:1-17

            “Therefore, whoever desires to be saved must think thus about the Trinity.”[1]  How must we think?  The Athanasian Creed places very rich theological language on our lips and in our minds, and hopefully in our hearts, as we speak about the Trinity.  And this is good.  An article of faith as sublime and mysterious as the Triune God should be clothed in the very highest and most precise language.  But it can and should also be boiled down quite simply, in such a way that our young children can understand.  There is one God.  He is the only true God.  And this one God is three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Each Person is His own, and not the other.  The Father is not the Son.  The Son is not the Holy Spirit, etc.  But they are one God.  Three in One.  One in Three.  And beyond that, we can’t really understand it.  And we shouldn’t use things like eggs or apples to explain it, because those illustrations will quickly lead us into heresy, and for that, see the popular Lutheran Satire video, “St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies.”  The issue is, when you think you’ve stumbled on a way to comprehend how God can be One, but also Three, you’ve gone off the road.  This is an incomprehensible mystery.  The Athanasian Creed does not aim to explain the Trinity in such a way that you can grasp all the intricacies of the what and the how.  It simply confesses, in very precise terms, the biblical truth as God has revealed Himself to us.  It sets God before our eyes as the object of our faith and adoration. 

            So whoever desires to be saved must think thus about the Trinity.  This bothers a lot of people, because they think it means you have to have an advanced intellectual handle on Trinitarian theology in order to be saved, as though God is going to administer an academic test before He lets you into heaven.  But that is not what the Creed says, and frankly, it is your own self-devised hang up.  What the Creed is actually saying is that this is the God who alone saves.  This is the God in whom we believe and whom we worship, the One who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And there is no other God.  If you confess a different god than this One, you cannot be saved.  Look, we confess that even infants can have faith in this God and so be saved, so we aren’t talking about an intellectual exercise.  We’re talking about having and believing in the right God, the only God, the one true God.  In other words, the Creed is an extended commentary on the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.”  It isn’t politically correct to say, but it is nevertheless true: Any god who isn’t Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is not God! 

            “But it is also necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man.”  A lot of people are bothered about this for the same reason they are bothered about the Trinity.  But again, the answer is the same.  This isn’t an intellectual exercise or a theological examination administered before entry into Paradise.  It can be said quite simply for the sake of our young children.  Jesus is the Son of God from all eternity.  But He became a man in Mary’s womb, and was born from her, so that He could grow up and die for our sins, and then be raised as a man, with a human body, so that on the Last Day He can raise us from the dead in our bodies.  And what the Creed is saying is that this is the Jesus who alone saves.  This is the Jesus in whom we believe and whom we worship, the One who is the eternal Son of the Father, true God, but also true man, born in time of the Virgin Mary, who was crucified, dead and buried, and is now risen from the dead.  There is no other Savior.  If you confess a different savior than this One, you cannot be saved.

            And of course, in both cases, we understand, and the Church has always understood, that some people will have a deeper command of these statements than others.  Some will know the Athanasian Creed by heart (yes, believe it or not, there are some here this morning, though to my shame, I am not one of them, who know the Creed word for word).  There are others who cannot yet, or maybe ever, grasp the high language of this Confession.  Certainly the youngest of our children cannot.  Okay.  That does not mean they are not confessors of this faith, this God, this Jesus.  Because this is the faith, this is the Name, this is the God and the Savior into which they, and you, are baptized.  They are born into it.  And then they grow into it.  Just as a babe in arms, or even a baby in the womb, knows, believes, and trusts in Mom, without any ability to intellectually comprehend her or confess her; so the Christian who is baptized into Christ, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, knows, believes, and trusts in Him.  And just as that baby grows to know Mom deeper, and in relationship to her, and begins to form the word “Mom,” and then to know all kinds of things about her; so the Christian grows from birth in Baptism to know God deeper, and in relationship to Him, and begins to know and say things about Him that are revealed in His Word.  This is just a summary of what Jesus says right before His ascension into heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20; ESV).  Baptize and teach.  Teach and baptize.  The two always go together.  Birth and growth.  Faith seeking understanding.  Baptized into our Triune God and growing in relationship to Him.  Baptized into the faith of the Creed and growing in understanding of it.  And it should be said, because of your finite and fallen mortal mind, you will never understand it as you should, until you see with your own eyes the God whom you here confess. 

            This is the God, the only One, who loved the world in such a manner that He sent His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).  This is the Savior, the only One, the eternal Son of the Father, who came in the flesh, not to condemn the world, but in order that the world be saved through Him (v. 17).  This is the Spirit, the only One, sent from the Father, through the Son, who blows where He wishes, and though you do not see Him, you hear His sound through His Word (v. 8).  It is this Spirit who hovers over the waters to take what is formless and void and give it shape and fill it (Gen. 1:2).  That is to say, you, as you are born of water and the Spirit, for unless one is born anew, of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). 

            Now, like Nicodemus, you hear the Creed, and you say, “How can these things be?” (v. 9).  It is always the temptation to be the teacher of Israel in such a way that you set yourself up as judge over God’s doctrine.  The only answer for that is to listen to Jesus and get over yourself.  Or the biblical word is, repent. 

            The Creed is not given to be an exercise in how you’re more orthodox than the holy fathers of the Church who composed it.  It is given to you as a gift.  The God in whom you believe, the Jesus who saves you… this confession teaches you about Him and gives you words to say about Him, words that are drawn directly from God’s own revelation of Himself in Holy Scripture.  You should always fear to set yourself up as judge over the ancient and well attested teachers of the Church.  It can be done, and it is sometimes necessary.  The Reformation, for example, comes to mind.  But it should not be done as a cavalier matter of opinion or taste.  You should never simply say, “I don’t like that Creed, or hymn, or liturgical element, or tradition, or Church Father.”  A little humility goes a long way, and the burden of proof is on you.  Don’t become a teacher too quickly.  Be taught.  Be formed.  This Creed does that for you as it preaches the one true God.  The Spirit is blowing.  Don’t shut the window. 

            “This is the catholic faith,” and I know that word bothers you, but that ought to be the least of your worries.  Surely you know by now that word does not mean “Roman Catholic.”  It is a Greek word that means “according to the whole,” as in “according to the whole doctrine believed by the whole Christian Church, at all times, and everywhere.”  That is what the Creed confesses, and in that sense, this is a very Lutheran word.  Don’t let Rome keep everything good to itself. 

            The more serious objection is to the bit about deeds at the end, but this shouldn’t bother you, either, because it simply says what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats, and the answer to the objection is the same in both cases: Only those who have this God as their God, who are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in this Christ whom we confess alone, have good works.  Because their entire righteousness is Christ.  Christ’s righteousness counts as theirs, and in Christ, and by His Spirit, they begin to do righteous things.  Tainted with sin, to be sure, but then those works are covered by the sin-atoning blood of Christ, cleansed by Christ, sanctified in Christ.  And they are not saved by those works, but they do those works because they are saved, and they enter into life because of Christ. 

            But those who do not have this God as their God, who seek righteousness apart from Christ, may do the very same works, but those works are only sin, because they are not covered by the sin-atoning blood of Christ, they are not cleansed by Christ, they are not sanctified in Christ, and they are not done by His Spirit.  And all these have to present before God on the Day of Judgment is their works.  And those works are only sin.  They are only evil.  Thus they enter into eternal fire.  It is a great tragedy, because Christ died for them.  The Father sent His Son for them.  The Spirit preached for them.  This one true God was also for them.  But they would not have Him.

            But you have Him.  And He is for you.  And He has revealed Himself to you.  And He has given you faith in Himself.  And so we have these words to confess Him.  And rather than object to them, we ought to give thanks for them, and speak them joyfully, in praise and adoration.  There is one God, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  There is one Lord Jesus Christ, true God from all eternity, the very Son of the Father, true man born in time, the Son of Mary.  He died for you.  He is risen for you.  And He lives for you.  You are baptized into this God, and this Savior.  The Spirit blows through in His Word, placing words of confession on your tongue.  Let us open now our lips and speak His praise.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son X, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

[1] Quotes from the Athanasian Creed are from Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: Concordia, 2006) pp. 319-20.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Day of Pentecost

The Day of Pentecost (B)

May 23, 2021

Text: Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

            “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”[1]

            The Holy Spirit was poured out upon you in Holy Baptism, and He abides with you as He blows through on the wind of His Word, the Holy Scriptures, the Preaching, the Absolution.  And He dwells within you as you receive the true Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, for wherever Jesus is, there is His Spirit.  These are the Means of Grace.  They are the Means to which the Holy Spirit has attached Himself, His vehicle, the place where He has promised to be for you so that you can know it is the Holy Spirit you are receiving, and not some other spirit.  By these means, the Spirit does His work.  That is, He does His calling by the Gospel.  He calls you, calls me, calls all who hear the preaching.  You know that the word for Spirit in both biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek, can also mean wind or breath.  So the Spirit comes on the breath of preaching.  He blows into your ears on the wind of the Word.  And He enlightens with His gifts.  That is, by this same Word, and by the Sacraments (Baptism, Absolution, the Supper), the Holy Spirit brings about the results of His call.  He turns on the lights for you, so that you see and believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior from sin and death, that He restores you to the Father, and makes you God’s own child.  And by these same gifts He sanctifies you, sets you apart as holy for God, marks you as belonging to Him.  And He keeps you in the true faith.  He alone is responsible for your perseverance as a Christian unto eternal life.  He does it.  By His Word. 

            And what this is, this pouring out of the Spirit upon you in Baptism, and His work in you through the Means of Grace, is the direct result of Jesus’ death for your sins, His resurrection, and His ascension.  For since He has been exalted to the right hand of God the Father, He sends the Helper, the Holy Spirit.  The Greek word for “Helper,” as you may know, is “Paraclete,” and that word can mean Comforter, Counselor, Advocate, Intercessor, Mediator, and yes, Helper (Schmitt).  The imagery of a defense attorney comes to mind.  Or even better, Paraclete literally means the one called to your side, as when a child falls off of his bicycle and calls upon his mother for comfort and for aid.  Because our Lord Jesus was crucified for us, and is risen, and lives, and reigns, the Helper comes, sent by Jesus, the Spirit of our Father.

            And this is simply the ongoing reality of Pentecost.  Pentecost is actually the Greek name for the Old Testament Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot in Hebrew.  Pentecost means fifty.  It is the fiftieth day after Passover, or seven weeks.  That is why we celebrate Pentecost on the fiftieth day after Easter.  And it was a first fruits festival.  But the Jews also commemorate it as the day God gave the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.  And think about what happened on that day.  God came down upon the mountain.  A great fiery cloud appeared… where(?), but on the top of the mountain, on Sinai’s head.  And there was a great sound, “thunders and lightenings… and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled” (Ex. 19:16; ESV).  And God spoke.  He gave His Word.  He preached.  And the first fruit God was looking for in the people with whom He was making Covenant, was a life lived according to His order set forth in the Commandments.

            So this is what the multitudes have come together to celebrate in Jerusalem in our second reading (Acts 2:1-21), and now all at once, there is the sound of the mighty, rushing wind from heaven, and it is God coming down, the Holy Spirit blowing through.  And there appear on the heads of the Apostles “divided tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3), because now God will speak, not from the fearsome conflagration of Mt. Sinai, but in the preaching of His Apostles.  Immediately, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak,” to preach, “in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (v. 4). 

            Now, this Pentecost pouring out of the Spirit is miraculous, but notice all the plays on words and images that set up what is now the regular pattern.  The Spirit/wind/breath rushes in from heaven into the gathering of the Church.  And the Spirit/wind/breath fills the lungs of the Apostles, who open their mouths to exhale, to breathe the Spirit/wind/breath out in preaching.  And not just any preaching, but the Apostolic Word.  We’ve seen this image before, and all over the place in Holy Scripture.  Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’  And having said this he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46).  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).  God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living being (Gen. 2:7).  Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the LORD GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live” (Ez. 37:9).  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).  Thus we confess in our Augsburg Confession that the Spirit works faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel (AC V:2-3).  He breathes Himself into us by the preaching.  That is the pattern now.  And so God sends His preachers to breathe that Apostolic Word into you.  The Spirit blows in on the wind of the Word preached.  So we don’t get a mighty, rushing wind, but we get a sermon.  And believe it or not, it is a miracle every time.  We get the Scriptures.  We get Words… and water, bread, and wine attached to the Words, the Words we have received from the Apostles, who received them from our Lord, Words upon which the Spirit comes. 

            So Pentecost may be a fixed point in history, but its reality continues in the Church among you to this very moment.  Here the Word is preached, and here the Spirit blows through to do His calling, enlightening, sanctifying and keeping. 

            And so the Spirit blows through the world.  Jesus says that as the Spirit comes, He convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.  This can be a little confusing, so it is worth speaking about each one.  The Spirit convicts the world concerning sin, Jesus says, “because they do not believe in me” (John 16:9).  In the final analysis, sin is unbelief.  But in the Word, the Spirit shows Jesus to be the Son of God, the very truth the world denies. 

            The Spirit convicts the world concerning righteousness, Jesus says, “because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer” (v. 10).  The world, believing itself to be righteous, crucified Jesus as an unrighteous criminal, the accursed death of the cross.  But God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, exalting Him to heaven, to be seated at the Father's own right hand, to rule, thus vindicating Jesus and declaring Him to be THE Righteous One, and the One in whom is all our righteousness.  As the Word is preached, the Spirit convicts the world of this truth. 

            And the Spirit convicts the world of judgment, Jesus says, “because the ruler of this world is judged” (v. 11).  Satan is defeated.  The serpent’s head is crushed.  Jesus wins, for He was crucified for our sins, and raised for our justification, and He claims for Himself a Kingdom.  He rules over all things.  As the Word is proclaimed, the Spirit blows through to announce the good news that Jesus has conquered as the true and rightful King.  In this way, the Spirit glorifies Jesus.  He takes what belongs to Jesus, all that Jesus has received from the Father, and declares it to you.

            Now, as we said, this same Holy Spirit was poured out on you in Baptism.  Just as the Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus at His Baptism, and remained on Him, so it is with you.  He possesses you.  You do not possess Him.  Nor are you any longer possessed by Satan and the demons.  The Spirit possesses you.  And He remains on you.  He abides.  And again, He does this through His Word.  And this means every time you sin or go astray, there is the Spirit calling you to repentance and to faith in Christ, preaching to you redemption and forgiveness in the Gospel.  When you need wisdom and patience, there is the Spirit enlightening your mind by His Word, counseling you and helping you.  When you need comfort, when you’ve been bloodied and hurt, when you’ve been soiled by the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh, when you need help loving your neighbor, there is the Spirit sanctifying you for God, cleansing you and setting you apart as holy, God’s own possession, and nourishing you with the Word and Body and Blood of Jesus.  And He prays for you and in you, and brings your prayers, sanctified, cleansed, before God with groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26).  And when you are in danger of falling, He keeps you.  Even as He does for the whole Christian Church on earth.  He keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith, daily and richly forgiving all your sins, and giving you eternal life.  And so He will do until the Last Day, when He raises you and all the dead, and gives eternal life to you and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true. 

            I cannot believe by my own reason or strength.  But God has poured out His Spirit through Christ, and this Spirit blows through as God’s Word is proclaimed, giving me a living and abiding faith in Jesus Christ unto eternal life.  And so He does for you.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son X, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              

[1] Catechism quotes from Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986). 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Seventh Sunday of Easter (B)

May 16, 2021

Text: John 17:11b-19

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

            Jesus prays for us.  Not just on the night He was betrayed, in what we call the “High Priestly Prayer,” but even now, ascended to the right hand of the Father, He bends the Father’s ear on our behalf.  He prays that we be kept in the Father’s Name, that we be one holy Christian and Apostolic Church united in Him, that we be kept and guarded in these days when our Lord is hidden from our sight.  He prays that His joy would be in us in spite of the world’s hatred and opposition, that we be kept from the evil one, and sanctified in the truth that is the Father’s Word.  Jesus prays for us.  And what can the Father possibly answer His Son… what can God possibly answer God, but yes?  Yes, my Son.  Yes, because I love You.  Yes, because You died for them.  Yes, because You are risen and live for them.  Yes, because Your will is My will, and My will is Your will, for We are one.

            What does it mean that God keeps us in His Name?  It means that He keeps us in Jesus.  The Father gives the Son His Name (John 17:11).  Remember that God’s Name is not just the word by which we designate Him.  God’s Name is His whole character and reputation.  It is His revelation of Himself to man, and it is His very essence.  Our God is YHWH, “I AM.”  He is the God who is (incidentally, as opposed to the other so-called gods, who are not).  All things that exist have their existence from Him, for He is the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things, visible and invisible.  Jesus, the eternally begotten Son of the Father, the Word who was with God in the beginning and who is God, is the revelation of the Father to us.  To be kept in God’s Name is to be kept in Jesus. 

            And that is to say, it is to be kept in the one true faith.  It is to be kept in His Word.  It is to be kept in our Baptism into the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are called Christians, and that means “little Christs.”  It is really shorthand for the Triune Name into which we are baptized.  It is to be kept in His Family, His Church, around His Table.  It is to be kept for salvation in spite of all the opposition of the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  If this is to happen, God must do it.  Thus Jesus prays for us.   

            This is so important, that God keeps us in His Name, because the truth of the matter is, Jesus has been removed from our earthly eyesight.  He has ascended into heaven.  Now, as we heard on Thursday evening, this does not mean He is gone, removed from our presence.  It rather means He is present now in a hidden way in His divinely appointed Means of Grace.  But that makes it awfully hard for Christians in a world that hates us, as it hated our Lord.  It makes it awfully hard when Christians have to bear what our Lord bore: The rejection, the mockery, the abuse, and scorn, and even death at the hands of unbelievers.  It makes it awfully hard, because Satan himself is against us.  He tempts us, he trips us up, and then he accuses us.  He leads us to doubt Christ and His Word.  He afflicts us.  He orders people and things to act against us.  He is a powerful enemy.  Now, we know that Christ has defeated him by His death and resurrection, but this is Satan’s little hour, and we must suffer through it.  And, of course, our sinful nature is a constant enemy.  Old Adam hangs around our necks and weighs us down, and would turn us away from Christ and back to the world and the Egypt of our sins.  This is why Jesus prays for us.  We are in the world, and He does not pray that we be taken out of it.  We are in the world as His agents, and we are in the flesh, and this is Satan’s realm to all appearances, so our Lord knows the danger.  But He prays for us to the Father, to keep us in His Name, and the Father hears His Son, and answers, and that is how we are kept, and even given joy.  We rejoice, with the very joy of Christ.  Because we know His victory, and that He is with us, and that He is coming again soon, visibly, to set all that is wrong right again. 

            The Father keeps us in His Name by the Word Jesus has given us (v. 14), and by the Spirit He will pour out upon us in that Word.  Sanctify them in the truth,” He prays; “your word is truth” (v. 17).  Well, this Word is that which written for our learning in the Holy Scriptures, the revelation of God’s will for us and His saving acts for us.  This Word is that which God sends His preachers out to preach.  And that means, first of all, the Apostles, of whom our Lord is speaking in the original context of our Holy Gospel.  It is of them, specifically, that Jesus says to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (v. 18).  (The word “Apostle” means “sent one,” one sent with all the authority of the one sending him in the matter for which he is sent.)  But then it is also those who are sent to continue the apostolic preaching of the Word, the Christian pastors.  By their preaching and teaching, God continues to sanctify (set apart for holy use) Jesus’ disciples, you, in the truth that is His Word.

            And, to continue the extension of this sending, this is why He sends you.  To be His agents in the world.  To be salt and light and leaven that permeates every dark and sinful corner of humanity with your confession of Christ and your loving service and sacrifice in His Name.  Jesus does not pray that God would take you out of the world, and this is why.  This is your purpose in life.  Through you, living your Christian life in your various vocations and stations in life, He seasons, enlightens, and leavens the whole world, so that others hear the Gospel and believe.  So that others become His disciples.  So that others live under His blessing bestowed in Christ who died, and who is risen from the dead. 

            God loves the world for Jesus’ sake, and He enacts that love in the world through you.  You are His mask, His hands and feet, His voice in the world.  God loves your neighbor through you.  God feeds and clothes children and changes their diapers through the hands of parents.  God fed and clothed you through your parents.  God governs through earthly authorities.  He teaches through teachers.  He employs through employers.  He serves through servants.  He feeds through the work of the farmer and the grocery store clerk.  We learned an important lesson this week about how God enables us to drive from point A to point B through the work of people in the oil and gas industry.  And you know the list could go on and on.  Of course, all of these things He does through believers and unbelievers alike.  But He doesn’t just leave it in the hands of unbelievers.  Have you ever thought about that?  He gives His Christians to season all the various activities and stations in life.  Why?  Because only the Christian will strive to do it in the way God has given.  Only a Christian can be a Christian spouse, a Christian parent, a Christian citizen, a Christian worker.  And particularly relevant at this cultural moment, only a Christian can be a Christian friend.  Yes, this is an important part of our mission.  Befriend people.  Be present for them, as in your bodily presence.  In a world of social media virtual friends (and virtual, by definition, means not the real thing!), and especially in the way we have treated one another over the past year as pathogens to be avoided at all cost, our culture is absolutely starving for real, bodily present friendships. 

            And all this is to say, only a Christian can show that God’s order is the very best for all.  And only a Christian can bring the presence of Christ into every situation.  When spouses love one another with self-sacrificial love and remain faithful to each other for life, as the living picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church.  When parents raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and teach them to grow in faith toward God and fervent love toward their neighbor.  When citizens honor the governing authority for God’s sake, and work for the good of all citizens, not out of a sense of entitlement or victimization, but out of Christian love.  When workers work, not just for a paycheck, but in mission for God, to love their neighbor with God’s love, to love and serve their employer and their fellow workers and their patrons.  When friends bring the incarnational presence of Christ to all their associations, confessing Christ, and loving for the sake of Christ, and simply being in Christ and bearing Christ in the presence of their friends.  Think about this.  Wherever you are, you are God’s agent.  Be intentional about this.  Pray for this.  In every circumstance, everywhere you go, in every relationship, in your speaking and your acting, you bear the presence of Christ.  That is why He leaves you in the world. 

            But not forever.  He is coming back.  He is coming soon.  Then He will raise you and all the dead, and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ.  Then He will be vindicated in the eyes of all, as every knee bows, and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2).  Then He will glorify His Church.  And the world that hated Jesus, and hated His Christians, along with the very evil one himself, will be condemned.  And your sinful nature will be at an end.  You will live in the New Heavens and the New Earth, fully restored and perfected, this creation risen from the dead.  For the sake of those yet to come into the full number of those who will believe and have life in Jesus’ Name, God leaves you in the world.  But you know the reality of that which is to come.  Wait patiently.  Pray.  Trust.  And go as God sends you. 

            In the midst of the danger, Jesus prays for us, and God keeps us in His Name, and sanctifies us by His Word.  Jesus prays, and God in heaven hears, and He answers: “Yes, My Son, that one, too, is Mine.  I will keep him.  I will sanctify him.  I will name him with My Name, and grant him life, for Your sake.”

            Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son X, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.