5 June 2011 - Easter 7 - Acts 1:1-2

St. Luke was the human author of the Gospel that bears his name, and under divine inspiration he was also the author of the Book of Acts. In his introduction to that second book - the Acts of the Apostles - he wrote:

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.”

Notice how Luke describes the life and ministry of Jesus before his ascension. In his Gospel Luke had “dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up.”

The implication is clear. The beginning of Jesus’ doing and teaching was what took place before his ascension to the right hand of the Father. The continuation of Jesus’ doing and teaching is what is going on now, since his ascension.

Christ is not seated in the glory of heaven to rest, and take his ease. He is seated on a throne, of divine authority, from which he actively reigns over the universe.

He is very busy - incomprehensibly busy. As he rules over all things, and governs the affairs of the world, he does so in the interest of his church, and for the sake of the spreading of his kingdom among men.

Exalted to the right hand of God the Father, and making full use of all his divine powers, Jesus is making a lot of things happen. St. Paul writes in his First Epistle to the Corinthians that “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

When Jesus walked the earth, during his earthly ministry, he was also very busy doing a lot of things - and was purposefully allowing a lot of things to be done around him.

He was not a victim of circumstances beyond his control. In today’s Gospel, Jesus spoke of his having accomplished the “work” that his Father had given him to do.

He once said, in regard to his death and resurrection: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”

During those years, when people saw the various things that Jesus did or allowed to be done, they usually did not understand the reasons for those events and actions. Sometimes they drew completely wrong conclusions - such as when the crowds thought that his miracle of feeding the multitude meant that he was setting himself up as a “bread king.”

And there were many times when even the disciples of the Lord were filled with fear by the unusual things they saw. They didn’t understand what was going on. They were afraid and confused.

But remember how St. Luke summarizes the earthly ministry of Jesus, about which he had written in his Gospel. He says that his Gospel had dealt with what Jesus began to do and teach.

The teaching was essential. When the Lord’s teaching was combined with his doing, and when people listened to his teaching, and believed what he said, then - and only then - would the meaning and purpose of his actions be grasped.

If anyone would have tried to figure out the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion on the basis only of what they saw - without knowing about the Lord’s teaching concerning these events - they would have concluded that Jesus probably was guilty of some crime - or at least that he had unwisely provoked a jealous and morally corrupt Jewish leadership to use the mechanisms of Rome to silence him.

Apart from the Lord’s teaching concerning his mission on earth, and his explanations of why things were going to happen in the way they did, the people who observed these events never would have guessed that what was really going on was that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself; or that the Lamb of God was taking away the sins of the world.

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” as Jesus had taught. And he had also said that, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Of course, Jesus didn’t explain everything he did or allowed to be done. He didn’t answer every question, or solve every mystery.

But when the doing of Jesus was combined with the teaching of Jesus, his disciples were indeed able to know as much as they needed to know, to be saved from their sins.

Jesus is still doing, and teaching, in his ascended glory. Everything that happens in this world, occurs either as a result of the Lord’s deliberate will, or by his permission.

Everything that occurs is either caused, or allowed, by Christ. And that includes both the things that we would judge to be good and beneficial, and the things that we would judge to be evil and harmful.

Jesus has a reason for everything that he does. But apart from his teaching, we do not know these reasons. In fact, we don’t really have an explanation for most of the things that take place in this world under the almighty power of God’s Son.

One reaction to this that is increasingly common among professing Christians today, is that when Christ does something, or allows something to happen, that we don’t like, or that we think should not have been done or allowed, we get angry at him, shake our little fists at him, and threaten to withhold from him our church attendance, or even our belief in his existence, until he proves himself, or starts doing what we want him to do.

The profound stupidity of this should be self-evident - even as we may be tempted to think in such ways ourselves. But even if our reaction to the mystery of the Lord’s workings is more reverent and respectful than this, our faith can still be challenged by unexpected and unexplainable trials and hardships.

At such times we crave explanations. If the Lord is in fact responsible for what happens - and he is - then we want him to teach us. We want him to explain the reason and purpose for what he does, or allows to be done.

But he is silent. He doesn’t explain.

He doesn’t teach us why these specific things happen as they do. He doesn’t teach us exactly what he is intending to accomplish through these troubling ocurrences.

The Christian faith does not promise explanations for everything that happens in this world. It does promise that nothing will ever happen apart from the Lord’s knowledge, and it does promise that God in Christ will ultimately cause all things to work together for good, for those whom he loves, and who love him.

But most of the doing of Jesus is not accompanied by the teaching of Jesus. We are invited simply to trust that he knows more than we do, and that he knows better than we do.

However, while Christ is silent in regard to most of what he does, he is not silent in regard to all of his actions. At the right hand of the Father on high, he is also teaching.

His teaching did not stop when he was exalted. He does in fact explain the reason and purpose for those things that he wants us to understand, and that he knows we need to understand for our salvation.

We can wait until we are on the other side of eternity for explanations of most things we have experienced on this earth - assuming that we will even care at that point. But we don’t have to wait for explanations of everything.

In fact, Jesus knows that we cannot wait for explanations of what he is doing here and now, to bring us to repentance and faith; to forgive our sins; to fill us with his own life and Spirit; and to prepare us for heaven. We need his teaching in regard to those things, now. And we have it!

From heaven Jesus is governing the affairs of men and nations for the ultimate benefit of his kingdom. He teaches us very little in regard to those matters. He simply does what he does, in his own wisdom, and according to his own divine counsel.

But from heaven Jesus is also governing the affairs of his kingdom itself - his holy Church, as it is scattered among all nations. And he teaches us a lot in regard to those matters.

We know that when water is placed on the head of an unregenerated child of Adam, Jesus is accomplishing something. Jesus is accomplishing something through everything that happens.

But we are not left to guess what he is doing in Holy Baptism. He tells us.

He teaches us that by water and the Spirit we are born again, and receive a new nature as children of God. We are set out by God’s grace onto a pathway of faith, that will bring us to eternal life.

We also known that when bread and wine are blessed, and are placed on the lips of men and women, Jesus is accomplishing something. Jesus is accomplishing something through everything that happens.

But we are not left to guess what he is doing in Holy Communion. He tells us.

He teaches us that he miraculously places himself, in his body and blood, in the bread and wine over which his words are spoken. He teaches us that he does this through the power of his Word.

The body and blood of Christ are not in the bread and wine because we believe that they are there, but because he says that they are there. Our faith does not create anything. It accepts what God creates, and believes the promises that God makes.

In faith we receive the Savior who comes to us in this sacrament. And in receiving him, we receive all his benefits: forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Jesus teaches us these things. When we believe his teaching, we then do know and understand what he is doing, through the instrumentality of his called servants, or by means of the sacred text of Holy Scripture.

When we believe his teaching, we know and understand why he is doing these things. We are not confused or frightened, in ignorance or bewilderment.

We are not left to our own guesses and rationalizing. And we don’t have to wait until we are in heaven in order to understand these things.

We can understand them now, insofar as he has taught us what these things mean, and insofar as he continues to teach us about what he is doing, when he says, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; Drink of it, all of you, this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins.”

Whenever the Gospel is preached to you, or is impressed upon you through your reading of the Bible, or is sung into your mind and heart through the hymns of the church, Jesus is doing something for you, and in you. And what he is doing is not a mystery.

He teaches you what he is doing, in the very act of doing it. There is factual content to the Gospel.

The Gospel of Christ It is not a manipulative message that plays on our feelings and emotions. It is a objective message about a real Savior, who died on the cross and rose again, and who even now, from the right hand of God, sends forth to us the concrete means of grace that he instituted.

Through his Word and Sacraments Jesus is washing away your sins. Jesus is reconciling you to the Father.

Jesus is restoring you to your place in his family, and is knitting you together with other forgiven sinners in the fellowship of his church. Jesus is re-creating you in his image, and is placing his own mind within you, that you may learn to think as he thinks, and to love as he loves.

During his earthly ministry Jesus began to do and to teach many things. Now, at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, he is continuing to do and to teach many things.

He is not idle, but active. And while he does not explain the meaning and purpose of most of the things he does, he is not silent in regard to the most important things that he does for our salvation.

From the right hand of God, Jesus is continuing to do these things, and to teach us about these things. We see what he is doing, and we believe what he is teaching.

As he in his ascended glory continues to do what he does, and as he continues to teach what he teaches, we receive what he gives, and we believe what he says. And we pray to him:

Draw us to Thee;
Oh, grant that we May walk the road to heaven!
Direct our way
Lest we should stray And from Thy paths be driven. Amen.

12 June 2011 - Pentecost - John 7:37-39

Water is necessary for life in this world. People cannot survive where there is no water. Without the canals that bring water to our region, you would not be able to live here.

Without the “living water” of which the Lord speaks in today’s Gospel from St. John, you would not be able to live in God’s kingdom either. Without that water, your souls would be dry and dead. With that water, however, they are alive!

Jesus is, of course, using the imagery of “water” metaphorically. What he’s really talking about is the Holy Spirit.

His point is that in certain ways, the Holy Spirit is like water. The Holy Spirit is like water in the way in which he flows into Christians; and the Holy Spirit is like water in the way in which he flows out of Christians.

Jesus said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” We are all by nature thirsty for God. We are born into this world spiritually parched.

When our first parents fell into sin, and brought spiritual death upon themselves, they thereby expelled the Holy Spirit from their souls. Human nature changed on that day.

From that day forward, people would not be born into a state of fellowship with God, and would not be indwelt by the Spirit of God from the beginning of their existence, as it was supposed to be.

Instead, each of us would now begin our human existence as members of a fallen and alienated race - as members of a spiritually dead humanity.

That’s the way it would be now. That’s the way it is - for all of us - until God miraculously changes things, and pours his Spirit into us, and gives us to drink of that Spirit.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink,” Jesus says. There is a particular way in which God does give living water to the parched souls of humanity.

That living water - the Holy Spirit - is, as it were, in a deep well. Our human reach is not long enough to get it.

But there is a “bucket on a rope,” so to speak, which lifts the water out of the well, and makes it available to us. That bucket is Christ.

He alone brings the cool and soothing water of forgiveness and hope to you. In his Gospel and sacraments, he ladles that water into your soul.

Christianity is neither an exclusively spiritualistic religion, nor an exclusively intellectualist religion.

Salvation is brought to the world through a distinct, understandable message, recorded in Scripture and conveyed in preaching and teaching. But this message is imbued with the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

And so, when a person hears and believes the message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, that person has not merely learned some new religious information - at an intellectual level. He has also been filled with the indwelling presence of God himself.

A miracle of regeneration has happened. As St. Peter says in his First Epistle: “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. ... And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

The “living water” of God’s Spirit flows to us through the “channels” of the means of grace. The Holy Spirit does not come upon us in the form of an indiscriminate and haphazard flood. Rather, he comes to us according to a certain pattern and defined order.

People often think that the Holy Spirit is coming to them, or is doing some kind of supernatural work in them, through a whole array of influences and experiences. But that’s not his usual way of operating.

We, as it were, “drink in” this living water only from the very specific “ladle” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is preached and sacramentally administered.

You know how small children sometimes need to have all their beverages served to them in a special cup, and they won’t use any other? In regard to the things of God and of his kingdom, we should be similarly fussy.

We shouldn’t have any desire to try to receive the Spirit of God in any way other than through the divinely-appointed means of grace. As Jesus said on another occasion, “It is the Spirit who gives life... The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

In today’s text, Jesus takes the analogy of living water - as a representation of his Spirit - also in another direction. He speaks not only of how the Spirit flows into us, when we come to Christ and drink in this living water; but he also speaks of how the Spirit flows out of us.

He says: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” And St. John adds the explanatory comment: “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.”

The Holy Spirit flows out of us in the most obvious way, when we speak the Gospel to others, according to our calling. The Gospel that is preached and taught publicly by pastors and ministers, and that is spoken privately by all Christians in their interactions with their friends and neighbors, is a Gospel that is always saturated with the Holy Spirit.

The Prophet Joel, quoted by St. Peter in his Pentecost sermon, had spoken of this kind of supernaturally-energized speaking of God’s Word by all of God’s people:

“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

But of course, the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit shows himself to be present in us in other ways, too. St. Paul writes to the Galatians that

“the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other... Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

“I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Other people cannot be saved from their sins by being on the receiving end of the kind of respect and love for them that the Holy Spirit has engendered in you. But other people can in these ways see some evidence that you have been saved from your sins.

Remember that Christ died to save us not only from the guilt of sin, but also from the power of sin. And it is the Spirit of Christ who supernaturally implements in us the full range of that salvation from sin.

By faith - which is a gift of the Spirit - you are justified before God. Because the perfect righteousness of his Son has been imputed to you, God now sees you in a different way, and in Christ he declares you to be righteous and acceptable to him.

But it is by means of the fruit of the Spirit that you are “justified” before men. In other words, other people will declare that they see good things in you, when they actually do see good things in you.

And those good things - those works of love for our neighbor, and those evidences of good character that impact our neighbor - do indeed come from the Holy Spirit, as he flows out of us, and bears his fruit through us, in these ways.

Notice, too, that Jesus speaks of this flowing forth of the Spirit as taking the form of rivers of “living water.”

The Holy Spirit does not flow into us like an indiscriminate flood, but through definite channels - the Gospel and the Sacraments. In the same way, the Holy Spirit does not flow out of us like an indiscriminate flood either, but through definite channels - the “rivers” of vocation.

A river has definite boundaries - a specific set of parallel banks and a specific channel - within which the water of that river moves forward in an orderly fashion.

The flowing of the Spirit from us to others also has definite boundaries. He flows out from us according to the specific, ordered pathways of our callings in life.

We are not to think that every thought that pops into our minds, or every inner urge or sensation that rises up within us, are a message or a prompting of the Holy Spirit.

God’s Spirit savingly comes to us in the Word of God, and he speaks to us from within the Word of God - as we hear, read, and meditate on that Word. And, he urges us to a life of good works by means of the callings that he, by various means, has arranged for us to have in this world.

God’s Spirit puts us into relationships with certain people - in our family, in our society, in our workplace, and in our congregation.

According to the contours of those relationships, and according to the duties that are attached to those relationships, the Holy Spirit gives us orderly and natural opportunities to speak his message, and to manifest his fruit.

If you have received the Spirit of God by faith in Christ, the Spirit of God will inevitable flow out of you toward others in these ways. Jesus did not say that this is something that should happen. He said that it will happen.

If the Holy Spirit is not flowing out of you - that is, if you never confess Christ, or if you live in the same way as a hardened unbeliever lives - then this has to mean that the Holy Spirit is not in you.

It has to mean that you are still dead in your sins. You are dry and parched in spirit.

If this is your situation, or if you fear that it might be, then remember what Jesus said at the beginning of today’s text: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

If you lack the Holy Spirit in your life, then go in faith to the one who gives the Holy Spirit. If you thirst for the grace and life of God, then drink in that grace and that life in the words of forgiveness and hope that Jesus speaks.

Indeed, Christians are always drinking in the Spirit of God, even as they are always believing the Gospel. The Spirit of God is continually flowing into us; and he is continually flowing out of us, in word and deed.

Jesus - as the giver of eternal life - is present for his people in a special way in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus - as the giver of his Spirit - is present in a special way.

And so, when we come to the sacrament, in repentance and faith, we are thereby coming to Christ, to drink in his forgiveness; to drink in his Spirit, whom he there gives us.

As Jesus bestows his Spirit upon us, we are renewed in faith, hope, and love. We are also emboldened in proclaiming to the world the Gospel of Christ, who invites all who are thirsty to come to him.

And so we pray:

O Holy Spirit, enter in
And in our hearts Thy work begin,
Thy temple deign to make us;
Sun of the soul, Thou Light Divine,
Around and in us brightly shine,
To joy and gladness wake us.
That we, In Thee Truly living,
To Thee giving Prayer unceasing,
May in love be still increasing. Amen.

19 June 2011 - Holy Trinity - Matthew 28:16-20

There is much mystery associated with God. It’s one of the reasons, humanly speaking, why there are so many different ideas about what God is like.

Because God is so mysterious, God also seems to be far from us. If we don’t really know what he’s like, or how he operates in general, then it’s difficult to figure out what role he plays in our lives.

If he’s beyond our understanding, then maybe he’s beyond our experience too. To many, the question of what God is like, is a question that ultimately doesn’t really matter.

If he is as mysterious as he seems to be, and if he is distant from us as he seems to be, then what’s the point of thinking about him? That is the conclusion that an increasing number of people today are reaching.

There are, of course, a die-hard few who boldly assert that there is no God, and who think that they can prove it. But there are many more who don’t read or write smarty-pants books promoting atheism.

They just don’t care. To them, talk about God is simply irrelevant.

If God is mysterious, then he doesn’t really have any impact on the practical decisions we have to make in life. If God is distant, then he’s not really connected to the realities of life in this world, and to how we deal with those realities.

Believing in God just doesn’t seem to make any difference, one way or the other. So why bother worrying about it, or thinking about it?

And what about us? We profess to be Christians. That means that we do at least believe in God in some way.

But does God seem, also to us, to be so mysterious, and so distant, that we don’t really think about him either, except for that hour and a quarter each week when we are here, inside the walls of this building?

Are our moral decisions informed by our faith in God? Are our actions governed by a sense of accountability to God?

Or - except for that hour and a quarter on Sunday mornings - do we think and live just like those for whom God is so mysterious, and so distant, that his existence simply doesn’t matter?

The Athanasian Creed, which we recited a few minutes ago, fulfills the necessary purpose of refuting false doctrines about God, and of summarizing the true Biblical doctrine of the Holy Trinity, in a very tightly-organized way.

It is a useful teaching tool, but it’s a little hard to get through. That’s why we use it only once a year, on Trinity Sunday.

But our worship of the Triune God cannot be limited to Trinity Sunday. The Holy Trinity is the only God who actually exists!

You and I absolutely cannot dispense with our confession of God as Triune - as Father, Son, and Spirit - because it is only in the revelation of the Trinity that God ceases to be completely mysterious to us, and ceases to be distant from us in our day-to-day experience.

In the revelation of the Trinity, God ceases to be a complete mystery to people, because he shows himself to be a God who does in fact come to people, in order to become a part of their human story.

When God is erroneously conceived of as just one person, that means that he is just “out there” somewhere, on his own and by himself, simply “being God.” But when we embrace the Biblical revelation of God’s Triune existence, we then know that God is not just “out there.”

God the Father, in his eternal love for his creation, sends God the Son into the flesh: to redeem humanity from sin, by the shedding of his blood; and to break the bonds of our captivity to death, by his rising from the grave.

God the Son then sends God the Holy Spirit to individual souls: to turn hearts and minds away from sin and unbelief, and toward Christ their Savior. God the Holy Spirit, living in the hearts and minds of the regenerate, recreates them in the image of the Son of God, and unites them by faith to God the Son.

And God the Son, through the righteousness which he bestows upon his people, then restores for his people their fellowship with God the Father - a fellowship that human sin had severed.

St. John writes in his First Epistle: “By this we know that we abide in [God] and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”

There is, we might say, a very active “loop” or “circle” of God’s saving work, for us and in us. Everything begins with God and ends with God. But everything that happens - at every point on that loop or circle - happens as the result of the actions of God.

God is the one who sends, and God is the one who is sent. He is everywhere, doing everything.

The Triune God is still in many ways a great mystery. He is God, after all.

But for those who have been called to faith in the Gospel, he is not a mystery in every way. He has made himself known to us as our Savior: by what he has done for us, and by what he continues to do for us.

Those who ignore God in this life, will also know - on judgment day - that the doctrine of the Trinity is true. It will then be too late for them to know the Triune God in a saving way.

But it is the Triune God who will judge them on that day - and who will judge as many of us who may secretly share their indifference. Listen with “Trinitarian ears” to the warning that we hear in the Epistle to the Hebrews:

“Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? ... It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

May God in his grace spare us this fate, and reveal himself to us now as a Savior, and not a judge. May our loving heavenly Father turn our hearts to the cross of his Son - by the working of his Spirit - and fill us with hope instead of dread.

In Holy Baptism, which the Lord instituted in today’s Gospel, God reveals himself to each of us in the most intimate and personal of ways.

The words, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” are much more than a verbal formula for the correct administration of this sacrament - although they are that.

But deeper than this, these words are a divine testimony to who it is who is at work in baptism; and they bear witness to who it is who continues to work in the lives of those who abide in their baptism.

Listen - again, with “Trinitarian ears” - to what St. Peter says about the power of the Gospel in Baptism:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

God the Father calls us to himself in Baptism. The Baptism to which he calls us unites us to Christ, and places the saving name of Jesus upon us. And through that Baptism, our Savior Jesus Christ pours out upon us the gift of his Holy Spirit.

Listen, too - with “Trinitarian ears” - to what St. Paul says about the power of Baptism in a Gospel-filled life:

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, ...according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, being justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

God the Father is our Savior, who saves us by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. And it is through his Son, also our Savior, that he sends the Spirit to us.

Notice, by the way, that we have at least two “Saviors” in this passage - the Father and the Son. But notice more deeply that we actually have only one - for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God.

Because the Triune God is not a complete mystery to us - but makes his loving deeds and his loving will known in his Word - our faith in God, and our recognition of his authority, do therefore make a different in how we think about things, and in the moral judgments we make.

St. John writes that it is God’s commandment “that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

And in Christ, our divine-human Lord, God had made it abundantly clear to his people that he is not distant from them. He is as close as he can be.

Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

As the Triune God comes to us in the sacrament of Holy Baptism, so too does the Triune God draw us to the wondrous joy and peace of the Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus said:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. ... I am the bread of life. ... This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. ... It is the Spirit who gives life...”

Dear friends, as you have been renewed today in your baptism by the Lord’s Holy Absolution, and as you prepare to come once again to the Holy Supper of Christ’s body and blood, know with certainty that God, in Christ, is no longer a completely incomprehensible mystery to you.

And know with absolute certainty that he is not distant from you. The Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - is your Savior and Lord.

He is your teacher and guide. He is your comforter and companion in all of life. And he allows you to say a prayer like this:

With Thee, Lord, I am now united; I live in Thee and Thou in me.
No sorrow fills my soul, delighted It finds its only joy in Thee.
My heart has now become Thy dwelling, O blessed Holy Trinity.
With angels, I - Thy praises telling - Shall live in joy, eternally. Amen.