Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Trinity



John 3:1-17; Romans 11:33-36; Isaiah 6:1-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

What do Isaiah’s burning coal, the bronze serpent raised up in the wilderness, Jesus raised up in death upon the cross, and being baptized by water and the Spirit have in common? Each of these represent an absurd, external element to which God has attached His Word of promise, that those believing His Word would not perish, but would have life.

For, God is holy: pure, righteous, sinless, and unchanging. Isaiah was not, but he was “a man of unclean lips, [dwelling] in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah was a sinner, just like you, and he rightly feared being consumed in God’s righteous wrath against sin, obliterated in the presence of His holiness – and so should you. Isaiah was in utter despair. He cried, “Woe is me! I am Lost!” for there was nothing that he could do to make himself righteous, holy, or clean before God. And, the same is true for you as well. But, do not be afraid, and do not despair, for what is impossible for you is possible for God! “Then one of the seraphim flew to [Isaiah], having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched [Isaiah’s] mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’.” Grace, mercy, love, compassion, forgiveness, atonement, justification – these come from outside of you. They are not your work, your decision, your emotion, your faith, but they come from God, and from Him alone. He showers them upon you as His gift to you who could never deserve anything but His wrath, punishment, and eternal death.

God permitted Isaiah to shake in his sandals a bit and to despair of his life so that he would become a pure recipient of His gracious forgiveness and atonement. Similarly, God permitted the poisonous serpents to bite the children of Israel so that they would become pure recipients of His gracious forgiveness and atonement when He attached His Word of promise to a bronze serpent raised up on a pole so that all who gazed upon it would not suffer death from the poisonous bite, but would find healing and life. They didn’t want to look at it, to be sure, for it seemed to them foolishness, even the repugnant and scandalous image of the very cause of their suffering and death. However, God had once again chosen the lowly things of this world to shame the wise, the weak things of this world to shame the strong that His wisdom and His power might be proven in weakness.

And yet, the bronze serpent was a prefigurement and type of the crucifixion and death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. For, where Moses fashioned the bronze serpent at God’s Word of command and raised it up on the pole, Jesus was the very Word of God as a man raised up in death on the cross. Those bitten by the poisonous serpents, when they looked to the bronze serpent to which God had attached His Word of promise, were healed and lived to die another day. However, those who have been bitten by the poisonous serpent Satan and are therefore doomed to death, when they look to Jesus, crucified, dead, risen, and ascended, they will not perish, but have eternal life.

These serve to demonstrate that your life comes from outside of you. It comes from God. This is why Jesus uses birth as an analogy for your life, both physical and spiritual. None of you chose to be born or to not be born. No one ever has or ever will. You didn’t choose your parents, your gender, your race, your siblings, or anything else about who you are. Moreover, you were born utterly dependent upon others. If you were going to live, everything you needed for life had to come from outside of you: oxygen to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, sunlight to see, sounds to hear. God made you this way for a reason: that you would come to know Him as your Creator, God, Lord, and Father who graciously, lovingly provides you everything that you need to sustain your body and life. Though your sin has separated you from Him, so that you are like Isaiah and the children of Israel in the wilderness, so, as for them, God has provided for you, wholly outside of yourself, a means of forgiveness, atonement, and justification that you may be right with Him again and enter His holy presence without fear, but with boldness and confidence as dear children approach their dear father. And, that Way, that Truth, and that Life which He has provided is His Son Jesus, His Word made flesh, raised up in death upon the cross.

God the Father, who created you and all things, has sent His Son, His very creative and life-giving Word, Jesus, to suffer and die for your sins and to be raised up from death to life that you might be restored to a right relationship with the Father. And, to make this external gift yours, the Son has sent the Holy Spirit to blow upon you through His Word and to raise you from unbelief to faith, from death to life. Thus, just as the fullness of the Holy Triune God was present and active in creation in the beginning, so has the fullness of the Holy Trinity been present and active in your rebirth and recreation. And, like Isaiah’s burning coal and Moses’ bronze serpent, like Jesus’ crucified body on the cross, and like birth itself, your rebirth and recreation is not your work, your decision, your choice, your emotion, your faith, or anything else that you may think, feel, or do, but your rebirth and recreation is entirely the work of the Holy Triune God: the Father who created you, His Son who redeemed you, and His Holy Spirit who has called you to faith through the Word and has sanctified and kept you in faith even unto this present moment.

This is why the Holy Spirit is like the wind which blows when and where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. For, who can stop the wind from blowing upon them? And who can make the wind to blow upon them according to their will, work, or desire? God would have you know how completely without control you truly are, that He might save you! He reveals Himself to you in ways that confound your reason and wisdom, ways that contradict all that the world values and glorifies. Lowliness, weakness, humility, paradox, absurdity – these are the ways and means of God who made you and all things. For, He is God and you are not – period! Therefore, let God be God and every man a fool! Therefore, die to your sin-corrupted reason and wisdom. Die to your self-righteousness and self-deceiving independence. Die to sin and to the world, and be born again by water and the Spirit which come not from within you, but from outside of you, not by your choice, decision, will, reason, or faith, but by the gracious, creative action of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to Him because He has shown His mercy to us. As we can give only of what we have received, thanks be to God that He is merciful, gracious, present, and giving through His Word and Sacraments, which come from outside of us, to forgive, restore, renew, preserve, strengthen, fill, and send us out into the world, as He sent His Son Jesus, bearing His life-creating Word upon our lips, hearts, and hands in service to others. In this receiving and giving, our Holy Triune God is glorified.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Feast of Pentecost with The Rite of Confirmation

Pentecost - contemporary


John 14:23-31; Acts 2:1-21; Genesis 11:1-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Feast of Pentecost is about the Word of God in opposition to the word of man, the devil, or anyone else. It is the effective undoing of the curse of Babel, when God confused the languages of self-centered man so that peoples could no longer understand each other nor cooperate in their godless efforts to establish their own hellish version of heaven on earth, with creaturely humanity being their only god. Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, upon His Church, just as He promised that He would. And, the Holy Spirit brings to your remembrance all that Jesus has said to you in His Word. The Holy Spirit guides you into the Way, the Truth, and Life – into Jesus. And, He comforts you with the Peace of Jesus, peace that the world cannot give, Peace that comes only from the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

This is what the Holy Spirit does – He calls you to, He creates in you, and He keeps you in faith in Jesus Christ. Truly, it is as simple as that! And yet, Christians are too often confused about the work of the Holy Spirit and His gifts and His fruits. You are tempted to go immediately to those things that seem the most fantastic and spectacular, thinking them to be of greatest benefit and thus to be most desired – things like speaking in spiritual tongues, healing, visions, and the like. However, what is spectacular to the sinful minds and hearts of men and to your fallen and sin-corrupted senses is of much less importance to our heavenly Father and giver of all spiritual gifts. Furthermore, you must hear the Scriptures and mark that they speak of both gifts and fruits of the Spirit. The Sevenfold Gifts of the Spirit are described in Isaiah chapter eleven: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” This is a Messianic prophecy, fulfilled in the Baptism of Jesus and in His obedient life and ministry, suffering, and death. St. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians chapter five saying, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Thus, you see, the Sevenfold Gifts of the Spirit refer to Jesus firstly and directly. They also refer to you, not directly, but in and through Jesus. Likewise, the fruits of the Spirit are all selfless, self-sacrificial fruits that, like the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, most truly and fully describe, not you, but Jesus. Yet, once again, they do describe you in and through Him. In these key passages there is no mention of the more fantastic and spectacular gifts that too many Christians build their faith and religion upon and put their trust in so as to make them idols. However, such gifts are mentioned, most completely by St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter twelve: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. […] there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Here Paul intends to stress that any and all true spiritual gifts come from the one and only Holy Spirit of God. Moreover, the gifts of the Spirit are to be used for the good of the whole body of Christ, the Church. Therefore, spiritual gifts are by their very nature selfless and self-sacrificial as Paul described them in the epistle to the Galatians. They are gifts, which means that they are not your possession, but they belong to God. You are given stewardship of them to use for the benefit of others to the glory of God. These gifts flow from the Holy Spirit of God in and through Christ Jesus. And, the Holy Spirit works always, and only, through the Word of God and the Holy Sacraments, which are the Word of God attached by His institution, command, and promise to material, visible elements that you may see, touch, taste, and receive upon and into yourself, that you may have true and lasting comfort and peace.

Indeed, the greatest and the most dangerous error that we can make concerning the Holy Spirit is to believe that He works apart from the Word of God. This is simply a lie and a deception of the devil! In what is often considered to be his “last will and testament”, Martin Luther wrote in The Smalcald Articles, which are included in The Book of Concord, the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit—without the Word and Sacraments—is the devil himself.” (SA III.VIII.x) The Holy Spirit of God proceeds from the Father, sent by the Son, through the Word of the Father – which is the Son. The Spirit does not come in any other way or through any other means. Because of this truth, you can be certain that He is present and active where God’s Word has promised Him to be. And, this is why He is the comforter and guide to true and lasting peace, because He comforts you and guides you to and gives you the peace that the world cannot give – the Holy Spirit comforts you and guides you to and gives you the Peace that is Jesus.

Our catechumens have been catechized over the past two years – much longer when you consider their participation in the Divine Service and Sunday School – in the Word of God and the Holy Sacraments. They have studied Luther’s Small Catechism and the Six Chief Parts of the Christian Faith: The Ten Commandments, The Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, The Sacrament of Baptism, the Office of the Keys / Confession and Absolution, and The Sacrament of the Altar. Along the way they have listened to and discussed the major stories and themes of Holy Scripture, all which testify of Jesus. They have confessed their sins and have received Holy Absolution. And, today they stand before God their Father and you as witnesses to confess their faith in the Holy Triune God and in Jesus as their only Savior. This is not a new work, but it is a confirmation of a work that was begun in each of them by the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism when they were very young. Then, they were the pure recipients of the work that God the Holy Spirit was doing to them. Now that they have been instructed in the doctrines of their faith, they will confess with their mouths what they already believed in their hearts. Likewise, unlike the teachings of some Christian denominations, the Holy Spirit is not given anew, nor was some portion of the Spirit withheld before and given now. No, indeed the fullness of the Holy Spirit was given to each these young souls as a free gift in Holy Baptism. Indeed, it was the work of the Holy Spirit in and with them throughout these tender years that worked to create in them new hearts and minds, and give them new lips and hands with which to confess Christ before men and serve their neighbor with the gifts they themselves have received.

“Peace I leave with you;” Jesus said, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” But, what is this peace to which Jesus refers? It is the peace, the contentment, the security, and the comfort that comes from knowing that nothing that can happen to you in this world can separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ. The world can only offer a false and a fleeting peace, a peace that comes from satisfying the desires and the cravings of the flesh and its passions. These feel good enough, for a short while, but then they fade and pass away. Typically, they leave you feeling unfulfilled, and craving, and desiring ever for something new, something fresh, something more. And, too often, they leave you feeling guilty, dirty, and in despair. But, not so with the peace that Jesus gives. Jesus’ peace is unchanging, and therefore, it is certain and true and dependable. Jesus’ peace is not grounded in your fleeting and fickle emotions, but it is grounded in His Word, sealed in His Holy Spirit.

Our confirmands need Jesus’ peace as much as, and maybe more than, anyone. For, they have grown up in a world and a culture, and they will live their adult lives and raise their own families in a world and a culture, which no longer believes in truth or morality, but preaches a false gospel of peace saying, “Do whatever makes you happy, so long as you’re not hurting someone else.” The very objective nature and truth of God’s Word, which they have been taught in catechesis will be contradicted and undermined in every facet of their lives. If they remain faithful unto death, by the grace of God, as they will soon pledge themselves, they will be mocked and ridiculed and maybe even suffer violence because of their faith in Jesus Christ. And, this is no joke, for Satan seeks to sift them like wheat, and, quite likely, God will permit it that they might be proven true.

But, do not let this dire reality cause you to quake with fear or your hearts to melt within you. Jesus has sent to you the Holy Spirit of His Father to guide you, to comfort you, and to keep you in the Truth, to keep you in Jesus. He is the Peace and the Comfort of Jesus, who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. And, if you have Jesus, then you have everything; if you lose everything you have but Jesus, then you have lost nothing at all. Yet, the Holy Spirit is not a spirit of timidity, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Jesus has promised, “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.” To keep His Word is, as you learned in the Third Commandment, “to hold it sacred and to gladly hear and learn it.” Therefore, on this Confirmation Day, be reminded that Confirmation is not graduation, but it is maturation. That is to say, today is not the end of your studies and meditation on God’s Word and the receiving of His gifts in the Holy Sacraments, but today is the beginning of a fuller participation in His Word, and a life lived in His Word, both in His Body, the Church, and in the world through your vocations. And, as you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, let not your hearts be troubled, for the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit will abide with you this day and always.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Exaudi–The Seventh Sunday of Easter (with recognition of Ascension and Mother’s Day)

H-51 Easter 7 (Jn 15.26-16.4)


John 15:26 – 16:4; 1 Peter 4:7-14; Ezekiel 36:22-28

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

This past Thursday marked forty days since the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, a day the Church commemorates as the Feast of the Ascension. Though we did not gather here that day, we are commemorating and celebrating Jesus’ Ascension as part of today’s Divine Service. It is truly a shame that much of the Christian Church does not celebrate the Ascension on its actual day, since it is always a Thursday and in the middle of the work week, for the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord is no minor festival. Indeed, it is as key and crucial to our faith, life, and salvation as is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord. Jesus’ Ascension has serious meaning and implications for us.

First and foremost, Jesus’ Ascension is His coronation as King of the universe. Jesus is not merely King of the Jews, as the sentence against Him proclaimed as He hung on the cross, but Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Moreover, Jesus shares His kingship with you for whom He died. For, it is your flesh that He has assumed and redeemed, and it is your flesh that was raised from death and has ascended. Indeed, it is a man, the True Man, who sits at the right hand of God the Father, in the fullness of His glorious and holy presence, interceding for you, as flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone. Therefore, the Ascension of Our Lord is the Ascension of Man; it is your ascension – the sign, guarantee, and living proof that you have been redeemed, forgiven, justified, and restored to sonship and communion with God.

And yet, the Ascension of Our Lord means even more than that. For, to where, and to whom, has He ascended, but to the right hand of the Father in heaven? However, the right hand of the Father is no more a physical location in space and time than does our spiritual Father have a physical right hand, but the right hand of the Father is a designation of favored status given to Jesus, who has done all things well, who has now ascended beyond space and time, that He might fill all things. Thus, you have something which the Apostles and disciples, who ate and drank with Jesus and listened to His teachings from His own mouth with their own ears, could only dream of – you have Jesus present with you, in communion with you, all the time! For, you are baptized into His death and resurrection, and you eat and drink His flesh and blood so that you may remain in Him, and He in you, that you may bear much fruit.

For, it is not that Jesus is there and therefore cannot be here, but it is that He is there, and here, and everywhere. However, He is not present as a disembodied spirit, as a ghost, or as energy, as many believe, but He is present in His resurrected and glorified flesh and blood body and soul, as True God and True Man. He is present incarnationally and sacramentally, in His Word and in His Sacraments, that you may hear, see, touch, taste, wear, eat, drink, and commune with and in flesh and blood and bone. How? By the power that enables Him to subdue all things unto Himself. Why should you believe this? Because it is the Word and the promise of God. This Word is Truth, beyond all reason, wisdom, and understanding of men. If it is difficult to understand, it is none the less True. If it confounds or conflicts your reason, it is none the less True. If it is a mystery too bright to behold, too deep to plumb, it is none the less True. For, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, and Jesus is the Truth and the only path to God.

Therefore, after His Ascension, He poured out upon His Church the Holy Spirit of God, just as He promised, to help and counsel and comfort you, and to guide you to the Truth, to Jesus. The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus. He creates faith in you, and sustains and keeps you in the True Faith. The Holy Spirit makes you to be witnesses to Jesus, that is, martyrs for Jesus, holding to and professing God’s Truth even amidst the scorn, disdain, and persecution of the world. For, a witness is a martyr – literally, that’s what the Greek word translated as witness in the Scriptures means. And, you are martyrs for and because of Jesus when you die to yourself and live for others and for Him. You die to yourself by placing the needs of others before your own. You die to yourself by putting away selfishness, jealousy, and greed, anger and thoughts of revenge. You die to yourself when, instead of acting selfishly, you are self-controlled and sober-minded, loving one another earnestly, showing hospitality to one another without grumbling, serving one another and using the gifts and blessings God has given you for the benefit of others to the glory of God. And, when the fiery trial comes upon you, receive it as a test and find your strength in Jesus, whose sufferings you share in, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.

And, since it is Mother’s Day, permit me to use motherhood as an object-lesson of the selfless, self-sacrificial love that you are all called to through faith in Jesus Christ. It goes without saying that mothers are both receivers and givers of life. For, a woman only becomes a mother when she receives a living seed that comes from outside of her. However, when that seed is received, in accordance with the Lord’s will, she conceives and is made to be a partner in giving life – she is made to be fruitful, and her own body and life is given in selfless service to the nourishment, protection, and development of that new life. In this way, motherhood is an object and an example of Christian faith and love which is expressed outward, not inward, for the sake of others, to the glory of God. Indeed, this is why the Church reveres and holds Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, in veneration, for she selflessly received the gift of life in God’s Word, believing it, even though she did not fully understand it, and kept it in accordance with God’s Will.

Yet, motherhood is but one object and example out of many. For, as not all women are or will become mothers, you Christians will not all witness, serve, and glorify God in Christ Jesus in the same way. There are as many ways to serve others and to suffer with Christ as there are brothers, sisters, neighbors, and enemies to lay down your life for in selfless, sacrificial love and service. Therefore, today we give thanks to God for the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ and for the promised sending of His Holy Spirit to call, enlighten, sanctify, and keep us in faith in Jesus Christ, even as we give thanks to Him for the gift of motherhood through which He gives us life and blesses us with His rich gifts, providing us an example of the selfless, sacrificial love He calls us to in Jesus. And, we give thanks for God’s Word, which is Truth and Life, and for His gifts of the Holy Sacraments, through which we are brought to faith, are sanctified and kept in faith, are nourished and strengthened in faith, and are richly and daily forgiven our sins that we may love, as we have been loved, laying down our lives for any and all whom God sets before us, to the glory of His Name.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rogate–The Sixth Sunday of Easter

H-49 Easter 6 (Jn 16.23-30)


John 16:23-33; James 1:22-27; Numbers 21:49

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is making an important distinction in our Gospel reading today. For, there is a big difference between asking of Jesus and asking in His Name. But, just what is Jesus talking about? In the former situation, Jesus serves as an intermediary; you ask Jesus for something you want and He, in return, makes your request known to the Father. And, that’s pretty good, to be sure! However, in the latter situation, you get to ask the Father directly in Jesus’ Name. To ask the Father in Jesus’ Name is not merely to tack the words “In Jesus’ Name” on to the end of your prayers, though it is certainly that, but, to ask in Jesus’ Name means to ask in faith in Jesus and the Father, and, not merely as an object, mind you, but incorporated into Jesus, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, as His Bride, His Brother, and co-heir with Him of His Father’s kingdom.

Thus, both your prayer and your Father’s answer to your prayer are rooted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. When the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us, it wasn’t only that He became a man, but He also assumed all humanity into Himself. Jesus didn’t become a man, He became the Man, He became Adam as Adam was meant to be and more! As in Adam we have all been one, one huge rebellious man, so in Jesus are all men made to be righteous.

However, you must be in Him. That is to say, you must have faith, not merely in Him, as an object apprehended by reason, but you must have the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit in you. For, faith in Christ is not merely intellectual assent, but it is communion in and with Him. Faith comes from hearing. That is, faith comes from outside of you, it is external to you, received through your ears, your eyes, and whatever other senses you have or require. But, when you hear, your whole body and person is affected. Likewise, Jesus taught, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” Therefore, faith in Christ Jesus changes you, and for the better. If Christ is in you, then you are a new creation, the old has passed away.

This is why Jesus says to you, “In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My Name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” To ask in Jesus’ Name is to ask, not merely for His sake or because of His intercession, but to ask as God’s own dear Son would ask His Father knowing that He will be heard and received and His request granted. Do you see the difference? Because of the incarnation; because the Word of God, His Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, assumed the form of a man, He has taken you into Himself so that all that belongs to Him is granted to you: Sonship with the Father, holiness and righteousness, eternal life. Faith is what makes these things yours, which incorporates you into Christ, but faith is itself a gift of God’s Holy Spirit through the vehicle of His Word. Where the Word of God is received and not rejected, the Father will love him, and the Holy Trinity will come to him and make His home with him.

Jesus shared these words and made this important distinction to prepare His disciples for His going away. He said to them, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus knew, Jesus promised that His followers would suffer because of Him, therefore, He told them beforehand that, when tribulation came, they would remember His words and be strengthened in their faith to persevere through suffering. In a typological way, today’s reading from the Old Testament describes the same situation.

In the Old Testament reading, the people of Israel became impatient in their journey. They began to doubt whether the LORD was with them and they feared the Edomites, seeking to journey around their land so as to avoid conflict with them. Further, they came to loathe the sustaining food that the LORD had provided for them and they began to grumble against God and against Moses. Therefore, the LORD sent fiery serpents to bite the people and many of them died. Now, chances are likely that, had they passed through the land of the Edomites, there would have been some sort of conflict. God never promised that there wouldn’t be. Further, He is fully able to bring good out of such conflict, even out of evil (remember the Ninevites). Moreover, as they were journeying through an arid wilderness, the likelihood of being bitten by a poisonous snake was relatively high. Nevertheless, the LORD did increase the people’s affliction in order to turn them in repentance that they might pray to Him and call upon Him once again as LORD and God. For, the truth was that, just as danger and evil was amongst them all the time, all the more was the LORD in the midst of them all the time.

Therefore, the LORD commanded Moses to make a fiery serpent and to set it on a pole, so that, anyone who was bitten, when he gazed upon the fiery serpent raised up on the pole, would not die, but live. To the bronze serpent, the LORD, who was always present with His people, attached His Word of promise. Though it was, in their eyes, a horrible image, the very symbol of their pain and suffering and death, nevertheless, God made it to be the means of healing and life. Yet, the bronze serpent was but a shadow and a type of the horrible image God would raise up on the cross – His Son, Jesus Christ. He would not be an image of bronze fashioned by human hands, but He would be the very Son and Word of God Himself, conceived by the Holy Spirit of a virgin woman, so that He is True Man and True God. All who hear His Word and keep it, all whose eyes are filled with His Light, all who are baptized into His death and resurrection and believe Him will live, even though they die, and those who live and believe in Him will never die. While merely gazing upon the bronze serpent was sufficient to cure those bitten by the deadly poisonous serpents, how much more does faith and communion with Christ who shares your flesh and blood as your Bridegroom, Brother, and Co-heir of His Father, cure you of the deadly poison of sin and death you have suffered from Satan’s deadly bite?

You don’t need to ask Jesus for what you need, for now you can ask the Father in Jesus’ Name. That is, you can ask the Father with faith in Jesus; you can ask the Father in communion with Jesus; and, you can ask the Father as Jesus asks His heavenly Father and is heard because He is loved by the Father and you are loved by the Father in Him. Thus, asking in Jesus’ Name is literally asking in Jesus, as Jesus’ Bride, Brother, body and blood. Asking in Jesus’ Name is asking for those things that Jesus would ask for, those things that are completely in willing accord with the Father’s will, Word, and wisdom. No, the Father will not give you everything that you ask for, but He will give you whatever you ask in Jesus’ Name.

To help you to understand what it means to be in Jesus and to ask the Father in Jesus’ Name, you have the words of St. James in today’s Epistle Reading, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James would have you understand that you have been changed by faith in Christ, that you are no longer who you were, but that you are a new creation, born again by water and the Holy Spirit. Thus, you are no longer one who merely hears God’s Word, but you are one whom God’s Word has penetrated and raised from death to life in Christ. You are not merely a hearer, but you are a doer of His Word – you are a little Christ. You will ask in Jesus’ Name, and you will do as Jesus did. James exhorts you saying, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” For, in Christ, you have looked into the perfect law, the law of liberty, therefore you may pray with boldness and confidence as dear children of God.

Though Christ has ascended, you are not alone, but He is with you, and you are with Him in intimate communion through baptism and faith, body and blood. You are not an orphan, but you have Jesus, your brother, God, your Father, and the Church as your Mother. You are not a widow, but you have a Husband and Bridegroom, Jesus, who has laid down His life to purchase you and redeem you, to make you holy, pure, clean, and righteous. He will never leave you or forsake you. Though He is at the right hand of His Father in heaven, you are His body, and, where your Head is, there His body shall surely be. Even now He is present to commune with you, His Bride, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone to strengthen you and restore you in faith and holiness. Soon He will come to take you to be with Him in His kingdom forevermore. The Spirit and the Church cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come, quickly, come.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.