Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Luke 12:13-21; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Deuteronomy 26:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Giving thanks is the natural fruit of justification, trust and faith in God for forgiveness, life, and salvation. Thanksgiving blooms naturally from a Christian, the way plump and juicy bunches of grapes burst forth from the vine. Yet, there are many things that will hinder a Christian from giving thanks, amongst them being covetousness and greed.
These are no minor sins. Indeed, God has given no less than two Commandments against covetousness and greed, the Ninth and Tenth – three, if you count the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal.” These, like all sins, are ultimately sins against God, a transgression of the First Commandment, as the covetous and the greedy place their fear, love, and trust in some material or worldly created thing over and above the Creator of all things. Thus, in book two of The Divine Comedy, Purgatory, Dante described the covetous and the greedy as being bound and laid face down upon the ground for having concentrated too much on earthly thoughts.
We are all susceptible to covetousness and greed. Indeed, these were present and active in the Garden when our First Parents desired what God had forbidden, not only to eat the forbidden fruit, but to be their own gods, producing no fruitful thanksgiving and praise to God their Creator, but only the fruit of sin, which is death. We transgress the Ninth, Tenth, Seventh, and First Commandments, and probably others too, when we are anxious and worried about what we will eat and wear, and when we place our trust in our own works, wealth, and prosperity as did the man in Jesus’ parable this evening.
In answer to two men in the crowd who were disputing over an inheritance, Jesus said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Then He told them a parable about a rich man whose land produced plentiful crops so that his barns were filled and he had no more room to store his grain. After considering, the man decided to tear down his existing barns and build larger ones to store all his grain and his goods. Then the man said to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
To our American, independence-idolizing ears, the man’s reasoning likely sounds good, even praiseworthy. After all, it’s his grain, his barns, his land; he should be able to do whatever he likes with what is his. That’s the American dream, right? That’s what we all hope to achieve in our retirement, if not sooner – independence, the freedom to not depend on anyone: parents, children, neighbors, government, God. Relax, eat, drink, and be merry. Sounds good, right? In fact, most of us will be doing just that tomorrow on the day we, as a nation, have designated a Day of National Thanksgiving. But, how many will be giving thanks? What will they be thankful for? And, who will they be thanking? How many will thank no one but themselves?
The rich man who tore down his barns and built bigger ones trusted only in himself. He was pleased with himself and thankful to himself for his own efforts. Was the land really his? No. Did he produce the seed that grew into crops? Did he make the rain to fall and the sun to shine that the seed might grow and be fruitful? No. No, truly, even the man’s life was not his own, just as your life is not your own, and that very night God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
Relax, eat, drink, and be merry, for I have ample goods laid up for many years? Today, you are more likely to hear this adaptation: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. For, this is the common tomorrow that all men face, sooner or later. Therefore, since we will not live forever in this life as it is, and we all know that hearses don’t pull U-Hauls – that is to say, “You can’t take it with you.” – the question is, “How, then, shall we live?” However, this isn’t so much a decision that you need to make as it is fruit that you will bear when you have faith and trust in God, the Creator and giver of all things, even your life. Better, then is the way J.R.R. Tolkien put it in The Lord of the Rings: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
St. Paul explains saying, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” For, Paul continues, “[The LORD] has distributed freely, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” And, the result of this is that “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
This is to say that your life, possessions, wealth, time, talents, and treasure are all precious gifts to you of God’s most loving grace. He gives them to you to use, for yourself and your family, and He makes you a steward and manager of His gifts to use for others. This is, in part, how you give thanks to God for His love, faithfulness, and providence – by being generous with His gifts, you bear the fruits of faith, which are living proof that you love the Giver more than the gifts. This is your confession in action of your faith in the LORD, who graciously provides you all that you need to sustain your body and life.
No man is an island, but we are all conceived and born into families, communities, villages, and nations. We are our brother’s keepers, and they are ours. Recognition of this fact does not make us socialists, but Christians. The most important fruit that is born of such faith and trust in God is freedom from the slavery of idolatry. Because you are a slave to Christ, you are free to live in His grace and receive His gifts, no strings attached. Therefore, you are free to freely share His gifts and give them to others, knowing that you are losing nothing, for your God who graciously gives you all things will not withhold from you all that is needful and good.
On this National Day of Thanksgiving, we remember the pilgrims who came to the New World with little but the clothing on their backs. After much toil, tribulation, and suffering, they were thankful; they were thankful for the land, for food, for shelter, for friendly neighbors, and for their own lives. They were also thankful for freedom: religious freedom, political freedom, freedom to taxed only with representation, and freedom to a fair trial and justice. Jesus taught that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Indeed, because of our prosperity and wealth, we take much for granted and falsely believe that all we have is the fruit of our labors and rightfully ours alone. As a result, we are not thankful, and if we give, we often do so with somewhat less than a cheerful heart.
Well, charity does begin at home, and thanksgiving begins at the altar. We gather here this evening to receive God’s gifts and to offer Him thanks and praise. He graciously forgives our sins, strengthens our faith, and gives us eternal life that we can live and worship and share His gifts without fear of not having enough or running out. He fills you until you are overflowing, then He keeps on pouring and giving that you may be both blessed and a blessing. “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Matthew 25:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Isaiah 65:17-25
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The coming of God’s kingdom and the kingly reign of God in and through His Son Jesus the Christ are central themes in Matthew’s Gospel. In fact, Matthew uses the phrase “the kingdom of God” four times, “the kingdom of heaven” thirty-three times, and “the kingdom” an additional seventeen times – that’s a minimum of fifty-four references to the kingdom of God in Matthew’s Gospel alone! What Matthew is trying to communicate, however, is that God’s kingdom is not a thing or a place so much as it is an action – God’s kinging or reigning activity through the person of His Son Jesus Christ. Because our minds, reason, and wisdom are so very ensnared in sin and our own conceptions of what is glorious, powerful, and good, and because we all but insist on making the abstract to be concrete, our Lord teaches His disciples and all believers about His kingdom by making use of parables, analogies, and metaphors saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like….”
Today, on this Last Sunday of the Church Year, which is also known as the Sunday of the Fulfillment, our Lord teaches us what it will be like when He returns on the Last Day, and what we should be doing, and how we should live our lives, now, as we watch and wait for His coming in hopeful expectation each and every day until that fulfillment arrives. Our Lord says, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.”
Immediately we are struck by Jesus’ use of unexpected analogy. How, we must ask, is the kingdom of heaven in any way like ten virgins? Well, most likely the virgins themselves and their number, ten, is a figure. Virginity is a figure for purity, innocence, and cleanness; the number ten is a figure for wholeness, or the complete number of those who have been cleansed and made holy in the blood of Jesus – which is everyone – thus, the ten virgins represent all humanity, redeemed in Jesus’ blood. What makes five of them to be wise and five of them to be foolish is not more or less virginity (indeed, that figure excludes such thinking; either one is a virgin, or one is not – there are no degrees of virginity!), but rather it is the oil that they carry in their lamps – do they have enough oil to last through the bridegroom’s delay. Therefore, since it is ultimately the lack of oil that makes five of the virgins to be foolish, we must turn our minds to the question, “What does the oil represent?”
First of all, the oil is essential. It is absolutely necessary if the virgin is to see where she is going in the darkness and, therefore, to see her bridegroom coming to her when He arrives. Without oil, there is no light, but only ignorance and groping around in the darkness. St. Paul uses some terrific imagery about light and darkness in his epistle to the Thessalonians, which you heard this morning, saying “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day.” And, Paul says elsewhere, in his epistle to the Ephesians: “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk, therefore, as children of light.” The meaning here is clear: Once you were in darkness, but now that has changed and you are something different; you are children of light now, walking in light. Therefore, do not return to the darkness. And, what is it that has brought about this change? It is the same thing that brings the light – the oil, that is faith.
What made five of the virgins to be wise and five to be foolish was ultimately faith, in figure, the amount of oil that they had with them. Now, I know that we don’t tend to think of faith as something quantifiable and measurable; in fact, I regularly preach and teach against such an understanding of faith. Even in this parable, I maintain that it is not the amount of faith that matters at all, but simply that you have it. After all, even though the five wise virgins brought extra oil and their lamps were still burning when the bridegroom finally arrived, surely they had little oil left at that time. But, that doesn’t matter, for the important thing is not how much, but that they have it. In contrast, the five foolish virgins had the oil of faith, but they did not have enough for the long haul, to continue to wait and to watch for the bridegroom through his delay. When he finally arrived, not only did they no longer have oil in their lamps, but they were not even near the wedding hall, desperately out searching, in all the wrong places, for a way to rekindle their faith.
To drive this point even further, Jesus says that both the wise and the foolish virgins, all ten of them, fell asleep as they waited. This point is marvelous, for here Jesus levels our reason and our wisdom, our pride and our self-righteousness, our insistence that we cooperate with God in our salvation by our works of piety and charity – for you can do nothing if you are sleeping: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” No, it’s not about what you do, but it’s about what you have, what you have received – faith. This is the Lord’s work by the Holy Spirit, not of your flesh or your will, your reason or wisdom. And, this is really the heart and the root of Jesus’ teaching today about the kingdom of heaven: The kingdom of heaven comes now through Jesus. It is received through faith which He has created in you and which He sustains in you through His Word and Holy Sacraments that you might be wise and prepared, whether you are awake or asleep, when He returns on the Last Day. It is all His work, all the time. The wise receive, keep, and treasure this gift as they watch and wait.
And yet, there is still more to Jesus’ parable. Indeed, there is always more with Jesus. The kingdom of heaven, He teaches, is also like a bridegroom coming to marry his virgin bride. How is the kingdom of heaven like a marriage? Actually, this is a common image throughout the Holy Scriptures. Following the creation of our First Parents, Adam and Eve, God joined them in marriage and blessed them that they would be fruitful. God gave us the institution of marriage in the beginning so that, through this selfless and sacrificial union in which a man and a woman become one flesh, we would have a glimpse, a foretaste, and an experience of the kind of love He has for all humanity. God doesn’t want only to be our God, but He wants to be our Husband, and we, the Church, His holy Bride. This truth St. Paul expounds upon in Ephesians chapter five: “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery [marriage] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” Our Lord and Husband Jesus laid down His life in selfless, sacrificial death upon the cross for us, His Bride, the Church. When a Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, the Church sprang forth in Holy Blood and Water as a New Eve taken from the side of a New Adam and presented to Him as His Wife and Bride. Now the Church has become the fruitful Mother from which the children of God are born again by the life-giving Seed of the Word and the watery womb of the font. But I digress ;-).
Why is it then, that when the bridegroom finally arrives and the five foolish virgins return and beg to be let in to the feast, the bridegroom answers them saying, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you?” He does not know them because He does not recognize their fruits. They bear, not the fruit of His Vine, but other fruit, bad fruit. Their faith was not sufficient to see them through the time in which He was delayed. They were no longer watching and waiting for His coming in hopeful expectation. They had let their faith grow week and diminish as it was choked out and replaced by cares and anxieties and idolatries of the world and the flesh. They may have thought they were keeping their faith aflame by patronizing other faith dealers – self-help preachers and new-age sorcerers – but they were not feeding their faith, they were not buying oil, and it could not keep them and preserve them in faith over the long haul. Therefore, when the Bridegroom arrived, He did not recognize or know them as His Bride. For, there is only one kind of oil that will preserve you and keep you until He comes; there is only one faith, and only one source of feeding that faith which is recognized by our Lord and Husband – God’s Word and His Holy Sacraments. Remain in these, and He will remain in you, and you will bear much, and the correct and proper fruit.
This is what the kingdom of heaven is like. All is prepared for you, the Bride of Christ. Though He may tarry, your Bridegroom is coming at a day and an hour you do not know. He says to you, “You believe in God; believe also in Me.” “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.
Friday, November 22, 2013
John 5:24-30; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; Lamentations 3:22-33
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Shirley, Keith, Ray Jr., Teresa, and dearly beloved friends of our departed brother Raymond Tucker, grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It has pleased our Lord to call His servant Ray to Himself. Therefore, we are gathered here this day to offer our thanks and praise to God our Father for the gift of life He gave to Ray, to Jesus our Savior for laying down His life in death for Ray that he may live with Him in heaven, and to the Holy Spirit for calling Ray to faith through the Word of our Lord and for sanctifying and keeping him in faith through trial and tribulation, even suffering and death. Today we give thanks and praise, even while we grieve and mourn, for we do not mourn like those without hope, but we mourn the temporary loss of a husband, a father, a friend, and a brother in Christ even as we look forward in hopeful expectation to the resurrection of his and our own bodies on the day of Jesus’ return when we will stand with Ray and all the saints before the throne of God and the Lamb forever singing God’s praises in endless day where there is no suffering, no pain, no sorrow or tears, and no death, but only life in the fullest as it was meant to be in the presence of our Holy God.
This is the reality and life we watch and wait for in hopeful expectation, yet this is a life that the baptized into Jesus live in part even now. Truly, this is what Jesus teaches in John’s Gospel saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Jesus teaches that those who believe and trust in Him now, while they live, have already passed from death to life. That describes you, and that describes me, and that describes Raymond as well. Now, that does not mean that Ray was perfect and without sin. He was not. But then, neither are you perfect and without sin, and neither am I. There is One alone who is perfect and without sin, and that One is Jesus. And, it is Jesus whom Ray trusted to be perfect and sinless for Him. For, we are saved by grace and not by works – The grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ who covers our sins with His righteousness.
It’s really that simple – so simple that even a child can believe. Yet, that is precisely why God’s grace is so often rejected by men, because the flesh and human reason and wisdom reject God’s grace saying, “It can’t be that simple! That’s ridiculous!” But Raymond did not think that. No. Ray had that simple, child-like faith that clung to, trusted, and found comfort in the fact that Jesus had been faithful, obedient, and sinless for him, and that God forgave Ray because of Jesus’ suffering and death in his place.
I have known Ray for most of my years here at Christ the king. However, I didn’t really get to know Ray until Margie became critically ill and died. It was then that Ray came to me distraught and seeking comfort and counsel. That was the beginning of a two to three year period where contact with Ray was nearly a daily occurrence, more than a few times at two or three in the morning. Ray had battled addiction to alcohol most of his adult life. After Margie’s death he spiraled deep into it once again. I consider those years ministering to Ray through rock-bottom alcoholism the seminary education I didn’t receive in seminary – how to minister to an alcoholic and other kinds of addictive personalities. I witnessed first hand the battle going on within Ray as he wanted to do right and to remain sober but couldn’t fight against the addiction which affects body and mind, emotions, and just about everything else. It is right to think of alcoholism as a disease. It may not always start out that way, but it will eventually take over your thinking, your desires, and your life.
In this way, however, addictions aren’t all that different from the common, ordinary sins that we all commit from day to day. We’ve all experienced how a small sin, a little white lie, got away from us and snowballed into something we could no longer control. In the worst cases, sinners end up concocting alternate realities, false narratives, and lies to keep people from finding out the truth and to justify themselves that they are doing nothing wrong. As I like to say, “If you dance with the devil, pretty soon he’s going to take the lead.” This is what St. Paul describes saying, “The good that I want to do, I do not do; while the bad that I do not want to do, that is what I find myself doing again, and again.”
Through our talks and through my ministry to Ray, he began to see this truth. He confessed his sins. He asked for help. He asked for forgiveness. He asked for mercy. And, these he received through faith in Jesus Christ. Ray trusted me because he saw that I accepted him even though he was an alcoholic, even though he lied to me at times about his drinking, even though he fell off the wagon again and again after going through stints of detox. He used to ask why I was so kind to him. I would answer that I was no different than him, I just had different sins and temptations; there but for the grace of God go I, but we were both forgiven in the same way through the same Savior – through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It came to be that Ray would regularly tell people that “Pastor Jon is just like me; he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like I do.” And he was right.
Things did eventually stabilize for Ray, but I have to say that that did not happen until God brought another caring and loving person into Ray’s life. That was you, Shirley. I don’t know how anyone could say anything other than that you were a gift of life to Ray. Through your love and compassion, God threw a lifeline to Ray to pull him out of the sea in which he was drowning. And, it was obvious that he loved you and was thankful for you. I know how very sorrowful you are now and how you will miss your “Big Teddy Bear.” But, take heart and be comforted, you will see Ray again with your own eyes, and you will hold him again in your own arms. Now he rests and is at peace with the Lord, but one day you will see him again, face to face, in the presence of your Lord and Savior Jesus, who died that you might live.
Jesus says, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out” […] “for, as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself.” This is why Jesus said to his dear friends Mary and Martha who were mourning the death of their brother Lazaraus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believe in me will live even though he die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Though Ray has died and his body will now rest in the earth, Ray’s soul is with the Lord. But there will come a yet more greater day when Jesus returns and the dead will be raised. Then, Ray will stand with all the saints, including you Shirley and all who believe and trust in Jesus, in flesh and blood bodies and souls and we will behold God with our own eyes, not the eyes of another, and we will live in His gracious presence and love forever. For that great and glorious day we wait and watch praying, “Come, Lord Jesus; come, quickly, come.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.
John 14:1-6; 1 Romans 8:31-39; Isaiah 40:6-11
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.” All of us know this all too well. As we grow older, we can’t see as well, hear as well, taste as well, or smell as well as we used to. We can’t bend over or lift things like we used to; indeed, our greatest concern is merely to not fall over. Even I, at a third to half of most of you in age, know this all too well: I’ve not been able to see without corrective lenses since I was five years old. Everything I eat seems to add weight and girth. And, a typical conversation in my house with my wife often goes like this: “What?” “Huh?” “What?” Until we’re within five feet of each other; then, maybe, we can actually hear what the other is saying. Yes, we all know that we are fading, that we’ve been fading since our early forties, our mid thirties, yes, even since birth. And, we all know that death is coming, sooner or later, for “surely the people are grass.” Only the Word of God will stand forever.
Ah, but there is reason for hope – Not hope that we will avoid death, but hope that death is not all there is. In fact, the same passage from the Prophet Isaiah that speaks of us like unto grass also exhorts us to joyful hope in the Good News, the Gospel: “Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; he will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” This Good News is about Jesus. Jesus is the “arm” of the LORD who rules for Him. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who tends His flock and gathers His lambs. Jesus is coming, says the Prophet. And, Jesus has come. And, Jesus is coming again. This is Good News!
Jesus came, born, just as you were, weak and helpless, completely dependent upon His mother and His father to feed Him, and clothe Him, and protect Him – to provide Him everything He needed to live and prosper. This is how much your God, Your Good Shepherd loves you, that He would completely divest Himself of all His power and glory and take on the form of a defenseless child, suffer hunger and thirst, poverty and lowliness, grow older and experience the death of loved ones, even His father Joseph, and ultimately suffer and die the most excruciating and horrible of deaths imaginable to redeem you from sin and death. And, He has. But, still we die. Why?
Sin. The answer is sin. As St. Paul put it, death is the wage we earn for our sin – sin we have actually committed ourselves, and the sin that we were conceived and born with, inherited from our fathers all the way back to Adam. While we live, sin is always there. We know that it is there, for the proof of its presence is in our failing eyes, ears, backs and legs, and minds – the proof of sin’s presence is that we die. What Jesus has done for us by His death is that He has taken away, not death itself, but rather the sting of death, which is sin. Jesus, who knew no sin, was made to be sin for us, so that we might become, in exchange, the righteousness of God. Death still comes, but its sting is gone, that is, its power to hold us is gone, defeated, taken away, destroyed! In His resurrection, Jesus has made death a doorway, a portal, into eternal life with Him. Spiritually, through baptism and faith in Jesus, you have that eternal life now, but physically, according to the flesh, you still bear the corruption of sin, therefore the flesh still must die.
But, it will be raised. Again, as St. Paul puts it, the perishable body must put on the imperishable body – that is, the body that will be raised in the resurrection, a body like Jesus’ resurrection body. That is what we are truly waiting for, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting with Jesus. Too easily we get sidetracked into believing that the life of the spirit with Jesus after the death of the body, but prior to the resurrection of the body, is the most important and desired thing – but it is not. For, we are not spirit only, but we are body and spirit, and we long for the day that we will stand in our flesh and blood bodies before our Lord and see Him with our own eyes and confess Him with our own mouths. That is our hope and longing while we make our pilgrimage through the valley of the shadow of death. But we are comforted and strengthened that we may persevere, for our Good Shepherd Jesus has walked that valley already and has passed through death into life, and now He walks through that valley with us, the Victor over sin and death, to give us safe passage through the midst of our enemies, even death itself.
If God is for us, who can be against us? Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord: neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. This is why Jesus says to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” You believe and trust in God, believe and trust me, God as a man. I have passed through the valley of the shadow of death and defeated death itself. I have returned to my Father’s house, and there I have prepared rooms for all of you. Where I have gone you cannot follow, yet. But, I will return to you, and I will take you to be where I am, in flesh and blood body and soul forevermore. I am your Shepherd, and I am the way, the path, and the road. Believe and trust in me, and your feet will not stumble. If you fall, I will catch you. I will restore to you perfect sight and hearing and clarity of mind. I will restore to you able bodies and strong hearts. You will be my people, and I will be your God, and I will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
The chief source of our comfort and peace now is the sure and certain promise of Jesus’ presence with us in the valley of the shadow of death. And the chief source of our comfort and peace and hope for the future is the promise that we will be with Jesus where He is. We take comfort this day that this promise has been kept for Patrick; Patrick is with His Lord, and there is no more labored breathing or staggered walk, there is no more pain and suffering, sorrow and tears, but there is peace, contentment, happiness and joy in the presence of Jesus. Yet, even Patrick, and all the saints await that yet more glorious day when Christ returns, and our dead bodies are raised. Then we will stand with Patrick and our mothers and fathers, children, relatives, and friends in glorious flesh and blood bodies and holy souls forevermore. That is our hope, our comfort, and our peace which passes all human understanding – to be with the Lord Jesus, who keeps His promises.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.