Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Pentecost Tuesday - Psalm 94 - What Others Said

Luther's Prayer based on Psalm 94, from Reading the Psalms With Luther (CPH) - also extremely appropriate prayer following the OT reading from Numbers about the Balaam saga:

Lord, You are a merciful and a jealous God.  Convert Your enemies, and draw to You those that are going astray; but restrain the malicious persecutors of Your Church and the willful corrupters of Your truth.  Bring their counsels to naught, and show that You are the Lord.  Build Your Church, and make it a city upon a hill for the salvation of many, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Farewell Letter to St. Peter's and St. John's Lutheran Churches

The Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2017

To the members of St. John’s and St. Peter’s Lutheran Churches,
It is with both joy and sadness that I announce that the Lord has led me to accept the call to serve as Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Windsor, Ontario.
We have so many wonderful memories from living here.   Our family was just two people when we arrived, with no clue God had His plans to increase us to seven - plus my mother-in-law moved to town to be with us, so eight really.  All our children were born, baptized and taught the Word of the Lord here with you.  I have gone through depression here and I suffered the grief of my father’s death and the death of so many dear members here.  Yet through it all, both the good and the bad, you have put up with my mistakes, forgiven my sins, prayed for me and loved my family.  In many ways I have learned from you not only what it means to be a pastor, but also a man of God, a husband, and a father.  I would not have grown to be the person I have become without  the last 16 years of having you as dear friends, the flock of God He had entrusted to me.  Which also fills me with sadness as I think about how much I will miss you and the love you expressed regularly for my family and me. 
I am able to accept this new call because I believe God will bless my family’s life and work in Canada just as He has blessed us in Randolph County.  They have ministries such as a food pantry and more Bible classes, and other different opportunities for ministry that fit many of my strengths, as well as challenging me to grow in some of my weaker areas.  
Quite honestly, another one of my reasons that led me to accept the call to go to Peace Lutheran is because I trust God has another man chosen to lead you and care for you, and to be cared for by you.  He faithfully promises, “Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you.”  He makes that promise just as much to us as we move to a different country as He makes it to you here.  St. Peter’s and St. John’s are two congregations blessed by God.  He is even now at work preparing you to grow spiritually with a new pastor, and preparing that new pastor for you.  The Lord only knows how much longer He will use before that work is ready.  He also knows
·         the unforeseen troubles that approach the individual lives of our members,
·         the challenges in the years ahead that face St. Peter’s and St. John’s locally,
·         as well as the threats against Christian churches in America in the future. 

Our Good Shepherd who has died and risen again to provide us with eternal life shall also provide the new pastor who will help lead these two churches to face those changes, differently than I would – but God grant that it is always according to His Word.  
The leadership of our dual parish is faithful.  Yesterday I spoke with Pastor Mark Nebel, our circuit’s visitor, and he is ready to work with them.  I have every confidence that through this work, a pastor will accept your call, and he will deeply bless you and be blessed by you.
Our plans for the timing of our move are very unclear.  As most of you know, my mother-in-law is currently receiving breast cancer treatments.  Our hope would be that I might continue serving as your pastor until after her surgery, which is looking like it will happen in July.  Because the school year in Windsor starts the first week of September, we would like to move into our new home before then.  We will also need to visit Windsor ahead of time to choose a new home as the congregation does not have a parsonage.  As our plans come into focus, I will keep the congregation informed.
I will be arranging with Chairmen Dennis Phegley and Nathan Koester to schedule a dual parish council meeting so we can discuss these things and agree upon my final Sunday here.  It is also my understanding that the voters’ assembly of each congregation will need to vote on granting me a peaceful release as your pastor. 
I have many more things to say, but this is more than enough for now.  Please keep the congregations of St. Peter’s, St. John’s, and Peace in your prayers. I have included two in this letter that you might wish to add to your own.  The people at Peace Lutheran will have you in their prayers.  Please also ask God to grant safety and strength to my family as we make this transition.  I remain
Yours in Christ,
James A. Leistico
Lord God,
           You have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
                                                           by paths as yet untrodden,
                                                                       through perils unknown.
           Give us faith to go out with good courage,
                       not knowing where we go,
                       but only that Your hand is leading us
                                   and Your love supporting us;
 through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

O Gracious Father, You led Your holy apostles to ordain ministers for the proclamation of Your Word and the faithful administration of the Sacraments of Christ.  Grant to our congregations the guidance of the Holy Spirit to choose a suitable pastor according to Your will for the blessing of Your Church in this place, and give us patience to wait for Your time; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, May 1, 2017

O Foolish Ones - Homily on Luke 24:13-35 for Easter 3 A

(Many of the thoughts and words came from sermons on this text by Rev. Christopher Esget and Rev. William Cwirla.)

            Pastors are not the only ones who experience a let-down in the days following Easter.  After all those special services, the crowds, the food, the excitement both sacred and secular, it is very easy to say, “Now what?”  Is everything back to the way it was before Easter?  Did it change anything?
            In today’s Gospel, Cleopas and his sad friend walking to Emmaus have been changed forever by Good Friday – changed for the better, but they do not yet realize it.  At the start of the text, they are feeling deeply let-down.  The joy from Palm Sunday seven days ago had turned into a nightmare as they went through the painful goodbyes at the death of their Pastor and Teacher.  But more than that, He had been their friend, the One they counted on for everything, the One they had hoped would redeem Israel – but He was executed.
            Before they left Jerusalem for Emmaus, the women who had gone to the tomb were making no sense, ridiculously claiming the grave was empty and they babbled on about seeing angels and Jesus being alive.  Cleopas and his friend must have figured the stress of the last few days finally pushed the women over the edge into hysteria. 
            They probably were even more confused what happened next, as they walked the road and re-told this bit of the story to the stranger who had joined them along the way.  They expected the stranger to laugh at what the women had said.  Instead, The Man smiles slightly and shakes His head.  “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Do you not realize how necessary it was for this past week to go this way?  All over the place the Scriptures tell us the Christ had to suffer these things and then enter His glory!”
            Their heads began to spin over what the Stranger said.  In their childhood, they had had to memorize what Moses and the prophets had written.  And before He died, Jesus had worked to teach them even more about those writings – so what was this Stranger talking about?
            He begins with Genesis and goes all the way through Malachi.  He brought out the promise of salvation from sin to Adam and Eve, that the woman’s child would feel pain as He crushed the devil’s head.  He probably mentioned the Passover Lamb and all the other sacrifices at the Temple.  He highlighted passages like Isaiah 53 and the Servant of the Lord who suffers: 
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

            Cleopas and his friend were having one big “A-HA!” moment of discovery after another as the Stranger wove all these passages together into one message.  It all began to make sense as He tied together the loose ends of the Old Testament.  Their hearts were racing with excitement as they began to see it all in such a new and beautiful way.  He pretends like He is going further to a different town, but they strongly urge Him to accept their hospitality.  “Abide with us, fast falls the even-tide!”  Right?  This request is where Henry Lyte got his inspiration for the beloved hymn, “Abide with Me.”
            And then more strangeness from this Stranger.  Instead of behaving as a guest, He behaves as the Master of the house.  He sits at the head of the table, and taking the bread as though He owns the place.  He lifts up His eyes to heaven, gives thanks to the Lord, breaks the bread and hands it to them.
            And just as quickly as they finally recognize this Stranger is the risen Jesus, that He truly is alive after death, He instantly disappears.  As weird as all that was, somehow it does not disturb them in the least because it makes sense that Jesus would be working this way.  It was Jesus on the road, hiddenly teaching the Scriptures.  It was Jesus at the table breaking the bread.  Their hearts could not contain all the joy and excitement!  They had to tell the others!  Despite how late it was in the evening, they run all the seven miles back to Jerusalem to let the other disciples know what they saw and heard.
            “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”  That is the Lord’s judgment of the two Emmaus disciples on the road.  And how often that is the Lord Jesus’ judgment about your conversations and mine with our friends.  Foolish and slow of heart, failing to believe God’s Word.  Yes, we will be happy to tell you the Bible is the God-honest truth.  We love the Scriptures, and God does not lie to us.  But then we go and live like the truth of what the Lord has said and done does not really matter in the ordinary hours of our lives.  We can hear the good news of the resurrection and then go on as though nothing important happened.  Oh, how foolish ones we are, worrying and not believing the Scriptures.
            All of our bad emotions and actions – all the anger, laziness, bitterness that ties up your guts and keeps you thinking in the darkness – it all comes from this unbelief.  Martin Luther’s wife Katie once scolded him, “To look at you, you would never know that Jesus rose from the dead!”  Maybe you have gone through one of those “As if Jesus had not risen from the dead” weeks recently, getting caught on a treadmill of frustrations and failures and putting the general dumbness of existing in a world of sin.  It is so easy to forget that
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
            The sad disciples on the road to Emmaus expressing their disappointed hopes and dreams before they recognize Jesus are just one example of this.  We have so many disappointments that we dwell over.  Beauty fades.  Tummies bulge.  People die in the wrong way at the wrong times – although back in the beginning, there was no such thing as a right way or right time for death, because there was no death when there was no sin. 
            Now the shadow of death touches us uninvited.  Its dark cloud follows us and affect us so that we make bad choices.  We walk with grief, in sad and unbelieving ways that are not pleasing to God.
            What are we foolish and slow of heart ones to do?  Trust in the Lord who says, “Repent and believe the good news, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  God’s repentance turns hearts that are slow to believe into burning hearts.  Notice that what caused the hearts of the Emmaus’ disciples to burn was not when they recognized Jesus – but they tell us it was already long before that, when their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.  They could not see Jesus even when He was talking to them.  Likewise, our eyes are prevented from seeing Jesus.  Yet He is every bit as much here speaking to us His Scriptures as He was there in Emmaus.  The Bible testifies to this fact.  He is with us in most profound and amazing ways, much more amazing than a seven mile road away from Jerusalem.  He is with us by His Word and Spirit, in the preaching of the Scriptures, in the breaking of the bread that is His Body.  He is with us.  These things open the eyes of faith, and there Jesus is recognized to be our Lord and Savior.  There in His Word He walks with us and talks with us, as hearts that are slow to believe have the flame of faith kindled in them again by the fire of the Holy Spirit. 
Every Sunday becomes an Emmaus walk with Jesus not seen but heard.  This is the place to know Him, the place where He gives us Himself, the place where He forgives our slowness to believe Him, the place where He nourishes and supports us for our long journey of walking with Him until we find rest in Heaven and see Him with our own eyes in the Resurrection. 
            When we find ourselves with those two disappointed disciples, confused, hurting, grieving, not sure what to do next, the Church has given us something worthwhile and holy to do – or rather to say.  Somewhere in history, a brother in Christ based a beautiful prayer for us on the two disciples’ invitation to Jesus.  I would like you to pray it with me now – it is in your hymnal on page 257.  “Abide with us, Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. Abide with us and with your whole Church. Abide with us at the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world. Abide with us with your grace and goodness, with your holy Word and Sacrament, with Your strength and blessing. Abide with us when the night of affliction and temptation comes upon us, the night of fear and despair, the night when death draws near. Abide with us and with all the faithful, now and forever. Amen.”                                     This prayer helps us put our cares and anxieties to rest in the nail-marked hands of Jesus.  It reminds us that no matter what disturbing things have happened in our day, our week, our life, Jesus Christ is risen, and none of these things will get in the way of Him raising us to life with Him at the end of time. 
            The world wants to persuade us to be just like them in their sad, sometimes angry, but always deadly walk.  They talk like fools, as though Jesus was not with us.  However, here in the Church, we have bread, and we have life, and we invite the world to leave their sad paths and walk with us instead as we witness to them all the way to the glorious appearing of Jesus that -
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Installation of Rev. Aaron Kangas at Trinity Lutheran Church, Iuka, Illinois December 4, 2016

            The winding road that God brings us along can be strange and unexpected.  Last week I found the Christmas card that Aaron and Heidi sent to us last year.  “It was so great to see all of you this summer!  God’s richest blessings to you all in this coming year!”  Little did any of us know that we would see each other again down at their place in Tennessee last June, and now again, here, on this day of great joy for him, and for you – the dear saints of Trinity.
            I do not remember when I met Aaron, maybe he does.  But I know we became friends very quickly as we started at seminary together 19 years ago, with just a few stairs between our rooms.  Great enough friends that within four months, I was getting up early to travel from Ft. Wayne to Wisconsin for his wedding to Heidi.  I vividly remember Josiah’s baptism at the seminary’s chapel during our second year.  And the night in our fourth year when Aaron and Heidi showed great hospitality to my wife and me, inviting us over to their place for supper.  So it was quite an honor when your new pastor asked me to preach this afternoon.
            But then after I got off the phone, reality hit me like a ton of bricks as I realized that writing
this sermon would be hard work!  So many things I could say – too many even!  (And neither you nor I want to be here for a sermon THAT long!)  Recently one of my confirmation kids told that her problem with church is that she has to sit and be so quiet.  She loves to talk, and figured that I loved church services because I get to talk all the time!  Little did she know that when my pastor first asked me to consider being a pastor, I wanted to say, “ARE YOU NUTS?” – except that you don’t ask your pastor if he is nuts!  The idea of it scared me silly since I was terrified of having to say things in front of a crowd of people.
 If it were as simple as just saying whatever I want to say off the top of my head, I would feel a lot less pressure.  However, God did not make me to be a pastor so I could do that.  He gave me the task of just saying whatever He wants, of teaching His ways, of rebuking sin and forgiving it in the name of Jesus Christ.  That same Lord of the Church has created faith in the hearts of people at St. Peter’s and St. John’s in Evansville and Ruma (ironically, the congregation where Pastor Schrader comes from.)  In their faith, these people called me out of the seminary because they want to be taught God’s Word – even as you, dear brothers and sisters, by this church service vow to God that you want my friend to teach the same Word to you and for you.
            I feel the pressure of preaching to you today, preparing you as congregation and pastor to walk together in this new relationship with Christ.  Yet I recognize that just like we had no idea the blessings that God had in store for us behind last year’s Christmas card, likewise we have no ideas the blessings and crosses the Lord has in store for the future of your congregation.
            I was ordained in June of 2001 and within a few months our nation suffered the unimaginable
horror of September 11th.  Among other thoughts that went through my head that morning was that the seminary never prepared me for a day like that.  Except that they did!  Our professors taught us to preach Christ and Him crucified, in good times and bad - even in the dark valleys of the shadow of death.     
            Did the Disciples feel like Jesus never prepared them for a day like the weekend of Good Friday?  Except that Christ did prepare them, telling them multiple times that He would lay down His life as He was lifted up on the Cross for our salvation, and then rise again on the third day.  As we heard in this afternoon’s Gospel text, He changed their hearts and their futures in an instant by declaring “Peace to you.”  Even though they were still sinners, still weak and afraid, still would make mistakes in the future, God loved them.  Their fears and doubts were not so great as God’s grace, their sin not so deep as His love.  There was no condemnation left against them in Christ Jesus who stood before them alive after death.  Could anything have prepared them for that moment?
            As I finally sat down to write this sermon, I realized that it was not all that different from what we pastors do when we perform weddings, where the Lord joins husband and wife together.  We do our best to prepare the man and the woman for the unknown and unexpected blessings and crosses the Lord will give to the new family, even as I am trying to do this afternoon.
When I meet with a couple where the man or woman has been married previously, I tell them that this new marriage will be different from the previous one.  It seems obvious, but it is important to intentionally keep in mind that the new spouse is not the same person as the former spouse.  They speak differently, think differently, act differently – even if there are some things in common.  Aaron, when you have those conversations you have had 100s of times with members of previous churches, remember that the person you are talking with has not had that conversation yet, and be patient with them.  Members of Trinity likewise, when you discuss things with Pastor Kangas, you may have had those chats with previous pastors, but not with him. 
            I also go over some difficult questions with the pre-marital couple about their prior relationships.  As they look back on their previous marriage, I ask them about the good stuff and the bad stuff, where things went right and wrong.  Specifically I ask where they recognize they were not the husband or wife that God intended them to be – where they were to be a blessing, but behaved with a selfish love for themselves.  Rev. Kangas and members of Trinity, you both have years of experience to look back upon, to see where that relationship between Pastor and Congregation was great, where it went wrong, and where you want to do better.  Be open and honest with one another about this.  Ask one another to pray to God to strengthen the weaknesses so that your relationship will bring Him glory.
            Christ will be the center of your relationship.  I intentionally am avoiding telling you to put
Christ in the center – because you do not put Christ anywhere.  He puts Himself where He belongs.  As we are approaching Christmas, remember what happened when Christ was put inside of Mary – it nearly broke up her relationship to Joseph!  Joseph was no dummy.  He knew the birds and the bees.  So he assumed Mary had not been faithful and decided to divorce her quietly.  Praise God that He sent an angel to tell Joseph that Mary had in fact been most faithful; and it was better than that, for the Holy Spirit had conceived inside of her Joseph’s Savior and our own.
            Like Joseph, my dear friend Aaron, you may jump to some conclusions that are wrong; and dear members of Trinity, you might make bad assumptions too, whether about your pastor, or about each other.  What are you going to do then?  Well, if you want to be Christian about it, then I can tell you what you are going to do – you will ask for forgiveness and you will give forgiveness, just as God in Christ forgives you.    
            Rev. Kangas told me that it will take some getting used to your altar being against the wall because at his previous congregation it was away from the wall, so during the prayers and during the Lord’s Supper liturgy he stood behind the altar, facing the congregation.  My dear friend Aaron, it took me some years to get used to looking away from the congregation also since I serve at an altar against the wall.  However, on Sundays, when you pray and celebrate the Supper, do not think of it as turning your back on the people.  Instead, recognize that you are facing the same direction as your people are facing, turned toward the same Savior Jesus as they are turned toward.  As pastor and people stand together and join in prayer, Jesus is with you; Jesus is hearing you, Jesus is forgiving you – congregation and pastor both. 
            Here at this altar, as you regularly receive forgiveness and peace from Jesus, especially in His Body and Blood – here is where you will find healing and reconciliation.  Rev. Kangas, when you are tired and impatient and frustrated, when you feel the weight of the world on you, or when you are proud and think you have accomplished something, come to this altar and be humbled and comforted as the Lord provides what you need.
            People of Trinity, when you are tired and impatient and frustrated, when you feel the weight of the world on you, or when you are proud and think you have accomplished something, come to this altar and be humbled and comforted as the Lord provides what you need.
            Here at this altar, during the Communion liturgy, your pastor will face you and speak the words which Jesus first spoke to His disciples that Easter evening which has made Christians glad for nearly 2000 years now – “Peace to you.”  Jesus is still speaking those words to you through your Pastor’s voice.  In those words are your forgiveness, your life, and your salvation.  In those words are how you live together as pastor and people.  “Peace to you.”  And did you notice that Jesus says “Peace to you” to the Disciples in the upper room twice?  He gives peace to spare so that you have peace to share!
            As Pastor and people, listen to His Word speak to you together.  Pray to Him at His table here and pray at your table in your homes.  Worship Christ in good times and bad, during church meals and at the hospital bed and at gravesides.  And whatever you are doing, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and minds. 
            People of Trinity and Pastor Kangas, I speak for my brother pastors here this afternoon saying that we are thrilled to celebrate with you this wonderful day of a new relationship.  We pray for you and bless you.  God grant that your life together be a preview of the relationship of peace that all God’s children will have in His Kingdom which has no end.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

September 7 - Old Testament 2 King 5

Naaman, the commander of Syria's army, 
grudgingly stripped himself of his uniform, the symbol of his greater glory than everyone else, 
and washed like all the common people 
in a river that was not even close to as nice as the rivers back home 
so that he could be saved from death.

The Son of God, the Lord of Heaven's army, 
freely and willingly stripped Himself of His divine glory, 
and washed with all the common people 
in that same river that was not even close to as nice as the rivers of Heaven 
so that we could be saved from death.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 18 - OT

O Lord God, who am I that you have brought me thus far?  For I have been unfaithful and lazy.  What more can I say to You, for You know your servant, O Lord God.  Yet because of Your promise to David, and according to Your own heart, You have brought about our salvation by the forgiveness of sin that comes to us by the Son of David, Jesus Christ, and You have made Your servant to know this.  Therefore You are great, O Lord God, for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

Grant that we might follow in the footsteps of grateful David and bless Your Holy Name.  Give to us courage to pray with confidence, asking for what You have promised to give and trusting You will grant us daily bread, pour out upon us Your Holy Spirit, and at the last deliver us from all evil.

Now, O Lord God, confirm forever the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant, and do as You have spoken.  And with Your blessing of the Son of David, your servant shall be blessed forever.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday 2016 and the Annunciation

How do you consider this day? How do you find the words to describe today? It is March 25. In nine months it will be Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Nine months. The amount of time God ordinarily takes to form a child in the womb.
How many parents were uncertain about their child’s future and questioned, “Do I really want to bring a child into this cruel world, filled with such heartache and suffering?” How many husbands and wives see a world on the brink of collapse and decide not to have kids? Whatever anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt that your parents had before your birth, God overcame them.
It is March 25. Nine months before Christmas. And it is Good Friday. God was not uncertain about what would happen to His Son. The Lord knew exactly the torment His beloved Child would face when He came into the world. He knew the mockery and the rejection. Yet He still sent the Angel Gabriel to announce to the Virgin Mary that the Holy Spirit would conceive in her the child who “will be called holy – the Son of God.”
We do not think much of talking about the nine months before the birth of Jesus in the same breath as we talk about His death. Not often, but it does happen when the Church confesses the Apostles' Creed, which moves us straight from the Lord’s conception, to His birth and then to His suffering and death. He “was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.”
Some people wish the Creed would talk a little about Christ’s life of merciful works and His word of truth. Yet in moving directly from Jesus’ birth to His Crucifixion, the Creed makes an important point – The Son of God became man to die for us.
The eyes of the man without faith see a tragic ending. They see a man born to a poor mother and father hung on a tree of death for no good reason. They see a sorrow-filled conclusion to an otherwise well-lived life. The Suffering Servant Jesus Christ makes no sense for those who think that the goal of life is to pursue happiness and avoid pain.
O believer, that is not the way it is with you. For you know this is at the very heart of how Jesus reconciles the world to God. He comes to save us from our sins – our actual sins of thought, word, and deed that reject God and mock His Holiness; and also our original sin that we inherited from Adam through our parents, for we were all sinful at birth, sinful from the time our mother’s conceived. We are natural born sinners, with hearts that are naturally inclined to doubt God. Yet here is the good news that makes this Friday Good – Jesus Christ saves us from our uncertainty, our doubts, and anxieties that imagine God has forsaken us and removed His protection from us.
The Son of God pays for your life with a pain that is real and raw, a death that is dark and cold. Yes, His soul is troubled, but He refuses to ask His Father to save Him from this hour. It is for this purpose that He has come to this dark hour – so that the Father would save you from eternal darkness. Jesus endures it all for your sake.
His sacrificial death melts our cold hearts as we see that it was no small matter for God in the flesh to come into our world, knowing what agony His suffering and death held for Him. And it is no small matter that that same God in the flesh who went the way of the Cross still comes to you today.
However, saying “Christ died for you” does not magically make all your problems disappear in a puff of smoke. This is not Hocus Pocus – but rather this is the body of Christ given into death for you.  There will be tears of pain for you to shed as you take up your cross and follow Jesus – because we are not yet at the Resurrection. Jesus does not show us how get around suffering in this life or how to avoid it. Rather, He leads us through suffering, cross and death to Resurrection. Jesus says to His followers, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16). Soon every tear from faithful eyes will be dried. Soon you will behold that He who died on Good Friday is now alive forevermore.
But until then, as you see a world torn up by war, our country torn by politics and immorality, and even your own body and the health of loved ones being torn up by sickness and death – nonetheless hold fast to your confession of faith in Christ. With confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4). Walk by faith, not by sight. When unbelievers and your old sinful nature tell you to cry out, “Where in the world is God?”, you can honestly reply that God is hidden. Yes, darkness does veil His lovely face. But even though God is hidden in lowly flesh, His Word lights the way for you to find Him. The Lord is in the womb of the Virgin Mary for nine months, in the manger at Bethlehem, in the darkness of the Cross of Calvary on Good Friday, in the water and the blood that streamed from His pierced side. God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our trespasses against us (2 Corinthians 5).

Today “your life is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” He will overcome all your worries and uncertainties. For Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us and has given His only Son to die for us and for His sake, forgives us all our sins. Amen.