A myHT Fortress

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

THE Birth Announcement: A Homily on Luke 1:26-38

Luke 1:26-38

4th Sunday in Advent

18 December 2011

St. John's, Chicago, IL

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

Ben was born around 9:30 at night, so when the excitement and activity was over, we fell asleep somewhere around midnight. The next morning, Kristi was up and eagerly addressing birth announcements between 5 and 6 a.m. She had already cut the blue paper and the white paper, rubber stamped the design, and layered the cut-outs. We knew he was a boy, and so already had his name printed on the cards. Only the details of his length and weight and so on, needed to be completed. Soon, dozens of friends would know!

Of course now, with Facebook, there are births that several hundred people find out about, perhaps within moments of their occurrences. We need look no further back than the last week or two. Just think for a minute how many people -- around the world! -- knew about Xander Fasshauer's and Anna Wier's births, within hours! So instantaneous! Still, in either of these situations, the baby is "announced" following the birth.

When was Jesus' birth announced? Well, angels filled the sky, praising God in the sight of the Bethlehem shepherds right away that night. A star was placed by God, so that the wise men would see it and come. But you know, even before it happened, God was at work to announce the Savior's birth.

This morning we hear the greatest birth in history, being announced nine months before it happened! The archangel Gabriel had the honor of being the one sent by God to the Blessed Virgin Mary, proclaiming to her that she would have the amazing blessing of being the Mother of God the Son. And she has a very different reaction than her cousin-in-law, Zechariah.

Zechariah had also received a visit from Gabriel. About six months earlier. But when he heard that he and his wife, in their advanced age, were finally going to have a baby, he reacted with the unbelief of his ancestor Sarah, the wife of Abraham. He might not have laughed, but he thought it ridiculously impossible. But Gabriel reminds us, "With God, nothing shall be impossible."

You often join Zechariah in unbelief. Something is too good to be true. Or specifically, the Word of the Lord speaks something that is too amazing, too wonderful to really come to pass. And so it is easier to doubt or deny the Word of God than to believe it. The devil, the world, and your sinful self can work at you until you weary and fade into such unbelief. Anyone can fall prey to them. Look! Zechariah was even a faithful priest, who knew God's Word! And he still doubted when an angel preached to him, at the temple!

But then there is Mary. The Blessed Virgin hears the Word of the Lord, proclaimed by the angel, and believes it. Unlike Zechariah who doubts and disbelieves, Mary is in awe and amazement, yet welcomes this miracle, "Let it be to me, according to your word."

Zechariah, it would seem, is like your Old Adam. He hears the Word of God, but doubts. He chuckles and says, "That would be great, but it'll never happen." Of all people, one of God's priests should hear and believe His Word, but Zechariah falls into the same damning disbelief as you and the rest of the world.

On the other hand, the Virgin Mary is like the new creature that God made you at Baptism. In fact, often Mary is spoken of as a symbol for the entire Church. She receives the Word of God and believes it. She ponders it. Treasures it. She hears the blessed preaching of the angel, and in essence joins the prayer, "O come, o come, Emmanuel!"

Baptized into Christ, you have been given this faith. You hear the Word of God, and receive it. You now kneel with Mary, and eat and drink the Body and Blood of her Son, whom you adore, at His altar.

At the Annunciation, the Blessed Virgin Mary received Him into her body, as a tiny cell placed in her womb. He entered human flesh, to bring forgiveness and life and salvation for all. Now you receive Him into your body -- Him who came into the flesh for you! He enters you and transforms you, forgiving you, and bringing life and salvation.

How amazing! The Lord God forgives and renews you in the annunciation of His Gospel, whether preached by Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin, or by generations of pastors to you, His Church. And he forgives and renews as He continually enters human flesh, from that first moment as Gabriel spoke to Mary, to now at His Holy Eucharist, to the day when we see Him in His fulfilled glory.

Yes, in this advent season, you hear, receive, and celebrate your Savior whose birth was announced by the angel, even as He was conceived. You rejoice that He who came, comes even now in His Holy Word and Sacraments, and will come again, to gather you into His everlasting Kingdom. "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!" Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Be Prepared: A Homily on Mark 1:1-8

Mark 1:1-8

2nd Sunday in Advent

4 December 2011

St. John's, Chicago, IL

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

"Be prepared!" Lord Robert Baden-Powell, when he founded the Boy Scout movement 104 years ago, found this an important concept. When choosing a motto for his organization of providing training for boys to grow in maturity, citizenship, outdoor skills, and service, this simple phrase was chosen: "Be prepared."

While serving in the British army in 1890's South Africa, Baden-Powell recruited youths to be "scouts" -- boys who aided the military troops as messengers, and who were being prepared for the conditions they were facing against the Dutch.

Saint John the Baptizer was not a Boy Scout. Although he was all about preparing. He was sent by the Father in heaven to "prepare the way of the Lord." When the Angel Gabriel prophesied his birth, already it was clear that John's life's work would be to "prepare the way of the Lord."

So how is the Lord's way prepared? I know. You try to prepare. You try to "make His paths straight" in your home and life. But how do you prepare? Are you better prepared when you put all your effort and concentration into serving God? Are you better prepared by listening only to "Christian radio," or watching only certain films or TV programs? Are you better prepared with only associating with the rights people, and not "sinners?"

Stop and listen to all that, for a moment. Sound familiar? It was a common sin among the Pharisees whom John was calling to repent! The Pharisees felt they could "prepare the way of the Lord" by doing the right thing and associating with the right people. They trusted in their own preparations. And John knew they were on not the straight path of the Christ, but the wide, easy, yet crooked path leading to hell. Don't be a condescending Pharisee! Your attitude can quickly fall into that same trap, and your trust ends up in yourself, not Jesus.

Trusting your own preparations will not get you into God's kingdom. It will help you fall short. It is the same problem that plagued many medieval monasteries; monks were often taught to be comforted in their many prayers and works -- their own preparations, rather than solely in the blood of Jesus.

Trusting in your own preparations makes as much sense as a pre-born baby getting her family ready for her own arrival. She cannot get a nursery ready, purchase diapers and other supplies, strap in a car seat, and get the house baby-proofed, all while still in the womb. Neither can a person prepare himself or herself for the Lord.

But St. John the Baptizer brings a different kind of preparation. He does not have you prepare yourself. He does not give you false hope in segregating and separating from the "undesirables" and sinners around you. He shows you that you cannot save yourself.

That is why "all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem" sought out John. They were cut to the heart by his message, and the Holy Spirit led them to realize that they could not save themselves. They could not even prepare themselves!

Instead, the Lord uses John to bring His preparation. He boldly proclaims God's Law, in order that the crushed sinner may be healed and restored with the Gospel. He baptizes that people may be given "forgiveness of sin, rescue[d] from death and the devil, and give[n] eternal salvation, as the words and promises of God declare."

Yes, John's baptism brought these precious gifts of God, because it wasn't really "John's" baptism, it was the Lord's! And the Word of God, as it attends that water, does what He says. He forgave, rescued, and saved the repentant Judeans who came out and heard the Lord's Word preached, and were cleansed in the Jordan by water and the Word. Just as your Father in heaven forgave, rescued, and saved you through that sacred washing in His font!

Today we welcome a number of brothers and sisters in Christ, who are now officially attaching themselves to St. John's. They have been baptized and received the preaching of Christ's Law and Gospel. They are forgiven, rescued, and saved. They are prepared.

The Holy Spirit has gathered each of you at this specific time, in this specific parish, to be prepared. He is the One making you prepared, as you could never hope to do. He removes your sin and guilt, and cleanses you, making you holy, in Christ.

What amazing joy, dear friends in Christ! The Lord, in His wonderful wisdom and gracious giving, has brought you together as His people here. He prepares you as individuals to receive and be strengthened in His faith, and gives you hope and confidence in His ongoing care and coming in His gifts, as well as the longing for His return in glory.

As you await our Coming King, it is a blessed, hope-filled waiting. He has sent John the Baptizer, and all His other prophets and apostles, indeed all your pastors in your life, to proclaim His Word to you and to prepare you. You are prepared. You are forgiven. You are called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified. You are ready to come to His Table and excitedly exclaim, "Come, Lord Jesus!" Amen!

Monday, October 31, 2011

What Does This Mean?

Surf over to Issues, Etc. for some excellent programming on Reformation topics. Several years' worth of programs are archived at this link.

Free Indeed: A Homily for the Festival of Reformation

John 8:31-36

Festival of the Reformation

30 October 2011

St. John's, Chicago, IL

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

You can have the burden of slavery and know it.

They had been there for 400 years. The descendants of Jacob and his twelve sons had been fruitful and multiplied, to the point that Pharaoh feared them. He forced them into labor for Egypt, and tightened his grip on their lives as slaves. Years, decades, then centuries were spent serving Egypt in hard labor. The children of Israel were slaves, and they knew it.

They worked. They cried. They prayed that the Lord would free them from their burden of slavery, so they could be free indeed.

Father Martin, the Augustinian monk in Wittenberg, had the burden of slavery to sin. His mind and heart were constantly burdened with it. He worried so much about this slavery that he was constantly going to confession and admitting the most insignificant offenses. He was scared to death that God was going to condemn him to hell. He cried to God as he faced this burden, and the Lord would soon bring him to realize that he had been made free indeed.

You can have the burden of slavery and not know it.

The Jews to whom Jesus speaks in todays Gospel lesson were still stuck in slavery to sin. They did not understand or believe what God was doing to free them from their transgressions. They attempted to keep Gods Law, but truth be told, they did not place their trust in keeping the Law. Their faith was in the fact that they were descendants of Abraham. They were in the covenant.

Kind of like when a family brings their child to be baptized, and does not return to keep the child being taught the Word of God. The Lord has brought them into His covenant, and has made them His children. But the families are keeping the children away from the nourishment of the Lords Word and Sacraments, and thus those children often fall from faith, and die an early spiritual death. They may grow up and know they are baptized, yet have no clue what that means or the salvation they have denied.

When you support and encourage such a baptism, it is as if you assisted a woman in giving birth while journeying on the Underground Railroad, but then helped to send mother and child back to the plantation. So should you discourage such baptisms? Not exactly. Don't discourage, but don't aid parents in their sin of not returning to Divine Services. Warn them of the judgment that they are invoking on themselves by keeping their children from the Word of God! Help them to understand the ongoing need for forgiveness and nourishment that they and their children have, just like everyone else. Christians must make every effort to support and encourage the ongoing receiving of Christ's Means of Grace. When we don't, we aid people in staying slaves to sin, without their knowledge of it.

You can be freed from slavery and not know it.

By the Middle Ages, a problem had developed in the Church. Misunderstandings and incorrect teachings led many Christians to think they were still under the burden of sin's slavery. That somehow the work of Christ had not been enough to free them from the old masters of sin, death, and the devil. So many went about, believing in Jesus' death and resurrection, but fearing that He would not be pleased with them, or judge them worthy of Him.

How sad that so many lived with troubled consciences! Jesus Christ had freed them from all that condemned them, yet they did not understand this freeing grace.

The sad thing is, many still do not recognize that to this day. Some are people in the Roman Church who know that Jesus is their Savior, yet still fell the need to "do their part" with works of love. They think they still need to work at being freed from sin. Others are Protestants who don't think they are freed from slavery to sin until they are old enough to decide for themselves, and make a decision for Christ--that somehow it is the work of their faith making Him their Lord and Savior.

And don't go shaking your head at them. This can be a frequent sin of yours. You can think that there is something more that you need to do. "God has done His part, now, if only"...There it is. If you hear things in your own mind or other preachers say phrases like,"if," or "all you need to do is," you know there is false teaching going on. Don't give in.

You ARE freed from slavery and know it.

"The Holy Spirit has called [you] by the Gospel, enlightened [you] with His gifts, sanctified and kept [you] in the true faith." By the suffering and death of Jesus, you have been freed from the clutches of sin, death, and the devil, which have been your slave holders, having had a hold on you. Christ is the Champion who has defeated these enemies, who were your masters. He has rescued you.

Now you are free indeed! Jesus redeemed you from the sin you were born into, the slavery that held you from conception, and delivered you up out of slavery. He has claimed you, washed you, and given you new birth into life everlasting, making you free indeed.

Now, He leads you, His baptized, to abide in [His] Word and be His disciples. So now you... know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free. Not just any truth in this world. Not some bit of knowledge or wisdom. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Yes! He is Truth incarnate! So if you abide in the Word of God, you will know He who is the Word of God -- He who is the Truth -- Christ Jesus!

Dear friends in Christ, you are free. Free indeed! Christ Jesus has purchased and won your redemption, and there are no strings attached. No "if's," "and's," or "but's" for you to complete. No fictitious purgatory for you to suffer and endure. No good works needed to please God and have Him save you. No adult decision to follow Jesus required in order to please God and have Him save you. The Son of God has done it all. Nothing depends on your own works or words or abilities. It is all Jesus! It is all God the Son! And "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." Amen.

Rev. Richard A. Heinz, Pastor,

St. John's Lutheran Church, Chicago, IL

Thursday, October 27, 2011

St. John's, Chicago and Issues, Etc.

Awesome! There we are. Although other suburban churches are listed, St. John's is now the first congregation inside the city of Chicago to be an Issues, Etc. 300 congregation!

Thanks be to God for Pastor Todd Wilken, Jeff Schwarz, and all the people who make Issues the great show that it is. And thanks be to God for the donor who helped our involvement happen!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison: Photos of a YEAR to Remember

Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison: Photos of a YEAR to Remember

I am humbled and honored that a photo of me, along with one of my heroes, Archbishop Walter Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, is among the images that President Harrison chose to recap his first year in office.

Praise the Lord for such a faithful servant in that office! I constantly thank God for him!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Who Is the Greatest -- In My Name: A Homily on Matthew 18:1-20

Matthew 18:1-20

12th Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 18

4 September 2011

St. John's, Chicago, IL

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

"Who is the greatest?" how frustrating for Jesus, that once again, the apostles are up to their same old competitions! Each of them wanted to be the greatest -- the leader -- the one who could have authority and control.

Jesus has been talking about how He would go to Jerusalem and be killed and then rise, and it is as if they haven't heard a word. He has been clear and direct that this is the way of revealing His true glory, in His suffering and death for all. Yet they seem to shrug their shoulders and go right back to the same old arguments.

"Who is the greatest?" You tend to go right along with the Twelve. You think in terms of the older one. The one more educated or more highly trained. The one with more wealth or political clout. But that isn't what Jesus says. He sees you and most people chasing all these wrong ideas, and so He turns the tables.

In Episode Two of the Star Wars movies, we find a corresponding moment. Jedi Master Obi-Wan was stumped and could not answer a mystery. Then Master Yoda asks a group of children, the oldest ones of whom appear to be about five years old. And one comes up with the answer right away! "Truly wonderful the mind of a child is!" Yoda exclaims.

Now, in the film, it was to the credit of the child himself, and his mind. The reality is that the Lord gifts with wisdom. He gives simple childlike faith. Not to any credit of our own, but entirely His generous gift. Children depend on their parents. A baby cannot feed or clothe or shelter herself. The parent provides and gives, and the child receives. The parent of a little child does everything for him, as he is weak, helpless and dependent.

So what are we to do? The NIV quotes Jesus as saying, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." The ESV translates it as: "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

But if you think you are the one changing or turning, you are puffed up with pride, trusting in your own works. You are then full of yourself. And guess what? That means you are not like a child with humble, helpless faith. That means you are thinking that somehow you can influence your own salvation. That you can make some decision to make Jesus your Lord and Savior, when you don't have that ability or authority. He gives. You receive. You cannot be the one "doing the verbs."

In these English translations, "change" and "turn" sound like we are the ones doing it. But Jesus' actual choice of verb here is passive. In other words, He says you are turned, you are changed. You are converted. The Holy Spirit converts you and gifts you with childlike faith.

But don't stop with the thoughts on "childlike." Jesus also is making it clear that children are a part of His Church. Unlike many others of that time, Jesus is very much an advocate for the children, and brings the little ones to Himself in baptism and His preaching and teaching. He does not segregate them from His adult followers, but calls young and old alike. The infants are as much a part of His kingdom and their parents, and join them in that kingdom through Holy Baptism.

Yes. He is speaking of Baptism here. The way in which Jesus speaks of receiving a "child in My name," uses grammar and language the same way as other baptismal passages in Matthew. Yes. Jesus is telling His Church that she will receive these little children through this sacred washing of rebirth and renewal!

"In My name" -- "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." That is the name of which Jesus speaks. That is the name in which the Lord received you into His Church -- His kingdom. That is the name in which you receive forgiveness of sins. That is the name of the One who will change your lowly body so that it will be like His glorious body at the day of the resurrection of all flesh.

A friend of mine is a pastor in southern Illinois. He has spent the past two weeks in Russia finalizing legal details, signing all the appropriate paperwork, and completing everything necessary. For what? He and his wife have adopted a little boy. And when all is said and done, the passport of that child as he flies to the U.S. will list his new parent's family name as his own. He belongs to them, and they are now his parents.

Rejoice, dear friends in Christ! You have been given the name of our Lord God as a free and amazing gift. Jesus gathers you into the family of God and now that you have been adopted, His name is yours. And along with that name, His authority, and all the rights and privileges of being His child.

Rejoice, because you need not worry and squabble about who's the greatest. The truth is, not one of us is greatest. Jesus Christ Himself is the greatest. He gifts you as children of God. And He gives you the gift of greatness through faith. Yes, He gives you amazing greatness, as you remain humble in His Name. Amen.

Get Behind Me: A Homily on Matthew 16:21-28

Matthew 16:21-28

Proper 17

28 August 2011

St. John's, Chicago, IL

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

Oh, Peter! How ridiculous you are! Do you really think that you know better than Jesus?! What a shame you don't know the Lord as well as we do. You and your crazy ideas about Jesus the Warrior-King! All you ever think about is glory and His popularity and power. You sure need Jesus to set you straight.

Hmm...have you stopped and thought about how ridiculous you are? Do you really think that you know better than Jesus? What a shame that you don't know the Lord as well as you think you do. You may not think of glory, popularity and power in terms of an earthly kingdom of Israel, but you have the same sentiments.

Oh! That congregation has five times as many people every Sunday, they must be doing something right! Why do we have all this death and resurrection talk? Why can't we just hear about improving our attitudes or daily life? Maybe we should find something exciting to visitors, and not talk so much about this suffering and sin business. That's kind of a "downer."

Sadly, many churches have done this over the years. Change the message so they don't offend. But that is falling into the same trap as Peter. And when you start feeling the same, and how we might be more popular if we laid off the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus, and instead focused on living your life right, Jesus tells you: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

Yet not only is Jesus' response a rebuke of what Peter said, it is also an urging to "fall in line." "Get behind Me." "Get on board. Take up your cross and follow Me." And with that, He is talking to you, too.

And you are thinking, "Umm. Yeah. Jesus, about that..." it scares you. It disturbs you. You don't want to give any consideration that your life as a Christian is not happy and easy in this world; it can be challenging, difficult, and even painful. "And ya know, while we are at it, we really don't like following. You see, we are born leaders. Don't need anyone else's directions or orders, we've got it under control.

"It's nothing personal, Jesus. We just don't want to think about suffering or dying, or being harassed or humiliated, or having to answer to anyone for anything."

And Jesus says, "Neither did Peter. But I forgive you both." Christ our Lord does not give Peter the pink slip and hire another disciple. He doesn't get mad at him and cut him off from His kingdom. He gives Peter the Law, but then assures repentant Peter with Gospel.

You too. For all the moments that you don't even want to look at the crucifixion, much less dwell on it and ponder it, our loving and forgiving Jesus releases you from the guilt of your sin and "set[s] your mind on the things of God." He restores and renews you, just like He did Peter, and you are His baptized, forgiven child, following Jesus who is carrying your cross too!

Dear friends in Christ, there is your sweet comfort. Your dear Jesus who has borne His own cross to take away your sin and give you life and salvation, now carries your cross too. You are not enduring anything in this life, alone. He endures it all, on your behalf.

The Son of Man endured it all as He came into His kingdom. There on His cross, He was crowned and enthroned, truly gaining the world as He lost His life for it. Having gone up to Jerusalem for you, He repays you according to what He has done, suffering, dying, and rising for you!

So even when life is overwhelming, and you get harassed or suffer for the Gospel, He is there, enduring it for you. Christ is your Mighty Fortress, protecting you so that not even the gates of hell can prevail against His Church.

You are forgiven. You are following Him. And for every failure, He is constantly restoring and renewing you in His one, true faith! "Get behind Me?" Yeah. Fall in line. "Take up your cross and follow Me." Jesus invites you to come after Him today, and with His grace and mercy, thanks be to God, He fulfills our following. Amen.

The Christ, the Son of the Living God: A Homily on Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13-20

Proper 16

21 August 2011

St. John's, Chicago, IL

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

"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" lots of confusion surrounded this point in the New Testament era. When Jesus asked this, He knew He was the Son of Man, but not most people. Misunderstandings abounded, as to whether it would be Elijah, confusing what the Prophet Malachi had said, or Jeremiah, or another prophet, or even St. John the Baptizer. Even most of the disciples might not have understood what Jesus was getting at here. So He goes on.

"Who do you say that I am?" There is the heart of it all. Who do you say Jesus is? Is He a prophet? A kind Man? A good Teacher? The perfect example of love? Yes...He is. But if that is all that He is, then you are still going to hell. If Jesus is just a prophet, you are still stuck in your sin. If Jesus is merely kind or good, He would not be giving you life everlasting. If He is simply an example and teacher of love, you would still be in the devil's loveless clutches.

And sure, you say, "Oh! I know better than that! I know Jesus is the Son of God." But do your words and actions follow suit? Or do you speak one thing in church and act another way outside these doors?

Yes, when Simon Peter boldly proclaims, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" you are ready to chime right in, "Me too! That's what I say!" but where is your focus?

If you keep turning back on yourself, and dwell on how you feel, you are off track. If you spend your time thinking about how you reacted to worship, or how you felt or what you thought during hymns or readings or prayers, Satan has been successful! It is NOT about you. The Lord Jesus is God coming to you. And He does this no matter what you are thinking or saying or feeling about it. Remember, it is not by your reason or strength; He sends His Spirit through His Gifts of Word and Sacraments to forgive you and bring you life. And He does this when and where and in whom He chooses.

So would you agree that He is the Christ, just because you thought so, or felt it? Is He the Son of God simply because of your instinct? Absolutely not! The Lord God promises to work through His proclaimed Word, and in His proclamation, He clearly and definitively reveals that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

That is great news! God Himself has come to bear your sin and be your Savior. He is your Redeemer and Rescuer. And He has given His Spirit to reveal that to you in faith. "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit." And so He has. The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and gifted Simon Peter to confess that Jesus is the Lord, and He gifts you to confess it too!

In the 1950's, a show called, "21" was enjoying popularity. Twenty-one was a game show in which contestants answered questions, like "Jeopardy" or "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." But "21" suffered a scandal. They had kept a close watch on ratings, and when they found a contestant that people really liked, they fed him answers so he would keep winning.

You have been given the answers, as well. Only with the Lord and in this situation, it is not cheating. He provides the answers for who Jesus is, and gives you faith in Christ!

This morning we rejoice as once again the Lord has gathered an amazing faculty and staff here at St. John's. He places them here to support and encourage everyone during their earthly journey, as they receive Jesus' Gifts and are then given to confess that He is indeed "the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Our dear Savior has gathered a faculty and staff that is confesses Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God," our only Lord and Savior from sin. He blesses them with faith, and in His love, He uses them to instill this in everyone He gathers here. They believe and confess with you, their fellow baptized faithful, that Jesus is our Risen Lord, who fulfilled that sign of Jonah, of which Jesus spoke soon before this event.

Jonah, seemingly dead in the belly of a fish for three days, then given a "life after death." Jesus, truly dead in the belly of the earth for three days when buried, then rises and gives life after death.

Dear friends in Christ, because the Father has revealed this to you, too, you believe and confess that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God." and through that gift of faith, you too receive the fruits of this sign of Jonah -- that is, you too join the Lord Jesus in His marvelous resurrection! Amen.