Thursday, October 27, 2011

I don't live to write; I write to live.

Starting on November 1, for the first time since 2008,  I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo participants spend the month of November trying to write at least 50,000 words toward a novel. This is my third attempt. Surprisingly, I have been successful in the first two attempts.

I will be working on the sequel to my 2007 NaNoWriMo project, which was called "Love Divine" and which I may or may not attempt to publish before too much longer. The new project will be called "A Great and Mighty Wonder". I have to say, I'm very excited about this. This new project comes hot on the heels of being published in Higher Things Magazine. It's been three years since my last NaNo attempt, and my life has changed a great deal since the last time I participated. Last time, I was running a community center in southeastern Louisiana. Now I am a pastor in southern Illinois. Last time, my children were young enough that they were taking naps and were generally pretty quiet. Now the twins are nearly six, and they are anything but quiet and sedate. The differences might make the process more difficult, especially since I have no intention of letting the writing process interfere with my various vocations.

If you're taking the ride with me, good luck and God bless you. If not, WHY NOT?!?!? But seriously, if you've ever thought about writing a novel but haven't done it, give NaNoWriMo some thought. Even if you don't make the 50,000 word goal for the month of November, anything you write puts you that much closer to a finished novel. And if you do it in November, you know you'll have hundreds of thousands of other people taking the journey with you.

Good luck, and good writing!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Exile In Print

Once again the editors of Higher Things Magazine have demonstrated poor judgment and questionable taste by publishing in their fine magazine an article I wrote. I received my print copy in the mail this weekend, and even knowing the article would be in there, it still gave me a jolt of pleasure to see something I wrote in print. It always does--always being twice so far.

It's funny--not really 'funny ha-ha' or 'funny strange', maybe more like 'funny amazing'--how life works sometimes. I've been writing for pleasure (in other words, for purposes other than schoolwork or as part of my employment) since I was probably fourteen years old. I'd show what I wrote to a few trusted people, but that was it. And after taking a lot of guff while I was in high school from people I trusted about a writing project I had undertaken--I started to write a young adult novel when I was barely a young adult myself--I stopped even showing it to trusted people for a while. I kept writing, but I never thought it was worth anything. I've still got most of those old writings in a file, though I threw out that YA novel start, sadly. But I never really did anything with them.

It wasn't until I was in my junior year of college that I actually submitted something for attempted publication, and that was for the fledgling college newspaper at Concordia College in Bronxville, New York. By the time it was in print, it had been edited so much that I barely recognized it as mine. I didn't submit anything again until I was in my late twenties, and that was the first time I was published in Higher Things Magazine: an article about online relationships.

There is a point in all this, and I swear that I'm getting there.

Once I started blogging, it got easier to attempt to increase the amount of people who read what I wrote. All I had to do was e-mail the web address of my blog to people I hoped would read what I wrote. And now that I've started writing hymns, I've been able to use this gift which God has given me to give glory to Him, not only in my vocation as pastor, but even through something I consider a hobby.

So what's the moral of this story? The point of me saying all this is that I hope that, if you're someone who has something to say, don't be afraid to share it. I lived in fear for much too much of my life. There are things that I could have or should have said, but I left them unsaid because I was afraid of what people might think. Don't be afraid to try. I will never receive as many notices that my work has been published as I have received rejection letters, but that's okay. What I wrote won't always be received as I would hope, but it's not going to stop me from writing. I'm about to begin writing my second novel now, even though I've not fully finished editing the first. God has given me a gift, and I intend to use it as much as possible to the best of my ability. Don't be afraid to do the same. Enjoy what you do, and don't let the critics get you down. Write, paint, compose, or do whatever it is you do for the glory of God and for the sake of your own joy. Even if no one else appreciates it, at least you've found joy in what God has given you.

By the way, if you're not a subscriber to Higher Things Magazine, WHY NOT?!?!? Click here and get started!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sermon for 10/23/11: Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity (LSB 1-year)

What Matters Most

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

If someone were to ask you what matters most concerning the Christian faith, what would your response be? Would it be the Golden Rule? Would it be the Ten Commandments? Would it be the virgin birth of Jesus? Would it be the miracles of Jesus? His teachings? His mercy? When someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus told him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And then He added, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The whole Law of God hangs on these two things: loving God above all things and loving your neighbor as yourself. But is that the central teaching of the Christian faith?

If it is, you’re in deep trouble. If that’s the center of the Christian faith, the foundation upon which everything else rests, then you must ask yourself the question: How am I doing with that? Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Is the Triune God the One you look to for every good thing and seek refuge from in all distress? Do you trust the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with your whole being? And if you think you can honestly answer those questions by saying “yes”, ask yourself when the last time was that you had an impure thought or an evil impulse or even said something that was cruel or hurtful. For sinners it is all too easy to spend time and energy on things that seem much more interesting than God’s Word. And what about your neighbor? Can you honestly say that you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself? Do you grow frustrated with yourself as quickly as you do with the moron in the car that cut you off? Do you lavish on your neighbor the same kind of luxury to which you treat yourself? Do you even offer him the loan of your lousy second-hand golf clubs? And even if you do, do you do it for your neighbor? Or do you do it so you can feel good or so you can receive their gratitude? Love God, and love your neighbor. It sounds so simple. Jesus says that all of Scripture hangs on these two things. That is the religion of works, the religion of the Law. If that is the most important aspect of the Christian faith, then you must ask yourself, “Have I done enough? Am I worthy? Have I earned my salvation?”

All the Law and the prophets hang on those two things. But thanks be to God, Jesus is not saying there that everything depends on the Law or on our obedience to it. Look at what he says. “All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” So what is the Law? Who are the prophets? And what does Jesus mean by that? The Law and the prophets are what constitute the Old Testament. And what is the Old Testament about? Look at the third chapter of Genesis. Man falls into sin. He cannot live in perfect obedience to the religion of the Law. So the Father promises to Adam and Eve a Savior, One who will crush the head of the satanic serpent. And the rest of the Old Testament points forward to that One, the One who will win the victory over the sin and death which are the price for our inability to perfectly obey the Law. In other words, when Jesus says, “All the Law and the prophets,” Jesus is talking about Himself.

Jesus is the sum of the Law and the prophets, the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” It’s oddly appropriate that Jesus should use that word “hang”, because that is precisely what Jesus, the sum of the Law and the prophets, does. He hangs on the cross. He hangs on that cross, bearing the punishment we deserve for our lack of obedience to the Law and the prophets. He hangs on the cross as the perfect obedience to those two commandments. In perfect love for His heavenly Father, Jesus hangs on the cross, obediently bearing our sins according to His Father’s will. In perfect love for you, His neighbor, He dies the death your sins deserve, keeping the commandments which you in your sin could not keep. He’s hanging on cross for you, hanging in perfect obedience, hanging in perfect love.

The Pharisees and teachers of the Law have it all wrong. They want to make the Commandments the main thing. They believe the Messiah should give them more Law. They believe He should be a new Moses. But more Law can only increase the burden; it cannot take away the burden of sin. So Jesus goes on to tell them about what truly matters: Himself. He is the Son of David. But He is more than that, He is the one promised to Adam and Eve. He is the one for whom Abraham and Isaac and Jacob waited. He is the one for whom Moses longed. He is the one for whom David prayed. Jesus is both David’s Son and David’s Lord. He is the son of Mary, a direct descendent of King David. But He is also the Son of God, begotten from the Father before all eternity. Only one who is both can save you. Only One who is true God can be perfectly obedient to the Law and the prophets. But only One who is true man like us can die, paying the wages of sin. And only One who is both true God and true man can die that death on behalf of all of mankind.

So what is the most important thing, what matters most in the Christian faith, is this: Jesus, true God and true Man, loves the Lord your God with all His heart, with all His soul, and with all His mind; and Jesus, true God and true Man, loves your neighbor as He loves Himself. This is what matters most, because your salvation hangs on His love. Your salvation does not depend on your diet. It does not depend on your clothing. It does not depend on your obedience to the Law. Your salvation is this: Jesus Christ has died bearing your sins, and He has risen to raise you up with Him. This is the center, the foundation, the cornerstone of your faith and life. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sermon for 10/16/11: Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity (LSB 1-year)

Sorry for the delay on this one. This weekend and week beginning has been insane.

Once again I found myself preaching on the Lord's Supper on a non-Communion Sunday. It's strange, pointing to an empty altar and inviting people to partake of what's not there.


Table Manners

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Upon hearing today's Gospel reading, you might think that Jesus is simply giving us some advice about good table etiquette. It could seem as if he's just outlining proper protocol when you're at a special meal or banquet. However, Jesus is obviously doing more here than teaching etiquette. First of all, he's exposing our sinful tendency to exalt ourselves. In Jesus' day, there would be a very clear ordering to the seats at a special meal, from the greatest to the least. Jesus' spoke these words when he noticed how everyone was trying to get the most honored places for themselves.

I'm sure that every one of us here can identify with that desire. At a wedding reception or out with friends at a restaurant, we want to be seated in the right place and be associated with the most liked people, to exalt and build ourselves up before others. We even want to pick the perfect pew. Jesus exposes and condemns this urge in us to put ourselves first. He says, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled."

In fact, so ingrained in us is this sinful urge, that we hear Jesus' words and turn them against their intended meaning. We say to ourselves, "Oh, so that's what I should do next time I'm at a special meal. I should choose the worst possible spot so that someone will be sure to invite me over to a better spot, and then I'll look good in front of everyone." Thus, even our humility is shown to be tainted and false. It's just another technique to get where we want to be. It is self-centeredness wearing the mask of modesty. If nothing else, our lack of humility is revealed in the fact that we pride ourselves on being fairly humble people. No one who thinks he's humble actually is.

In this Gospel, then, Jesus is calling you to true humility, the humility which St. Paul speaks of in Philippians 2: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each consider others better than himself." Jesus is calling you to the kind of humility that is not only outward but from the heart, that is modest not only before other people but also meek and lowly in the eyes of God. Ultimately then, Jesus is calling you to the humility of repentance, of confessing your self-exalting sin, of acknowledging that you have no power to achieve real humility and that you don't deserve any place at God's table, high or low.

The humility which God seeks is a lowly and contrite and penitent heart, a heart which says, "There is nothing in me that merits anything from God or that requires Him to do any good to me. Therefore, I trust not in my own works but in the works which He has performed for me in His Son Jesus. My help does not come from within but from outside of me, from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. My hope is in Him alone." It is this repentant faith which God seeks, to humble yourself before God that He may lift you up, that He may say to you, "Friend, come to a higher place," to receive your place at the table as a gift from the Master of the feast–not because you've finagled it for yourself, but because out of His great love and mercy, the Lord has freely exalted you and has earned for you the privilege of sitting at the heavenly banquet.

Jesus earned this privilege for you by fulfilling His own words. He put Himself in the lowest place in order to save you. He who is the Almighty Son of God, having taken on your humanity, was born in a lowly manger, lived as a poor and humble carpenter, had no home of his own during His ministry and no place to lay his head. He finally died the way the worst of criminals died, by being executed on a cross. Christ didn't claim glory and honor for Himself but laid aside His majesty as King of creation to be crowned with thorns and to be made the lowest of the low. All this He did for you. He received the punishment you deserved so that you might be released from your sin and set free. In Christ, the humble Redeemer, you now are forgiven. Jesus has fulfilled these words for you, "He who humbles Himself will be exalted."

Our Lord Jesus is indeed the most honorable one at this feast, the one who took the lowest place and who has now been called to the highest place at the table by His heavenly Father. For this is Christ's own wedding feast, the celebration of His holy union with the Church, His bride. And if He is honored, then she also is honored with Him. By faith in Christ you are joined to Him in such a way that you now share in His exaltation. Even as Jesus took your death into Himself and destroyed it on the cross, so now by the power of His resurrection He lifts you up in His new life. To you who humble yourself before God, who repent of your sin and trust in Christ, the Father says, "Friend, go up higher." And He seats you with Christ in the heavenly places and gives you to partake of His glory, a reality that will be revealed in all its fullness at the close of the age. This is what Jesus means when He says, "He who humbles himself will be exalted." You who in lowly faith follow Christ and share in His cross in this world will ascend with Him in the next and share in His everlasting life.

As you await that day, the Lord invites you to come to His table, to the foretaste of the wedding feast. You are bidden to take the lowest place, that is, to come in all humility before God as a repentant sinner. No one who comes to the Lord's Table is any better or higher than another. All are unworthy to take part in the feast. All are as nothing before the King. To claim otherwise is to dishonor the King and to be cast away from His presence. You are urged, then, to come to the Lord's Supper as beggars, as ones with nothing to give and everything to receive. Come as the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. For in the Supper the Lord Jesus bestows upon you the greatest honor that heaven has to offer, to receive His true and living body and blood. Here Christ comes to you personally and concretely to lift you up out of the pit and to raise you to heaven. Just as Jesus healed the man in the Gospel, so also in the Sacrament He heals all your ills of body and soul. Through His holy Meal, He cleanses you of your sin, He fills you with His life, and He prepares your body for the resurrection on the Last Day. God grant each of you, then, to have those heavenly table manners Jesus speaks of, that humbling yourself with Christ, you may also be exalted together with Him. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Monday, October 10, 2011

GUEST POST: Sermon for 10/9/11--Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

We at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, were blessed to have as our Mission Speaker the Reverend Paul Philp. Pastor Philp is the Director of Academic Planning and Assessment at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He spoke to our Bible Class about the seminary, and then he delivered the Word to us in the Divine Service. (For me, especially, the message he preached was timely.)

Pastor Philp does not preach from a manuscript, as I do, but his outline has enough detail to it that even I was able to connect the dots. Thank you, Pastor Philp, for sharing with us the vital message of the Resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of all flesh!

The Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity (LSB – 1)
“A Funeral Ruined”
October 9, 2011
St. Peter Lutheran Church – Campbell Hill, IL

Intro:  Etiquette!  Every event has a certain etiquette that goes with it.  We all generally know what proper etiquette is, and can easily identify those who do not in a given situation.  They tend to stand out from the crowd rather easily.  Weddings have proper etiquette.  There is proper etiquette for inviting someone to your home, or accepting an invitation to another’s home.  There is proper etiquette for gathering together as a congregation for worship.  And yes, there is a proper etiquette for funerals.  Those in our text seem to know the proper etiquette for a funeral, that is, except for Jesus!
      I.                 Funeral Etiquette
A.    You probably are well familiar with proper funeral etiquette today.
1.      It is generally accepted, even in a more casual society that you dress nicely for a funeral.
2.      Generally there are certain things that you do not say about the deceased – usually only the good things are spoken of.
3.      The family is comforted with the typically almost cliché comments.
4.      You perhaps send a sympathy card, maybe a floral arrangement, or perhaps a donation to a charity of the family’s choosing.
5.      In all circumstances you maintain a sense of dignity and you do not interrupt the proceedings – that would ruin the funeral!
B.     There was funeral etiquette in Nain as well.
1.      The people would gather to comfort the bereaved – in this case a widow who had not lost her only-begotten son.  A widow who would soon be forgotten.
2.      The body would be carried out of the city for burial.
3.      Mourning would take place among the crowd.
4.      The proceedings would be carried out without interruption.
5.      And, no one, except those charged with carrying the body to its final resting place would dare come into contact with the body lest they become unclean.
6.      All generally accepted, understood, and adhered to practices of the day.
7.      For to do otherwise would ruin the funeral!
II.                Jesus’ Funeral Etiquette is different.
A.    Jesus witnesses the circumstances and is filled with compassion.
1.      He is filled with a deep gut wrenching compassion for the widow who has lost her son.
2.      He is filled with the type of compassion that leads to the pouring out of His rich mercy and grace.
3.      Filled with compassion – Jesus acts – and He breaks all the rules of Etiquette.
B.     Jesus stops the funeral.
1.      He interrupts the flow of the funeral procession and stops it at the gate of Nain.
a.       This funeral procession is not proceeding any further.
b.      Jesus stops it dead in its tracks.
c.       Jesus is starting to ruin this funeral.
d.      But Jesus’ funeral etiquette is different.
2.      Jesus demonstrates His compassion for the woman.
a.       He addresses her weeping.
b.      He tells her – “Do not go on weeping!”
(1)   Do not go on weeping?
(2)   Has Jesus totally missed the fact a funeral is in progress?
(3)   Does He not realize that this woman is a widow who has no lost her only son?
(4)   Does He not know that she will now likely be destitute and unable to support herself?
(5)   Do not go on weeping?  Jesus’ words are a tremendous breach of funeral etiquette – He is well on His way to ruining the funeral.
(6)   But Jesus’ funeral etiquette is different.
3.      Jesus touches the bier!
a.       He walks right up to the dead body and touches it.
b.      He enters into the unclean regions of death and touches it.
c.       He makes Himself unclean in the face of death.
d.      Jesus has created a tremendous breach of etiquette.
e.       This funeral is pretty much ruined at this point – too many inappropriate interruptions have transpired.
f.       But Jesus’ funeral etiquette is different.
C.     Jesus performs a miracle.
1.      Jesus speaks.
a.       Not to the widow.
b.      Not to His disciples.
c.       Not to the crowd of mourners.
d.      No, Jesus speaks to the only person at this funeral who no one would expect to hear what He has to say.
e.       Jesus speaks to the dead man!
2.      With a Word – Jesus ruins this funeral!
a.       This funeral is over.
b.      The mourners can go home.
c.       There is no more death.
d.      For with a Word – Jesus raises the dead to life.
e.       “Young man, I say to you, be raised up!”
3.      Jesus Commands Life.
a.       The dead man sits up.
b.      Life is commanded and death retreats.
c.       The funeral is over.
d.      The funeral is ruined with life and resurrection.
e.       The funeral is undone.
f.       Jesus’s funeral etiquette is different!
4.      Jesus does not allow death to reign – He brings resurrection to every funeral He attends!
a.       The funeral here in Nain.
b.      The death of Jairus’ daughter.
c.       The funeral of Lazarus of Bethany.
d.      And most especially – His own funeral!
e.       Jesus does not let death reign – He commands Life and death retreats!
5.      Jesus does what He came to do.
a.       Just a few verses after our text – John’s disciples come to Jesus to ask if He is the Christ – the Messiah.
b.      Jesus response –
(1)   The blind see.
(2)   The lame walk.
(3)   The lepers are cleansed.
(4)   The poor receive the Good News.
(5)   The dead are raised to life!
c.       Jesus ruining of the funeral at Nain – His reversal of death – is proof that He is the very Messiah of God.
d.      While at Nain the widow’s was raised to life – he no doubt died again – Jesus is not done with Life Reining here.  The widow’s son will live again.
(1)   Jesus will touch the uncleanliness of death again.
(2)   When He does – He Himself will become unclean.
(3)   He will take the filth of sin and death upon Himself.
(4)   This time the funeral procession will proceed.
(5)   His bloodied, broken, lifeless body would be carried from the Cross to a rock hewn tomb.
(6)   He would be buried.
(7)   It would appear, as it did at Nain, that another widow’s only son was dead and gone forever.
(8)   But just as the widow at Nain saw her son live again – so also would the widow Mary.
(9)   For Christ who died, has been raised to life.
(10)           Jesus ruined His funeral three days after it took place!
(a)    The burial could not be finished.
(b)   He commanded life – and death retreated.
(c)    He emerged victorious over sin, death, and the devil.
(d)   And unlike the widow’s son at Nain, Jesus did not and will not die again.
(e)    Jesus resurrection ruined not just His funeral, but the funeral of all the faithful.
III.             Jesus changes the funeral etiquette for us.
A.    Like the widow’s son – we will all die.
1.      Like that son, each of us is filled with the unclean filth of sin.
2.      Eventually, that sin will kill us – our life on earth will end.
3.      Our bodies will be carried out of the city for burial.
4.      There will be crowds gathered to mourn our death.
5.      Those gathered there will not expect to see us living again in the midst of our funeral procession, any more than those at Nain expected life in the midst of death.
6.      But life is as certain for us as it was for the widow’s son the day of our text – and even more so.
7.      For you see – your funeral is already over!
B.     You have already died.
1.      You have died.
2.      You have been buried.
3.      In Christ’s tomb.
4.      Drowned in the Word drenched waters of Holy Baptism.
5.      Yes – it is true – there in the font – you died and were buried.
6.      Your funeral procession was on full display for all those gathered around to see.
7.      And just like at Nain – Jesus ruined your funeral!
a.       It was not at a city gate.
b.      Rather it was in the bottom of a watery grave – filled with the filth of your sin that Jesus descended into that sinful uncleanness and spoke a Word of Life.
c.       Jesus commanded Life and death retreated.
d.      Jesus words sounded like this on the lips of your pastor – “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
e.       Jesus marked you with His cross on your forehead and your heart and commanded Life – His Life.
f.       And death retreated!
8.      For out of that watery grave – Christ has raised you to life in Him.
a.       You will, unless He returns before then, still die a physical death.
b.      But you will NEVER die again – for Christ has raised you in His resurrection.
c.       All that remains in your watery grave is your sin – made clean in the Blood of Christ.
d.      Your tomb is empty just like Jesus’ tomb.
C.     Physical death and your funeral.
1.      Yes – you will die.
2.      It will seem as though death retreated only to strike again at a more opportune time.
3.      It will – as your family stands next to a hole in the ground seem like this time death as won – just like the widow thought at Nain.
4.      But not so – no Christ has already raised you from eternal death.
5.      Your grave is far less of a challenge – Jesus can and will raise you with a Word – just like the widows Son.
6.      For Christ has died – Christ has been raised – and Christ will come again!
7.      When Christ comes again – your funeral – no matter how long in the past will be ruined forever!
8.      For when Christ comes again:
a.       He will stand at your grave.
b.      He will open it with a Word.
c.       He will speak and you will be raised.
d.      He will call out your name and say to you – “I say to you, be raised up.”
e.       And you will be raised up!
D.    For Jesus’ funeral etiquette is different!
1.      Death does not reign at funerals that Jesus attends.
2.      He stops death dead its tracks.
3.      Jesus commands life and death retreats.
4.      On the day of the LORD when Jesus the Christ of God commands Life – death will retreat once and for all – for death stands defeated – Christ is victorious.
5.      Jesus has ruined every funeral including yours – Life reigns.
IV.             So now our funeral etiquette is different.
A.    Gone is the hopeless mourning.
1.      We may weep for a time.
2.      But Christ comes and says to us – “Do not go on weeping”
3.      He comes and commands Life.
B.     Gone are the empty platitudes and cliché comments
1.      We recognize death as the terrible thing that it is.
2.      We recognize that it is not a natural part of life.
3.      We recognize that sin and death have their way for a time.
4.      But in Christ – we do not mourn without hope.
C.     No in the face of death we rejoice.
1.      We rejoice in the Life in Christ.
2.      We rejoice that Christ has commanded life and death has retreated.
3.      We rejoice that Christ is raised and so also will the dead in Christ be raised.
4.      We rejoice because we have already been raised.
D.    With the crowd at Nain we confess:
1.      “A great prophet has been raised up among us.”
2.      “God has visited His people.”
3.      And to the whole world we send the resounding message – Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia!
Conc:  Every event has proper etiquette.  Funerals have proper etiquette!  The proper etiquette for the Christian funeral – well it looks just like Jesus’ funeral etiquette, because Jesus is there!  He is there having stopped death in its tracks.  He is there having given His body and shed His blood.  He is there having claimed the dead as His own.  Indeed proper funeral etiquette is that Life is Commanded and death retreats and the faithful of God – they enter into eternal life and the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Reign which has no end.  As those who have been raised to life, whose funerals have been ruined by Christ, gathered in the Divine Service there is a proper etiquette too – Come to the table of the LORD and receive His Body and His Blood poured out for you His resurrected people!  Death has retreated! Christ has died!  Christ has risen!  Christ will come again!  To Him be the Glory!  Amen!