Monday, August 27, 2012

Sermon for 8/26/12--Trinity 12

Opening Ears and Lips

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

There's a reason Jesus needs to open our ears and loose our tongues. The healing of this deaf and mute man shows us what we are in our sin: unable to speak and unable to hear. Of course, we already practice selective hearing. When we hear a juicy story we can usually repeat it pretty accurately. When we hear a sermon, we'd be hard pressed to say what it was about much past lunch on Sunday—and that’s true of the one who preaches the sermons, too. We are deaf to the Word of God and can't repeat it clearly.

The Lord opens the ears of this deaf man and looses his tongue. Jesus does it to show this man and us that He is the Savior. Part of what we need saving from is being deaf and dumb when it comes to God and His Word. The world around us is that way. The world closes its ears to God's Word, and it can't say anything understandable about God's Word either. One the one hand you have the so-called "experts" and "scholars" that can say all kinds of nothing and use big words to do it. On the other hand you have the charlatans and frauds, the false preachers who do nothing but babble nonsense. And of course there's our sinful flesh, which just loves to cover our ears and drown out the Word with childish noises.

We need Jesus to open our ears and loose our tongues. And He can do it because He's the Lord. He's the One who was not deaf to our cries but heard them and answered them. Jesus healing this deaf man is about more than just showing He can do it. It's about showing that He can do it because He's the Son of God who came to save sinners. Since it is our sin which makes us deaf to God and unable to speak clearly what He says, He takes away our sin—and in doing so, He opens our ears and looses our tongues.

Jesus is the only one who can open our ears and loose our tongues. We can't hear God's Word by trying to pay close attention. We need Him to stick his fingers in our ears and to spit and touch our tongues! How does He do it? The Apostle John called Jesus “the Word made flesh.” Whenever we hear His Word, whenever the Word goes in our ears, that is our Lord, touching our ears to open them. In Holy Baptism, in the preaching of the Word, Jesus opens our ears. And when He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, there He touches our tongues to loose them so that we might confess His Word and speak and sing His promises! It is by Christ's Word and through His forgiveness that He gives that our ears are opened and our tongues are loosed to speak.

But such clear speaking only comes from hearing Christ's Word. If the deaf man's friends didn't bring Him to Jesus, his ears might never have been opened! Just so, if we cut ourselves off from Christ's Word, our ears are shut and our tongues just babble nonsense. If your children had a speech impediment, you'd do everything to make sure they got therapy to help them to speak clearly. If they were deaf, you'd seek medical help or teach them sign language or seek another avenue of help. How much more do you need to bring them to hear God's Word so that Jesus will open their ears and loose their tongues to hear and confess Christ and His forgiveness! The Divine Service, Sunday School and Catechism and Bible Study: those are the places where Jesus opens your ears and teaches you to speak plainly. If your confession of Jesus isn't clear, then be where He opens your ears so that the Word that goes in will come out of your mouth clearly.

In the order of Matins we pray, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.” Jesus opened the ears and looses the tongue of a deaf man. According to the prophet Isaiah, this identifies Him as the true Savior of sinners and healer of those who are under the curse of sin in this world. This Jesus is the One who has also opened your ears by His Word, who has touched your tongue and loosed it. Because of this, we can confess: “He has indeed done all things well.” 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.

Sermon for 8/19/12--Trinity 11

We Are Beggars
Luke 18:9-14

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

Two days before his death, almost as if he somehow knew his end was near, Martin Luther wrote: “We are all beggars, it is true.”  What a strange way to add up a life, especially his life!  This was the man who stood up to kings and councils and popes and not only survived but thrived!  This was the man whose written work compromises dozens of volumes, whose translation of the Scriptures actually shaped the German language, and whose courage helped to reshape the geography of Europe.  Surely, at the end of such a life there must be time for a bit of boasting.  Yet, like St. Paul, his boasting was in his weakness and, above all, in the power of the cross.

“Not worthy.” Those words are almost like a liturgical refrain on the lips of all the beggars that inhabit the pages of the Scriptures, and indeed, the history of the Church.  There was Zacchaeus, who was content to merely get a glimpse of Jesus as He passed by, and received infinitely more.  The woman who suffered from massive hemorrhages did not dare to ask of Jesus.  “If only I can touch the hem of His garment,” she thought.  Mary, who sat at the feet of her Lord soaking up every word He spoke, was also one of the humble.  At his death, the thief on the cross chastised his cynical companion and humbly asked Jesus to remember Him.  Unworthy beggars, all of them, and yet each of them ended up more wealthy than they could ever dream.  They received those precious gifts of healing, forgiveness, and the presence of the Lord.  They received grace upon grace.  As surely as the exalted are humbled, the unworthy who come to Christ in faith are exalted.

And so it was that two men, one a Pharisee, the other a publican, a tax collector, came before the same altar of God.  Each of them prayed.  The Pharisee, no doubt a sincere man, thanked God that he was not like so many others, especially that tax collector over in the corner.  He laid out his many accomplishments for God to see.  Not only did he avoid dishonesty in his business and unfaithfulness in his personal life, but even exceeded the legal requirements in piety by fasting twice a week and figuring his tithe before taxes.  The publican, however, could find nothing worthy of boasting.  His only plea was for mercy.  And both men received what they asked for.  The Pharisee asked for and received nothing; He had no need for God.  The publican received just what he prayed for: mercy.

In a world that attempts to eliminate guilt, if not deny it altogether, and where most efforts are not aimed excusing sin or denying that sin even exists, the publican seems unnecessarily hard on himself.  It is difficult, if not nearly impossible for most people, maybe even some of us, to really understand the publican’s repentance, or when Luther described himself as “poor stinking maggot fodder.”  That is beggar language, and in most circles such language doesn’t get it.

But in the kingdom of God, the picture of a beggar is one with profound meaning.  It is an eloquent description of your relationship to God.  You come to God with nothing; neither morality nor religious affiliation mean anything to Him.  You come to Him poor and humble and empty, or you do not come at all.  You enter the waters of Holy Baptism as strangers and aliens, and that flood washes away everything to which a sinner would cling.  You emerge washed, cleansed, and named children of the Father in heaven, a gift that gladdens the heart of every beggar, large or small.  If being children of God depended on what you do, or how well you have performed, or even how sincere your faith happens to be, you can never be certain whether you have done enough.

You can read all of the best-selling pop psychology books you like, and everything that has been written about the power of positive thinking, and you will look in vain for anything that will help you deal with your greatest need; the need for mercy.  What happens when broken human beings find the “gospel of self” just one more burden to bear?  What happens when the great movers and shakers of this world falter?  When you have tasted the bitter tears of failure and have grown weary of trying to save your own life, there is little hope found in “positive thinking.”  That is when you turn to a Gospel for beggars, and learn of a gracious God who understands your weakness, and lifts your burdens, and delights in showing mercy.

When you gather for the Divine Service, the first thing you do is beg. It’s not pretty, but you have no choice—you are beggars. And so you say, “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment.  But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.” And when you come before God as beggars, He graciously gives you what you need. He speaks His Word of forgiveness and life to you, and then He feeds you with the body and blood of our Savior: a meal filled with forgiveness and joy and hope.  It is a feast of victory, a foretaste of the eternal banquet where, after a lifetime of begging, you will gather to eat as sons of the King, receiving all that is His.

Until that day, uplifted by His Word, filled with His Supper, you come to Him with empty hands awaiting His gifts to make things right, to make you right with Him, and to sustain your lives.  In all of life, as Luther said, “We are beggars, it is true.”  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. 

Sermon for 8/12/12--Trinity 10

Knowing What Makes for Peace

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

The deepest longing of the human heart is for peace.  And that is really the same thing as saying that our deepest longing is for God Himself.  St. Augustine put it this way: “Our souls were made for Thee, O God, and they find no rest until they rest in Thee.”  Peace was the condition of our first parents in paradise before they fell into sin and set this world into chaos.  And peace is where the faithful of Christ are heading, because there is nothing in heaven that will upset the peace of eternity.  In the meantime, however, peace is not a word that we would often use to describe our present condition.  Life is anything but peaceful.  It is disturbed all too often by disappointment and regret, by pain and grief, and we know too well that the storms that “rock our boats” are often of our own making.  Instead of peace, we have opted for chaos.  Instead of God, we have chosen ourselves.

It is enough to make a man cry, which is just what Jesus did.  He wept because He knew what could have been, and what should have been; and He knew what now would be.  Jerusalem, the holy city, had chosen the way of wickedness.  Instead of peace with God, she had chosen to turn God away at the gate by rejecting the very Messiah He had promised.  She did not know the things that made for her peace.  How much of this description fits the Church today? How well does it describe us as individual Christians?  Do we know the things that make for our peace?

Christ gives Himself and His peace to us in particular ways.  He gives to His Word the power to do more than merely inform but to give us the fruits of His peace made with the Father in heaven for us: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.  In Holy Baptism our sin is drowned in the death of Christ, and we are pulled out of those waters into a newness of life that is full of the peace of God which surpasses all understanding; so far beyond our understanding that we often fail to realize that it is there.  In the Sacrament of our Savior’s body and blood we are given the remission of our sins, and there is nothing more conducive to a godly peace than to know that our sins have been taken away.  These are all simple things really: Word, and water, and bread and wine.  These are things we can hear, feel, and taste.

But there is also a complexity behind these things that defies our understanding and tests our faith.  What is in the mind of God?  Why would He do what He has done, and say what He has said?  When we question God’s ways, we question God Himself.  And we have all done this.  We have questioned God’s timing in taking a loved one from us.  We cannot seem to get it though our heads that there is a profound peace that is given in the death of a Christian; he is now with Christ forever.  We have questioned God’s wisdom in putting us where we are in this life.  We fail so often to see that all of life is a gift from His hands, and thus is a part of the peace He offers.  But often, all we see is a difficult job with difficult people, or children who test not only our patience but our sanity, or those many circumstances over which we have absolutely no control.  And, sadly, what frequently happens is that peace with God is broken.  We forget what makes for our peace.  We let our fear and frustration, our pettiness and anger, get in the way of God pouring out His peace on us in measures we would never expect.  We forget that the peace of God does surpass all understanding, and that it is present wherever Christ is with His grace and His gifts. But we tend to come at such things the opposite way.  If only we can understand something, then we will be able to accept it.  If only I can understand why this death occurred, then I will be able to accept it.  If only I can understand why these terrible circumstances have hit me now, then I will be able to accept them.

But that is not the way God works with us, nor is it the way He works with His Church.  We are called to faith first; then understanding, as much as we are able, will follow.  It is only when we first believe God’s Word of promise to us that it begins to make sense to us.  It is only when we believe that water joined with the Word of God cleanses us from all sin that we will begin to understand, as much as we able, how powerful the ongoing blessing of Holy Baptism really is.  It is only when we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ gives us His very body and blood with the bread and wine for the remission of sins that we will begin to understand, as much as we are able, that this blessed Sacrament is “the medicine of immortality,” as early Christians loved to call it, the food of eternal life.  It is only when we know that God has made peace with us, through the blood of Jesus Christ, that we will begin to understand what makes for our peace.  It is only when we know that God has visited us in Jesus Christ, His dear Son, that we will begin to understand that He continues to visit us in His Word and His Sacraments, that He gives us Himself there; that He is really present with us when we gather in His house of worship and prayer to receive the gifts He has invited us to receive.  It is only when we know that this same visitation of grace is what sustains and strengthens us in the midst of grief, and pain, and suffering, that we will begin to see the gracious hand of God in everything, even in that grief, and pain, and suffering.

And when we know and accept these things, then we will begin to understand one other thing of supreme importance.  When peace has been broken, when sin has brought its stain into our lives, God is also in the business of restoration.  And He restores peace in the very same way He makes peace; He gives, and gives, and gives beyond our understanding.  Even as He gave His own Son into death for the sins of this world, He continues to pour out the gifts of this salvation for the life of the world.  He continues to visit this world with His peace and will until the end of days, until He has restored His peace to all His people, that they might have it unto eternal 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.

Sermon for 8/5/12--Trinity 9

Unrighteous Mammon
Luke 16:1-13

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

This servant is ripping off his boss, and he gets caught. He's about to lose his job. So he does the only thing he knows how: he rips off his boss some more, but this time to the benefit of his boss's clients. Then his boss praises him? And Jesus tells us that Christians can learn from that? Just what exactly is Jesus trying to teach us from this? The answer is this: the people of this world know how to spend what belongs to others better than we Christians know how to spend what is the Lord's for the benefit of others. Jesus is teaching us to stop being stingy with what is His and to spend it like there's no tomorrow. Because of what Jesus has done, we have been given unrighteous mammon to spend lavishly—unrighteous because it's not ours.

The steward knows what God's people seem to have a hard time grasping. He takes what belongs to someone else and uses it for the benefit of others. Do we do that with what belongs to the Lord? Jesus is talking about a currency that isn't earned but that is given—the forgiveness of sins. Think about what our Lord does. He's Lord of heaven and earth, but He lives as if all the glory and righteousness the Father has given Him is His to give away! On the cross, He is so free with that righteousness that He even forgives those who nailed Him there! And by that death, Jesus piles up such a treasury of forgiveness for you that it will never run out. The debt of your sins has been paid in full. Your death has been overcome.

Through baptism, like young Carter, you have been made dead to sin. You have nothing left to lose. You can live by spending what is the Lord's to make the lives of others better. That means you can dish out forgiveness as if it's yours to spend! When someone wrongs you, sins against you, hurts you, goes against you, then you forgive them. The forgiveness for your sins that is given by your Baptism, which you receive in Christ's body and blood, is for you to give away to others. It’s an embarrassment of riches that you can share by refusing to hold the sins of your neighbor against him, by refusing to hold grudges, by treating him as if he has not sinned against you!

That's what it is to live by spending what belongs to Jesus. You see, when you think the forgiveness is yours, you hoard it for yourself. You might, if you thought they were worthy, give a little bit to your neighbor, like you might to a charity. This is why Jesus says the sons of this world are more shrewd than the sons of light. The world knows how to spend other people's money, but we Christians can be really stingy with the Lord's forgiveness, withholding it from those who don't deserve it in our sight. It's not your forgiveness; it belongs to Jesus! Spend it foolishly! Dole it out like it costs you nothing. After all, it didn’t. The Lord has more forgiveness than the world has sins.

Jesus says that His people can't serve both God and mammon. By dying and rising for you, by washing you and feeding you, He replaces the mammon of this world with the riches of His forgiveness. He rescues you from the idolatry of worldly mammon by dishing out His forgiveness. He rescues you from a life lived for yourself to a life in which you have His goods to spend on others, to better their lives with the forgiveness that was first shown to you. Jesus knows that the world is good at spending what belongs to others. So He gives you something even better to spend on others: His forgiveness. And with such a gift, you will be more shrewd than any of the sons of this world. 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.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Sermon for 7/29/12--Trinity 8

The Gate of Life Immortal

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

The Bible is full of texts that make even Christians uncomfortable.  This is one of them.  False prophets and bad fruit; the fires of judgment rendered against hypocrisy; the Lord closing the door of eternal life to those who are unfaithful to Him—these are fearful things, unsettling things.  It would be so much easier if Jesus had said none of this.  But the Church cannot ignore it, and Jesus won’t take it back, so the Church must read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest these things by faith. These are words that the Church must hear in faith with the understanding that they are for your good.

The Lord knows well the difficulties presented by His teaching, but that knowledge never leads Him to compromise the truth of what He is saying. On the contrary, Jesus at times said things that were so difficult to accept that He lost many of His followers.  And while that, no doubt, troubled His loving heart, it never moved Him to change what He said.  He would have been unfaithful to His own divine nature as the living Word of the Father if He tried to accommodate divine light to weak, sinful human eyes.  Rather than accommodate, He tried to enlighten those who heard Him.

To really get a sense of the urgency of these words, we need to back up a bit.  In the verses that just precede the text, Jesus said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Jesus is speaking about the way that leads to the Kingdom of His Father, the gate of that fold over which He watches as Shepherd.  The gate is narrow because the sheep go in one by one to make sure there are no goats or sheep from other folds that have been mixed in.  The Shepherd knows each of His sheep.  As they enter the gate they recognize Him even as He does them.  And inside the fold of the Great Shepherd there is life and joy, all gathered around their common Shepherd, in the safety of His protection.

False prophets want to undo all of this.  They are wolves who disguise themselves as sheep in order to pass as one of the flock.  “Listen to us,” they say.  “Don’t you see that we are just like you?”  They come dressed as sheep to appeal to everything in the nature of sheep that would cause their ruin, were it not for the shepherd.  Wolves want the sheep to follow their own instincts, which will unfailingly lead them astray.  Far from their shepherd, who cannot protect his sheep when they are so far away, the wolves prepare for their own diabolical feast; the death of the sheep.

Jesus says that these fake prophets try in every way possible to look and like the real article. They deceive the unwary with a teaching that brings death rather than life.  They offer a way to the kingdom that is broader and less difficult than that of the true Shepherd.  And yet, the narrow path and the difficult teaching have always been the way to God. The Word of God is life itself.

And so Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but He who does the will of My Father in heaven.”  The one who does the will of the Father in heaven is the one who enters by the narrow gate.  Above all, Jesus is the One who has done the Father’s will, and He makes you able to walk that narrow way and enter through that gate.

It is a difficult path. You enter the kingdom of God only by following Jesus through the gate. We all wish to enter through the narrow gate.  The alternative, the judgment that follows, is unthinkable.  The true prophets speak the Word of God; false prophets would pass off their own words as God’s Word.  What is the Christian to do?  Does God leave you to try and sort out all of this yourself, to distinguish the good from the bad, the true from the false?  Hear again the words of St. Paul from today’s Epistle: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” The Holy Spirit bears witness to you, so that you may cry out, “Lord, Lord!”—not in fear or doubt or deception, but in the boldness of faith.

Our Father in heaven does not forsake His children. He gives His Holy Spirit to you to convince you that you belong to Him, so that you may know that it’s the voice of Christ you are truly hearing and following, keeping you on the narrow way.  He put you on that narrow path in Holy Baptism, where He first put His name on you.  He gives you food for the journey in His body to eat and his blood to drink, given and shed for you for the remission of sins.  And he gives you a picture of what to expect when you go through that gate, the narrow gate which is the entry to the Kingdom of heaven, when He says: “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give You rest.”  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.  

Sermon for 7/22/12--Trinity 7

Paradise Restored

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

God placed man in the Garden of Eden. Man could eat freely of every tree of the garden. Only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was off limits. The tree was there as a way for man to honor God as his Maker, to acknowledge the holiness and the greatness of God, to show love for God by holding to His Word. This was man's worship. For him to eat of the tree would be to put himself into the place of God, and that meant death for man. "In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die."
We all know the story. Man succumbed to the temptation. Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Mankind's rebellion brought a curse on him and on the creation God had given him. And yet it might appear to the casual reader that what God said would happen didn't. The Lord had said, "In the day you eat of it, you shall surely die." But Adam and Eve were still alive and kicking for many years and decades after they ate, even if life had become much more difficult. So what's going on here? Did God's judgment fail?
Of course not. Death from the eternal perspective has to do with a lot more than just the body giving out and the heart stopping and the brain no longer functioning. Death ultimately has to do with being separated from God, being cut off from His presence and His goodness. That's why hell is rightly called eternal death: it is the place where God and His grace are absnt. That's the place for those who think they can live without God. So while physical death is indeed the earthly consequence of sin, spiritual death is the ultimate consequence of sin. In the day that they ate, Adam and Eve did die. They were only hollow shells of what they once were.

When the Epistle reading says that "the wages of sin is death," we know it doesn't only mean that death will be coming to us someday in the future. We're already experiencing it. We experience it in our bodies in various troubles and sickness and aging. And we experience it in our spirits, too. Every sin brings death with it. Laziness brings boredom with God's creation and dissatisfaction His blessings. Lust and sexual immorality diminish people and ruin families and sear consciences. Overindulging in food or drink produces health problems and a sluggish spirit. Self-centeredness and impatience lead to destructive anger. Greed overwhelms good relationships. Don't ever think those pet sins of yours are no big deal. They're killing you. Indeed, the wages of sin is death, even before we die.
However, that's only the first half of the verse. The last half trumps the first half when it declares, "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!" Notice the difference in terminology. The first half talks about wages; the second half talks about a gift. The first part talks about what we have earned; the second part talks about what God has freely given. Our working has led to death, but God's working leads to life through His Son.
In the Gospel we see a wonderful picture of how God worked to save us from death and bring us back into His life. We see Jesus in the wilderness with the people. After three days they were feeling the effects of sin's curse, being hungry and weary with no food around to refresh or sustain them. Man's sin had turned the world from the abundance of Paradise into a bleak and harsh place, and so Jesus entered into that harshness as a true man in order that He might undo the curse and restore all of creation. The Son of God took on your human body and soul and put Himself smack dab into the middle of this fallen world in order to rescue you and raise you up.
Jesus said, "I have compassion on the multitudes." That word, "compassion," in Greek has to do with the deepest possible empathy and feeling. So fully does Jesus empathize with you that He went so far as to suffer with you and to suffer for you in order to take your suffering away forever.
You can begin to see that taking place already in this miracle of the feeding of the 4000. Jesus produces bread in abundance apart from any sweaty or tiring labor. In this moment He restores the bounty of the Garden of Eden, where food is received in full measure from the gracious hand of God. Here you see God the Son beginning to break the curse of death and overcome the fall into sin. You see a glimpse of how it was in the beginning and how it will be even more so in the new creation of the age to come.
Jesus would complete His work of undoing the fall and breaking the power of the curse on the cross. That is where the deathly wages of sin and the abounding gift of life come together. The wages that you had earned by your sin Jesus suffered to death in His body. The judgment you had coming, He took on your behalf. Because of His sacrifice, the gift of life now flows to you and to all who believe in Him. Sin has been undone, and so have the wages of sin, namely death and hell. All that leaves for you is life.
Jesus took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. In the same way still today, Jesus speaks His words of thanks and consecration and His ministers distribute the Sacrament of the Altar. The seven loaves were multiplied to feed and fully satisfy 4000 people. In the same way today, Jesus uses seemingly insufficient bread to multiply His grace and feed and fully satisfy the church with His very life-giving body. We have a glimpse of Paradise right here. As you receive the bread of life, you are being given a taste of heaven. Heaven is where Christ is; and Christ is here for you. 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.