Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sermon for 1/31/21: Septuagesima

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“You Will Live”

Matthew 20:1-16


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



God never deals unjustly. You can count on that. Unfairness is a stranger to Him. No man has ever had the right or reason to say: “God has dealt unjustly with me.” No matter what complaints, or how many of them, have issued from the dissatisfied hearts of men, God always answers them with the truth: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.” And so, if you desire to bargain with God for wages; if you demand that He deal with you on the basis of merit, He will certainly do it. He will point to the unquestioned standard of good in His holy Law, and will say: “Do this, and you will live.” And He means to keep that promise. And many, it seems, are ready to bargain with God on the basis of merit. Might you be one of them? Do you understand the justice of God and its unqualified demands?

What is it, after all, that we deserve? Holy Scripture puts it this way: “There is none righteous, no, not one, there is none who understands...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All the good that we may do can never balance out the weight of our sins. What do we earn for ourselves by our sin? Again, Scripture speaks: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them.” Can we, then, really complain of injustice or unfairness when suffering or adversity comes our way? And, ultimately, what can we expect when the time comes for our wages to be paid in full? What have we deserved from God by our sins? His wrath and displeasure, death both temporal and eternal; that is what we have earned; a final and terrible, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.” Bargain with God, if you insist, on the basis of your own merit. Ask Him to give you what you deserve. Demand of Him your wages. But be sure you know what you’re doing, “for the wages of sin is death...” Certainly, none of us wants that. But what shall we do in our dealing with a God of absolute justice?

Strange as it may seem to human thinking, our just God is also a merciful God. Peter had asked what the disciples were going to receive from following Jesus. It was the wrong question to ask, and it revealed a dangerous pride. But Jesus assured him that those who follow Him will not be disappointed. He illustrates that in this parable. Those who had come to work at the later hours did not negotiate for their wages. They were content to work on the simple promise that they would be treated properly. They trusted the generosity and faithfulness of the Master. And so, when the end of the day arrived, what they received was not wages, but a gift—a generous gift. The owner justified it in this way: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” This gives us a picture of our God that gives us hope and courage, one that draws us to cast ourselves upon His mercy. We are taught that if we simply come to Him, empty of every shred of self-righteousness, with no vain claim of merit, we will find Him to be a good and gracious God. If we only faithfully seek His mercy, we will enjoy from His hand the abundant gifts of His grace.

Grace is the great truth of the Kingdom of God. You and I live entirely on grace, even as we look to God for everything that is good, without any merit or worthiness in us. As St. Paul said: “The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” How can a just God be this way? After all, aren’t we sinners? Don’t we deserve nothing but punishment? Yes…but we don’t ask for what we deserve. Instead, we believe and receive His offer of mercy. The Psalmist says: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.” And the grace He gives has been acquired at tremendous cost: the suffering and bloody death of His only-begotten Son. At the cross, justice and mercy meet, for there the just and holy God made full satisfaction to the demands of His own Law. There His Son paid, in His own body and life, the price for our freedom from sin and judgment. Through the merits of Christ, God declares that we are just and holy in His sight, forgiven of our sin, all without violating His justice and righteousness. And that is the only way it ever could be right for God to receive us to Himself.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” And when things seem all wrong, it is in Jesus Christ that we can see the kindly face of our heavenly Father in the fullness of His grace, as He says to us: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.” 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.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sermon for 1/24/21: Transfiguration of Our Lord

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Coming Down the Mountain

Matthew 17:1-9


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



When you reach the mountain peak, it is important that you remember what happened to get you to the summit. Matthew begins the Transfiguration account by saying, “After six days.” In this way, he connects what happens on the mountain with what has just happened in the preceding chapter of his Gospel, where our Lord foretells clearly for the first time that He must suffer and die, bearing on the cross the sins of the whole world. That dreadful word leads us right to the mountain top, where Peter, along with James and John, are allowed to see Jesus arrayed in glory, with Moses and Elijah flanking him. The disciples bore witness as the Father glorified His only-begotten Son.

But more than knowing these events, one must also recognize Moses, through whom the Lord delivered His holy Law to His people. Moses carried the Law down from Mount Sinai, and then he led the ungrateful people of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, right to the border of the Promised Land. Neither Moses nor that generation of Israel was permitted to enter, but Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land from another mountain peak, this time on Mount Nebo.

One must recognize Elijah, the mighty prophet who also been summoned in his day to the Mountain of the Lord. Elijah was feeling as though the whole world was against him, which wasn't too far wrong. After all, he was suffering because of his faithfulness in preaching God’s terribly unpopular Word. Elijah had finally gotten to the point where he sat down in disgust, and he prayed that he could give up and die. The Lord gave him rest under a tree, and then brought Him to the mountain, where the Lord reveled to Elijah that God Himself was present with His people—not in the bombastic might of earthquakes and hurricanes and raging fires, but rather in the still small voice—that is to say, in the simple speaking of His Word. 

When you reach the mountain peak, it’s important that you remember what happened to get you to the summit; but it’s also important to know what’s going to happen when you climb back down. Moses faced 40 years of wilderness wanderings with the grumbling Israelites when he came down from Sinai. And he never got the chance to descend from Mount Nebo; he died on that mountaintop. Elijah continued to preach the truth to people who wanted him dead, pronouncing judgment even on kings, before the Lord took him up in a whirlwind. Jesus had already explained to Peter what would happen. Not only must Jesus suffer and die, but Peter also must take up his cross. It’s no wonder Peter wants to stay on the mountain! Everything is good at the summit; what comes after is going to hurt. On the summit, Jesus is great and powerful; but when they go down the mountain, Jesus will be nailed to the cross. On the summit, Peter is a witness to the glory of God; but later on, Peter would also be crucified, but with his head down, because he insisted that he did not deserve to die as Jesus died.

And what about you? What brought you here today? What does the mountain hold for you? What will happen once you leave? You know what you’ve dealt with in your life. You know the hardships, the trials, the hard work, the rumors and false accusations, the temptations. You know the sting of your conscience in the sins you’ve committed in thought, word, and deed. It is right and salutary that you should climb this mountain; to approach this peak; to hear the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel preached to you; to find your rest in the Lord; to taste and see Him in His hidden glory in the Holy Supper of His body and blood. It’s a wonderful experience, one our Lord delights to share with you week after week for your comfort and joy, to give you the peace which the world denies you in the valley and on the plain. It is a foretaste of the eternal banquet, and our souls hunger for that greater, never-ending feast. We’d like to stay forever. And we will.

But for now, the Lord also calls you to climb back down. He calls upon you to take up your cross. He calls upon you to follow Him to Calvary, to bear witness to His crucifixion, to watch Him die the death you deserve. For the true height of divine glory is not on the top of the high mountain, but in what happens after, when Jesus is lifted up on the Cross. The true glory is in His sacrificial suffering and death, in His burial in the tomb. Only then will He rise on the third day, ascending to the right hand of the Father in heaven, so that His blood would cry out for your pardon, so that He may bring you with Himself into eternal life. And then the voice of the Father shines down on you, saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” 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.  

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sermon for 1/17/21: Second Sunday After the Epiphany

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Wine in Plenty

John 2:1-12


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



He had been baptized. He had already called some of His disciples. And yet, at the wedding in Cana, our Lord’s hour had not come. His patient mother Mary, having waited all those years, had asked for nothing. She simply made an observation to her Son: “They have no wine.” And for this, she is rebuked: “O woman! What have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

Mary’s life is a life of faith. She must trust that God is good, even when it seems that He is not. She has no right to complain, and so she doesn’t. She recognized that He was the only One who could help. She had faith. And this is the life of faith on this side of glory. The old Adam needs to hear the Law, to be knocked down, so that the Gospel might elevate the new man. This rebuke from her Son is not damnation. He rebukes her so that she might repent. And it works. Her faith is stronger for this preaching of the Law.

He did not promise a thing. Even so, she believes. She remembers that all things will be possible for Him. She knows that, whatever happens, He is God. He has come to save her. That is what matters. So she says to the servants, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” This is a clear confession of faith. And so it is that He relents. He makes glad the hearts of men. He brings order from chaos, joy from sadness, hope from dejection, wine from water, believers from unbelievers. He is the Creator, present in His creation to recreate it, to restore it, to redeem it! And His disciples believed in Him.

And what of us? How often have we prayed sad, melancholy prayers? How often have we complained against God? How often have we bemoaned the fact that we are not thinner, richer, more popular, healthier, or better employed? How often have we wondered why God hasn’t put this damnable virus to an end? How often have we led ourselves into the gloom of covetous depression, the jealousy that leaves us dissatisfied with what we have? How often have we moaned out the lament against the God of joy, “They have no wine”?

Repent. Repent, for we know that God is good. We know that His hour has come: nails were driven into His hands and feet, and finally a spear pierced His side; the sun went dark, the earth shook, and the dead rose. His hour is the hour He submitted to the death of the old Adam within all of us, so that the restored Adam, the baptized children of God, would live. He overcame that dark hour. He rose from the dead, giving us life and joy.

He will answer your prayers. He will even answer those you fail to pray. He prays for you! He makes glad the hearts of men. He gives wine. He knows what you need. He knows your heart’s desire. He knows what is best. He will teach you in the cross to have joy in sadness, triumph in defeat, and life in death. In your own crosses, your own suffering, your own trials, you will learn to come to His cross. There you will find perfect joy and peace beyond measure. You will know that He is your only Joy, your only Hope. There in His cross, you will find contentment.

He is still present in creation. He is with us always. His hour is delivered to us in the bloody water of Holy Baptism, in His crucified flesh and blood in the Holy Supper, in His Word of Holy Absolution. In these gifts, the fruits of His hour on the cross are poured forth to cleanse the dirty hearts of men, removing the sadness and the pain, making them glad again! You are united to Him in a bond that no one can sever. All good things are given to you, even His blessed Name. All shame, all guilt is removed. He does not fail. We have wine. Thanks be to God! 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. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sermon for 1/10/21: Baptism of Our Lord

CLICK HERE to listen to the sermon audio.

For some reason, the video didn’t record in a shareable format. My apologies.

All Righteousness
Matthew 3:13-17


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


Jesus came to His cousin John to be baptized. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, so it made sense that sinners came to John: tax collectors, prostitutes, soldiers—all sorts of “unreligious,” unwashed sinners. Into that bathwater, teeming with the collective sin of the world, steps Jesus, the sinless Son of God. Imagine that someone else has fallen into a pig wallow and has taken a bath, and now you’re stepping into that tub with its smelly, disgusting water. Imagine everyone who ever lived has fallen into that pig wallow and then has taken a bath in one tub, and yet everyone has come out clean and all the muck has stayed in the water, waiting for one person to collect all the filth. This is what Jesus did for us that day.

John is troubled and confounded, as well he should be. Here is the Lamb of God, the One whose coming John was sent to proclaim. John knows the truth. I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me? It seems backwards. The sinless One should be baptizing the sinner. And yet Jesus says this is the right thing to do. Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus is baptized as a sinner in need of repentance. The spotless Lamb of God stands in solidarity with sinners. He is our Substitute, the Sacrifice whose blood pays the price for our sin, the vicarious Victim who takes away the sin of the world. Here in the filthy waters of the Jordan River, Jesus shows what His work is: He has come to be made our sin, to become the Sinner in our place, to immerse Himself in our filthy bathwater, to turn that swampy mess into a cleansing baptismal flood of forgiveness.

This is how “all righteousness” is fulfilled. Jesus has come to fulfill the Law for us. It started when He was circumcised on the eighth day, shedding blood for the first time for the purpose of fulfilling the Law. Now He steps into the filth of our sins, taking them upon Himself, making Baptism into a washing of repentance. The Righteous One becomes the Unrighteous One. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus gets our sin; we receive His righteousness. The One who gave the Law to us has now come to put Himself under the Law; He has come to fulfill that Law perfectly.

The opening of heaven, the voice of the Father, and the descent of the Spirit—these divine signs show and tell us that this is the way of righteousness. The Son of God, the Anointed One, the Messiah—the Christ of Israel must be treated as a sinner for our sake. Already in His Baptism, we see His Cross. Our Lord’s baptism sets Him on the road to Calvary, where He takes the sin of the world upon Himself and dies the death to which our sins sentenced us. In Christ—in His Baptism, in His innocent suffering and death—all Righteousness is fulfilled. Salvation has been won. And He places those blood-bought gifts of forgiveness and life upon you in those bloody baptismal waters.

Now, through the redemption our Lord died to give you, through the Baptism in which the Holy Spirit places that redemption upon you, the Father looks upon you and says, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” In your Baptism, you, a sinner, covered with the filth of Adam’s disobedience and the muck of your own rebellion, were washed clean in the water in the Name of the triune God. In Christ, all righteousness is fulfilled for you and in 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.


Saturday, January 09, 2021

HYMN: Consumed by Flame, the Weary World

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the events of the last few days have caused many to despair over the future of the United States of America. No matter where one lands on the political spectrum—as an independent voter, it’s hard for me to say where I land on it—it seems like there have been plentiful reasons to be concerned about the state of the nation and the doings of its officials. Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and yet we are also called upon to participate in the doings of the world as citizens of the nations in which we live.

I’m wrestling with my place in this new world where fear, censorship, and mob rule are the norm. While my pastor heart stands guard over the sheep God has placed in my care as they face increasing enmity from the powers that be, even now I lay that concern at the feet of Jesus, knowing that all things are in His all-powerful hands, knowing that He will use all things for the good of His children.

That’s what this hymn text is intended to do: to lay my cares on Jesus, to place my trust in Him, so that I do not despair.

Feedback is love.

Consumed by Flame, the Weary World

1. Consumed by flame, the weary world
Awaits its true and only King. 
While tyrants rage with insults hurled,
God’s holy children pray and sing. 

2. We pray for peace. We surely know
The worldly give no lasting peace. 
The faithless offer endless woe
With malice surely to increase. 

3. And yet the faithful sing for joy.
Our legacy is peace in Christ:
A birthright death cannot destroy
From Jesus who was sacrificed. 

4. While nations fall and banners burn;
While kings their subjects’ trust betray,
The faithful pray for Christ’s return
Upon the Last and greatest Day. 

5. Until we see our King appear,
We trust no prince but Christ alone. 
And as the Day draws ever near,
We yearn to meet before His throne. 

6. Dear King of kings, oh, end the strife
And make our sad divisions cease. 
We beg you, Jesus, Lord of life,
To give us true and lasting peace.

(c) 2021 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
LM (88 88)
Occasion: The World, National Discord

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Sermon for 1/3/21: Epiphany of Our Lord (Observed)

CLICK HERE to hear the sermon audio.

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(CLICK HERE to see me nearly slain by the Spirit.)

“Where is He?”
Matthew 2:1-12

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


 Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” What an awkward question to ask the man who is already wearing the crown. But the magi had come to what they thought was the right place. After all, what better place would there be than the palace to find someone who was born to be the king? This was a sensitive subject for Herod, because he himself was not born to be a king. He was no descendent of David; in fact, he was appointed by the Roman Senate to kingship over the region of Judea. So neither Herod nor his sons were actually born to be the king of the Jews. From the verses following our text, we know Herod’s response to what he perceived as an insult: he ordered the murder of all male children under the age of three—the nuclear option to preserve his place on a stolen throne.

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Herod gathered the religious leaders to himself, and, consulting the Old Testament prophecies, they advised the king that the Child should be sought in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.” These leaders rightly believed that someone who was born to be the King of the Jews would be of the tribe of Judah, and, at the very least, Bethlehem would be a logical place to start looking. As we recall from Luke’s Gospel, Joseph and Mary had gone to Bethlehem for the census, since Joseph was of the line of King David. Mary, also, was a descendant of King David.

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Herod really wanted to know. History tells us that he had already eliminated one royal rival to keep his position, and he would not stop until he had eliminated this one, too. It didn’t matter that this was a Child; that would only seem to make the job easier. He sent the magi with instructions to find the Child and then come back and let him know the location. And once Herod knows where the Child is, he would settle the matter with extreme prejudice.

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” The answer to that question is vital to us, as well. We have entered the Epiphany season. Epiphany means “manifested,” “shown,” “revealed.” So it follows that we must ask the question, “Where does this King reveal Himself?” And the answer is before us. He reveals Himself in the star, the light showing the way to the Light of the world, the Light which no darkness can overcome. He reveals Himself to us as the Child of Bethlehem, the living Bread from heaven in the house of bread. He reveals Himself in the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought by the magi: gold, a gift to mark the Child’s role as King and God, just like the golden mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant; frankincense to mark the Child’s role as Priest, lifting prayers before the throne of grace; myrrh, to mark the Child’s role as the Sacrifice bearing the sins of the world to the cross, with perfumed oil to anoint His lifeless body. The sign above His head will announce that He is “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The Cross is before us even during Epiphany, for on the Cross Jesus shows Himself to be our King.

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Just as He was revealed in the royal and priestly gifts He received from the magi, today He reveals Himself to you in the gifts He gives, gifts both regal and priestly. He reveals Himself to us in His Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to us in Holy Scripture, spoken to us for the forgiveness of our sins, in Holy Absolution, as it has been proclaimed to us from the pulpit. He reveals Himself in the Holy Supper, where He comes to us in His body and blood, humbly, hidden in bread and wine. And He comes to us in the Gifts He shed His blood and gave His life to give us, gifts which the Holy Spirit placed on us in Holy Baptism: forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” He is here, today, 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.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Sermon for 12/31/2020: Eve of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus

CLICK HERE to hear the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE to view the sermon video. (Sorry about the blurriness.)

Shedding Blood
Luke 2:21


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


On the eighth day after his birth, each male child in Israel was to be circumcised according to the covenant between God and Abraham. Circumcision might seem like an unusual topic to discuss on New Year’s Eve. Nevertheless, circumcision was a new beginning for the Old Testament people of God. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when God commanded he be circumcised. Had Abraham not believed God, he would have laughed to think that circumcision could possibly have any spiritual meaning or consequence. But circumcision was an Old Testament sacrament in much the same way we understand the Sacraments today: it was the means by which God’s gifts of salvation were placed upon the people. It was a mark of God’s favor, a visible Word, a saving work of God. It was also a mark that you belonged to the Lord, that you and your household were heirs of God’s gracious promise. With all of Israel, you could say with certainty, “The Lord is our God, and we are His people.” You could eat of the Passover feast. You could pray in the temple. You belonged. In circumcision, God named you and claimed you and your household as His own.

And so, eight days after His birth in Bethlehem, Jesus was circumcised according to the Law. Eight days after His birth, He took His place under the Law and became obligated to it. Eight days after His birth, He shed His first blood under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law and in bondage to sin.

Circumcision taught a number of things about God’s salvation. That it took place on the eighth day after a child’s natural birth meant that its blessings reached beyond the seven days of the old creation into the first day of the new. It was a new birth—a heavenly birth into a new creation. The same is true of Baptism. The apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” To be in Christ as a baptized believer is to live in the eighth day, the first day of the new creation.

Circumcision also taught the truth of original sin. It taught that sin was handed down in an inherited way through the procreation of children. Therefore, sin is like a genetic disease, passed on certainly and infallibly from one generation to the next, from the father to the children.

Circumcision also taught that covenant with God involved the putting away of our sinful flesh and its desires. It meant a decisive break with sin, a killing of sin in the flesh. Circumcision taught that covenant with God involved suffering and pain, and the shedding of blood. On this eighth day of our Lord’s human life we cannot really sing that verse of the Christmas carol, “But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;” not on this day, at least, the day of His circumcision and naming.

This is not a Hallmark holiday. The idea of the Lord and King of the universe lowering Himself to this level, submitting to circumcision in His own sinless flesh, can make us uncomfortable. Babies and mangers, shepherds and angels—all of those fixtures of the Christmas season are appealing to us. But circumcision? It would be better not to talk about that! And yet, this is at the very heart of the work of Jesus: to fulfill God’s Law perfectly as our Substitute; to suffer and to shed His blood and die as the perfect Sacrifice. He is God’s substitute Sacrifice for sinners. Not only did the Son of God willingly give up His divine honor and glory for a time, to take on the lowly form of a servant, but He humbled Himself to the depths of human existence by becoming obedient under His own Law, even suffering and dying under that Law.

The sinless Son of God was treated as a sinner. As Paul wrote: “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive the adoption of sons.” This is the first blood Jesus shed for our redemption. When He was only eight days old, the Son of God permitted Himself to be wounded, and His blood to be shed, that you would be saved from death and hell. He had no need of circumcision for Himself; He did not need to become obedient to the Law for His own sake. But He has done all of this for you, so that you would belong to Him.

Circumcision pointed forward to Holy Baptism, and you who bear the greater sign of Baptism on your foreheads and on your hearts have your Christmas joy made new. The Law stands fulfilled in Jesus, down to the last pen stroke. All of it, He has kept for you. His circumcision, His perfect obedience, His suffering and death, are yours; and through Holy Baptism, you are His.

The remembrance of the circumcision of Jesus is not a sentimental celebration. There is no glorious angel, no humble shepherds, no pretty manger scene. There is only blood—the blood of Jesus shed for you, shed to perfectly fulfill the law, shed for you and for your salvation. By the grace of God, you drink the blood and eat the body of the One who was pierced on your behalf, a feast in which you receive all that Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose to bring you: the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and 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.