Ascension Sermon

Ascension and Epiphany are two of the major feast days in the church year that seem to have fallen by the wayside. As a matter of fact it seems that Christmas and Easter are the only two feast days that get top billing. And in many churches, even Lutheran churches, Christmas Day is celebrated only if it lands on a Sunday. Thank the Lord Easter is on Sunday at least that is consistently celebrated! But folks, don’t forget the Creeds. We celebrate God becoming man and dwelling with His creation on Christmas and Epiphany. Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate and was crucified, died, and was buried (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday). The third day He rose again from the dead (Easter), and He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty (Ascension). Like all the others days just mentioned Ascension must be a big deal. It’s mentioned in all three Ecumenical Creeds.

 Now as to why days like Ascension have fallen to the wayside, there are many and varied reasons and I don’t think there is any need to rehash them here. Instead we will focus on why the Ascension is so important.

 First off, to ignore the Ascension is to ignore the complete plan of salvation. In other words, to stop with the resurrection of Christ is to stop short of what our Lord has prepared for you. For you see, when Christ ascends bodily to be with the Father, this is the first time that anything earthly or bodily has entered into heaven, the presence of God. And as we know, that by Baptism we are joined to all Christ has done for us. When He ascended all of humanity ascended with Him. The Ascension of Christ is the glorification and completion of Christ’s Incarnation. In other words, Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter don’t mean much without the Ascension.

 Like the resurrection of Christ foreshadows and guarantees our resurrection, so the bodily ascension of Christ foreshadows and guarantees that we will live bodily in the presence of our Lord. Again, we will not be bodiless spirits bumping around the universe for eternity. We will exist in body and soul in the presence of God for eternity.  The Ascension is the glorification of Christ’s humanity and it is thereby our glorification. Are you beginning to see why Ascension is a big deal?

 But folks the joy doesn’t stop there. Our Lord gives us grace upon grace. We receive, even now, the benefits of Christ’s ascension. As we have learned these last few weeks in John 16, it was necessary that Jesus return to the Father and sit at His right hand. Why? So the Holy Spirit can come and give us the faith to believe everything mentioned above. But not only give us understanding and faith but give us the Incarnate, once dead, now alive, ascended Christ. The Holy Spirit testifies and points to Christ to show the new reality that God has created; that we are redeemed sinners in the hand of a merciful God. He also calls, gathers and enlightens us and points to WHERE Jesus is located for us; in His Word and Sacraments.

 But wait a minute pastor, what about that bit of the creed that states that Jesus is to be found sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty? Isn’t Jesus located there in heaven until He comes back to judge the living and the dead? Folks, this is why we need the Holy Spirit to give us understanding, for you see, sitting at the right of God is not just Christ, but also the Church, and you.

 Christ is the head of the body, His body, the Church. You cannot divide the head from the body. In Ephesians 5, marriage is used as another image of the intimacy between Christ and His Church. The two are one flesh and cannot be divided. Christ is located with His Church. The Church IS the right hand of God the Father Almighty. As the Holy Scriptures confess, Christ is physically present in His Church…This is My Body…..This is My Blood. Christ is not locked in heaven awaiting His second coming. He is physically located in His Word and in His Sacraments, in other words, in the Church.

 And again, it is through the Church that Christ is in you. Christ enters your ears and your heart through the proclamation of His Word, in Baptism, and by hearing the Absolution. Christ enters your mouth and your heart by His Holy Body and Blood. And this Christ you receive is the Incarnate, once dead, resurrected, and ascended Christ. Therefore, you who were once dead in sin are now alive. Plus you have also ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

 Jesus tells us not to sit in a place of honor so that you not be ashamed when you are kicked down to a less honorable seat. Instead, sit in the less honorable seat and rejoice when you are called to sit in a more honorable seat. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Ascension of Christ brings us to the most honorable seat in creation. You are sitting it even now. You are here with Christ, in His Church, and you reign with Him, for you are seated with Christ at the right hand of God the Father Almighty!  This is why we celebrate the Ascension. You have been called to sit at the highest seat.

 May we never diminish the Ascension of Christ. May the Holy Spirit give us the wisdom and faith to pray the Litany that confesses that the totality of Christ’s incarnation, life, and work, including His Ascension, is our help and salvation.

 “By the mystery of Your Holy incarnation; by Your holy nativity; By Your Baptism, fasting, and temptation; by your agony and bloody sweat; by your cross and passion; by your precious death and burial; by your glorious resurrection and ASCENSION; and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter: Help us Good Lord. 

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I Confess: I Was a Thief

No one likes awkward silences. Awkward silences between individuals is stressful, and often times people say anything that comes to mind in order to break the silence. Believe me, as a pastor, many a confession has come forth from those who felt the need to break the silence. 🙂 In a small group of friends, silences aren’t really all that bad. Usually people will stare at the floor until someone comes up with another topic, but there seems to be less pressure. But then the stressful awkwardness comes back with a vengeance when there is silence in a large corporate setting like a church service.

 The pastor offers the Prayers of the Church and there is no Amen from the congregation. The pastor gives the Absolution and not an Amen is spoken. The pastor proclaims, “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. Depart in peace.” And no one says a thing. Awkward….

 So, as a pastor, the immediate remedy is to fill in the silence and respond with an Amen yourself. I mean really an Amen should be said, right? We can’t have an un-Amened prayer. So the pastor says it loudly to fill in the silent space. I too was guilty of this.

 But then after some reflection, a couple of years ago, I had to admit to my two congregations that I had been stealing from them. I had been stealing their Amens.

 For you see, those Amens belong to the congregation. As the pastor I have the burden and privilege of proclaiming and giving God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation to the flock and their Amens are the acknowledgement of those gifts received. The pastor gives the gifts; the people receive and proclaim Amen, i.e. it is so. I have received. It is wrong for me to take that from them. I cannot receive God’s gifts for them so I should not proclaim as such.

 Congregants, be bold and confident, and proclaim Amen. Acknowledge and proclaim that you have indeed received what Christ has to give. Pastors, give them a chance to say it. When the awkward silence hangs there for a second or two, you will be surprised at how many Amens will ring out.  

Put God Where?

Bumper sticker Christianity is rarely a good thing. Christian teachings are usually boiled down to something so vague it becomes laughable instead of instructive. One example of this is the command to “Put God back in schools.” A laughable, lame, and as vague a statement as has ever existed. Really….what does this mean?

One of the first questions that pops to mind is, which god are you talking about? Your bumper-sticker command makes no distinction. Are you saying we should put any god in school? The generic, anonymous god that America worships and presidents sign off speeches with? Allah, the great spirit, Buddha? Or do you mean the one, triune, true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Because your bumper-stickers and Facebook memes are unclear.

Another question that comes to mind is, even if you are talking of the triune God, how does anyone ‘put’ God anywhere? Seems a bit presumptuous to have the power or ability to place God here, there, or anywhere.

But for the sake of argument how would a person go about “putting” the Triune God back in schools? Perhaps the response is, by passing laws. Well, how would such a law read? “It will be mandatory that all students worship and learn about the Triune God.” Well, that would certainly go against any kind of freedom of religion and in reality a law like that would never be passed. There would be law suit after law suit from various other religious entities each asserting that they should have exclusive rights to your children’s souls.

Okay, well maybe if we just repeal the law that bans prayer from school then God will be allowed back in? Again this makes the false assumption that prayer is nowhere to be found in school and that is just not true. No one can make a person stop praying. Prayer is and will continue to exist in schools. The ban was placed upon corporately led prayers in school. So again, if the law is repealed, what is to prevent a teacher from leading a prayer to Allah, or to the President, or to Baal?  

Now I know this may seem radical in our day and age, where the school/state is seen as the means to raising children physically, emotionally, civically, and spiritually, but it is NOT the state’s job or the school’s job to raise our children. That responsibility lies with the parents. If you want your kids to be Christian, raise them in a Christian home; go to church, teach your children the Scriptures, pray with them, pray for them, and set an example. Don’t think that the world or the school system is going to do that for you. Most likely they will lead your children into the worship of false gods.

As a parent, you are responsible for the spiritual care of your children. If you really want to “put” God in schools, then “put” God in your children. Baptize them, teach them the Scriptures, and take them to Church so that they will be in the presence of the Lord and receive His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Put God’s Word into the ears of your children and put Christ’s body and blood into your children’s mouths and maybe….just maybe….God will be put back in schools.

Sermon: John 6:1-15 Laetare

One of man’s many temptations is to separate what God has joined together. I’m not talking about marriage, but of trying to separate the union of body and soul. Pitting them against each other or thinking that one has nothing to do with the other. As if, what you do with the body has no effect on the soul and what you do to or with your soul has no physical consequences.

You have heard the commercial, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Meaning that whatever you do in Vegas will have no consequences whatsoever. So then, going to a brothel in Vegas will have no consequences to either body or soul. C’mon, to believe this is to be a fool.

But being the fools we are we insist on trying divide ourselves; to split our body and soul. This is the heresy called Gnosticism, which teaches that body and soul are not joined. It teaches that the physical, the bodily things are evil. The things of the soul like knowledge and spirit are good. They pit the body against the soul so much so that the desire is to rid oneself of the body and attain a spiritual form only. In other words, it is pretty much what most Mainline Protestants believe. That when we leave this body, good riddance. We go to heaven freed from the body and will be bopping around in the clouds like Casper the Friendly Ghost.  

Look, to show you how dangerous this kind of thinking is, think in terms of Jesus. According to gnostic reckoning, the physical, human nature of Jesus is by definition evil and corrupt. It was only His spirit that was divine and good. In other words, it denies the Incarnation. It denies the communication of His human and divine natures. In their eagerness to deny the flesh, they state that Christ only suffered and died physically. His spirit was somehow detached and removed from all suffering and death. So much for Psalm 22.

This would mean that Christ did not suffer and die like us. He was something different than us. If that is the case then we are not redeemed. Jesus only saved Himself by shedding Himself of His body and attaining true, pure spirit. So much for His bodily resurrection and ours.

In our Gospel, Jesus feeds thousands of people. He uses physical elements of bread and fish from a boy’s basket to fill and satisfy the entire crowd. Not only that, there is more than enough. There are leftovers. Twelve baskets of leftovers are gathered from the crowd. Jesus uses physical, earthly means to satisfy physical, earthy people, and their physical, earthly hunger. God in the flesh provides for the care of the body.

Christ also provides care for the soul. He tests Philip in order to strengthen Philip’s faith. Jesus later goes on to feed the souls by teaching the meaning of this miracle that it points to the Lord’s Supper. That in eating His flesh and drinking His blood we will receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life in body and soul. It is here in John 6 that Jesus teaches us about the interconnectedness of body and soul. Our Lord created body and soul together and sustains them and redeems them together.

So, don’t think that your body is yours to do with as you see fit. It is not. It does not belong to you. It belongs to the one who created you and re-created you in Baptism. You belong to the one whose name you bear, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Neither your body nor the bodies of others are to be treated with disdain. You do not say, “When I die throw my body in the woods or in the dumpster. I don’t care,” because our Lord cares. He cares for the body in life and death. He will resurrect that very body on the Last Day.

Also, you would do well to care for the soul as for the body. Often you are MORE careful with your bodies than your souls. You feed your bodies, exercise them, and look for the best doctors available to care for them. But do you take such great care with your souls? Often the answer is no.

It seems that you will believe, listen to, and follow any crackpot that talks about God or Jesus. You listen to so called preachers on the radio and are sucked in and fascinated with their false teaching of prophesy and the end times. You listen to the Law-oriented cowboy preacher on TV or the kindly, old preacher from South Dakota and could care less that their false teachings would enslave you to the Law again. Enslave you to working out your own salvation. Stop it! Repent! This is not what you learned in Christ. The care of your soul is just as important as care for the body. Quit feeding the soul such garbage!

Jesus withdrew from the crowd when they sought to seize Him. They were only concerned with their physical needs. Jesus withdrew until the time was right when He would allow Himself to be seized and declared King of the Jews and reign from His cross. For in so doing, He provides for you. Physically and spiritually.

Jesus also allowed this crowd to find Him again on the other side of the sea and He fed them spiritually as well. Teaching them that in the physical eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood, they would receive eternal life. That He would abide in them bodily and spiritually and they would abide in Him, bodily and spiritually.

Physically listen to Jesus through His Word and feed your soul. Listen to Him who provides everything that you need, both physically and spiritually. Physically hear of God becoming man and take it to heart. For this God-man, Christ, suffered in body and soul, as you have suffered in body and soul. Hear and believe upon Christ who died so that you might live eternally with Him in body and soul. Hear and believe that you are forgiven and are joined to His death and resurrection by Baptism. Physically eat His very body and drink His very blood so that you are resurrected in body and soul to eternal life.    

Do not seek to divide what God has joined. Christ has joined Himself to you in body and soul. You can no more divide body and soul than you can divide His love and care of body and soul. Rejoice rather that every part of you is redeemed and cared by your Lord. You are baptized. You are recreated in body and soul. So now come and partake of the body and blood of Christ to strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.

Love Self First…PUH-lease.

Another false assumption that gets tossed around all the time is, “You have to learn to love yourself before you can learn to love others.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

 The fact is, all we do IS love ourselves. Love of self is something people are born with. Look at the infant who cries out to be fed and changed. Notice the toddler who lies about knocking over the lamp to protect his own hide. See the child that knocks another child over the head for having dared to play with ‘his’ toy.

 As parents, many of these actions we seek to correct. We teach our children to take responsibility for their actions and to share with others so that they will grow to love and think of others instead of just themselves. Love of self is engrained, love of others must be taught. So how does this jive with having to learn to love yourself first?

 We all have seen the results of those who have not been taught such or have ignored what they were taught. We call them spoiled brats and narcissists. While these characters might be fun to hate on reality shows, they are pains in the butt in real life. We avoid them if we can. We confess that we have been brought up “right” and we thank God and parents that we are not like those people. But if we are honest with ourselves there are times when we act as spoiled brats; probably more times than we think actually. Times where we look out for our own self-interest at the expense of others.

 The Scriptures speak of this reality as well. John in his first Epistle, chapter four states that “we love because He (God) first loved us.” As context shows, this love is not of self (again, that comes on its own due to our sinful nature), it is love of God and of others that is given to us. Think on that for a second…that it takes divine intervention to get us to love others.

Plus this love must be sustained and maintained by God else we fall back to our self-loving, narcissistic ways. This love is sustained by receiving it. It is received in hearing His Word which proclaims it. Love is received in Holy Absolution when our Lord tells us that we are forgiven for our self-idolatry. Love is received at our Lord’s Holy Supper where we receive Christ in the flesh and we give thanks and implore God that He would strengthen us in faith toward Him and in fervent LOVE toward one another. Love does not begin with the self. It begins with God and His altar where His love is given and from where love radiates outward into the world.     

Sermon: Matthew 4:1-11 Invocabit

Mankind’s greatest desire is to be god. To rule over our lives and rule over the lives of those around us, both friends and enemies. The first commandment tells us that we should have no other gods and we think that refers only to ancient nonsense like bowing down to statues or carved idols. Or we may stretch that out to mean more abstract idols like money, power, and fame. But honestly, I don’t think that really applies to any of you here. As Christians, perhaps the sin you commit against the first commandment is to shape God into what you think He should be. You confess Christ as your true prophet, priest, and king but you have your own ideas about how Christ should fulfill those roles, thereby conforming Christ to your image.

The Office of Prophet is carried out by proclaiming the Word of the Lord, calling people to repentance, and pointing them to their salvation. The one tool that the prophets depend on is the Word of God.

You often think of prophets as charismatic miracle workers, and the temptation can be to focus upon the man himself and the miracles he performs instead of upon the Word he proclaims. To focus on the miracle of manna in the desert or raining down fire from heaven upon Baal’s prophets. Likewise, you expect the pastor to grow the church because he is young, energetic, and charismatic, or because he is older, wiser, and soft spoken. People have all kinds of crazy expectations of those who are called to proclaim God’s Word.

 Another crazy notion is held when you rely upon yourself when sharing God’s Word with others. You rely on your eloquence, your methodology, or your personal testimony to win people for the Lord. In short, you rely upon the miracle of you, instead of upon the Word.

This is Jesus’ first temptation, as the true prophet. Like the prophets, Moses and Elijah, Jesus has fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. But now, Satan approaches Jesus, and desires that Jesus would forget the Word and focus on the miracle too. Jesus as the perfect prophet though fulfills that office by pointing the deceiver to God’s Word, “Man will not live by bread alone, but upon every word that comes out of God’s mouth.”

Well, that’s great for Jesus, but about me? The job of a prophet is rarely honored. Speaking God’s Word to folks can get all kinds of reactions, from rejection, to rage, and even to violence. And I know you know this because you have proclaimed God’s Word to those you love and they ignore it, reject it, or mock you. But Jesus tells you they are not rejecting you, but rejecting Him. Well that’s not very comforting, especially when you are talking about those closest to you.

But we are called to be faithful to the confession of God’s Word even if it get us killed, for that is the reward of the prophet. And while a faithful confession might get you killed our Lord calls you blessed in your persecution. He has promised that by losing your lives you save them, which was done already at your baptism; so fear not the one who can harm you.

The other way you seek to conform God into your own image is through the office of priest. A priest is called to intercede between God and man. A priest offers up prayers and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people and the priest in turn gives God’s grace to the people. The temptation is to belittle the sacrifices made because they seem insufficient, incomplete, not enough. The sacrifice of Christ, once and for all, is too good to be true. Surely there is something you need to contribute to your own salvation. Surely there is some sacrifice you must make in order to find favor with God and be comforted.

This was Jesus’ second temptation. He was led by Satan to the heights of the Temple. The place where sacrifices were offered. Satan tempts Jesus to find comfort from God by sacrificing Himself by jumping off the roof. But Jesus didn’t come to serve Himself, He came to serve.

 As priest and sacrifice, His death and offering would be for all mankind. Jesus’ will is the Father’s will and that will is that all be saved. This salvation would come by Jesus’ death on a cross. It is finished by the shed blood Calvary, not upon Jezebel’s blood which was shed by jumping from the heights.

 Quit trying to receive comfort and salvation by sacrificing yourself. Jesus is your perfect sacrifice and He is the perfect High Priest who intercedes for you. You receive nothing from your own efforts at salvation, even though it is tempting to think so. In reality, your efforts at saving yourself are devoured by the dogs as Jezebel was. Rather, your comfort and salvation are in the body and blood of Jesus. This is your ministration from the Father.

Lastly, the temptation to conform God to your own image is seen in the office of King. To be honest, you are horrible subjects. You know what you want and desire and the king better cough it up. You tell the king what he should do and if you don’t get it you rebel or go looking for a more suitable king. But a house divided cannot stand. There is no glory when the king bows to the desires of others, or others bow to themselves, or to another king.

 This is the third temptation of Jesus. To bow to a false king and false glory. Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms and their glory and gives them to Jesus if Jesus bow down and worship him. Perhaps this is your temptation too.

The church is only kingly and glorious when the numbers are up and the people are giving generously. In order to achieve that you may have to bow to what is considered glorious in the world’s eyes; soften the Word of God, hide the light of the liturgy, reject the simplicity of the sacraments for the pomp of altar call and the circumstance of miracles. You would seek to build your own kingdom by shoving the king out of the way and showing Him how to crack down on those other poor miserable sinners.

Repent! Depart from such temptation and sin. The glory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is more than sufficient. Plus that glory is given to you. To you, that glory may seem foolish and insignificant, but that glory, earned by Christ, makes you the apple of the Father’s eye, for it is His own glory. In the cross of Christ you glory, for that glory includes forgiveness and peace that surpasses all understanding.

People subject themselves to authorities that will protect and care for them. As brothers and sisters of the King, you have protection against Satan’s attacks and attacks from the Old Adam within. Your Lord cares for you and provides for you all you need. He gives you water so that you may be washed clean and shine gloriously. He gives you food and drink from His table and His Word of Absolution which resurrects you when you fall and nourishes you and gives you strength and grace sufficient for the day.

There is no need to conform Christ to what your image of a prophet, priest, and king should be. He out does you. He out glories you. In victory He proclaims, intercedes, and rules on your behalf with love and mercy as His watchword and with the cross as His standard. So now brothers and sisters of the King, take refuge. Come and eat the prophetly, priestly, kingly feast spread before you.

Ash Wednesday: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

There is no good and gracious gift from God that we can’t screw up and get our dirty sinful fingerprints all over. Our Lord redeems us from sin and death and He gives us gifts of forgiveness, eternal life, and works to perform which He has prepared beforehand. Works like showing mercy to our neighbor and praying and fasting for friend and enemy alike. These works are all about providing for the needs of our neighbor and time after time we turn it into a showcase for ourselves.

Our Lord calls us to have pure, unselfish intent when showing mercy, praying, and fasting……How’s that going for you? Let me answer for you, not well. There has never been a time when you have done anything with the purest of intentions. Even if you have done these things in secret, somehow, someway, you desired acknowledgement and recognition from men or from God for the works you have performed. There are no bounds to the self-serving behavior you engage in, in order to have your ego stroked. Here are just a few examples:

You perform acts of mercy, or pray, or fast in order to receive praise and pats on the back from your fellow man, you go around trumpeting your so-called goodness.  You perform acts of mercy for or pray for or fast for someone when someone else asks you to do so, but you won’t lift a finger or do a darn thing unless someone asks you to do it. Or you show mercy to, pray for, and fast for someone and expect reciprocation, that is, the person give you something in return for your service. You may even use prayer and fasting to trumpet gossip about others, so that the spotlight of the Law be taken off of you. “I am praying for so and so who are having marital problems.” Or “I am fasting and praying so that so and so would give up their evil ways.” And even if you do pray in secret so that you not receive the praise of men, I guarantee you that you are looking for God’s approval. “See Lord how humble and faithful I am!”

You have no pure intent when you do things in public and you have no pure intent when you do things in private. You look for approval from men and you look for approval from God. “Behold how I am working for your Kingdom O Lord!” And you get giddy with the thought of all those treasures that are piling up in heaven for you. For even if you claim to not care about treasures and praise here in this life, you are salivating at the thought of how much merit & reward you will receive in heaven. Then…then people will know how good a Christian you were and how much better than them you were, when you all get to heaven and see the treasures you have collected!

O you foolish sons and daughters of Adam. You actually think you can curry God’s favor by following what is written here in Matthew 6. You actually think that doing mercy, praying and fasting in private will earn you some merit before God. Repent of your self-reliance and your self-righteousness. Isn’t your arm getting sore from stretching to pat yourself on the back? Repent of trumpeting your own goodness and pure intent and desiring that God and everyone else know how good you are and what good you have done.

For you see, the treasure given you is not accolades or praise; it is not a good reputation or extra stuff when you go to be with our Lord. Christ, out of perfect love and intent mercied you. Christ perfectly prayed for you. Christ perfectly fasted for you. The treasure, our recompense, the wage given us is Christ. It is His grace. It is His forgiveness. It is His eternal life. Christ and His work on our behalf cannot be destroyed by moth or rust.

As your Lord declares in the Gospel before you, in each act of mercy, prayer, and fasting your Lord is the one who will reward you, or pay you the wage. So, not only are you bought and paid for by His precious blood, you are also rewarded in your good works because it is Christ’s pureness and goodness that fulfills the work on your behalf. He gives you the good works to perform and He completes them and makes them good and pure. If that is the case, where is there room for boasting?

There is no room for boasting in yourself. Christ has rewarded you with Himself. He gives Himself through the word from His mouth that speaks in love that you are forgiven all of your sins. He gives Himself to you through the water from His side so that you would be washed clean. He gives Himself to you through the blood from His side in order that that you would be forgiven, resurrected, restored, and refreshed. He gives you grace upon grace, treasure upon treasure!

You, who have received fully from Christ, have the honor and privilege of sharing this grace upon grace and treasure upon treasure with your fellow man. By showing mercy to them, and praying for them, and pointing them to the treasure of Christ crucified and risen. And during these times, like during Lent, you may also fast from the things of this world so that once again your own hearts are not drawn inward but rather look outward, to the need of your neighbor and to Christ. For your glory is given you by Christ. You are lights to the world; to reflect His glory to the dead and dying world around you so that they too might be comforted and saved.

Seek not your own glory which is destroyed by moth and rust. Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Love that forgives you all of your sins. To God be all praise, honor, and glory. Amen.