Monday, February 18, 2008

Do Not Be Overwhelmed by Excessive Sorrow

For this month’s newsletter article, I want to pick up where I left off last month about the sanctity of human life. The situation of women (or even young girls) who are in crisis pregnancies or have undergone abortions deserves further attention. Giving a full defense of the sanctity of human life from conception till death does not yet fulfill our duties as Christians. We must also remember that abortion hurts the mothers of these unborn children, who are often deeply wounded by the circumstances they are in, before or after an abortion; and that it is not uncommon for them afterward to fight feelings of guilt, anxiety and depression, flashbacks of the abortion, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, among other after-effects. Many did not anticipate the emotional or physical consequences that their choice would lead to. Many were regrettably pressured into their choice to escape shame or embarrassment, or because the father abandoned his role in the new life begun. Recognizing that a significant number of women in our society and in our churches have undergone abortions, we as Christians need to provide care for these wounded souls as well. So how can we begin to do this? How can we “bear each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ?” (Galatians 6:2)

Two organizations that I already named: http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org and http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/ are among the many pro-life organizations that are seeking to meet the needs of women in a variety of circumstances, from those who are in a crisis pregnancy to those who have undergone an abortion(s) in the past. Our own church body’s nationally recognized organization, Lutherans for Life: http://lutheransforlife.org/ deals with a broad array of life issues. One of the supporting ministries that they offers is Word of Hope: http://www.word-of-hope.org/ a ministry to help those who have “had an abortion…are pregnant right now, or…have been hurt by someone.” They have a toll free number for those in crisis, or needing immediate assistance: 1-888-217-8679, as well as an email address help@word-of-hope.org

Letting people know about these hotlines or organizations is one way we can caringly direct those who have gone through or are contemplating abortion, to a place where they can receive confidential help, information, or recommendations. Each of these organizations also emphasize the need for healing and forgiveness for a person feeling the guilt of an abortion. In the video testimonial of a woman named Kelly, who had an abortion at age 13, she shared how years later, participating in one of these retreats had helped her to finally let down her “umbrella” and experience the rain of God’s mercy and forgiveness that had been showering down on her all along. What I find so compelling about these organizations is that women (and men) who have suffered the after-effects of abortions are now finding the courage to be “Silent No More” and let their voice be heard. They are telling people that abortion is not the promised “easy-fix” to remove the evidence of pregnancy, but that the child and mother are bound together in a most intimate and mysterious way, and that the rending of this bond can cause deep emotional sorrow and other consequences. They are speaking out about the devastation that their “protected right to choose” caused them. These are not simply people who have always opposed abortion, but some who were once vigorously in favor of it and even underwent several themselves.

There are several ways Christians can stand together with those who have undergone abortions. First, we can help them to find resources such as the ministries of healing and forgiveness named above. Next, we can provide an unconditional love for both lives that will not condemn those who have sinned, but speak together with Jesus, “Neither do I condemn; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). A vital part of offering such unconditional love is to help women in crisis pregnancies find positive, life-honoring options for the care of their child, and not to feel pressured to hide their pregnancy. This is to recognize that even in less than ideal circumstances, the life of the child is often the most positive result. Also, we can strive to embody what St. Paul asked the Corinthian church to be: a place of forgiveness and comfort for the restored sinner, so that they will not be “overwhelmed with excessive sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7). For indeed, Christ has taken all of our sin and its sorrow to His cross, where God fully took upon Himself the burden of our guilt, and gives us His innocence in exchange! And like Kelly, mentioned above, taking hold of that forgiveness for herself was impossible until she let down that umbrella of denial or the inability to forgive herself. So we especially need to care for those in our community who are overwhelmed by excessive sorrow, and help them to take hold of the full forgiveness and innocence that is theirs by faith in Christ Jesus.

Sermon on John 4:5-30, 39-42, Second Sunday in Lent, "Jesus is the Living Water"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text for this Second Sunday in Lent is John 4:5-42, about Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman. Last week Sunday we watched Jesus’ temptation in the desert. This week we leave the parched and thirsty desert of sin, and come to Jesus Christ, the Living Water. He who became thirsty for our sake, now pours out His life for us. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

It’s no small irony that Jesus, who was thirsty for a drink of water, told the Samaritan woman, that if she knew who was talking to her, she would ask Him to give her living water. Yet God sent His divine Son into the world as a human, to experience thirst and hunger, grief, pain, and sadness, and ultimately death on a cross. He became thirsty, so that He could give us the Living Water that wells up to eternal life. The Living Water Himself thirsts, so that He might quench our thirst. And this title of “Living Water” is no arbitrary name, for the Old Testament prophets said the Jews had committed two sins: first: they had forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters, and second: they had dug wells for themselves, broken wells that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). The broken wells that Israel had dug for themselves aren’t literal wells, but the false gods that they filled their lives with, to try to substitute for the fountain of living waters, the true God whom they had forsaken. So when Jesus says He posesses the Living Water, He is revealing Himself as God among men.

Jesus thirsts, to teach us that we are in a desert of sin and spiritual death. Like the woman at the well, we may only recognize our physical needs of food and water, but be blind to our deeper spiritual needs. Who really gives such constant thought to their spiritual needs, as we do to our hunger or thirst, or lack of sleep? How easy it is to become preoccupied with daily concerns, and forget to seek the living water that quenches our soul, or to read and believe in the Word of God, which is the bread of life? It’s strange that we could be so numb to the thirst of our soul. That we are out of touch with our spiritual condition. But it’s less strange when we realize the separation from God caused by our sin. Jesus came to teach us that sin in our lives effectively blinds us to our spiritual need, as sin is the very thing that enslaves us and leads us to death.

So Jesus starts this conversation, by asking for a drink of water. Today, there might not be anything too extraordinary about this conversation between a man and a woman of two different cultures. But if we step back and examine the scene, in that culture, in that context…this conversation was utterly taboo. It would have been a disgrace for Jesus, a Jew, to be talking alone with a woman from Samaria, of all places. Why such a stigma? The Samaritans were, after all, partly related to the Jews. But they were seen as half-breeds. They were the descendants of Israelites who had returned from captivity in Assyria, to marry the pagan Gentiles who had settled in the land.

Along with their marriages, they adopted the idolatrous practices of the Gentiles, adding these to their worship of the Lord. Mixing their worship of the true God with that of idols, they despised and avoided the Temple Worship in Jerusalem. So there was the rub. They would not worship God in the place where He had chosen and revealed Himself, but chose to worship God in their own ways and places. Yet many of the Jews were guilty of the same thing; remember they forsook the fountain of living waters, and dug out broken wells that could hold no water? But nevertheless, any upstanding Jew wouldn’t be caught dead associating with an unclean Samaritan…and this woman knew it.

She found the situation rather awkward, that Jesus, this Jewish man, seemed so oblivious of His proper place and appeared to be unaware of any social boundaries. “Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” But the bigger surprise, isn’t in this violation of social etiquette, but in the discovery of who this Jesus really is, and what He knows about her. He tells her that if she knew who He was, she would be the one asking Him for living water! Jesus approaches her real spiritual need, though she doesn’t recognize it. At first she thinks she’s discovered a miracle! No more of this endless, tiresome work, of carrying a jar to the well, hauling up bucketfuls of water to fill her heavy jar, to return home again. Hah! All she wanted was indoor plumbing! I’m afraid most of us can’t quite appreciate how much she would have been delighted to have that luxury we take for granted. But her “wants” were still a long way off from her true spiritual need.

What felt needs are we content to fill in this life, yet fail to see our greatest spiritual needs? We crave all the latest conveniences and toys, endless entertainment, and such a variety of food possibilities that could only belong to royalty in ancient times. Yet with all of these things, are we satisfied? Do these offer any help to settle our fears and loneliness? Do they give meaning and understanding to our lives? Do they calm our fear of death? Can they hide our guilt? If all we ever crave is our felt needs, but fail to realize our spiritual needs, we will find ourselves building broken wells that cannot hold water. And so Jesus must come to us. He must come to us thirsty and hungry, craving a drop of water as He breathes His last breath on the cross, His life being poured out for you. We need Jesus to open our eyes to our true spiritual need, to see how thirsty our souls are, and where He provides true life.

So first He awakens us to the reality of sin. Just as He did with the Samaritan woman, He shows how much He knows of us, and our sinful past. Not to flaunt His knowledge, not to condemn us, but to reveal who He truly is, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. The real surprise of Jesus’ conversation came when she realized that this man who was talking to her, knew everything about her life. He knew she had had five husbands, and was now living together with a man who was not married to her. Notice how she changed the subject when He revealed her sin? Sometimes the truth is just too hard for us to bear. Sometimes a change of subject is easier than to face the truth. Nevertheless, His very presence there, speaking to her, showed that God was extending His grace to her, even a sinner, if she would but receive it. She was intrigued, rather than leaving insulted. She did not know her own thirst, thinking that her biggest trouble was physical thirst and hauling water home from the well. Until Jesus opened her eyes, she did not see her spiritual thirst, that she had a dry and parched soul, crying out for spiritual water. Christ, the living water. Yet she knew that the Messiah was to come. But she couldn’t have known Him, except that He chose to reveal Himself to her (Mt. 11:27).

But before we look down on this woman, we should realize first of all, that we do not know all of her circumstances. Unlike today, a woman in that culture did not have the right of divorce—it was the husband who divorced, and he could often divorce her for any number of selfish reasons. A pastor of mine said we would blush at the reasons they would give for divorce…he became displeased with her appearance, her cooking, her failure to bear children, or simply that he didn’t desire her anymore. The change of topic might have been more to bury painful memories than to deny the truth. Yet neither was she simply a victim, she knew her guilt in her present circumstances.

It’s a little unsettling to think that Jesus could walk right into our lives and lay bare the guilt of our soul. It’s a little unsettling that here a man, could see into our dark past. But what is equally surprising is that He would still choose to speak with me! That knowing the guilt of my life, He nevertheless speaks to my deepest needs. Needs so deep that I don’t even recognize them until His Word speaks of my sin. But He still speaks to me, to you, without any apparent concern for the rift that divides us, from our sinfulness to His holiness. That even though I would more than blush at my sinful past, He would still call me to drink of the living waters—of His own life. That God extends to me the purifying, flowing, cleansing water of life, when my soul is parched and dry from sin.

That knowing how my worship is falsely separated from or even opposed to His revealed Word, He still calls me vigorously back to His life. Here and no where else is there life for your soul, the baptismal drowning of your sin, and the refreshment of a clean heart and a renewed spirit within you. What thought can there be of returning to the desert of sin, and the death of disobedient ways? Does a man dying of thirst, crawl back into the dry desert after finding a lush oasis? Well maybe if he still has to travel out of the desert. But we have access to this Living Water wherever God is worshipped in Spirit and in Truth! We don’t ever have to leave this well of eternal life! Christ travels with us through the desert of life, supplying His living water as we move toward the eternal paradise of heaven.

Jesus gently pointed out to the Samaritan woman that her forefathers formerly worshipped in ignorance, but that now there has come the time when worship will no longer be centered in Jerusalem. Not that worship will now be decentralized, but rather recentralized in the person of Jesus Christ, who is also the True and Living Temple. Worship of God would take place in every place on earth where the name of Jesus is worshipped in Spirit and in Truth. And the two can never be separated, as if there were worship in Spirit that is not truthful, or worship that was in Truth, but not spiritual. Worship of God is still centered on the presence of God, but His presence is no longer located in Jerusalem, but in the person of Jesus Christ. For in Christ, the Savior of the world is revealed. Today, Christ is present and reveals Himself in His Word and Sacraments, where we rightly gather to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.

One last thing to say about this text, is that when the Samaritan woman realized the joy of being found by Jesus, the Living Water, she called her whole village to come and hear Him teach for two days. And when they saw and heard for themselves, they said “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man is really the Savior of the world.” Now the word has come to us as well, and Jesus the Living Water has poured the fountain of His life for us, through His death and resurrection. Each of us can truly say that we have heard and believed for ourselves, that Jesus is the Savior of the world. So however stained by a sinful past we may be, take up the example of the Samaritan woman, and inquire and thirst after the Living Water, as it is the source of our eternal life. Believe in the one who gives us living water that cleanses our hearts, forgives our sins, and wells up in us to everlasting life with Him. Call others to hear, of Jesus, the Living Water, who has found us in our sin and redeemed us with His life. Amen

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

“There was a time in my life when life wasn’t worth living…”

January 20th was Sanctity of Life Sunday, where we remember the lives of the unborn, and our responsibility to protect them. You may know that January 2008 also marks the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. As we reflect on the issue of abortion that has so deeply divided our nation (and yes, even churches), I would like to suggest a few thoughts for consideration.

First of all, if the pro-choice position is in fact true, and women should have the right to abort the unborn child in their womb—I am forced to conclude that there was a time in my life when life wasn’t worth living. Or at least in the eyes of the government, my life was not yet worth protecting. Was it only at my birth that my life somehow gained it’s intrinsic value and rights of protection under the law? Did the first nine months of my life in my mother’s womb lack the full value and worth of a unique human life? Perhaps it would be argued that I had not attained “personhood” until birth, or maybe the ability to survive separately from my mother. But that’s a hazy way of reasoning. What is it about crossing that barrier of my mother’s womb that would suddenly change my status? Inside or outside the womb, I was still dependent on my mother or some other caregiver for life. Does dependency take away our personhood or rights under the law?

Secondly, who decides whether a life is worth living? If the answer were the individual themselves, then the police would have no legal right to interfere with suicides or euthanasia. Is it then the person on whom that life depends (in this case the mother)? But how can someone else hold our right to life? Doesn’t that lead down a slippery slope? The prominent Princeton ethicist Peter Singer believes that infanticide should be permitted even after birth, because sick newborns cost society more pleasure than they give (Singer is lauded by the New Yorker as “the most influential living philosopher.” [p. 9, 178, What We Can’t Not Know by J. Budziszewski]). No, the right to life cannot be located in a particular stage of development or in varying degrees of independence from another person. The right to life must be something intrinsic in each person, that is, life must have value not because we give it value but because it is something to be valued in itself.

Thirdly, by human conscience and reasoning alone, a person should be able to conclude that life is intrinsically valuable. This explains why groups like Atheists for Life and Feminists for Life have been organized, quite apart from a Biblical rationale for doing so. Yet how much more do we as Christians understand that God is the one who gives life its intrinsic value from conception onward. The well known verses from Psalm 139:13ff speak of this: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Even more so, God demonstrates the value of human life in the womb by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. From His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit, Mary knew that she carried the infant Messiah in her womb. What would the unborn Jesus’ status be under the law today? Would His life be considered worth living?

Thankfully, Christ came into the world to redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13), so that we might be set free from sin. My final point would be to recognize that abortion not only impacts the life of the unborn, but that mothers (and to a lesser extent fathers) have suffered much from this procedure. As Christians, we should be clear that our compassion and unconditional support is not only for the unborn children, but also the mothers—both those who have crisis pregnancies and need support, as well as those who have undergone abortion and are now feeling the effects. Not only unintended physical consequences like higher rates of cervical and breast cancer, or even infertility, but also in the often-devastating emotional consequences. I would like to raise your awareness of a group called “Silent No More,” which has been formed to give mothers who have undergone abortion a voice to speak of the aftermath of their choices to have an abortion. Check their website online http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org and read their stories, how women who have had abortions are now sharing their pain and finding support from other women who now want this procedure to stop damaging both the lives of the unborn, as well as their mothers (see also http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/ ). Perhaps this can be a small step towards finding healing for the hurt that so many women feel, and we might know someone personally who needs the assurance of Christ’s forgiving love in this matter. May we rejoice in God’s gift of life this New Year and always!

Sermon on John 1:29 and Isaiah 49:6, "Lamb of God"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today’s sermon will focus on John 1:29 in our Gospel reading: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” I will also be referring to Isaiah 49:6, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In our sermon text, we hear familiar words to everyone who has sung in the liturgy, “Lamb of God” or Agnus Dei. Anytime we come across a passage of Scripture like this, that has become part of the living song of the Christian church throughout the ages, it’s worthwhile to ask: “Why did this become part of the Christian liturgy?” Or “why is this sung at this particular point of the church service?” On communion Sundays, after the words of Christ are spoken over the bread and the wine, we sing “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; grant us peace.” A threefold plea to our Triune God.

Why did this become part of the Christian liturgy? Because the same Christ John encountered on the banks of the Jordan River, is who we encounter here at worship, where Christ has promised to be with us in His very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. The Lamb of God, bearing the sins of the world, now comes to us to bear our sins as well. He comes in the Lord’s Supper to collect our sins, lifting the burden of our guilt from us, collecting our sins to take to His cross—where His lifeblood was poured out for us. This is why we sing His song, for here God has mercy on us—here the Lamb of God grants us peace.

Yet, best as we may try to understand these powerful words, we cannot help but be separated from their context by 2,000 years of bloodless religion. Well, at least in the proper sense of the word. 2,000 years past and half a world away from Jerusalem, we are distant from what it means to be the “Lamb of God.” Yes, we know it’s about Christ’s sacrifice. But not having grown up in the streets of Jerusalem, it’s hard to picture the constant stream of blood pouring down the altar in the Temple. Sin offerings, burnt offerings, guilt offerings, and peace offerings. The smell of burning flour, oil and incense from the grain offerings. Every morning and evening, twice a day all year, lambs were brought as burnt offerings in the Temple, in addition to bulls, goats, and birds. Day by day these offerings were a living and dying reminder to the Israelites that their sin had a penalty—death. They witnessed this as a constant reminder that this death and bloodshed was what they had earned.

Their sin earned the wrath of God and the penalty of death. They were the guilty ones. By all rights it should have been their blood that was spilled. But no, God did not want their death—even if it was well deserved. Instead He provided this sacrificial system of lambs and bulls and goats to die in their place. For the animals to die as a substitute. They could see the penalty of their sins in the blood and death of a lamb. Looking at that dead lamb, they would see their sin—their unfaithfulness to God, their jealousies, their hatred toward one another, their theft—any and all sin was put to death in the sacrifices. Yes, sacrificing was a bloody business, and being a lamb wasn’t very safe.

The book of Hebrews (10:3-4) calls these sacrifices “a reminder of sin every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” The hymn-writer put it well:
not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain, could give the guilty conscience peace, or wash away the stain. But Christ the heavenly Lamb, Takes all our sins away; a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they. (LSB 431)

The continual marching of Lambs to their death, could not take away the guilt of sin—but they pointed forward to the One Perfect Lamb who could. The heavenly Lamb, Jesus Christ, of nobler name and richer blood, who would take away the sins of the whole world. It wasn’t safe for Him to be a Lamb, but He knew it. In God’s perfect Lamb, without spot or blemish (1 Pet. 1:19) we see how great the penalty of our sin was, that He had to die in our place. His blood and death as a substitute for ours. Our disobedience, our jealousy and hatred, our careless words that hurt a friend or neighbor.

On this particular Sunday, our national church body celebrates “Life Sunday,” where we remember God’s command that we guard and protect the life of our neighbor. From conception till death, God has placed value on every human life. Jesus’ own incarnation into the womb of the Virgin Mary demonstrates this. Some may be burdened by the guilt of a past decision to have an abortion, and though repentant for what they did, they are still unable to forgive themselves. Some may have faced difficult caregiving decisions at the end of life and question whether they did what is right. Each of us may bear some burden of guilt for a time when we did not value life as God has valued it. Whether our own life or that of a neigbhor. For us the only peace for the guilty conscience is in Christ the heavenly Lamb. These and all sins, are paid for here in His death—the Lamb of God. No matter how well deserved, God doesn’t desire our death. Jesus has paid the precious price of His own life as a substitute for ours, so that by believing on Him, we might look to the Lamb of God and have life in His name. Christ did not suffer so that you might continue to labor under the guilt of past sins, but so that you might believe with confidence that they are taken away!

For an Israelite, who would have heard and seen John the Baptist pointing to Jesus, the words “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” would have been an “ear-opener.” And John’s disciple Andrew, in the reading, picks up on this immediately and goes with another disciple to follow after Jesus. Realizing the importance of what was now happening in their lifetime, Andrew runs and calls his brother Simon Peter, telling him, “We have found the Messiah! (that is, the Christ)” or Anointed One. Today as we come to the Lord’s table, and receive the body and blood of the Lamb of God—may we leave with that same eagerness and joy to tell our brothers and sisters and friends and neighbors, that “We have found the Christ!” We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. That here at His prepared table, He has collected our sins and taken our guilt to His cross, so that we are now free from our sinfulness.

And we can go to our friend and neighbor and tell them that their sins have been forgiven too, because Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I love the Old Testament verse in our reading from Isaiah, that says “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Is. 49:6). Here in Old Testament times, God is describing the Messiah He would send hundreds of years later. He is describing the one whose name would be heard in distant nations and islands. And God says that it is too small a thing for you only to save Israel! In essence, God was saying that it was not worthy of His splendor that Jesus would only restore the tribes of Israel…but that the greatness of God would be fully shown, He would also bring salvation to the Gentiles and the ends of the earth. The past deeds and miracles of salvation for Israel, such as the Exodus, would be far surpassed by Jesus’ death on the cross. God would outdo Himself in showing how much He loved us.

These two verses today speak so clearly of the universality of the Gospel, that the message of the Lamb of God was to go out to all the world, not just an isolated nation or select group. The defining moment of God’s glory would come when the crucified Son of God would cry out in anguish, “It is finished!” and the faithful Lamb of God would take the sins of the whole world to His grave. There to be buried in death, but no more to rise in accusation against us. And so our prayer of “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us!” will always be answered with a resounding YES! For we have the full assurance of Jesus’ body and blood that our sins have been taken away, and forgiveness is a certainty for us; for indeed we are included in “the world.”

We do not worship a god of insignificant power or glory, but the true God of unfathomable glory, who shows that His full greatness is not achieved until the whole of creation has heard of the humble, lowly, and despised death of His perfect Lamb, as the substitute for us. For it’s here that God truly achieved glory worthy of His great name, by showing mercy to sinners that exceeds all bounds and surpasses all love. The final perfect offering for sin, to bring an end to the ceaseless marching of Lambs to their death in the Temple. An end to the shedding of innocent blood that couldn’t cover the stain of our sin. Instead a fulfillment, the fulfillment of the sacrifices, of a substitute death for us, so that we can now live eternally off the death of another—Jesus Christ.

It’s no accident that we now sing those words before the Lord’s Supper because here Jesus comes into our midst in His body and blood to take away our sins. We’re not just watching, but we’re actually participating, because Jesus is here, taking our sins away. John’s words become our cry, that the Lamb of God would take away our sins. It’s our cry and our song because we see our sin, we see our need. “Lamb of God, don’t pass me by—have mercy on me, a sinner. Lamb of God, I have sins, and I need you to take them away—grant me peace.” We see here our substitute sacrifice and we receive His body and blood for our forgiveness. Have faith that the body and blood of that perfect Lamb, offered up on Calvary for the sins of the whole world, is now placed in your mouth to take your sins away. The Lamb of God Himself, having mercy on us, granting us peace by His forgiveness from the cross. You cannot go to the cross to get it, so He brings it to you at His table. Here and now the Lamb of God has mercy on us poor sinners, and grants us His peace. Amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting, Amen.