Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 27, 2010 - The Fourth Sunday after Trinity - Luke 6:36-42

What a great story when Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers! Remember the first part. Joseph dreamed that someday he would rule over his brothers and parents. His brothers hated him so much they planned to kill him. They ended up selling him into slavery and he spent years in Egypt, first as a slave and then as a prisoner but finally as the second-in-command of all of Egypt. Now, with nearly unlimited power, those wicked brothers stand before Joseph begging for food and he finally reveals himself. When they realize who it is and what they've done, they are terrified because they know Joseph has the power to punish them and not just that but to really make them pay! And so what does Joseph do? Does he punish them? Throw them in the dungeon and have them tortured? Laugh at them as he inflicts payback for his pain and suffering? Nope. None of that. He forgives them. These brothers, who have done nothing but evil to Joseph are now completely in his hands. And he tells them that he is not going to hold any of it against them. Here is a batch of men who DESERVE to get what's coming to them. Here's Joseph who has all the power and authority to let them have it! And He forgives them. He has mercy upon them. He doesn't count their sins against them. He doesn't lord it over them. He doesn't judge them. He lets it go. He forgives them. He has mercy.

So Jesus says, “Be merciful as your Father also is merciful.” How about you? Do you forgive like Joseph? Even when it's been years of anguish and hurt, do you comfort them and speak kindly to them or do you hang on to their sins and bear them a grudge? Do you wait for your opportunity to strike back and do something in retaliation or to say that perfectly hurtful thing that shows them what you think of them? Husbands: are you merciful to your wives? Are you patient and do you overlook their faults and forgive them? Wives: are you merciful to your husbands? Do you hold over their heads their failings and bring them up whenever you argue? Or do you let them go and forgive them? Parents: Are you merciful to your children? Do you discipline them but then offer forgiveness? Or do you make them work off their sins? Do you treat them as if the least little offense will cause you to be done with them? Children: are you merciful to your parents? Or do you hold up their mistakes, piling them up until the day you can shout in their face what awful parents they are and how you're not going to have anything to do with them any more? Christians: Are you merciful to one another? Or do you not speak to this person or that person because of something they said or did years ago? Are you merciful? Or are you quick to point out what is wrong with someone else? Something they've done. Some mistake they've made. Why is it that so often when we open our mouths it's to complain about others rather than confess our own sins? Why are we so eager to point out that little speck in someone else's eye when we have a 2x4 sticking out of our own? The answer, brothers and sisters in Christ, is because we are not merciful. May the words of Jesus bring us to repentance for this!

“Be merciful as your Father also is merciful.” How is that? How is God merciful to you? He is merciful to you in the way that Joseph was merciful to his brothers. That is, He doesn't hold your sins against you. He doesn't put them on your account. He forgives them. But mercy comes at a price. It costs. If someone owes you money and you tell them they don't have to pay it back, your are the one who must still be out that amount, taken from your own account. Just so, the Lord's forgiveness comes with a price and a cost. But the Good News is that the cost is His not yours. The cost is paid by His Son. God the Father is merciful to you when He charges your sins to Jesus' account. He takes away your sins by laying them on His Son. You are not punished for your sins because Jesus is punished for you. The Lord takes away the speck in your eye by His Son being nailed to a couple of planks in the shape of a cross. On Calvary, God the Father measures out to you an infinite mercy by pressing down and shaking Christ until blood and water flows to you at the font and in the cup. “As your Father in heaven is merciful.” His mercy, His overlooking your sins, is in Jesus dying for them and taking them away. His mercy continues in Jesus' resurrection which is our promise that our sins are indeed gone for certain.

“Be merciful as your Father also is merciful.” So we see how God the Father is merciful to us, has compassion on us in Jesus. But how do we learn that? We learn it in the very places where He displays His mercy and grace: His church. Brothers and sisters in Christ, look around? Every one of us has logs and planks and specks in our eyes. Each of us is a sinner who neither loves God nor loves our neighbor as God's law commands. So where do you go to have the Father's mercy take the 2x4 out of your eye? He does it right here in His church by His Word and gifts. Here the Lord washes us clean at the font. He absolves us of our speck-finding and all our other sins. He replaces the planks in our eyes with His Son's body and blood in us. Here the Lord gives to us who do not deserve to be given to. Have you been so holy this week that God must take notice of you? Have you been merciful? No. Here God brings us sinners and gives us gifts that show His mercy. Forgiveness of sins. Life. Salvation. Rescue from death and the devil. Here we have given to us in real and tangible ways that mercy that Christ speaks of and of which He Himself is the basis. God the Father is merciful to us in Christ and it is here in His church that His mercy is displayed and given out. Here sinners are not treated as the Law says they deserve but rather they are forgiven. Here you stand before the Lord as Joseph's brothers stood before him. And here, just as Joseph spoke kindly to his brothers and comforted them, the Lord speaks kindly to you, says, “Your sins are put away. Don't be afraid. I will provide for you and take care of you.”

“Be merciful as your Father also is merciful.” So here we learn to exercise mercy and compassion on others. Joseph knew that in all the awful things that happened to Him, the Lord spared and protected and blessed him. How then could he have revenge on his brothers. He had to pass on to them what he had received, namely, mercy. So that's what we learn for our neighbor's sake. Brothers and sisters in Christ, learn from Christ. Learn how God has mercy on you so that you may practice it on your neighbor. Husbands and wives, children and parents, Christians: learn to have mercy, not to hold things against others, not to bear grudges but to overlook one another's trespasses. If someone has wronged you, don't start arguing about how you're right and they're wrong. Don't go blabbing about what so and so did and “can you believe it?” Remember: You would not want the Lord to hold your sins against you and call you to account for them, would you? But He has not. He has forgiven them for Jesus' sake. Therefore with Christ living in you, you can do nothing less for your neighbor. If someone has wronged you, then go to them, tell them not to be afraid and speak kindly to them.

Our sinful flesh loves a good revenge story until it's revenge on him! But thanks be to God that's not the story the Lord tells. The Lord tells the story of sinners who have been shown mercy. Of Joseph's brothers who were not treated like they deserved but given kindness and comfort. It is the story of you and me, who have not been treated as our sins deserve but given mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. It is the story of Christ living in us, showing mercy to and forgiving others around us as we live together in the body of Christ. And such mercy, given to us and given through us is a good measure, pressed down, shaken, and overflowing to our joy and blessing. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, June 25, 2010

June 20, 2010 - The Third Sunday after Trinity - St. Luke 15:1-10

You've surely heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” You know, if you put in a little bit of effort, then God will supply the rest and make everything work out. That's the kind of God most people have. The kind of God who will do his part but expects you to do yours. The kind of God who will only really bless you if you try hard to be godly and do the right thing. Many people out in the world figure that while there might be a God out there, it's really up to us in the end to make things work out. But let's see whether that's how things really work. Is that how God really is? How did that work out for the lost sheep? Did the lost sheep try to help himself and only then did the shepherd go find it? What about the coin? Did the coin just roll a bit closer to the old lady so she could see it and then pick it up? Of course those ideas are silly. The fact is, unless the shepherd went after that sheep, unless that woman tore apart her house, that sheep and that coin were gone for good! No, brothers and sisters in Christ, God doesn't help those who help themselves. He helps those who can't help themselves. Who can't fix themselves. Who can't find their way back. Who have no way of being rescued except that He comes to find them.

And how does that shepherd go about it? How is the coin found? Here Christ is speaking of His work in coming to save sinners. Sinners are lost sheep, caught up in the brambles and just a few minutes away from the devil, that roaring lion, making a snack out of them! That coin is no longer shiny but is rolled up in some ball of dust under a piece of furniture, in the corner of the room. Born sinful, we can't fear and love and trust in God. All we do is wander away from Him. In our sins, we flee from God and turn away from our neighbor. We are lost. Finished. We are food for that roaring lion Satan. Until the shepherd comes. Until the old woman sweeps the house. Until the Savior appears. Jesus, the Son of God, comes down and becomes man to go after the sheep. He places Himself between the sheep and that lion, the devil and drives off that lion with His own suffering and death by which you escape and are rescued! His death and resurrection sweep away sin, death, the power of the devil and the judgment of God that was against us. In Jesus we have the God whom Micah says pardons iniquity and passes over transgressions. This isn't something we figured out and asked for. This is God's mercy in His Son Jesus Christ by which we are rescued from sin and death. And then the shepherd throws the lamb over his shoulders and brings it to his house. Just so Christ has taken hold of you in Holy Baptism, and brings you to His house, His church, in which a feast is laid in celebration of your salvation! What joy!

But not joy for the Pharisees. They weren't glad. They grumbled about Jesus, “This man eats with tax collectors and sinners!” He hangs out with people who aren't holy because they have kept the Law well. He hangs out with people who aren't like the Pharisees, proud of how much religion they've got. You see, for the Pharisees, religion was about what they did to prove to God they were worthy. They kept the Law, lived according to all of its commands and rules. When you saw a Pharisee you would have no doubt, “There's a holy guy! There's a guy with some religion!” We know the same thing. Someone says, “She's really a good Christian.” What they mean by that is “She doesn't drink and cuss and do all that other stuff.” Perhaps. But what most bothered the Pharisees was that Jesus didn't eat and drink with THEM. If He were a true Rabbi, and truly from God, then He should know that THEY were the holy ones who did everything right. Not sinners and tax collectors. But Jesus didn't do that. He didn't pat those Pharisees on the back and tell them how great they were. He taught them that if they were going to be truly godly, they had to be lost sinners who needed Him as their Savior. Such teaching they didn't want. Didn't believe.

But what does Jesus say? He says that the angels rejoice over one repentant sinner not over ninety-nine who need no repentance! Now understand something. These stories aren't about people who stop coming to church while the rest of the congregation still faithfully comes every Sunday. It's much bigger. It's those who are saved and those who need no salvation. Where are you in this parable? If you are a Christian, then you are the lost sheep and the lost coin, the one who has been found and rescued and brought back by Christ when you couldn't save yourself. But it's easy to switch over to “Pharisee Mode” when we see others being brought into Christ's church that we don't think belong there. And why don't they belong there? Not because God isn't merciful but because those people aren't as good as us! People like to ask, “Pastor what about Adolf Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer” or any other kind of mass murderer, serial killer, really evil person. Can they be saved? Did Jesus die for them? Of course He did! His suffering and death are for the sins of the whole world. But those are just examples we like to throw out to convince ourselves that we're better than those types. What if someone you really hated and despised came into the church? Your ex? Your father or mother whom you haven't spoken to in years? Your estranged son or daughter? That person who did you such a terrible wrong long ago. What if they were brought into the church? What if, by the preaching of Christ's Law and Gospel, they were converted and became a Christian? What would you think then? Would you welcome them or think, “There's no way they deserve to be here after what they've done!” Easy to switch to Pharisee Mode and think that we are more deserving than others. Repent, dear Christians, of thinking that you or anyone else is more or less worthy of Christ's salvation. He died for all. No strings attached. To seek and to save the lost. To seek and to save, yes, even you!

And this then leads us to the question of what true repentance is. Are you repentant? Are you truly sorry? Can you even measure such a thing? How do we know—better yet, how does the Lord know if we're sorry enough? Is it when we turn our lives around? Fix everything? “Get right” with God? No, listen carefully. Jesus says a shepherd finds a lost sheep and likewise the angels rejoice over a repenting sinner. Jesus says a woman finds her coin and heaven rejoices over a repenting sinner. Pay close attention: What did the sheep do other than wander off? What did the coin do other than roll into a corner? The repentance of the sheep and coin are not that they went back to the flock or rolled back into the light but that they were found by the shepherd and the old woman. True repentance is not that WE do something but that we are found and rescued and saved by Jesus. True repentance is your baptism in which you are drowned and die and rise to new life with Christ. True repentance is the confession of your sins and the proclamation of Holy Absolution by which you are reminded that you have been found. True repentance is the feast of salvation celebrating that the Jesus who has given His body and blood for you now gives them to you to eat and drink for forgiveness, life and salvation. Or to put it another way, true repentance is the SPIRIT'S work in you through the Word. The difference between sinners and tax collectors and Pharisees isn't that some are more or less sinful than others. The difference is that the Pharisees think they have done enough to make God happy with them and therefore have no need of a Savior. And if they have no need of a Savior, then they have no Savior. The tax collectors and sinners, and YOU on the other hand, have been taught by God's Word that you can't save yourself. But you have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who has given Himself into death for your sins and will raise you up to eternal life on the Last Day.

“God helps those who help themselves?” I don't think so! God helps those who cannot help themselves, who can't do anything but get lost, roll into corners, and fall into sin. Your enemy, the devil, is prowling about like a roaring lion. But your Shepherd won't let you be eaten up! He has gone high and low, from heaven to hell and back to save you and bring you into His house where you shall feast and rejoice in His salvation all the days of your life and of the life to come! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 13, 2010 - The Second Sunday after Trinity - St. Luke 14:15-24

Last week we heard the sad tale of Lazarus the poor beggar who was passed by each day by the rich man. Yet he was comforted in eternal life. This week we hear this good news that those who are poor, crippled, lame and blind are the ones who ARE invited to the feast prepared by the rich man. But this time the rich man is not just some guy with a lot of money, it is the Lord Himself who prepares the banquet. And the banquet is not just some food to eat but it is the Gospel itself: the rich feast of salvation in God's kingdom, prepared by Christ to which we are invited through the preaching of the Gospel. Hearing this Gospel call, let us forsake whatever there is in our life which would become an excuse for not receiving the Lord's gifts. And let us eagerly and with great joy receive the invitation to partake of the feast in the Lord's kingdom, to which such poor, blind, lame, crippled sinners as you and I have been invited!

Jesus tells of a man who prepared a feast. A great supper or banquet. This is the feast of the kingdom of God. How is the feast of God's kingdom prepared? What has gone into the preparation of this banquet? All that the Lord Christ has done for our salvation. From the first promise of a Savior given to Adam and Eve, to the giving of the Ten Commandments to guide and instruct us in our lives and to teach us our sinfulness. To the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, to live an obedient and holy life, to take upon Himself our sins, to suffer and die at the hands of sinners on behalf of sinners. To shed His blood on the cross and be judged for our sins. To be the Lamb of God who is sacrificed when the sins of the world are laid upon Him. To rise triumphant over death on the third day and to ascend to the right hand of the Father, having accomplished the salvation of the world. Having overcome sin, death and the devil, the Son reports back to the Father that the feast is ready. The banquet of salvation is spread. The table is set. The feast may begin. All that is lacking are the guests! And so the Lord, having prepared this kingdom banquet sends His servants into the world to invite the guests and call people to the feast.

How does the Lord gather the guests? He sends His servants to invite many to the feast. Who are these servants? They are the men called to fill the apostolic office of preaching the Gospel. At first these servants were the Apostles themselves, called by Christ to be His witnesses to the world. Then they are the men ever since called through the church and ordained by Christ to be in His stead and to invite people by His command to the feast. This inviting is done by the preaching of the Gospel. To everyone everywhere goes the invitation: come to the feast. Good and bad. Greatest and least. Come to the feast! Come, believe in Christ! Come confess your sins and be absolved! Come and learn Christ's Word and become a disciples by being where His Word is preached and taught and His doctrine is given out. Now understand this Gospel feast prepared by Christ includes the Sacrament of the Altar, but it is more than the Sacrament of the Altar. Lest we think Jesus' story is teaching us that we are simply to let anyone come to Christ's table as many churches in our Synod do, let us understand that Christ's servants call and invite people to the feast through all that they do in making disciples by baptizing and teaching all nations all of Christ's Word. You either reject Christ's Word or receive it. It's all together. You can't have one thing without all things. You can't say, “I'll come to communion but never mind all that Catechism stuff.” Or, “I'll join and be a member of the church but never come to the Divine Service” Or, I'll come to church but never mind all that Bible Study stuff.” ALL of the Lord's Gospel gifts: Baptism, Absolution, the preaching and teaching of the Gospel and the Supper—all of these things are what is meant by the feast that Jesus describes! And they are all prepared by Christ for you!

But Jesus tells of those who were invited who did not want to come. Here is taught that even though the Lord has prepared this great feast, and even though He has kindly invited all, people still refuse to hear the Gospel and believe it. They refuse to hear Christ's Word and be His disciples. They had excuses. Notice that they were not engaged in gross and terrible sins, but excused themselves because of the ordinary things of this life which they held to be more important than the feast prepared for them. Dear Christians, it is not at all wrong to hold property or be married. These are gifts of God! However, when the things that the Lord gives us become more important to us than the Lord Himself, then we have made His gifts into idols. Dear Christians, what things do you cling to in this life on account of which you would like to be excused from attending the feast? Money? Property? Jobs? Hobbies? Health? People? What things are there in your life that would keep you from believing the Gospel and seeking all of your good in the feast that the Lord invites you to? Repent of such idolatry and turn from those things to fear, love and trust in Christ above all things! To reject the Gospel is to choose the way of foolishness, according to the Proverbs. Solomon writes in the Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Thus, the fool doesn't want Wisdom's banquet. The fool wants everything in the world except to fear and know the Lord. The fool wants no Bible, no catechism, no preaching, no confessing and being absolved, no Supper, no living for God's glory, and no loving and serving their his neighbor. Dear Christians, let us repent of the foolishness which seeks anything and everything but Christ and His Word.

But if you are poor, if you are blind, lame, crippled—if you are a poor beggar as Lazarus was, then rejoice for the Lord invites you! He calls to you and says, “This feast of salvation is yours!” If you are a fool, rejoice! If you don't know the Lord as you should, have not kept His commandments, have acted and lived foolishly, that is, by seeking your happiness in something other than than the Lord, then rejoice that Wisdom invites you to her banquet! True wisdom, after all, is to confess that you are a fool and in need of God's mercy! If you are a sinner in this world, incapable of loving and trusting the Lord as you ought to, and incapable of loving your neighbor as the Lord has commanded you, then rejoice! For the feast is ready. Hear the invitation in the preaching of the Savior who has made all things ready by His death and resurrection. Wash up for dinner in the waters of Holy Baptism, where the Lord brings you into His household, the church. Hear the call to eat through the preaching of the Gospel and the Absolution of your sins. Then come and feast upon the flesh and blood of the Savior who is both Host and Food at the banquet of salvation. Dear Christian, don't be like the well-to-do with their excuses for not hearing and believing God's Word. Rather be the poor, blind, lame and crippled whom the Lord invites into His house to feast at His dinner of salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the feast of salvation is for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The Lord promises that they will be filled. For those who are wise in their own eyes, healthy, without sin, or without much sin, full of themselves and their own opinions and religion, the feast of God can never compete. It can't compete with the glory and flattery of men and the idols people make for themselves. But for the lost, the hungry, those unable to fear God, unable to love their neighbor, the poor and crippled from the highways and byways—for such sinners like you and me, the feast is ready. Christ has prepared it through His life, death and resurrection. And now, on behalf of the Master of the House, I, his called slave, invite you to dinner. The dinner of salvation. The feast is ready! Come to the feast! The Lord's banquet prepared by Christ where you are the guest of honor! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

June 6, 2010 - The First Sunday after Trinity - St. Luke 16:19-31

If they don't believe Moses and the Prophets, the won't believe it even if someone rises from the dead! Wow! Abraham is telling the rich man, and Jesus is telling us by this story, that not even someone rising from the dead will convince them to believe in Christ if they don't believe it from the Word. And it's true! The Pharisees and religious leaders knew Jesus had risen from the dead but not even that convinced them to trust in Him. We do the same thing: “God, show me a sign! Do something I want. Make something change in my life. Make something happen. Let's see some miracle or sign from God. If I could just see such a thing, then I'd really believe!” Not so. You have the Word. Moses and the Prophets. AND the Gospels and the writings of the Apostles. You have the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God. If you don't believe that, God Himself standing in front of you won't convince you either! Our problem is that the Lord gives us His Word and His promises but don't always seem to fit with what we see with our eyes. Nevertheless, He teaches us to trust in His Word. Without that Word, we have nothing.

Consider Abraham. The Lord called him from his homeland to go to the land of Canaan. It was by God's Word that Abraham left. Then the Lord said that He would make Abraham into a great nation, give him oodles of descendants, more than the stars of the sky! That was God's Word. But what did Abraham see? He could see that he didn't even have any kids and he was an old man! He could see that His wife Sarah was well past her child-bearing years! But the Scriptures say Abraham trusted God's promise and that the Lord counted that as righteousness. But when Abraham died, he only had a few children, certainly not as many as the stars of heaven! But look around now. Now how many children does Abraham have? St. Paul writes in Galatians that all those who believe in Christ are sons of Abraham by faith in Jesus. How many Christians are there? Have there been? Will there be? Like the stars of heaven! The Lord's promise has come true, though Abraham only saw it by faith. All Abraham had was the Word of God, but for Abraham, by faith, it was enough.

That's all we have. The Word of God. The Word of God teaches us how to live. It teaches a rich man to love his neighbor and help him, even if there is apparently no benefit in doing so. It teaches us to love others even when they don't seem to deserve it. The Word of God teaches husbands and wives to stay together and love one another even when it feels like love is gone. It teaches children to obey their parents even when their parents seem harsh or embarrassing. The Scriptures teach us to hold our tongues even when it seems we have a right to say something against someone. The Word teaches us to love God and love our neighbor even though the world around us just says to take care of yourself! And in teaching us these things, the Word teaches repentance for it is clear that none of us lives as God's Word commands. We don't love God above all things and we don't love our neighbors as ourselves.

But the Word doesn't stop there. It doesn't end at telling us what to do. The Word, above all else, tells us what the Lord has done. That He sent His Son. That Christ was born for you, baptized for you, lived for you and suffered and died for you. He rose for you. He has conquered death and hell and by the water that flowed from His side He has quenched the fires of judgment that were set to roast you! God's Word speaks to you this promise: that for Jesus' sake, your sins are forgiven you and you have eternal life. Now you can't always SEE those promises. Just as the rich man knew the Lord's condemnation of his hating his neighbor but he didn't see it so it didn't matter; just as Lazarus had the promise of eternal life and blessing but he couldn't see it; just so the promises God gives you are not always easy to see. It's hard to believe that you have a heavenly Father who cares for you when you are lying in a hospital bed suffering from some disease! It's hard to believe that your sins are forgiven when the things you have done keep bothering your mind and making you miserable. It's hard to believe the Lord's Word is faithful and true and worth listening too when the world is full of people who seem to be getting along just fine without it!

But now understand something. The rich man did not suffer because he was rich. He didn't even suffer because he didn't take care of Lazarus. He suffered because he wanted a life without God's Word. He suffered because he had Moses and the Prophets, the Bible, but he didn't want to learn it. He didn't want to believe it. He didn't want to do what it said. When He failed to do what it said, he didn't want to trust in the promise of forgiveness it gave, to believe in the Savior to whom it pointed. No, the rich man only cared about the rich man and all the things he could get in life. It wasn't until he died that he suddenly had concern for his brothers! There's our warning, brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't despise God's Word. Don't neglect the Scriptures. Don't turn away from what the Lord has given you in Christ! Learn the Word. Hear it! Believe it! Live in your Baptism! Hear the absolution for your sins! Hear the preaching! Come to Bible Study! Eat and drink Jesus' body and blood! Nothing else can save you. Nothing else can comfort you in a world in which you may suffer greatly. Nothing else will comfort you with the promise of a better and eternal life to come! For it is the Word that shows us Christ, and being in Christ is to be, like Lazarus, in the bosom of Abraham.

That is why you need to hear and receive the Word again and again and over and over. Because God's Word is the one thing that not only saves you but keeps you in the faith. When you are suffering as one who seems abandoned by God, you need to hear again the Good News of your Baptism that declares you are a child of God in Christ! When your sins trouble you and you know that you have not loved God and your neighbor, you need to hear again the Good News of Holy Absolution by which the death of Christ is laid against your sins and wipes them out. When you see how the world around you lives as if it doesn't have any cares, you need to hear again this preaching of Jesus that the world will have its good things in this life and that you who suffer now, will have your good things in the life to come, because of Jesus. When death itself stalks you, you need to hear the Good News that the body and blood of Jesus given you to eat and drink will raise you up on the Last Day and give you eternal life! Jesus' resurrection shows that He conquers death. But it is His Word by which the Holy Spirit makes us God's people. It is the Word by which we are saved, by which we learn to love and care for others, and by which we are counted as descendants of Abraham and heirs of the wonderful promises of God in Christ Jesus. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.