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A Memorial Service Sermon for Evie Tiemann. May 7, 2022

This sermon was preached at the memorial service for Evie Tiemann at Grace Lutheran Church (River Forest, IL) on Saturday, May 7. You can view both the service and the bulletin.

Leslie, Kara, Nate, Margot; family and friends; sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. I first got to really know Evie on a bus. We had flown overnight from Chicago – not the sort of situation conducive to restful sleep – but still had a bus ride of several hours to get to Martin, Slovakia. Evie, however, was wide awake. There was, after all, life to be lived. Conversations to be had. So, we sat in back-to-back seats, as she asked questions of my life and shared some of her story with me. It was there, as we wound our way through a rolling, wooded landscape that I learned of Evie’s passions – dancing and reading, teaching and eating, her family and her friends. And most of all, her faith. By the time we got to Marten, I had come to know what many of you have known for even longer. Evie’s life was full of life. In fact, over breakfast this morning, Erika said, “I didn’t know how old Evie was when we were on that trip, but I know that when I’m that age I want to be just like her!”
  2. Death is never easy when it comes for one we love, but it blindsides us when one who is so full of life is taken too soon. And 79 years were not enough for us to have Evie among us. Her absence in our community is keenly felt, and so is our grief. We come here this morning wishing things were different.
  3. Our gospel reading speaks to such felt absence and profound grief today. Mary and Martha are in deep mourning for their brother, Lazarus. Lord, Martha says to Jesus when he arrives, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Martha knows as well as the rest of us that death is a part of life, but in her grief, she can’t help yearning that things were otherwise. How will they go one without Lazarus?
  4. How do we go on without Evie? Very early in the pandemic, I was on the phone with Evie about a ministry to make sure that seniors had groceries and other essentials. I thought I was talking to Evie about the possibility of someone bring groceries to her. It quickly dawned on me, however, that Evie was having a conversation with me about her bringing groceries to others! That was Evie, always looking for ways to care for others. This gift of the Spirit led her to Stephen Ministry, through which her passion for helping others bear the burdens of this life was put to use for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
  5. We gather today in grief and mourning, but we also know where Jesus was on that last night at Rush Hospital. Jesus was not absent. He was there with us as we cried together and prayed over dear Evie. Even then, we felt keenly the promise in which Evie lived her life, the promise of Jesus who is the resurrection and the life. This One, this Christ, who promises that even though we die, we shall live. So it was for Lazarus. So it is for Evie. So shall it be for us.
  6. We come to the tomb with heavy hearts, but we discover the tomb already empty, Easter forever. The prophetic words of Jeremiah have come to fruition. God has turned our mourning to joy, our sorrow to joy.
  7. Today we weep, perhaps, and we mourn the absence of this one so loved and so loving. Still, we rejoice. Always we rejoice, for we are in the Lord. We give thanks for the life Evie lives now in the Lord, and with that hope for the future, we give thanks for the life she lived among us. We have learned so much from her. If there is anything pure and pleasing, just and excellent, that we can learn from her, keep on doing these things. So, we keep teaching and learning. We keep caring for one another. We keep dancing. And most of all, we keep the faith – faith in the One who is present in our dying that we might be forever present with Christ and all the saints before the throne.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

Sermon: By Hook or by Crook. May 8, 2022

This sermon was preached at Grace Lutheran Church (River Forest, IL) on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. You can view the service here and the bulletin here. Due to technical difficulties, the livestream is from the 11:00 service, not 8:30. The photo is of Anders and me at the start of a busy Saturday morning.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. There was no place I would have rather been yesterday morning. It is a hard, holy thing to commend a fellow member of the flock into the hands of the Good Shepherd. What a blessing to be in this space; to share memories and sing praises, to hear the promise of the resurrection as we celebrated the completion of Evie’s baptismal journey. While I was here, our kids were already getting into their Saturday activities. So, after the memorial service, I texted Erika, wondering how Anders baseball game had gone. To which she replied: He’d like to tell you himself. Which was fine, except I wasn’t going to see Anders for another five hours. I had to wait? I confess that I don’t handle suspense all that well. I like to know things now, thank you very much. But as no further information was forthcoming, I simply had to wait. Spoiler alert: Anders and his team won, 7-6.
  2. We like to know; to be in the know. Suspense can be enjoyable in books or movies, but in real life we like certitude, as soon as possible. So it was for those gathered around Jesus in Jerusalem during the festival of the Dedication, or Hannukah. How long will you keep us in suspense, they ask? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly! Is this Jesus the One they’ve been waiting for, or should they wait for another? And how long must they wait? The motives of his interlocutors are questionable, however. It is possible that they are honestly curious, wondering if Jesus is the One on whom they should pin their hopes. It is equally possible, as scholar Tom Troeger points out, that the question is adversarial. The Greek could be rendered, “How long will you annoy us?” Perhaps they simply want Jesus to be clear in his blasphemy, so that they can get clear evidence for a conviction. This man said he was the Messiah; away with him!
  3. Whether they’re curious or confrontational, the crowd doesn’t get what they’re looking for from Jesus. “I have told you,” Jesus tells them. Of course, he has done no such thing. In John’s Gospel, the only time he has declared himself to be the Messiah was six chapters earlier, and the only person who heard him was the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus’ response seems to indicate his belief that his questioners are not kindly disposed to him; he assumes they’re not interested in a faithful relationship with the Messiah. If they were, they’d already believe. When asked here about his identity, Jesus doesn’t tell them more about himself; instead, he speaks of those who follow him. He speaks of his sheep. They hear and know his voice. He knows them; they follow him. If you know, you know.
  4. Jesus wants us to know that faith begins not with believing, but with belonging. On this day when we celebrate the gift of motherhood, I am mindful of the trust that young children put in their caregivers. Infants don’t spend a lot of time crafting creedal statements of belief in their parents; they simply trust them. To feed them, change them, clothe them. Our relationship with Jesus is not dissimilar. Before we can put words to it, the relationship of faith is one we receive as gift and joy. This One we follow is the One who gives us life both abundant and eternal. We may die, but in him we will never perish, for nothing can snatch us out of his Father’s hands. Before we know how to describe this faith, we simply believe, for the Shepherd has called us by name.
  5. Part of the process of becoming a pastor is the completion of CPE, or Clinical Pastoral Education. This is an embedded experience, a chance to serve as a sort of assistant chaplain in a hospital or a residential community. I did CPE at a nursing home in Oshkosh, WI. One of my duties was to lead worship for those who lived in the dementia care unit. Because I was 24 and brilliant and didn’t know a darn thing, when my first time to lead came around I planned a fairly full worship service. I even tried to preach a sermon. But I didn’t yet know these people and they didn’t know me. My words had no meaning. A CNA working the unit showed mercy, coming up to me and whispering in my ear: “Use words they know.” The first thing that came to mind was Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd,” I tentatively offered up. “I shall not want,” they replied with one voice We were off and running, God’s ancient words of hope and comfort pouring forth from the lips of these dear people who were slowly losing themselves in the mists of memory loss. There was so much they no longer knew; some didn’t know who they were. But Jesus knew how to speak to them. Jesus hadn’t forgotten them. Jesus still knew their names, and they still belonged to Jesus.
  6. If we wait for Jesus to speak to us on our terms, we might be waiting for a long time. But Jesus has spoken with all the clarity we need from the cross and the empty tomb; there is no greater love than a Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sake of his sheep. Yes, death and evil continue to prowl around the edges of the flock. No, we don’t get to avoid walking through the valley of death’s shadow. Death came in Joppa for the disciple, Tabitha, and death came here for the disciple, Evie. But death does not get the last word, for Christ journeys with us through the valley and brings us into the endless green fields of God’s love. Held in his hands, caught and cradled in his crook, we will not be lost. The Lord is my Shepherd, our Shepherd, and he is good. Listen to his voice.
  7. And so we wait, but without suspense. In the revelation to St. John, God has given away the ending. Yes, we endure fear and anxiety, war and oppression, uncertainty about the future and assaults on our identity, diagnoses and death. But we already know the end of the story: Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! The story ends not with power only, but with power exercised for the sake of the sheep in the pasture: We will hunger and thirst no more, for the Shepherd, the Lamb, will guide us to springs of living water. He will wipe away the last tears from our eyes. Listen, friends, as God speaks your name today. You belong to Christ; you are known by God. What else do you need to know? Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

An Easter Sermon: Stop Making Sense. April 17. 2022

This is the sermon I preached on Easter Sunday, 2022, at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL. You can view the service and the bulletin, too. The image is the Grace Chancel, expertly decorated and appointed for the Resurrection of Our Lord (photo by me).

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. Yesterday morning, Torsten came into my office while I was writing today’s sermon. Watching me type, he asked, “Dad, how do you know what to put in your sermons?” I turned and said, “Well, God tells me what to write.” He thought for a moment. “Those are God’s words? Like, from God?” “Yeah, buddy, of course.” He thought some more: “Then why do you keep deleting them and starting over?” Okay, not a true story. Had Torsten asked about today’s sermon, he would have been less concerned with where it came from and more concerned with how long it was going to last! Fear not! Like Torsten, I know that the key to a good Easter sermon is to have a good beginning, a good ending, and to have them as close together as possible!
  2. I come to this morning’s sermon, thank God, standing upon the wisdom of centuries of Easter preachers. But what about the first Easter preachers? What must these women have thought as they left the empty tomb, the first flicker of faith firing within them? How Mary, Joanna, and Mary must have whispered as they ran: How are we going to tell the others about this? In the end, I imagine, they told it straight, just as they’d heard it: He who was crucified has been raised. They didn’t go for humor, but the men heard it all as a joke, anyway. A poor one, at that. Jesus, the One taken and executed by the Empire, alive again? We saw him pierced, heard his last exhalation. He’s alive? Surely, the men thought as they dismissed the women out of hand, this is nothing more than an idle tale. Package it however you want, it’s still nonsense. Death, after all, is nothing if not dependable.
  3. It is a gift and a joy beyond measure to be here on Easter with all of you after the past two years. It feels good to be moving beyond the pandemic. Of course, such language about “moving beyond” betrays our acceptance of death’s logic. Sure, nearly one million Americans have been killed by this virus over the past two years, but it’s time to move on? In a recent article in The Atlantic, Ed Yong writes of how our desire to move on minimizes the grief of those who have lost loved ones. Yes, he writes, dying of COVID is becoming rarer even for those infected, but when your loved one “is part of the numerator, it doesn’t matter how large the denominator is.” We do our best to keep death at a distance. But when it comes near, it’s seeming finality stops us short. And we know, deep in our bones, how the math problem will finally resolve, numerator and denominator matching up in a one-to-one ratio. Like John Donne before us, we know for whom the bell tolls.
  4. As of Friday afternoon, Jesus was dead. This sad reality was all the disciples needed to know. Jesus is risen? Had Shakespeare penned the gospels, perhaps he would have put words from the Scottish play in the mouths of the men, hearing from the women nothing more than a tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It’s an idle tale; this word used by Luke also means nonsense, and it’s the only time it shows up in the entire New Testament. Even by biblical standards, resurrection is just too tall a tale for anyone to believe.
  5. To which we can only say, thank God resurrection precedes belief. For the farcical fact of the matter is that Christ is risen. As Peter, the denier and early disbeliever would later put it, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear.” Yes, we keep our ledgers in this sinful, broken world, squaring our books, every life leading to death. Whether in war-torn Ukraine or in COVID ICUs, on our city streets or in the countless, anonymous ways it stalks us, death comes. But while death may be a fact of life, it is also, Paul reminds us, the enemy of God. And God will not stand opposed for long. While it may be nonsense, foolishness, to think that God would take on our lot in this life, would suffer with us, would die for us, nevertheless is it so. Yes, it’s foolish, but we find ourselves confronted this morning by a God who isn’t that interested in making sense. At least not by our standards. Death overreached on that Good Friday when it claimed the life of the Son of God. The Romans tallied him up as another statistic, one more life ground up in the machinery of Empire. But God, delighting in the humble obedience of Christ, refuses to let death have the last word. He does not remain here amid the stench of the tomb. The stone rolls away as the once-rejected stone is set as the foundation of God’s new creation. A creation beyond our sense or reason, to be sure. A Kingdom in which sins are forgiven instead of avenged; a world in which those in any need have their needs abundantly met; a world in which we shall follow Jesus through death into the verdant fields of eternal life.
  6. The last enemy to be defeated is death. Death continues its feeble fight But, the victory is certain. Jesus doesn’t move on from death. He goes through it and defeats it. Every death now leads to life. The first fruits are already harvested. The table of grace now heavy laden as Jesus presents himself to our senses as we feast upon the very goodness of God. Jesus who was crucified has been raised. For his sake, you are raised to new life today. For his sake, you will be resurrected from the dead. This Jesus, this One, has been raised for each one of you, for each one of you is precious. Not a statistic among billions, but a beloved child bearing the image of our God. Jesus is risen and you shall arise. Who would believe such an idle tale? Well, we do, and on it we hang our hope. For the risen Christ shows himself to us today. In Word and song. In body and blood. In this community gathered together in joy. Here. For you. Let us not look for the living among the dead. He is not there. He is here. With us. Alive. For each of us, with each of us, a Word that forever abides. From beginning to end to an endless new beginning, the joke was on death all along. I’m not sure it will ever make sense, so let us simply wonder as we praise our God. Christ is alive and this is the Lord’s doing. It is marvelous in our eyes. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

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Torsten T. Lyle, resident critic.

A Palm/Passion Sunday Sermon: Into His Father’s Hands. April 10, 2022

This is the sermon I preached on Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL. You can view the service service (partially disrupted by a power outage!) and check out the bulletin, too. The image is Crucifixion, Peter Gertner, 1537 (public domain).

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. It seems, at first glance, that things have gone horribly wrong. How could the cries of “Hosanna! Save us!” turn so quickly to “Crucify! Kill!”? The joyful confusion of Palm Sunday quickly gives way to the calculated confusion of Good Friday. Today, we are brought to a standstill, seeing our Savior nailed to Calvary’s cross. How, we wonder, could things have come to this? If we listen, though, we will hear what God, this crucified, incarnate Word has to say to us today. Three times Jesus speaks to us from the cross in Luke’s gospel. Three times Jesus speaks grace, revealing that while horrible, his dying is of a piece with his living. While we, as much as the crowds in Jerusalem, the Roman occupiers and the religious leaders, are accountable and responsible for the death of the Son of God, this death is also the reason for which Jesus was born into this world. In his death, he joins us in our dying. Amid his suffering, he speaks: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Into his Father’s hands. That is where Jesus has been all along, and it is into his Father’s hands that Jesus is moving us.
  2. We often say that Jesus died to forgive us for our sins. We are right to do so, for it is by his suffering and death, in his blood, that we are forgiven. But Jesus also died because he forgave us for our sins. Forgiveness doesn’t begin after Easter. It is because of his audacious claim to the divine right to forgive sins that Jesus is put to death. Who does he think he is to let people off the hook for their sins? Frankly, we’re not that interested in forgiveness. In theory, perhaps, but not in practice. Even in today’s gospel, we see the contrast. Jesus prays for forgiveness for those who are quite literally responsible for his death not long after Pilate punishes him in spite of his innocence. Not only does humanity not practice forgiveness, we punish the innocent. Is this not what we see in Ukraine? What sort of world do we live in where refugees are killed in a missile strike, innocents put to death for no reason other than trying to live? Vladimir Putin is just the latest monster to prowl this earth, reminding us that we are bound to the ways of death. But here, today, as he dies, innocent, Jesus speaks forgiveness. Here in his crucifixion, we are finally set free. We are returned to his Father’s hands.
  3. We, like the criminals, find ourselves guilty, convicted of the sins of which Jesus was innocent. We have no claim to the gift of grace or the joys of Paradise. We find ourselves near Jesus in his death, presented with the opportunity to mock him or to turn to him with humble hope. While it is foolish, by human standards, to see hope and the promise of life in the midst of death, we are invited to follow the lead of criminal and see in Jesus’s death the door to eternal life, forever opened to us know through the gift of Christ crucified. In Jesus’ death, we are returned to his Father’s hands.
  4. At the moment of his dying, it appears that Jesus is as far from God as possible. How could God be present in this suffering, this humiliation, this death? But it is precisely here, joined to our humanity and mortality, taking our sin upon himself and suffering with us in solidarity, that God’s glory is most manifest. Here are the hands of God at work. Here, in his dying, is Christ at work to save us. Here, in human weakness, is Jesus most powerfully present. Jesus’ Father is with him as he dies, and in the coming promise of the third day we see that Jesus’ Father is with us to move us from death to life. Today, we stand in the shadow of Jesus’ cross and see how God moves us from sin to forgiveness, from doom to Paradise, from death to life. We are, with Christ, moved forever into the Father’s hands. May we, this Holy Week, marvel with wonder and praise as God replants the Tree of Life, the cross of Christ, drawing all of creation into the Creator’s hands. Out of this horrible wrong, we see God making all things right. Amen.

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

A Sermon on the Parable of the Prodigal Son: Welcome Home to the New Creation. March 27, 2022 on

This is the sermon I preached at Grace Lutheran Church (River Forest, IL) on March 27, the Fourth Sunday in Lent. You can watch the service. The image is The Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt (1669, public domain).

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. Growing up in Wisconsin, I assumed that nearly everyone was Lutheran. What else could explain the presence of a Lutheran church on seemingly every corner? You couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a Lutheran church, not that you’d want to. Why so many? Well, more people went to worship on a regular basis back then. And, of course, each synod needed its own presence. But what really seemed to drive the number of Lutheran congregations was ethnic background. Even the small towns that sprouted every eight miles at long-forgotten rail stops had multiple Lutheran options. There would be a German Lutheran church, and a Norwegian Lutheran church, and perhaps even a Swedish Lutheran church. But what always surprised me was seeing two Danish Lutheran churches on the same street. Why two Danish churches? Well, because the Danish Lutherans who had emigrated to America had divided into two broad camps, known colloquially as Happy Danes and, yup, you guessed it, Sad Danes. I’m not sure what’s sadder than having “sad” as your predominant adjective. They were hardworking, faithful people, these less happy Danes, but central to their faith was an opposition to drinking, dancing, and entertainment. No wonder they were sad! Now, to be clear, the point is not that drinking and dancing are necessarily good. Drinking has caused more than its fair share of problems. And my wife’s cousin Knute, more of an exuberant Norwegian, tore his ACL dancing at our wedding reception, so there you go. The point is simply this: Do you want to be known for what you’re against? For thinking that following God means stomping out the joy around you?
  2. If the Parable of the Prodigal Son had been set in nineteenth-century Wisconsin, it’s clear which church the older brother would have attended. Faithful and responsible, he would have slid into the front pew week after week with the other pillars of small-town society. And on non-Sabbath days, he would have been up before the roosters, tilling the earth and wondering what got into his younger brother all those years ago. I can relate to this elder sibling. There’s much to emulate in his values and virtues. The problem, you might say, is in how much value he places on his value. It’s been a long time since he’s been able to see the forest for the trees, or the farm for the crops. He’s so caught up in doing the right thing, so taken with his own impeccable ability to do the right thing, that he has lost all sense of joy. And grace? He doesn’t begin to know what to do with that.
  3. Which brings us to the younger brother, about whom there is little to admire or emulate. What a bum! He goes to his father, tells him that he wants his inheritance now – which is a nice way of saying I wish you were already dead – and hightails it to the Big City. I don’t imagine he was hanging out with the highly pious, and neither the Happy nor the Sad would have seen him in church on a Sunday morning. Sounds like it was fun for a while, but only the cheap sort of fun with no joy underneath. The fun ran out, as it always does. Hungry and broke, he finds himself working with the pigs. Down and out, he has a moment of clarity. He needs to pull himself together, find a little religion, and head on home. At least, perhaps, he can be a servant on his father’s estate. He rehearses his lines and prepares his confession, ready to take life seriously for a change. It might be too late, but perhaps he can become a bit more like his older brother.
  4. If we’re not careful here, we’ll miss it. It is tempting, especially for those of us who relate to the older brother, to see the younger son’s confession as the hinge on which the parable swings. Yes, crawl back home and admit what you’ve done. For that matter, if we relate to the younger son, we might think the same. We got ourselves into this mess, and it’s up to us to get out of it. But if you’re paying attention, you’ll see that son’s confession is of secondary importance. The father doesn’t even seem to hear his son’s pious words. The father, you see, wasn’t scanning the horizon day after day, hoping against hope, yearning for his son’s confession. He was simply yearning for his son. And when his son returned, there was no time for pious platitudes. It was time for a party. As Robert Farrar Capon writes, “Confession is not a transaction, not a negotiation to secure forgiveness; it is the after-the-last gasp of a corpse that finally can afford to admit it’s dead and accept resurrection. Forgiveness surrounds us, beats upon us all our lives; we confess only to wake ourselves up to what we already have.”
  5. It is the grace of the father on which the parable turns. Not stern forbearance but unmitigated grace that forgives sin and welcomes home the wandering child with joy. Grace that raises this dead son to new life. And in this new life there is no time for old ways of seeing the world. The younger son is dressed with new robe, ring, and sandals; covered with the righteousness of Christ, you might say. He is what Paul calls a new creation. He is not to be seen as a sinner to be tolerated, but a sibling to be loved. And the older brother, fuming outside the party? He is in danger of missing out because what he has always valued most is his value, believing that he can earn, has earned, his father’s love. But he’s always had everything that belongs to his father, just because the father loves him. He never had to earn a thing. Both boys need to die to themselves, to their sin or their seriousness, and be resurrected to the joy of a father who simply loves them and yearns to be with them.
  6. And this, Jesus wants us to know, is the scandal of his Father’s grace. God loves you before all the diligent, dutiful work you will do, and God will love you after all the sins you’ll commit. God loves you with a prodigal love, a love that is excessive, extravagant. God loves us so much that when we say, “drop dead,” Jesus does exactly that. For us. Which brings us, finally, to the surprising main character of the parable: the fatted calf. For the party to begin, the fatted calf needs to die. This fatted calf, this Lamb of God, gives himself so that the God and God’s sons and daughters can be reconciled. So that the party can begin and, having begun, can roister its way into eternity. Neither our confession nor our works will get us into the party, and our sin can’t keep us out. Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, is the lifeblood of this joyous celebration. In his name, for his sake, by his grace, you are welcomed home. Dead no more, come home. Get over yourself, your sins and your seriousness. There’s joy waiting for you, the free gift of the God of grace. Why would you want to remain outside the party?
  7. In a few moments, we’ll sing of our wandering and our squandering. As well we should. As we continue our Lenten journey to Christ’s cross, we confess that we have exiled ourselves from God. But make no mistake, God is always there waiting, yearning, looking for you. And in the grace of God, you are already found. As we sing our Lenten hymn, we catch, perhaps, an echo of the music the divine DJ is already playing on the dancefloor in the party tent. It might just be that happiest of Danish hymns, “O Day Full of Grace”: “When we on the final journey go / that Christ is for us preparing, / We’ll gather in song, our hearts aglow, / All the joys of the heavens sharing.” Friends, you were dead but are alive. You were lost but are found. The celebration has started, with grace and joy abundant. Come on in. Amen.

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.