Sunday, July 24, 2022

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity - Rom 6:3-11

 

Trinity 6

                                                                                       Rom 6:3-11

                                                                                       7/24/22

 

          Holy Baptism is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. However, the manner in which that water has been applied has varied during the history of the Church. In our text, Paul says that we were buried with Christ through baptism. This language suggests that at least some parts of the Church used immersion as the means of baptism during the first century A.D.

          The first archaeological evidence of baptismal fonts that we possess from the third and fourth centuries, indicates that the Church was not immersing in those locations.  These are fonts that a person could down into for baptism. However, the water only came up to about the waist of the individual and the physical layout of the font indicates that it was not meant to immerse a person. Instead, from church art of the period we know that the person stood in the water of the font – usually naked – and water from the font was poured over the head.  This practice is known as infusion.

          The evangelism work of the Church in northern and northeastern Europe continued on even after a 1000 A.D. However, after about 500 A.D. Christianity was established in large parts of the Mediterranean world and increasingly in Europe.  Adult baptisms became less and less common.  Instead, the babies of Christian parents were being baptized.  During the medieval period the design of baptismal fonts changed into large, deep vessels.  The priest baptized by taking the baby by the feet and plunging it into the water of the font three times. This is how baptism was done at the beginning of the sixteenth century when the Reformation took place. Towards the end of that century, the practice with which we are familiar began to appear as water was poured on the baby instead of immersing it in the water of the font.

          The manner in which water has been applied in Holy Baptism has changed over time.  What has not changed is the reality that the apostle Paul describes in our epistle lesson this morning. Holy Baptism is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.  Through God’s gracious gift he addresses our past, our present, and our future.

          Our text from Romans chapter six begins this morning as Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” This question – for which the Greek indicates that Paul assumes they agree the answer is yes – picks up on a line of thought that began in the previous chapter.  There, Paul had discussed the source of sin and how it has impacted all people.  He said, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

          The apostle tells us that Adam’s sin brought sin and death to all people.  This morning’s Old Testament lesson puts the mirror of the law right in front of us as we hear the Ten Commandments. We learn what life that follows God’s ordering is supposed to look like, and we know that certainly doesn’t describe us.  God’s word confronts us as sinners.  And in the same way, for many of us, the list of medications we take is a reminder that as we get older we aren’t getting any healthier.  Instead, as sinners, all of us are in the process of dying from the day we are born.

          However, just before our text, Paul declares the good news that God acted in the death of Jesus Christ to make us righteous before him.  He writes, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”  Christ’s obedient death on the cross means that God considers us to be not guilty – to be justified – and he will declare this on the Last Day.

          But then Paul says something that he doesn’t fully unpack until chapter seven. He adds, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Part of Paul’s explanation about why the law can’t be the way to salvation is that for us as sinful people the law actually becomes something that prompts more sin – it becomes something that sin uses.  Tell someone not to covet or lust, and that’s exactly what the sinful nature focuses upon doing.

          The good news is that even as our sin abounds, God’s grace – his undeserved love in Christ – super abounded.  Because of this, God’s grace ruled through his saving action in Christ to put all things right, and the result for us is eternal life.  God’s grace in Christ overcomes all sin. 

          Yet in the verses just before our text, this raises a potential question. Our sin is overcome by God’s grace in Christ, no matter how great it is.  God’s grace always superabounds to give us forgiveness. So Paul writes: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Is the Christian life one in which I like to sin, and God likes to forgive?”  The apostle answers, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  Paul says it can’t be this way because we have died to sin.  And in our text he sets forth what this means, as he recalls the Romans to something they already know.

The apostle says: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  Through the water of Holy Baptism you shared in Jesus’ saving death for you.  You were buried with Christ into death.  Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death won the forgiveness of sins.  Baptism is the means by which you have shared in Christ’s death and receive the forgiveness he won for you.  How do you know that you are forgiven and justified before God?  You have been baptized!

But notice, that in our text, Paul does not only talk about death. He affirms that we have been baptized into Christ’s death “in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  Jesus Christ died on the cross and was buried.  But on the third day, God raised him from the dead.  We have been baptized into the death of the risen Lord so that we can walk in newness of life – life that pleases God.  Baptism is not only about the death of Jesus. It is also about what the resurrection of Jesus means for us.

The key for understanding why this is so is found in chapter eight when Paul says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”  It was the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead.  As Paul tells Titus, in baptism we received “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  Through baptism we have shared in Jesus’ saving death and have also been given new life by the Spirit who raised Jesus.  The power that raised Jesus – the resurrection power of Christ – is now at work in us enabling us to live according to God’s will.

That is why Paul says in our text, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Christ died to sin in order to win us forgiveness. He rose from the dead by the power of the Spirit to defeat death.

We have shared in Christ’s death and so are forgiven.  We have received new life by the Spirit’s work in baptism, and by his power – the power that raised Jesus from the dead – we are enabled to live to God.  We live in the ways God intended. God gives us this ability, and that is why Paul says immediately after our text, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Paul is clear that through baptism the Spirit provides this ability. But at the same time, we also must consider the question: Why then does Paul feel the need to talk about it and exhort Christians to live in this way?  The reason is that while we are a new creation in Christ, we have not yet fully been freed from the old Adam.  The sinful nature is still present. There are times when we let sin reign in our mortal bodies.  There are time when we obey its passions. We present our members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness.

When this happens, we do what Christians do: we repent. We confess our sin. We return in faith to what God has done for us in baptism. In the fourth question about Holy Baptism in the Small Catechism, Martin Luther asks, “What does such baptizing with water indicate?”  We must understand that when says “such baptizing with water” he is referring to the practice of his day that I mentioned earlier, in which the baby was plunged down into the water of the font and then brought back out of it three times.

He answers the question by writing, “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”  We return to our baptism as through confession of sin and repentance we drown the Old Adam with his sin and evil desires. Confession and repentance put to death the Old Adam. 

We return in faith to the promise God has made that through baptism our sins are forgiven, and we have received the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in us.  He helps us to arise and live before God in righteousness and purity – in ways that are true to God’s will and please him.

You will note that Luther says “daily contrition.” The struggle against sin is an ongoing one. Through the work of the Spirit do we have success? Do we present our members to God as instruments for righteousness?  Yes, absolutely!  We make decisions of self-sacrifice and service toward others.  We choose to keep our mouth shut, instead of responding in anger or spreading gossip. But we never do this perfectly and, and indeed the more the Spirit is at work in us the more we also recognize the sin that is present.  Therefore we must return to our baptism every day. Luther says in the Large Catechism, “Therefore let all Christians regard their baptism as the daily garment that they are to wear all the time.  Every day they should be found in faith and with its fruits, suppressing the old man and growing up in the new.”

This we do in the confidence that our baptism provides the guarantee that the ultimate victory will be ours. After all, we have been baptized into the death of the risen Lord.  Because of baptism, the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. Therefore Paul says in our text, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  Or as he adds a little later, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”

Jesus Christ has defeated death in his resurrection.  The risen and exalted Lord will return in glory on the Last Day.  He will raise and transform our bodies to be like his. Freed completely from sin and death, we will live with our Lord in the renewed creation, and there will never be need for contrition or repentance again.

     

 

 

 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Mark's thoughts: Martin Chemnitz's pious fantasy about the history of Confirmation



While Martin Bucer may be called the father of Lutheran confirmation because he was the first to provide a rite of confirmation for a Lutheran church, Martin Chemnitz was in fact the most important figure in the history Lutheran confirmation.  This is true for two reasons.  First, in his Examination of the Council of Trent, Chemnitz “demonstrated” that confirmation was in fact a true and apostolic practice that should be retained for the good of the Church, once false accretions were eliminated. Second, he described in the Examination of the Council of Trent what an evangelical confirmation was, and then along with Jacob Andraeae he produced a rite of confirmation in the Braunschweig-Wolfenb├╝ttel Church Order of 1569 which is “the most complete confirmation rite that has come down to us from the sixteenth century.”[1] Chemnitz’s authority among Lutherans secured confirmation’s position moving forward.

 

Chemnitz wrote Part II of the Examination, which treats confirmation, in 1566.[2]  In his consideration, Chemnitz hammers home the point that what is attributed to confirmation minimizes baptism.[3] As expected, he emphasizes that confirmation lacks divine command and promise.[4]  He criticizes the Roman practice, because while Scripture and church fathers speak about laying on of hands, the Romans define the material of confirmation to be chrism.[5]  He is aware that church fathers such as Tertullian and Cyprian said the Spirit is given in baptism through hand laying.  In general, he deals with this and other patristic witnesses that ascribe the giving of the Spirit to hand laying or anointing by noting that Scripture does not teach this and that the rule of Augustine should be observed, namely: “The authority of the statements of the fathers ought to be not greater than the quality of the arguments which they bring forward from the canonical Scriptures.”[6] Specifically he maintains that Tertullian and Cyprian said this because of Montanus’ influence.[7]

 

Chemnitz is well aware that originally, the rite of baptism consisted of a continuous ceremony that included hand laying and anointing.[8]  He argues: “Afterward, in order that the number of sacraments might be increased, they separated it from the act of Baptism. And in order that a separate sacrament might be made of it, they willed that some measure of time should lie between them.”[9]  However, the separation was never an intentional act, but was instead an accident of practice that then produced a theology to explain it. In addition, church leaders repeatedly admonished that there should be as little delay as possible (see pages 3-10 of “The Rite of Confirmation: Teaching Lutherans to be Lutheran for Life?”).[10]  

 

Chemnitz is convinced that there was originally a practice that we can identify as “confirmation,” and that over time “traditions that are useless, superstitious, and in conflict with Scripture” were added.[11]  He states that originally, when those who had been baptized as infants “arrived at the years of discretion” (ad annos discretionis), they were instructed, and when they displayed comprehension, they were brought to the bishop and the church for examination, exhortation, and public prayer accompanied by the laying on of hands.[12]

 

Yet the evidence Chemnitz cites in support of this claim does not withstand scrutiny.  He points to the examination of doctrine and laying on of hands in Acts 19:1-7, but this hardly provides a typical example of church practice.[13]  He cites texts about the church’s exhortation to persevere in true doctrine (Acts 14:22; 15:30-32; 18:11), but these are nothing more than general statements. They do not in any way indicate the practice just described.[14] Chemnitz refers to the examination and profession of faith described in Canon 7 of the Council of Laodicea and Canon 8 of the Council of Arles, but he himself has just noted earlier that these describe the process used in the reception of heretics and schismatics and not that of baptized Christians.[15]

 

He cites the Council of Orleans and its reference to a “ripe age” (perfectatem aetatem) to support the idea that confirmands were examined; however, earlier he used the text of the Council to condemn confirmation since it says that no one will be a Christian unless he had been anointed in confirmation by the bishop. More importantly, the text that refers to a “ripe age” says nothing about examination.[16] Finally he cites Pseudo-Dionysius 7:11 to support his argument, but this says nothing more than that baptized children can and should receive instruction.

 

Because a church practice called “confirmation” existed at the start of the sixteenth century that was plagued with theological problems, Chemnitz assumes that this practice must have been present in a pure form at the beginning of the of the Church.  Nothing better illustrates this than the way that Chemnitz deals with Jerome, Against the Luciferians, 9, which states: “I do not deny that it is the practice of the Churches in the case of those who living far from the greater towns have been baptized by presbyters and deacons, for the bishop to visit them, and by the laying on of hands to invoke the Holy Ghost upon them.”[17] Chemnitz comments on this:

It was without a doubt a good and useful custom for retaining and preserving purity of doctrine and faith that the bishop himself interrogated and examined those who had been baptized by others concerning the doctrine and faith, and when he understood that they believed rightly and had been baptized legitimately, he confirmed them with the Word, and with the laying on of hands invoked the Holy Spirit on them in order that they might persevere in the faith.”[18]
Yet none of this is stated by Jerome (the entire point is about bishops giving the Spirit).  This is all a product of Chemnitz’s own mind about “what must have happened.”

Chemnitz’s version of “confirmation” is a pious fantasy that never existed. He is by no means alone in this view among sixteenth century writers (Martin Bucer and Philip Melanchthon had similar positions). However, Chemnitz's authority carried great weight among Lutherans. It is this deeply flawed account of the “true history” of confirmation that legitimized it for Lutherans in the generations to come.

 

This is an excerpt from the paper, “The Rite of Confirmation: Teaching Lutherans to be Lutheran for Life?” that considers the history and practice of confirmation in the Lutheran church.

 



[1] Frank W. Kloss, Confirmation and First Communion: A Study Book (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968), 65.

[2] Paul Turner, The Meaning and Practice of Confirmation: Perspectives from a Sixteenth-Century Controversy (New York: Peter Lang, 1987), 57, nt. 68.

[3] Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II (tr. Fred Kramer; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1978), 183, 185, 196.

[4] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 187, 194.

[5] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 205-206.

[6] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 205.

[7] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 199.  This is a very weak argument, since “On Baptism” derives from Tertullian’s pre-Montanist stage, and the accusation of Cyprian with Montanism is unique to Chemnitz.  Bellarmine rightly critiques Chemnitz on this point (Turner, The Meaning and Practice of Confirmation, 248).

[8] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 206, 208.  Chemnitz does not believe that these were all objectionable because, “the efficacy of Baptism is signed and proclaimed by these superadded signs” (200).

[9] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 207.

[11] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 212.

[12] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 212. Latin text cited from Martin Chemnitz, Examen Concilii Tridentini (ed. Preuss; Berlin: Gust. Schlawitz, 1861), 297 (hereafter referred to as Preuss).

[13] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 212-213

[14] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 213.

[15] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 213; see 208.

[16] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 219; Preuss 297. See, Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 184.  The text itself is not from the Council of Orleans as cited by Gratian. Instead: “The first half of this canon appears in the Carolingian Herardi Turonensis Capitula (858) as cap. 75. The end of the canon, which makes confirmation constitutive of being a Christian, is added several centuries later in Ivonis Carnontensis Decretum (1117), 1:254, where the canon is attributed to the Council of Orleans” (Turner, The Meaning and Practice of Confirmation, 262-263). Turner notes that Chemnitz, Calvin, and Bellarmine all refer to it as cited by Gratian (263).

[17] NPNF2, 6:324; A Select Library of the Christian Church: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Series 2. ed. Philip Shaff; 14 vols. New York: The Christian Literature Series, 1890-99; repr, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1952, 1961.

[18] Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, 210.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity - 1 Cor 1:18-25

 

Trinity 5

                                                                                      1 Cor 1:18-25

                                                                                      7/17/22

 

“The term ‘confirmation’ immediately requires definition, since it is polyvalent and this fact has resulted in much confusion when the different referents of the term are ignored.”  That is how the fourth paragraph begins in the paper that I delivered at this past week at the Lutheran conference in Nebraska.

Now I would never speak in this way in a sermon.  Instead, this is the kind of language that one uses in academic writing.  In its own way it is code that signals to others that the writer is an educated person who is going to interact with material in a way that meets with certain expectations about how scholarly work is done.

          A very similar phenomenon occurred in the Greco-Roman world, except here it was a matter of how a person spoke.  Rhetoric stood at the heart of the ancient educational system. There were certain conventions about how a person constructed and ordered an argument. There were certain figures of speech and ways of arranging words that signaled to others that the speaker was an educated individual who was speaking according to the expectations of how things should be done.

          That was not how St. Paul spoke.  He simply didn’t have the training to do the kinds of things that were expected in the Greco-Roman world of an educated person. It was not how he wrote, and here we need to understand that in the ancient world a letter was a form of oral communication.  It was considered to be the presence of a person speaking. This was true because reading was done out loud in the ancient world, even if you were by yourself.  It was all the more true because Paul’s letters were written to groups, and were read aloud to them.

          The apostle made no excuses for this.  He freely admitted it.  In fact, just before our text, he has said that this was a good thing. Paul stated that Christ sent him to preach the Gospel, “and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” 

The apostle wasn’t there to dress up the cross in appealing rhetoric or words that made it seem wise. Instead, he says in our text, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 

Paul says the message about cross is folly to those who are perishing.  In our text he refers to the “folly of what we preach.”  And then in well known words he adds, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”

It wasn’t hard to understand why the cross seemed like folly – why is seemed moronic, for the Greek word used here is the source of that English word.  “Christ crucified” referred to a Jewish man who had been executed as a criminal. But he hadn’t just been executed – he had been crucified.  In the Greco-Roman world, the cross was the ultimate demonstration of weakness and humiliation. 

The Romans didn’t invent crucifixion, but they elevated the practice to a whole new level. Crucifixion was the perfect means by which to terrify and suppress others.  Here was a way of killing a person that inflicted tremendous pain and suffering that could last for days. And it was a public death of suffering that could be viewed by all who passed by.  It was indeed the ultimate demonstration of weakness and humiliation as the individual – usually crucified naked – was placed on display for all to witness.  That usually continued even after death, for in normal Roman practice the bodies were left on the cross to be eaten by birds.

Paul and the apostles proclaimed that Jesus, who had been crucified, was the Christ and Lord of all.  The apostle says that the Jews demanded signs.  They wanted a Christ who would perform mighty acts that conquered the enemies of God’s people.  The Greeks wanted wisdom.  They wanted something that satisfied human reason.

But instead, the Church proclaimed Christ crucified. This was a stumbling block to the Jews.  For them, the Christ was by definition powerful and victorious. Anyone who was killed by the Romans could not be the Christ. What is more the Old Testament taught that anyone who was hung on a tree was cursed by God. As for the Greeks, could there be anything more foolish – more stupid - than applying the title “Lord” to someone who had been crucified?  You know who was called “Lord”? - the Roman emperor who was the most powerful man in the Mediterranean world. It was his governor who had crucified Jesus. There could be no doubt about who was really Lord.

Yet in our text Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’”  The apostle says that God in his wisdom has turned everything upside down.  The cross is not folly.  Instead, it is the power of God.  Christ crucified may be a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Greeks, yet then he adds, “but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The problem at the heart of all of this is sin. Because of sin we are turned in on ourselves and away from God.  Because of sin we have lost the image of God and are not able to understand him.  In fact, we don’t want to understand him because we are too busy creating false gods. As Paul says in the next chapter, “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

And so God acted in his Son, Jesus Christ, to deal with sin in a way that short circuits all human wisdom. Paul says in our text, “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

God acted in Christ crucified.  Paul says in chapter fifteen “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”  He unpacks what this means in 2 Corinthians when he says that through Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting our trespasses against us.  He, the holy God, did that through the suffering and death of Christ.  Paul goes on to explain, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Christ took our sin – in God’s eyes he became sin – and received the judgement we deserved.

Christ was crucified. Due to the timing of his death, his body was not left on the cross.  Rather than offend Jewish customs, the Romans allowed his body to be taken down from the cross and be buried. And what happened next demonstrated that the cross is the power and wisdom of God.

The earliest Christian confession was, “Jesus is Lord.”  They confessed this because on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead.  The cross looked like weakness and defeat. The proclamation of Christ crucified sounded like foolishness.  But in the resurrection God demonstrated that Christ has won the victory for us by obtaining forgiveness and defeating death.

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we now understand that the cross is God’s wisdom and power at work.  The reason we understand this is because God’s Spirit has called us to faith.  Note that Paul says in our text, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  As we have been learning in Bible class, this means that from eternity God has elected you – he has determined to save you in Christ and bring you to faith. It is entirely God’s doing.  Paul says of God at the end of this chapter, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Living as Chrisitians today, the cross is such a familiar symbol that we don’t really grasp what it meant in the first century world. The apostles went forth and proclaimed that a crucified Jew was the Christ and Lord of all.  On the surface, it was the dumbest message that you could possibly come up with. It was moronic – and Paul freely admits this in our text when he calls it “the folly of what we preach.” 

So why did Paul and the apostles go forth to suffer and die in order to proclaim this “foolishness.” They did because they had encountered the risen Lord Jesus in unmistakable ways.  Paul says in chapter fifteen of this letter, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

          Through the work of the Spirit in Holy Baptism and the Word you have been called to faith.  You have come to understand that Christ crucified is not foolishness, but instead it is the power of God and the wisdom of God for our salvation. In this you have forgiveness and the assurance that death has been defeated.

          Yet this knowledge has far broader implications.  As we live in this fallen world, we encounter tragedies and occasions of suffering and hardship.  These are times when it seems that to speak of God’s love and care for us is foolishness.  Yet we have seen that the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross was God’s powerful action to save us.  It was, even if it didn’t look like it. We know this because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

          This fact becomes the lens through which we look at all things in life.  We have the comfort of knowing that suffering and hardship are not the absence of God.  We can trust that this is true because of what we have seen him do in Christ crucified. We can trust that this is true because Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead.  God has called us to faith in Christ, and so we are able to walk in faith trusting in God’s continuing love and care. We understand that word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.