Sunday, February 22, 2015

Let Us Remain Steadfast Under Trial!

James 1:12-18 In the beginning, when God made man, he did not make animal subject to it’s own biology—he made a self-aware, moral being.  When God made man he did not make a puppet on a string-- but he made a unique, individual person with a will that was independent of his Creator. 
“But isn’t that the very problem” we ask!  “Isn’t that the fatal flaw in creation”?  “Isn’t that where God went wrong”?  And the answer from God’s Word is “no”—because that way of creating us was the only way to accomplish what God wants for us.
God created us to have fellowship with him.  He created us to receive his love and love him in return.  He created us to live with him as his children.  That kind of relationship that God desires for us cannot come at the point of a bayonet.  It cannot come from the fear that a creature naturally has of its Creator.  It cannot even come from the obedience of a subject to his King.  It must come from a heart that freely and gladly gives it’s faith and trust and love to another.
But that necessarily involves the freedom to reject him-- and that is exactly what happens when we give in to temptation and fall away in time of trial.  The Bible says:
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 
            When the children of Israel were assembled on the banks of the Jordan River ready to go into the Promised Land, Joshua said to them:  Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. 
Countless people have viewed that scene as an example of “decision theology”—that our salvation rests upon our choice.  But nothing could be farther from the truth! 
The Israelites were already God’s children.  They had been protected death by the blood of a lamb.  They had been set free from slavery in Egypt.  They had passed through the waters of the Red Sea where their enemies were slain.  They were fed by God with heavenly food throughout their sojourn in the wilderness.  And so then…
Would they live as who they already were:  God’s children.  Or would they reject their Savior God through disobedience to his Law and give in to temptation?
You see, the Law was given at Sinai in light of the salvation that God had already accomplished for them.  It was an opportunity for the Israelites to show that they were a part of God’s family.  And their obedience to God’s will should have flowed from love for their Savior God rather than fear of a wrathful lawgiver. 
Steadfastness under trial and temptation was intended by God to be an expression of their love for the Lord.
So it is for us.  God wants us to enter to the Promised Land of heaven and receive the crown of eternal life.  We are his children.  He has redeemed us by the shed blood of the Lamb of God, his own Son Jesus Christ.  He has brought us to himself and drowned our enemies in the waters of Holy Baptism.  He has fed us on our earthly pilgrimage with the heavenly food of Christ’s body and blood.  And so then…
Remaining steadfast under trial and temptation is the response of a heart that is filled with love for God. 
We don’t always get that right.  Our obedience falters and our motivation is lacking in love.  But Jesus got it right. 
Jesus resisted temptation out of love for his heavenly Father.  He defeated the devil not by an act of his own divine power, but because his Father had revealed his will in his Word and that was enough for Jesus.  Jesus is that one man of whom James writes who remained steadfast under trial and received the crown of life when he was raised from the dead. 
The Good News for us (when we are faced with trials and temptations) is that Christ has done this for us.  His obedience, even unto death—is the strength we need when we face our own trials and temptations—and the forgiveness we need for those times when we fail.  The Bible says:
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 
            When I first read this passage this week, I thought to myself, “now who would say that—that they were being tempted by God?”  And then I said, “Oh yeah—I remember now!”   “It was the woman YOU gave me Lord—that’s why I disobeyed”.  “It was that fruit that was so beautiful and so good to eat that YOU gave us Lord”.  “It was that serpent that YOU let into the garden”.  “God, it’s your fault we sinned!”  
The only difference between us and them is that we are not as honest as Adam and Eve when it comes to blaming God for our temptations.  But every time we blame anyone or anything else for our own failings (have no doubt) we are ultimately laying the blame at God’s feet. 
It’s God’s fault for allowing difficulties to come into our lives that cause us to doubt him.  It’s God’s fault for creating us the way that we are with a flesh that is frail.  It’s God’s fault for surrounding us with people who drive too slow or they are too good looking or they have the stuff we want and incite our anger and lust and envy. 
But God absolutely refuses to accept the blame for our sins.  He will not be blamed for the way he has ordered creation.  And he will not be blamed for the individual circumstances of our own failures to remain steadfast in times of temptation.
God cannot be tempted by evil nor can he, or will he, tempt us to evil—it is simply alien to his good and loving nature.  Instead, when it comes to temptation, we need look no further than the person who stares out at us from the mirror.  We need to recognize that each time we face temptation, a spiritual battle lies before us and the outcome of that battle is life or death.  James writes that:
Desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
            Sin always leads to death—but to really understand how it works in our lives it is helpful to look at a particular example. 
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were blessed by God beyond anything that we experience today.  And there was just one restriction:  they could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  But Moses tells us in the third chapter of Genesis that Eve saw that the tree was good for food—a delight to the eyes—and could make one wise—and seeing this—she took from the tree and ate—and Adam followed her lead.
            And so where did Adam and Eve go wrong?  After all the fruit was good for food.  The tree really was a delight to the eyes.  It really did have the ability to grant them the knowledge of good and evil. 
But God had said:  “You must not eat of it”—and they should have said “no” to the devil and “no” to their senses and “no” to their flesh and “no” to their desires and “no” to one another and instead clung to the simple word of God to them.
Luther says that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was Adam and Eve’s church—their pulpit and altar—where they heard God’s Word and where they were given an opportunity to deepen their trust in God and show their love for their heavenly Father through obedience to his command. 
But they didn’t-- and death entered into the world and through Adam passed to all of his descendants down to us here today for the wages of sin is death.  That is the deadly progression of sin and it is true of all of us by nature. 
But God rescued Adam and Eve from their sin and covered their shame, pointing the way to what he would do for the world in the sacrifice of his Son upon the cross.
James wants to make sure that we know and believe both of these things—both the effects of sin and the promise of God’s deliverance.  He writes:  Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 
            With the words “do not be deceived” James is, first of all, looking back at what he just wrote.  He doesn’t want us to be deceived about living in a broken world.  He wants us to understand that all people—even Christians must pass through trials and temptation and tests before we receive the crown of life. 
            James wants to make sure that we are not deceived about the source of these struggles—that they do not come from a God who is out to get us-- but the fight against temptation is a universal struggle against the world, our flesh, and the devil. 
James wants to make sure that we are not deceived into thinking that the battle against temptation is a small thing—that it is nothing less than a life or death struggle-- and to simply give in to temptation is to take a step on a journey that leads to death.
But James also doesn’t what us to be deceived or have any doubts about the final outcome of all of these struggles for those who have faith in Jesus.  He writes: 
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creation.
Temptation and evil do not come from God—God is good and loving and gives good gifts his children—most especially the gift of a Savior who remained perfectly steadfast under trial for all of the times that we have given into temptation and then suffered and died on the cross to take away the shame of our weakness and the guilt of our sin. 
In Baptism and preaching and absolution and Holy Communion this life-giving Good News has caused us to be born again and has sustained that new life in us and has made us to be what he wants everyone to be:  people who know God and love him and trust in him and desire to live with him as his children simply because he is good. 
When we have opportunities to show that—when we face trials and temptations and tribulation--may God grant that we remain steadfast in this faith and, in the end, receive the crown of eternal life!  Amen.

Lent 1b General Prayer

Lord God heavenly Father, because You have promised to answer us when we call, we come to You in prayer, trusting that You will hear us and answer us for our good:

Be with us in the troubles of life.  Strengthen those who are ill and need Your healing touch.  Especially do we pray for Luci as she faces surgery this week, that You would guide the hands of the surgeon and bring renewed strength into her life and for Anita who is hospitalized.  We also pray for those who mourn the loss of loved ones, especially Elsie as she mourns Erna’s passing and the Harborth family as they mourn Marty’s passing.  We thank You for these faithful ladies who now rest in Your presence and pray that You would also bring us safely to our heavenly home.

We pray that You would grant to our families and marriages a deep and abiding love and trust in You that is always willing to put You first, obey You in all things, and follow where you lead. 

We thank You heavenly Father that You have not withheld from us Your Son, Your only Son, the Son You loved but have made him our substitute, giving him into death so that we could be forgiven of our sins and once again take our place in Your family.

By the power and help of the Holy Spirit grant us steadfastness in times of trial and temptation like that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Help us to fight the good fight against the world, our flesh, and the devil so that we are not lured and enticed into abandoning You.

We praise You for the Spirit’s work in our life, that He has brought us forth by the Word of truth.  Strengthen and sustain our faith through that same Word of truth as we worship in this place and in our homes.

We praise You for all the good gifts You give that bless our earthly lives and especially for the gift of children.  Bless Rhett as he celebrates his birthday and keep him close to You all his days.  Watch over and protect all expectant mothers and grant them safe deliveries and healthy children.  Especially do we thank You for the new daughter that You have given to Heather and Gary and pray that You would bring her safely to the waters of Holy Baptism.

Heavenly Father, watch over this congregation. Guide and direct them as they call a new pastor.  Remind them that they are Your children and that You will cause all things to work for their good.

Whatever else You see that we need; whatever serves our neighbor and glorifies You; whatever extends Your kingdom, grant to us dear Father in heaven for we ask it in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Transfiguration of Jesus

Mark 9:2-9 I want you to picture in your mind’s eye three different mountains.  The first is Mt. Sinai.  There are flashes of lightening at the peak and thunder shakes the ground beneath.  To place a foot upon it is to invite death.  From that mountain is heard the voice of God—calling us to be holy as he is holy, promising life for obedience but death for disobedience in the smallest degree.
Now I want you to picture another mountain—Mt Calvary.  There upon that mountain a rough cross has been planted in the ground.  A man hangs upon that cross, suspended by nails driven into his hands and feet.  There is a crown of thorns above his head.  He has been beaten and misused to such a degree that he is barely recognizable.  He dies there, surrounded by lawbreakers, abandoned by God.
And now I want you to picture the third mountain—the mount of transfiguration.  It is only because of what happens there that we can really understand what happens on the other two.
On the mount of transfiguration stands Jesus Christ with the glory and majesty of Almighty God shining from him.  Moses is there—the same one who stood upon Sinai in God’s presence and received the Law.  Elijah is there representing all those prophets who preached the law and promised a Savior. 
And standing there with them are Peter, James and John—men who knew what it was to fail in keeping God’s commands—men who were hoping in God’s deliverance.  And there above it all was the same cloud of God’s presence that was at Sinai and the same voice that was heard by Moses-- but this time proclaiming Jesus as his beloved Son.
Only here on the mount of transfiguration can we understand what God wanted from all of us at Sinai—that he wanted sons and daughters who would be like him in holiness and righteousness—that he would be like his beloved Son.
It is only here on the mount of transfiguration that we understand Mt. Calvary—that the one who hangs there on that cross surrounded by criminals, forsaken by God, dying that shameful death is absolutely innocent.  It is only here that we understand the depth of God’s love for us, that he would give his Son into death for us.  It is only here that we understand what our salvation cost.  The Bible says that:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
            Many years after this event, decades really, Peter wrote to his congregations who were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus and he told them that he and James and John were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty—that they heard the voice of God from the cloud calling Jesus his beloved Son.
            John would say to his congregations:  that which we have seen, that which we have heard, that which our hands have handled this we proclaim to you concerning eternal life. 
That is why the disciples were there that day.  Jesus did not bring them along for his own benefit—so that he could draw attention to himself.  In fact, he did not count equality with God as something that he had to hold on to but made himself nothing. 
Instead, he brought the disciples there that day so that they could see with their eyes and hear with their ears who he really was—so that they could understand what was taking place on the cross—so that they could bear witness to him for the sake of the world’s salvation.
So it is for us that we believe in Jesus through their witness that Jesus was no ordinary man.  Not just a wise teacher or miracle worker or good man—but that he was true God in human flesh.  The Bible says that:
Jesus was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.
            As John began his Gospel he said:  In Jesus was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  Jesus said of himself:  I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness. 
            These are claims that no man can make without blaspheming, unless—unless they are true.  Up to this point the disciples knew Jesus as a good man, a kind man, a powerful man—but still just a man.
The saw him eat and drink.  They heard him pray to his Father and they heard his words of frustration about those who opposed him.  They witnessed his exhaustion at the end of the day.  His feet and hands got dirty just like theirs.
But in this moment when Jesus was transfigured they knew something else about him—that he was not a mere man—but that he was God.  The light that was in the beginning—the light that existed before the heavenly bodies—the light that refused to shine as he died on the cross—the light that will exist at the end which has no need of the sun--shown forth from his human flesh:  God of God, light of light, very God of very God.
This then is who would be rejected by his own people and betrayed by his friends and be put to death on the cross. 
If we were to witness the events of Mt. Calvary apart from the events of the mount of transfiguration we would never understand what happened there.  We might say to ourselves that it is simply one more criminal being put to death and good riddance.  If we heard his words at the cross we might say that, no, he was not a criminal—a good man—but obviously deluded, thinking that he can forgive his enemies and bestow a kingdom even in death. 
But here on the mount of transfiguration we understand that the beaten, broken, dying man of Calvary is God—the God who was there in the beginning—the God through whom the world was created—the God who is life and light and yet dies in darkness—that is who Jesus is as he dies upon the cross of Calvary.
And that changes everything for us.  Now we understand God’s love in a way that we never could without the transfiguration.  Now we understand what it cost God to bring us back into his family.  Now we understand what God had been planning all along from the very first time he promised Adam and Eve that he would send a Savior.  The Bible says that:  There appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
            Even though Moses wasn’t there when the first promise of salvation was made in Eden, he was the one the Holy Spirit inspired to write down the promise God made to Adam and Eve to send a Savior to defeat Stan and destroy his works.  Moses was the one who stood on Mt. Sinai and received God’s law.  He was the one who promised that a greater prophet than he was would come forth to speak God’s Word.
Elijah was perhaps the greatest prophet of God, representative of all the prophets who faithfully spoke God’s word and called the people to repentance and renewed God’s promise of a Savior for each generation.
Elijah and Moses stood with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration as a visible sign that all of the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  The words they had written and the prophecies they had made and the miracles they had performed, all of it had but one purpose and that was to reveal God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. 
After Jesus’ resurrection, when he was trying to teach his disciples that his death and resurrection had been God’s plan all along, he told his disciples that the Law and the prophets and the psalms were all written about him. 
And so they were.  When we read the Old Testament we are not reading about something strange or foreign—we are reading about Jesus.  The Bible—Old Testament and New is his story from beginning to end and it was written so that we might believe in Jesus and have life in his name.  The Bible says that:
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
            This scene on the mount of transfiguration ought to be the goal of every Christian life—to be in the glorious presence of Jesus, united with all the faithful saints of old.  That’s what we all ought to be hoping for and longing for and praying for.  It’s just that Peter got a little bit ahead of himself when he suggested the tents.
The salvation of the world had not yet been accomplished.  Sins had to be atoned for.  Death and the devil needed to be defeated.  That’s why the disciples were terrified—they were in the presence of God as sinners.
But Jesus would go the cross and sins would be taken away and the devil would be defeated and death and the grave would be emptied of its power so that one day we could go to heaven and be in God’s presence and stand before his throne unafraid and unashamed with all the saints who have come before us.  The Bible says that:
A cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”  And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.  And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
            The mount of transfiguration and mount Calvary go together.  What Peter, James and John saw on the mount of transfiguration when the glory of God was revealed in the flesh of Jesus would make no sense to anyone who did not know the story of the cross and the empty tomb.  They would only know it as another demonstration of Jesus’ power.  That’s why Jesus wanted them to wait.
But after he died that horrible death and after he was raised from the dead then those two mountains would be joined together forever in the proclamation of the apostolic church:  that God himself has taken on flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth for the sake of the world’s salvation, died upon a cross to forgive our sins and was raised to give us eternal life.
That is what Jesus Christ has done for us and that is why his word and his ways are no burden or imposition to us.  Why wouldn’t we let his word have the final say in our lives when he has shown such love to us and why wouldn’t we share that with others?
Jesus has been raised.  The day of silence is over.  Now is the time to share that message with the world, that there is peace and hope and forgiveness in Jesus.  Amen.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Jesus Cares For Us

Mark 1:29-39 Most of the time I don’t even realize I’ve done it until Caroline says, “What was that big sigh for?”  And sure enough I’ve been thinking about some disappointment or discouragement and the sigh comes forth from my heart even when the words don’t come forth from my mouth.
As I was reflecting on this text this week and trying to think of a way to summarize the saving ministry of our Lord who heals and sets free and preaches the Good News, the words of our sermon hymn leaped off the page:  that Jesus gives songs for sighing.  What a beautiful summary of our Lord’s mission and ministry!
In the pages of Holy Scripture, it is the prisoner and the sorrowful and the needy who sigh—those whose broken human condition is beyond words.  But the Bible is equally clear that it is Jesus who comes to our rescue and changes the voice of our inmost heart from sighing to singing.  The Bible says that:
Jesus left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
            These events follow the scene from last week’s Gospel lesson where Jesus teaches authoritatively and sets a man free from demonic possession. 
Now, a woman with a fever may not seem as desperate a situation—and Jesus’ healing her maybe not as dramatic--but that is only because we live in the modern world.
It wasn’t very many years ago that something as simple as the flu or strep throat could be a death sentence.  Before vaccinations and before antibiotics people regularly died of diseases and infections that today barely keep us out of school or off work.  And so Peter’s mother-in-law was in a bad way until Jesus took her by the hand and healed her and her sighing and that of her loved ones turned into songs of thanksgiving.
A fever may not be as dramatic as a demon possession but there is only One who, with a word and a touch, can deliver us from both—and that is Jesus. 
God had promised his people that very specific signs would reveal the identity of the Messiah:  that he would heal the sick and give sight to the blind—that the lame would walk and the prisoner would be set free—that each part of our broken human condition would be made right by the Messiah as a sign of what would one day be true for all God’s people--forever.  That is what Jesus continues to do in our world today.
When you walk into a Spohn Hospital you see a sign with their mission statement:  “We exist to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ” and they are exactly right!  That is what all medical cares does, whether the provider and the patient realize it or not.
Thank God for the folks at Spohn who understand what medical care really is: the ongoing, healing ministry of Jesus in the world today.
Jesus is the Great Physician of body and soul whether that healing takes place directly and miraculously like it did that day with Peter’s mother-in-law-- or whether it takes place through the means of “human skill and intellect—medicine and technology” that he has given-- as it often does today. 
All healing is an ongoing sign of the redeeming presence of Christ in his world—renewing those things ruined by sin—including our frail, fleshly bodies—until the day when death is no more. 
When we are sick and when our loved ones are sick, we can turn to Jesus just like Simon and Andrew—James and John did--and ask that he would heal us in whatever way seems best according to his perfect will.  And when we receive that healing (no matter how it comes) we can show our thanks to Jesus by serving those around us with a song in our hearts just like Peter’s mother-in-law did when she was healed by Jesus. 
Singing instead of sighing-- for Jesus’ help and healing was not just for a few folks back then--but for everyone in every place.  The Bible says that:
That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  And the whole city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.  And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

            Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus had disciples who were especially close to him—we think of James and John and Andrew and Simon and the rest of the Twelve who would later be sent out into the world as apostles with the Good News of salvation.  We think of Mary and Martha and Lazarus who were his closest friends on earth.  Of course he would help them! 
But the Good News for us is that Jesus did not just come to help a few people—he came to bring songs for sighing to all people.
The words that Jesus spoke- and the deliverance that took place in the synagogue earlier that day- and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law --worked faith in the people’s hearts and they came to Jesus trusting that he was able to set them free from all those things that brought forth sighing. 
And not only did Jesus heal their bodies—he healed their spirits—setting them free from Satan’s dominion.  These acts of deliverance revealed Jesus to be the One to whom evil must submit—the promised Savior who frees us from the works of the devil. 
That deliverance from evil was ultimately and finally accomplished at the cross and empty tomb where Jesus defeated Satan and redeemed humanity and conquered death.  And that victor and his victory is still present and powerful in our lives today. 
When we were baptized we were wrestled away from Satan and brought into God’s family.  When we are forgiven the accusing voice of the devil is silenced.  When we receive Christ’s true body and blood in Holy Communion we are assured that Jesus’ victory over evil at the cross and empty tomb are given to us this day—in this place. 
The guilt and shame and fear of death that causes our sighing has been replaced with songs of praise and thanksgiving from hearts delivered and set free-- and our Lord wants those joyous voices of faith to be heard in all the world so that others might believe in him too.  The Bible says that:
Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 
            When Jesus spoke authoritatively—when he healed Peter’s mother-in-law simply at a touch—when he set free those who were suffering under Satan’s tyranny—he clearly identified himself as true God and the Savior of the world. 
But in this scene--seeing our Lord in prayer, we see the mystery of the Incarnation—that Jesus is God in human flesh—that he is one of us--a man like us who needed the same comfort and strength from talking to his heavenly Father that we receive in prayer.
Throughout the Gospels we see our Lord in prayer and certainly that is an example that we should follow in our lives as Christians.  But the real comfort of seeing our Lord in prayer is the knowledge that it is us that he is praying for. 
In the upper room on the night when he was betrayed, he prayed not only for his disciples who were there with him, but for all of us who would believe in him through their word.  He is our heavenly advocate, our great high priest who can sympathize with us for he has lived a life like ours to save us from eternal death.
It is no accident that Mark tells us that on this first day of the week, very early in the morning, while it was still dark—Jesus went to a desolate place and prayed. 
Three years later, early in the morning, while it was still dark—from desolate grave—Jesus’ prayers for our salvation would be fulfilled in his own resurrection—God’s guarantee that we too will rise from our graves—never to die again. 
That is what Jesus had come to do—that is the life he promised—that is the Good News that he wanted the whole world to hear and believe.  The Bible says that:
Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you."  And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
            When we hear that Jesus went throughout all Galilee with the message and works that turned sighing into singing we say:  of course.  But when Mark’s readers heard it—they thought:  “Galilee of the Gentiles?!  Why would Jesus waste his time there—among those people?  They don’t deserve his salvation!”  And of course-- they didn’t.  But then neither does anyone else.  But Jesus wants to give it.  That is why he came:  to give all people songs for sighing.
            That salvation comes to us just as it did in Galilee—through Jesus’ powerful Good News that promises healing and restoration and freedom from the curse of evil and all its effects on our lives. 
And so with the same concern for the world of broken people around us that Jesus showed that day in Capernaum we take the Good News with us as we go into this new week—into our schools and work and circle of friends—confident that his Word still has the power to heal and set free.  Amen.