Meditating on the Prodigal Son

Chewing on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Over the years I’ve often used the phrase, “That will give us something to chew on.”  I’ve used the thought of chewing on something most often when I’ve thrown out an idea.  I don’t want people to make a decision immediately, just to think on it give it some consideration and talk with one another about it.

This week I’m chewing on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is the gospel lesson for next Sunday. (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32) I’m using Kenneth Bailey’s “The Cross and the Prodigal Son”; “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen and “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” by Hugh of St. Cher who died in 1263.

The Hebrew word for meditate is to chew one’s cud until it is fully assimilated.  By Friday, when I teach the parable in Bible Class I trust I will be well nourished.

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Repentance: Come Home to Jesus

Third Sunday in Lent, 2016, Luke 13:1-5

One of my favorite comedy routines is George Carlin’s comparison of football and baseball.  He concludes comparing their goals. In football the Quarterback, “With short bullet passes and long bombs, marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.”

Whereas, “In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!”

To be safe at home, welcomed, loved and accepted is a great goal in our daily life. Each day, to come home and be welcomed in love and acceptance is something to which to look forward.  Now in lent was talk about repentance.  Repentance is like coming home.  Repentance is to come home to Jesus where we will always be welcomed in love and acceptance.  But for now let’s go back and  take a second look at the gospel lesson.

Jesus has been talking to a gathering crowd of tens of thousands of people packed so closely they were trampling one another.  Toward the end of his time of teaching, some of those present told him about the incident involving a group of Galileans who were making their sacrifices at the temple. Pontius Pilate’s soldiers entered the temple courts and massacred the Galileans.  As the worshippers blood flowed it mixed with that of their sacrificed animals.  A sacred moment became a sacrilege.  We would call it state sponsored terrorism.  Then Jesus mentions another tragedy. A disaster that occurred when a stone tower in Siloam, toppled over crushing eighteen unsuspecting people.  Tragedies, and we’ve had plenty of them lately,  raise questions about bad things happening to innocent people. But did you hear what Jesus said in regard to the two tragedies?  He asked, were the Galileans slaughtered in the temple worse sinners than all other Galileans?  No.  Were the eighteen victims of the tower collapse worse sinners than all the other residents of Jerusalem? No.  So in these cases the tragedies were not because of some great sin.

We have tragedies too. Mosquito born Zika virus threatens the health of unborn babies in Brazil and elsewhere.  Are their mothers’ worse sinners than other pregnant women?  Jesus says…No. We’ve had tornadoes this past week in the south and southeast.  Tornadoes sometimes destroy one house but leave the one next door still standing.  Were the occupants of the destroyed house worse sinners than those living in houses the tornado skipped?  Jesus says…No.  A child is lying on her mother’s bed doing homework in north St. Louis, when a bullet comes through the window and kills her.  Was she a worse sinner than other children in the neighborhood?  Jesus says…No.

So why did those tragedies happen?  We’re waiting for Jesus to answer.  But Jesus doesn’t give us a reason.  He ignores questions like, “Why do bad things like this happen?”  He goes straight into the lives of those thousands listening and into our lives.  He turns and looks at us.  He says, “Unless you repent, you too will perish.”  But “Jesus, what kind of answer is that?”  What does this have to do with us and repentance?” Jesus is talking about is eternal perishing. That’s even more catastrophic than tragedies that might take our life.  Perishing eternally is forever being separated from God.  Never being able to come home to his love.  Jesus is moving us from questions of “Why?” such things happen, which we can talk about until the winter wheat ripens, to take a look at ourselves. To ask ourselves, “What?” What should I do?”   He is calling us to repent, to come home.  To be safe at home with Jesus.  Safe at home with Jesus is the goal of repentance.

Now most of the time repentance is defined as turning, and it is that.  We turn from one direction and head another.  We are to turn from anything and everything that gets in the way of our relationship with the Lord.  If it disrupts our connection to Jesus, turn away from it.  And it’s not just for the big thing like murder, adultery, or embezzlement.

No, more often it’s the everyday things we need to repent of.  The way we budget our money may leave us with little to share with those in need.  We get the things we need, but ignore the generosity Jesus wants us to do for others. So we turn around from ourselves and come home to Jesus.  We have those everyday sins of anger in which we allow ourselves to blow up over minor annoyances and then we turn from that and come home to Jesus.  We complain about things that don’t satisfy us, rather than being thankful for people who are serving us well in their capacity, we turn and we come home to Jesus.  We can do the same with impatience, fear, and lust.  We turn from ourselves and come home to Jesus.  That’s how repentance works.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of repentance.  The young son wants his inheritance early.  His father gives it to him.  He heads off to another city to live.  He has a great time living it up.  Gets a condo in the trendiest part of the city. Goes to the latest hot places.  Soon, blows through all his money.  When a recession hits the economy he can’t earn enough to live on.  He loses the condo, loses his friends and winds up homeless, eating at soup kitchens and whatever he can get dumpster diving behind places where he used to eat inside. What is really his problem?  That he wasted all his money?  Is it the sinful life he indulged in?  The bigger problem began earlier.  He. Left. Home.  He turned his back on his home, where he was loved and accepted.

Finally, he realizes what he has done.  So repentance begins.  He turns away from what had led him so far from home and heads back.  His father sees him coming.  He runs to meet him.  New clothes, New shoes, New ring. Celebration!  He’s come home.  Repentance is coming home.  Repentance is being welcomed home in love and acceptance.

When in repentance we come home to Jesus, he’s waiting for us with open arms.  With nail scarred hands he welcomes us with his love.  He stretched out those arms on the cross to provide forgiveness for all that we need to turn away from.  His open arms have forgiven all of the greed, fear, lust, impatience and any other everyday sin that gets in the way of our connection to him.  We come home to the risen Lord who restores us to his family.  And he gives us His Holy Spirit to renew our lives.  Generosity, patience, trust, contentment, peace and kindness, become fruits of repentance in our lives when we come home.  Yes, coming home to Jesus’ acceptance is very good.

During a baseball game the batter tries with all his might to leave the batter’s box at home and get to first.  But as soon as he arrives at first base his focus is on coming home.  That’s a pattern for our life. Repentance is coming home to Jesus. The goal of each day is to be at home with Jesus, until we enter that  day when he calls us home to himself in that eternal day. 

 

 

 

Unless You Repent

 

Most everyone will be reading Luke 13:1-9 for the Gospel lesson on Sunday.  Jesus declares, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  Most of us will begin our services with a confession of sin followed by an announcement of absolution.

At Bunker Hill, I, as liturgist, will pray, “We are by nature sinful and unclean…we flee for refuge to Your infinite mercy, seeking and imploring your grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The congregation will respond with their own prayer, “have mercy upon us and for His (Jesus) sake grant us remission of all our sins…”

I will then announce God’s answer: “Almighty God…has had mercy upon us and has given His only Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins…He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.  Grant this, Lord unto us all.”

So tomorrow morning, whatever order of confession and absolution we use we will have already repented and received forgiveness before we hear the word of Jesus about the need for all of us to repent.  If I had thought of this earlier in the week, I would have placed the confession and absolution after the sermon.  I think I’ll give out bulletins to the Bible Class, and after discussing the Gospel lesson, then discuss what we are saying and hearing in our confession and absolution in the service that follows.

Prayer of the Day from ELW: Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death and resurrection of your Son.  Help us to hear your word and obey it, and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

Upon a 2nd Reading of Luke 13:1-5

 

Jesus is informed of a massacre that Pontius Pilate’s soldiers carried out in the temple against a group of Galileans, “whose blood…mingled with their sacrifices.”  Jesus then recalls a disaster when the collapse of a tower killed eighteen Jerusalemites.  Upon first reading of these tragedies we might want to enter into an endless discussion of why such things happen to innocent people.  In the Jewish context, some would wonder what these people did to deserve what happened to them.  In some way they, especially those Galileans, must be responsible for their massacre.

Jesus refuses to be drawn into that discussion nor does he rave against Roman rule or a demand for an investigation of the bidding process for the faulty tower construction.  He turns to the people and asks whether the victims of the tragedy were worse sinners than all the rest of the people in Galilee or those living in Jerusalem.  The answer is no.  What the thousands gathered around him are to think about is their own need for repentance.  It matters little how we die.  It matters much whether we perish eternally.  Therefore, repentance, that is turning from the things which threatens our relationship to God is vital.  The goal of repentance is not sorrowing and sighing over our sins.  At the end of repentance is Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t warn us that we’ve got to do better; rather he forgives us.

Therefore, this evening we are able to do as Luther suggests, “Into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.”  And in the morning, we can ask God to “keep me this day also from sin and ever evil, that all my doings and life may please you.”

 

If you Are

If you are Simon of Cyrene, take up the cross and follow.

If you are crucified with him as a robber, have the honesty to acknowledge God.  If Jesus was numbered among the transgressors because of you and your sin, you must become righteous through him.  Adore him  who hung upon the cross cross through your fault; and while he is hanging thee, draw some advantage even from your own wickedness; buy salvation by his death, enter paradise with Jesus and learn what is the extent of your deprivation.

If you are Joseph of Arimathea, ask the executioner for the body; make your own expiation of the world.

If you are Nicodemus, the man who served God by night, prepare him for burial with perfumes.

If you are one or other Mary, or Salome or Joanna, shed tears in the early morning.  Be the first to see the stone removed, and perhaps the angels too, and even Jesus himself.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Fourth century

Little Penance and Mortification

 

Dorothy Day wrote during Lent some years ago.

“I could not help thinking how little penance we have done these last years, how little mortification, how little dying to self, which is what mortification is.  To mortify is to put to death, to do violence to oneself.  You have not yet resisted unto blood,” we read in Hebrews.  “Without the shedding of blood there is no salvation.” Blood means life in biblical terms.  Some years ago I saw a man die of a heart attack before my eyes, and his skin became like wax as the blood stopped moving in the veins and drained back to the heart.”

The following is a stanza from and early American folk hymn.

The winter’s past, the rain is o’er,

We feel the chilling winds no more;

The spring is come; how sweet the view,

All things appear divinely new.

On Zion’s mount the watchmen cry,

“The resurrection’s drawing nigh”:

Behold the nations from abroad,

Are flocking to the mount of God.

Wait for the Lord

2nd Sunday in Lent, 2016, Psalm 27

Ps. 27:14, Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.

We could all use some “wait training.”  I’m not talking about lifting weights  to strengthen our abs, pecs or biceps.  It’s wait training while an automated voice goes through 1,000 options on the phone.  Wait training while the person in front of us at a stop light isn’t paying attention.  Wait training when the shortest line at the checkout counter seems to be the longest.

But there is waiting of a much more serious nature going on in our gospel lesson.  The Pharisees may have warned Jesus to flee from Herod, but they themselves were waiting for an opportunity to eliminate him themselves.  Jesus is waiting, waiting for Jerusalem to turn to him, to seek shelter from judgment in him.  He will wait in vain.  But Jesus is also on the way to Jerusalem, the city of peace, where those who refuse to turn to him will turn against him and violently crucify him.  Jesus too is waiting to complete His father’s plan of salvation  developed even before He created the heavens and the earth.

“Wait for the Lord Psalm 27 encourages.”  Waiting for the Lord, led psalmists to cry out, how long, Lord, will you be roused to such fury?  How long, will you fume at your people’s prayers? How long will the foe utter his taunts?”  Many can relate to the great New England preacher Phillips Brooks. He was noted for his poise and quiet manner. At times, however, even he suffered moments of frustration and irritability. One day a friend saw him feverishly pacing the floor like a caged lion. “What’s the trouble, Mr. Brooks?” he asked. “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!”

Indeed, we wait for the one for whom a thousand years are but a day.   Yet, waiting for the Lord is waiting in hope.  Simeon who was waiting for the consolation of Israel saw it in the infant Jesus.  There were those present that day who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. St. Paul writes to Titus of “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Training in waiting for the Lord begins with our baptism.  We were baptized into union with Christ Jesus.  We are enmeshed into Christ.  United with him in his death, buried with him in his tomb and now living a new life of his resurrection in expectation of our own rising.  However, there are times in this world, when the only hope we have, the only solution to our situation, the only cure for our condition…is to wait for the Lord.

Nevertheless, while we wait for the Lord we do so encompassed by the Lord, as indicated in the psalm which beings and ends with “Lord.”  The one for whom we wait is our light and our salvation which leads the psalmist to declare, “Whom shall I fear?”

Over the years popular songs tell us of finding light.  Aaron Copeland’s “You are my Sunshine, my only sunshine.”  Stevie Wonder’s, “You are the sunshine of my life” and Debbie Boone singing, “You light up my life; You give me hope to carry on.”  But when life has turned to darkness, when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death where do we find light?   Rick attends the Friday morning bible Class I teach.  He is a Vietnam veteran.  Recently he said, that in Vietnam, the worst times were at night.  “We hated the dark.” Because the ally during the day may be a deadly foe at night.  I think of John Leininger, a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lea, Minnesota.  He joined the army right out of high school fresh off an Iowa farm.  He said that while on nighttime guard duty he would recite the Apostles Creed, which gave him a sense of the presence of the Lord during the long lonely night.  “The Lord is my light.” writes the psalmist.”  St. John wrote of Jesus, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Later Jesus says of him, “I am the light of the world.”

The Psalmist also recognizes that the Lord is his salvation, his rescuer.    God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt.  After which they sang, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God and I will praise him.”  During this Lenten season we remember God’s greatest act of rescue.  His rescue from sin, death and the Devil through the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ our Savior. During these weeks we concentrate on his amazing grace that Christ would bear our sins; that he who knew no sin became sin for us; he carried them to the hill of his crucifixion along with the cross and there on that hill he bore the full weight and penalty of our failures to be the disciples’ we are called to be.

But the psalmist also thinks back to how God had been his beautiful savior even in this life.  Have you survived an accident, and wondered how could it be that I am alive?  I can remember a couple of times while growing up on a farm driving tractor or working in the woods that something happened and I just had to stop, sit quietly and think about it for a while.  It might be some foolish thing we did as a teenager and when we look back we wonder that we made it to age 20.  I think of Lois in Collinsville who was told she had terminal cancer more than fifteen years ago. Upon hearing the news, she told the doctor, “We’re all terminal.”  The last time I was back there the cancer had not yet terminated her life.  God’s rescue may come in a job when everything looked hopeless.  It may be an escape from a destructive relationship, or from an addiction to alcohol or drugs or texting.  Thus we wait in hope for the Lord to save and become our refuge, a very present help in the time of trouble even now.

However, waiting does not mean doing nothing.  The psalmist goes on to take action in prayer. He prays that the Lord would hear him, “Hear when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me.”  His first petition is really for himself that he would seek the face, the presence of the Lord.  In psalm 73 the writer is befuddled and on the brink of losing his trust in God when he thinks of those who succeed even though they are arrogant and lack any sense of conscience, “Their hearts overflow with foolishness.”  He is bewildered why people turn to them, until “I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.”  They were on a slippery slope from which they plunge to a destructive end.  For the psalmist it was good to be near God in the fellowship of worship.

Then finally, he confesses, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  Though we live our life now in the land of the dying, where suffering and disappointment is every day news, nonetheless we still live in the goodness of the Lord.  Clinging to our Lord as our stronghold, our fortress, does not guarantee a life free from adversity nor does it mean all days will be calm and peaceful.  Yet, we live in the land of the living where faith is not just a doctrine, but a living trust in the Lord across the times and places of challenge.

“Wait for the Lord,” the psalmist urges us.  St. Paul promises, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.  Therefore, stand firm in the Lord.”  Yes, wait for the Lord.

 

 

Farmers’ Hands Reaching for the Body of Christ

 

When I lead worship in country churches or small rural towns, I’ve been noticing the hands of the farmers who reach out to receive the body of Christ. Those hands are hard and calloused, used to handling machinery, hay bales, moving livestock etc, Jesus would have grown up in a home with calloused hands, including his own. His first disciples were fisherman used to throwing and pulling nets. And what of those shepherds, who said, “Let’s go see this thing that has happened?”
While attending college and seminary I would return to the farm in the summer.  One year I worked for my uncle’s saw mill.  Other summers my brother and I worked in the woods cutting poplar trees to be made into excelsior and helped a neighbor with his haying.  That developed callouses but first I had to endure blisters. Calloused hands come only after hard labor.

The psalmist declares God’s hardest labor on the cross, “His right hand and holy arm has gotten him the victory.”  Jesus hands were victorious on the cross so that hands, both soft and calloused could receive His Body for our life and salvation.

 

A Son for Naomi

 

Normally, I would be watching Wisconsin Badger basketball at this time.  But they are getting taken apart by Mich. St. and will have to make their comeback without me.

Tomorrow morning, I hope to finish the study of the OT book of Ruth in the Friday men’s Bible Class. After Boaz and Ruth have a baby boy, the women of Bethlehem come to Naomi who is grandma through her daughter-in-law Ruth.  The women tell the new granny, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel.”  The women are thinking of Boaz who has not only married Ruth, but also redeemed, purchased the land which Naomi’s deceased husband had owned.

Of course when Christians read that passage (Ruth 4:14) we can’t help but think of Jesus who is our Redeemer sent from Yahweh.  As Luther says in his explanation to the second article of the creed, “He has redeemed me a lost and condemned person and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”

Boaz made a great sacrifice in redeeming Elimelech’s property and taking on the care of Naomi and Ruth as his wife.  But Jesus sacrifice far outweighs what Boaz did.  Perhaps the greater contribution of Boaz, is that he placed with Jesus’ lineage Ruth, a foreigner.  Their son Obed, was the grandfather of David.  When the angel appeared to Mary, the angel said of the son she was to bear, “And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end.  Little did they know that Jesus would receive his crown in the form of thorns and his scepter as a reed.  His enthronement ceremony would on a barren hill where he took his place on a cross suspended between heaven and earth.

Ash Wednesday, 2016

The Ash Wednesday service at Bunker Hill was cancelled last week, we are having Ash Wednesday this week and shortening Lent by one week.

Ps. 51:1-2 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!

How did it come about that David, King of Israel, would throw himself on the steadfast love and mercy of God?  What happened that David needed three words: transgression, iniquity, and sin to describe his actions?  Thus he needed three words to overcome his condition even before his birth: blot out, wash me, cleanse me.

The story begins innocently enough: “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle.”  But this spring the king is staying home.  The one time slingshotting, swashbuckling, songwriting soldier is sitting this one out.

And then one afternoon, the old warrior is bored.  He takes a stroll on his veranda.  He notices a woman, a “very beautiful woman,” taking a dip in the pool next door.

The former man of action goes into action.  After a few inquiries he discovers that her husband is away with the army.  The king sends for Bathsheba.  They have some of the king’s good wine.  They make love. Then he sends her home, and that’s that.

A couple months later David receives a message.  It’s two words in Hebrew, “harah anoki.” “I’m pregnant” signed, Bathsheba.  Again the king acts.  He brings her husband back from the front.  “Go home and spent some time with your lovely wife,” he tells him.  He slips the soldier a bottle of wine from the royal wine cellar.  But Uriah doesn’t go home.  He sleeps with the king’s servants on the lovely lawn.

The plot thickens and sickens.  Uriah returns to the front with a sealed scroll containing orders for General Joab.  It says, “Put Uriah in the heaviest fighting.”  Soon word comes back that Uriah has been killed in action.  The king reaches out to the broken-hearted war widow and marries her.  Well, that’s really that. End of story.  Not quite.

The author of 2nd Samuel writes a six-word message.  “What David did displeased the Lord.”  One day the prophet Nathan shows up at the royal palace.  He tells the king of a rich man who had flocks and herds that covered the hillside pastures.  Nevertheless, he stole his poor neighbor’s only lamb and slaughtered it for the main course to serve to a guest.  The king is enraged.  “What?  Who is this guy.  Tell me and we’ll nail him royally!”

“You’re the guy!” says Nathan.  David is devastated.  According to the heading for the Psalm 51, David penned this psalm in repentance.  It’s the sort of psalm that fits such a situation.  When there’s big trouble, you call in Psalm 51.

But what if there isn’t big trouble in my life?  What if everything is going along swimmingly?  What if I don’t feel like a poor miserable sinner?  What if I don’t feel like dust and ashes on Ash Wednesday? I’ll maybe admit to being a sinner.  I don’t get everything right. But “poor miserable?”  Not so much.  Yet; the church has for a long time included a part of this psalm in its weekly life, right after hearing the word of the Lord, before we proceed to the communion part of the service we sing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free spirit.”

In the bible “create” is always something only God can do.  The result of God’s creating work is something entirely new, like “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  So who is it that needs to pray for a totally new heart, the seat of intelligence and decision making?  Who needs a new spirit, one which is ever faithful not wavering in its conduct toward God and our neighbor?  Who needs to ask that he not be thrown out of God’s presence?  Who needs the company of the Holy Spirit?  Who needs to have “the joy your salvation” restored?  Who needs God to uphold and sustain them in faith and life?

Well, the prophet in our first lesson lists the people who should answer the trumpet call to assemble; to come to God with all their heart, with weeping and mourning.  They are the elderly, children are to be brought by their parents, mothers should carry their nursing infants, newlyweds and the priests and ministers.  Covers pretty much everyone gathered here tonight.

Well, you see, when we compare our faithfulness to God’s faithfulness, we, who have been with God from the day of our baptism, know just how wide the gap between ourselves and God is. And David uses the word sin, to “miss the target.”  “My sin.” It’s my transgression, which means my rebellion, against God.  It’s me who is bent out of shape from before the time my mother delivered me into this world.  In the final analysis, no matter what our rebellion, how we may find our life misshapen or how we miss the target, it is a matter of, “Lord I’ve been out of step with you for a long time.”

Thus he prays, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.”  Martin Luther writes, “God is not the kind of God who wants to frighten the frightened or break the broken even more, but one who loves the broken, the afflicted and humble, who expects and hears the sighs and voices of the wretched.  I have learned, Luther continues, how difficult it is in this battle to say, ‘Lord help.’  The highest wisdom is that in time of despair we should most hope for mercy…”

Back in January we heard Jesus saying “God anointed me to proclaim good news…the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Thankfully we live in the era of good news and the Lord’s favor.  God is merciful to us poor sinners.  His mercy is abundant, more abundant than all our secret rebellion, all the times we let our bent out of shape condition rule our actions, all the times the gap between ourselves and God seems too wide to be bridged.  Jesus Christ crossed the gap between heaven and earth, the gap between ourselves and God, he straightened out our bentness, he scrubbed us clean of our sin stains, he wiped all the dirt in our lives.  He welcomes us into his presence, though we are dust and to dust we shall return, he creates a new heart, gives us a new and faithful spirit.  He invites us to come eat of his body which sustains us until he gives us a new body in the resurrection, a body like his.  He offers us his blood which will remove the stain of sin until we join all the saints around the throne in heaven, made whiter than new fallen snow.  Therefore, we are able to pray, Almighty and merciful Father, create in us pure hearts, and wash away all our sins in the blood of your dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.