Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter (B)
April 26, 2009
Text: Luke 24:36-49

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

Christ is risen, and yet, life goes on pretty much like it always has. The Church is still in the midst of the Easter Feast, but we’ve eaten all the candy and the stores moved on to the next big thing two weeks ago. We’re all back to work and school… except some don’t have any work. The economy doesn’t seem to be getting any better and our elected leaders don’t seem to have any better handle on the situation. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead changes everything, and yet, in our eyes and to our minds it seems like it changes nothing. Because there is still sin and all manner of wickedness in this world. We, ourselves, still sin and struggle with the old nature. And there is still death, that old enemy, the last to be defeated. Death hit our congregation hard several days ago in one of our dearly loved families. It is a sobering slap in the face in the midst of our Easter celebration. Christ Jesus is risen from the dead, and yet…

It can almost lead you to doubt, can’t it? The devil has a lot of fun using the wickedness of this world and this generation, our own weaknesses and sufferings and especially sins to introduce doubt, which is the opposite of faith. Faith is trust. Doubt is distrust. The devil wants us to doubt God, doubt His love for us, doubt Christ, doubt His resurrection, doubt the salvation that we have alone in Him. This was certainly the case for the disciples in our text. They had just been through the traumatic events of Good Friday. He whom they thought to be the Messiah had been executed as a criminal on a Roman cross. The Messiah is not supposed to die, or so thought the disciples. Their whole world had been turned upside down. How could God allow this to happen? Is Jesus who He says He is? Because now He’s dead, and the disciples are huddled together, locked up for fear of the Jews. And now there are rumors about His resurrection. The tomb is empty and some are reporting that they have seen the Lord. At first it was just a few of the women, but now even two disciples on the road to Emmaus had seen Him and talked with Him and watched Him give thanks and break bread! It is simply too much to believe. They saw Him die. They know where He was buried. Dead men don’t rise. The disciples doubt.

But “As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’” (Luke 24:36; ESV). Can you imagine it?! There He is in the flesh, alive, walking, breathing, talking! He speaks to them His Easter greeting, “Peace to you,” which is as much as to say, “I forgive you all your sins. You have peace now that I am risen from the dead. Your sins are paid in full. You are reconciled to God. Eternal life is yours. You will rise from the dead just as I am risen.” Jesus suddenly appears speaking His holy Absolution. The disciples think it is a ghost. They are startled, frightened. If you think about it, you would be, too, if suddenly someone you knew to be dead was standing before you alive. But this is no ghost. Jesus points the disciples to His wounds. “See, they are the same wounds with which I was killed. Look at my hands and my feet. Would you like to see the gaping wound in my side? Touch me. I have flesh and bones. Behold, I bear my mortal wounds, and yet I live.” The disciples still doubt. They disbelieve, only now for joy. This is unbelievable. Dead men don’t rise. But here is One who has died, and behold, He lives. Jesus gives them further proof. He eats a piece of broiled fish. It’s not that He’s hungry. He’s proving He’s alive, bodily alive. Ghosts do not eat. You need a living body if you want to eat.

And now everything has changed. Jesus comes to His disciples in the midst of their doubt and despair and speaks His peace. He comes bodily among them, having died, yet risen. He comes to them on their darkest day and dispels the darkness. Sin is forgiven. Death is ended. Christ is risen. And yet, the disciples still aren’t quite sure. There is something more yet that is needed. Jesus delivers. Jesus gives them what they need. He preaches. He gives them His Word. “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (v. 44). That is to say, it was divinely necessary, the very will of God, set forth in all the Scriptures, that the Christ should suffer at the hands of sinners, be crucified for the sins of all the world, and on the third day be raised from the dead. This is what Jesus taught all along. This is the content of the whole Old Testament. But the disciples had missed it. So now Jesus, in His preaching, opens their minds to understand the Scriptures (v. 45). Like the doors that are locked for fear, the disciples’ minds are locked in doubt and despair. But Jesus opens their minds to understand His Word. He does so by preaching.

This is what we need in the midst of our doubt, beloved. We need Jesus to come among us bodily and proclaim His peace, His absolution, and then open our minds to understand the Scriptures by the preaching of His Word. This He does for us right here in His holy Church. This He does by His good Spirit working in the Word and the Sacraments. You won’t find this any other place. Because remember, in this world there is still wickedness and sin. In your flesh there is still wickedness and sin. And all around us there is death. The devil uses these things to cause us to doubt, to distrust Jesus Christ, to despair of God’s love for us. But the cure for this doubt, this distrust, this despair is in the Word of God and His holy Sacraments, for it is by these means that our Lord Jesus Christ does come among us bodily in the Lord’s Supper, with His true crucified and risen body and blood, washes us clean in Baptism, speaks His peace in holy Absolution, opens our minds to understand the Holy Scriptures in preaching. Do you doubt God’s love for you? Do you doubt that Christ is risen? Do you doubt that your sins are forgiven and that you have eternal life? You will find reassurance and the peace of our risen Lord Jesus Christ nowhere else than where He has promised to be for you, forgiving your sins and enlivening you with His Spirit in His living and active Word.

Yes, life in the world goes on pretty much like it always has. But not here. Not where you encounter the risen Lord Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament. Here you get a glimpse of the hidden truth that everything has changed since our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. Here you receive a foretaste of the eternal feast to come. And then you get to take that back with you into your life in the world so that even what seems like it hasn’t changed really has changed, all because Christ is risen. It gives us a new perspective. In Word and Sacrament our Lord strengthens us to live each day from the perspective that sin really is forgiven, even the sins of doubt and despair. Our Lord strengthens us to live each day from the perspective that death really is conquered, even though we have to walk through the valley of its ugly shadow. Christ is risen, and we, too, shall rise, and so shall all people, including our loved ones. And then all who believe in Christ Jesus, all who are united to Him by faith, will be given eternal life in their bodies, bodies perfected like unto our Lord’s glorious body. Well, this really does change everything. Because now we know the end of the story. And we can live even now as if everything that is wrong is really right, because it will be finally, because Christ is risen.

And now until that Day when the risen Christ returns to raise all the dead, the people of God have a noble task. Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in His Name to all nations (v. 47). That is why our Lord established the Office of the Holy Ministry. But this isn’t only my job. This is the task given to the Church, to you. Now you can go and tell people that the Scriptures have been fulfilled, that Christ has died for your sins and for theirs, and that Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. You can go and tell them and then bring them here to have an encounter with Him for themselves. And you make sure you are here too, as often as possible, because you need this encounter to strengthen you to bear up under the struggles of this life and your present sufferings, and to preserve you unto life everlasting. For here Christ speaks His peace to you, forgives you all your sins, and opens your minds to understand the Holy Scriptures. So now, without a doubt, we can boldly declare to one another and to the whole world:
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Tuesday... Pastors' Circuit Winkel

Easter Tuesday
April 14, 2009
Text: Luke 24:36-49

All at once, Lent and Holy Week and Easter Sunday are over. All the buildup, all the extra work, extra services and sermons, the joy and excitement of stepping into the Passion history, serving as a sort of tour guide for the people of God whom He has called you to shepherd. The Lenten fast turns into the Easter Feast. But now the belly is bloated and the sugar rush has waned. Some of the parishioners you saw on Easter Sunday you won’t see again until Christmas, or maybe next Easter. Some you may not see ever again. You start to come down off of the Easter high. The exuberance can give way to a certain weariness by Easter Monday. Perhaps even feelings of vanity haunt the preacher. Is anyone listening to the sermons? Did they really get it? Do they really care? Because odds are next Sunday’s attendance is going to be lighter than normal. The preacher may start to wonder how those who have traveled the road to the cross and the empty tomb can so easily decide they’ve had their fill of feasting on our Lord’s gifts. “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” laments the Prophet Isaiah (53:1; ESV), and we are prone to join him in his sad repine.

The disciples were weary that first evening of Easter. The rumors and reports of Jesus’ resurrection following so close on the heals of Holy Week had the effect of confusion and exhaustion as much as anything else. The doors are still locked for fear, and minds and hearts are still locked against understanding the Scriptures and the events of the previous week. But it is, dear brothers, into the midst of this very weariness and confusion and fear that Jesus comes with His abiding presence and Peace. “Peace to you!” He says to His doubting disciples (v. 36). The Peace of the Lord is nothing less than an absolution for their doubt and weariness and confusion and fear. There He is, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the flesh, risen from the dead, still bearing the mortal wounds of the cross, but alive! And He speaks His peace. He is no phantom, no ghost. He says to His disciples, “Behold, my hands and my feet. Touch me. Watch me eat. It’s really me! I, who have borne your sins and your death and your hell on the cross, am now among you to breathe my Peace into you, Peace with God, the Peace of sins forgiven, the Peace of eternal life and salvation.” And then He says to them essentially, “You should have seen this coming. It’s all right there in the Word. Everything had to be fulfilled that was written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. I’ve been teaching you these things for three years now!” In other words, the real cause of the disciples’ weariness and confusion and fear is doubt of the Word of God, doubt that God will make good on His promises, that Jesus can accomplish the mission for which He was sent.

The minds of the dense disciples have to be opened by their Lord. “Thus it is written,” says Jesus (v. 46). And in opening the Scriptures to them, He opens their minds and hearts to understand that these things had to take place. The Son of Man had to suffer and die and rise again on the third day. And then notice, dear pastors, that He immediately moves to what must happen as a result: “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations” (v. 47). The disciples are to preach the death and resurrection of Christ for repentance and forgiveness of sins. They are to preach. Our Lord doesn’t make any qualifications here. He doesn’t say, “As long as they appreciate the preaching,” or “As long as they listen,” or even “As long as they can pay you for it.” He commands them to preach. And here at least He doesn’t even promise them success. What He promises them is His Spirit, and what He gives them is His Peace. This is what a preacher needs to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear brothers, this morning our Lord comes into the midst of our weariness and grants us His abiding presence and Peace. From a psychological perspective (all apologies to our brother Jim), weariness is certainly normal after a long week like that we’ve just had. But as pastors, we can recognize it for what it really is: both the weakness of our fallen flesh and, perhaps more seriously, a lie of the devil to lead us to doubt the Word of the Lord and to despise the beloved people of God whom He has given us to serve. The antidote to this is nothing less than that very same Word of the Lord, the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. It is good, dear brothers, that we are gathered here today on this Tuesday after Easter to be renewed and refreshed by the Word of God in absolution and proclamation and the Sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood, and then by the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren. For in this Word our Lord Jesus grants us His Peace: “Peace be with you!” He says to us this morning as much as He says it to the disciples in Jerusalem. And having received that Peace ourselves, weary as we may be, our Lord strengthens us to proclaim that Peace to our beloved sheep.

The emotional high of Easter Sunday may be over, but Christ is still risen. Sin is forgiven, Satan is defeated, and death is in its death throes. And our people? Many of them do get it, thanks be to God. This is the Spirit at work in the Word. Many of them do appreciate it, and those who are faithful may never know the gift of God that they are to their pastors and to their fellow believers. But one thing is certain: We can trust that the Word of Christ, the preaching of His death and resurrection for repentance and the forgiveness of sins will always be powerful and effective, even in spite of us and our feelings of weariness and vanity. The emotional high may be over, but not the truth of His Word and the activity of the Spirit in preaching and Sacrament. We pastors have a great privilege to be God’s mouthpiece, to speak the Word of the cross and empty tomb, to speak repentance and the forgiveness of sins. And when we are weary, our Lord Christ is with us, in the midst of our weariness, risen yet bearing the wounds of the cross, speaking His Peace. “Peace to you.” Be refreshed and renewed, dear brothers, by this Word of our Lord. Your sins are forgiven. Christ is risen. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Resurrection of Our Lord

The Resurrection of Our Lord (B)
April 12, 2009
Text: Mark 16:1-8

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

The tomb is empty! Christ Jesus, bound in the cords of death on Good Friday for our sins and offenses, has burst forth from the tomb. Gone is the dark cloud that hung over His cross. Gone is the darkness of night. Light has dawned. It is the Light of our Risen Lord Jesus. The grave could not hold Him. Death is dead. Christ is living. Gone now is the sadness of death. Gone now is the gloom of sin. The devil and hell are defeated. Fulfilled is the Word of the Lord through the Prophet Isaiah: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces” (Is. 25:8; ESV). The Father has not abandoned Christ into death. He has not let His Holy One see corruption (Ps. 16:10). And since this is true, neither will He abandon us into death. Since Christ is risen, He will raise us. For His victory over death is for us. This is why God became a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He became a man so that He could stand in for us, so that He could win the victory for us, so that He could endure the punishment for sin on behalf of all mankind in His innocent suffering and death on the cross, so that in our flesh He could trample Satan under His feet and put death to death forever.

Everything has changed now that the tomb is empty. The women come seeking a dead Jesus, but they do not find Him. He has risen. He is not in the tomb. Behold the place where they laid Him, the place prepared for the eternal rest of decomposing flesh. But there is no body there! The body that had been laid there on Friday evening and taken its Sabbath rest on Holy Saturday is now enlivened, a living, breathing body, still bearing the mortal wounds of crucifixion, but alive!

All of human history hinges on this resurrection. If the tomb had not been empty when the women arrived, if they had found the cold, dead body of Jesus as they expected, you, beloved, would still be in your sins, and your faith would be in vain. If Christ is not risen, then the only advice I could give you is to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And if Christ is not risen, that death is final. If Christ is not risen, that death is worse than annihilation, for that death is an eternal death of suffering in hell. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). And on this you can build all your assurance. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is God’s absolution of the whole world. It is His seal of approval over the sin-atoning work our Lord accomplished on our behalf. It is God’s declaration that sin is ended, that all is forgiven on account of Christ, that we have peace with God our heavenly Father, that heaven and the resurrection await us. Christ has won the victory and He gives the spoils to us.

This is why it is so important that we understand that Christ rose bodily from the grave. He really died on the cross. He was brain dead. His heart no longer pumped. His blood no longer flowed. He no longer inhaled or exhaled. When they put Him in the grave, His soul was no longer in His body. They sealed a corpse into the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. It was a dead body that rested on the Sabbath, the dead body of our Lord Jesus Christ. But sometime between sundown Saturday and the dawn of Easter Sunday, He who was dead became alive again, bodily alive. It must be so if your bodies are to live again on the Last Day when Jesus comes to raise you from the dead. Jesus did not just rise spiritually. It was no phantom that came forth from the grave. Remember, the body is gone. He is not here. He is risen, just as He said. Nor can it be that Jesus only rose in the disciples’ hearts, and not bodily. Some liberal Christians actually believe this is the case, some who even call themselves Lutherans. Their reason cannot accept a literal, bodily resurrection, and so they say that Jesus lives and is risen in our hearts. But remember what I said, what St. Paul says about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, that if Christ is not risen, bodily risen from the dead, you are still in your sins and your faith is in vain. But Christ has indeed been raised. And the historical evidence for this reality is indisputable.

There were witnesses. St. Paul describes it in our Epistle lesson. He appeared to Cephas, that is, Simon Peter, and then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time! Remember that biblically speaking, two or three witnesses establish the truth of a matter. The same holds true in a court of law. How many more than that witnessed the resurrected Jesus! Finally, He appeared to James and the rest of the apostles, and last of all, even Paul, he who had formerly persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ, was given to see the risen Lord Jesus and so become a witness of His resurrection. No less than 27 documents in the New Testament alone, written by several different authors, bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And then there is the fact that so many disciples, including almost all of the apostles, died martyr’s deaths simply for confessing their risen Lord Jesus Christ. They were tortured and put to death for confessing Christ’s resurrection, that Christ is Lord and God who has conquered sin and death. All they would have had to do to avoid the suffering and dying is deny that resurrection, deny their Lord Jesus. But they didn’t. Why would they die for something they were unsure of, or knew to be a lie? They wouldn’t, of course. And my point is that the evidence is well-attested. Jesus is no longer in the grave. He is risen. If it were not so, the Jews and Romans who held all the power in Judea and possessed all the resources, could easily have proven it. They simply needed to produce the body. But there is no body, not a dead one anyway. Christ is risen.

But all this evidence aside, we have something even more sure. We have the very Word of God. In the account of the resurrection from the Gospel according to St. Mark, the women never see the risen Jesus. They are to take the angel’s word for it. They are to take God’s Word for it. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). And that’s all they get. The Word is enough for them. They are to believe on account of the Word. They are to go and tell that Word to Peter and the disciples. This is greatly comforting for us who have not seen the risen Jesus with our eyes. We only see Him by faith. But the Word is enough for us. We believe on account of the Word. And we go and tell that Word to others. We go and tell them that the tomb is empty. We go and tell them that sin is ended, that the devil has been conquered and death is dead. We go and tell them that Christ has burst the bonds of death, that Christ is risen. That is the good news for us today, and it is sufficient. Death could not hold our Lord Jesus, and it will not hold us either. Christ is risen, and He will raise us.

Beloved, you are baptized into this reality. For all of you who are baptized into Christ Jesus have put on Christ. You are baptized into His death and resurrection. You died with Him, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God, ready to be revealed on the Last Day. What a marvelous comfort as you live your life in the midst of death every day in this fallen world. Death is not the end of the story. Good Friday has its culmination in Easter. And you are part of this because you are baptized into your risen Lord Jesus Christ. And as if all this were not enough, your risen Lord Jesus gives you yet more assurance of this. He is among you, wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, with His gifts, and this day He serves you with His crucified and risen body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. The crucified and risen body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ are placed into your mouth to strengthen and sustain you in this fallen world, in your fallen bodies, for the day of your own bodily resurrection.

On the Last Day, your tomb will be empty. For when Christ Jesus broke apart the cords of death and burst forth from the tomb, He left the way open for you on that Day when He calls you forth from the dead. You need not fear anymore. The darkness is dispelled. Satan is conquered, sin is forgiven, and death is dead. You can rejoice this day. For “Christ is arisen From the grave’s dark prison. So let our joy be full and free; Christ our comfort true will be. Alleluia!” (LSB 459:1).

He is risen! His is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Tenebrae Vespers

Good Friday Tenebrae[1]

April 10, 2009

Text: Is. 53:1-6 (ESV): Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken,smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. That is why it is so difficult for us to look upon our crucified Savior. That is why we prefer empty crosses to those with a corpus. It is not so much that the crucifix is too Roman Catholic. That’s just an excuse. Nor is it that we are afraid the crucifix will become an idol for us. That is just another justification for our discomfort. The reason we prefer the empty cross is that when we behold the wounds of our broken and bloody Savior, we behold the punishment that should rightly be upon us. We behold the gravity of our sins. The crucifix is a picture confirmation that what we piously say, but often fail to believe, is indeed true: we are poor, miserable sinners. We justly deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment. We deserve hell, the hell that Jesus suffered on the cross as His Father forsook Him. But Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins.

The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all, and it is difficult for us to look upon Him, nailed to the tree. He has no form or majesty that we should look on Him, no beauty that we should desire Him. The cross is not a pretty picture. We would rather skip the cross and look upon a pastel painting of Easter. The cross is such a downer. God crucified is such an offense. God crucified is an offense because upon Him is the whole load of this world’s sin, yours and mine and the sin of all people. He who knows no sin becomes sin for us. And it is so contrary to reason, to what we expect of Almighty God, that He should save the world in this way. That is why He is despised and rejected by men. That is why He is often despised and rejected by us. That is why even we who believe in Him and know the end of the story have a hard time looking upon our dying God, this man of sorrows who is acquainted with grief. It is so often tempting to hide our faces from Him, as the world does, not to look upon Him, to look elsewhere for a god who is not crucified.

But we should not hide. We should not look away. The cross is good news for us. He bears our griefs. He carries our sorrows. He is stricken, smitten, and afflicted for us, in our place, that we might have peace with God, a loving Father, that we might not suffer the wrath we deserve. He is wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, that we might be forgiven of our sin and set free from the chains of death and hell. He is punished in our place, that we might have peace. He is beaten and bloodied for our healing. While we have gone astray, like dumb sheep, each going his own way, seeking greener pastures elsewhere, not knowing the mortal danger that lies in wait for us, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, throws Himself to the wolf for us, throws Himself into the gaping jaws of death for us, that we might be saved. The Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. We ought to behold the cross and all its gory beauty, we ought to behold our crucified God, for He is our salvation.

“LORD JESUS CHRIST, Life of the living, Hope of the dying, Salvation of all who hope in you, [we] bless and thank you for your temporary departure from this world, and for your joyful return to the Father through the terrible throes of death and the marvelous martyrdom of the cross… O how precious and victorious was that death, which destroyed our death and gave us eternal life! O Christ, may your death be ever fixed in [our] memory so that whenever [we] think of your death [we] may also be mindful of [our] own, and when the uncertain time for [our] life’s end does come, [we] may not be overcome by fear or despair.”[2] For You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[1] This year’s Lenten Midweek Series is based on the book, Sacred Head, Now Wounded (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009). While the sermon is my own, it is based on the material in the book.
[2] Thomas À Kempis, On the Passion of Christ, Joseph N. Tylenda, S. J., trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2004) pp. 132, 133.

Good Friday Tre Ore

Good Friday Tre Ore
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, MI
April 10, 2009
It is finished…” (John 19:30)

“It is finished,” Jesus said, as “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30; ESV). τετέλεσται, it is accomplished, it is fulfilled. This is to say that the very Scriptures have been fulfilled, brought to completion, all the types, all the messianic prophecies, the whole Old Testament. The promise to the Patriarchs is realized. The Law of Moses is satisfied. The sacrifices of the Tabernacle and the Temple find their culmination and power in the once for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God upon the altar of the cross, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “It is finished.” The divine mission, the sin-atoning work the Father had given the Son to do is now accomplished. All that is left now is for the Son to take His Sabbath rest in the grave until the third day.

“It is finished.” These words signal the ending of the old, fallen creation. The curse of Adam is brought to a halt. The debt of sin is paid in full by the sinless Son of God. The cup of God’s wrath is drained to its very dregs. The reign of death is coming to an end. The heel of the Savior is mortally bruised by the serpent’s fangs, but in the wounding, the serpent’s head is crushed. “Behold, I am making all things new” says Jesus (Rev. 21:5).

In the beginning, the Son of God was with the Father, and the Father created all things through the Son. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3). “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” (Col. 1:16). “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done” (Gen. 2:1-2). God finished His work. The word “finished” in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is the same word Jesus speaks from the cross. God finished His work of creation, the Father creating through the Son, and all that was left to do was to rest and to enjoy what He had made. And this rest was extended to God’s creation as well. Adam and Eve, who had nothing to do with the creation of the heavens and the earth, were given to rest in God and enjoy His marvelous creation, all by grace. There was no strife. There was no sin. There was no death. All of life was doxology, praise to the living God, freely receiving and enjoying His gifts.

Ah, but something went dreadfully wrong. The serpent, Satan, beguiled Eve so that she, in express violation of the commandment of God, took of the forbidden fruit, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She took of the fruit and she ate, and she gave some to her husband, and he ate, and all at once there was no more rest. All at once there was shame. All at once Adam and Eve found themselves exposed, naked, and afraid of the judgment of God. All at once Adam and Eve began to age, to die, and were, in fact, spiritually dead already. What God had finished and pronounced “very good,” had been undone by the sin of man, subjected to futility, plunged into the fall, weighed down with the curse. Animals once friendly became ferocious. Childbirth, the command of God to be fruitful and multiply and so be privileged to participate in God’s work of propagation became a painful thing for the woman. And so also the very ground was cursed. It brought forth thorns and thistles and caused much pain and sweat to man. And worst of all, man was promised, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).

So it goes in this fallen world. “[S]in came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). We sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are wholly corrupt. We are the begotten enemies of God, born in sin and death. The curse remains with us. We have inherited the guilt and punishment of Adam, and in his tradition we sin against God in thought, word, and deed. The creation which has been subjected is hostile to us. Our very bodies disintegrate under the burden. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. We age. We die. We are born spiritually dead and our transgressions lead us to eternal death in hell. That is, until sin and death and hell are put to an end for us in Jesus Christ. “It is finished. Behold, I am making all things new.”

The words, “It is finished,” spell the end of the old and the beginning of the new. On the cross Jesus is doing the work of the new creation. He is ending the old tyranny. He is undoing the undoing of Adam. He is reversing the curse by becoming a curse for us. He is doing what God promised He would do from the very beginning: “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). In dying on the cross, Jesus crushes the serpent’s head. “It is finished.” Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh, looks upon His new creation. Behold, it is very good. There is nothing left for Him to do now but to rest, to rest in the tomb thus fulfilling the Sabbath, and then to rise again on the third day, the firstfruits of the new creation.

Beloved in the Lord, this day you can rest in the knowledge that all is finished now, that Jesus has made all things new, that Jesus has made a new creation out of you. For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. His death is for you. You are united to His death in your Baptism, and so also you are united to His resurrection. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant the payment for your sin. He meant His sin-atoning work on your behalf. He meant your reconciliation with the Father. He meant the forgiveness of your sins, eternal life, and salvation, all for you. Now even death is reversed for you. Oh, it may not look like it. You may still be aging. You may still have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, physical death. And you certainly still sin. But that is only because the new creation is not apparent yet. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real. You are alive spiritually, enlivened by the Holy Spirit sent from the Father and the Son. You will not suffer eternal death. Now, for a little while, you have to suffer in this life, you have to live in Good Friday, but Easter is on its way. And you can rest. God’s rest is extended to you freely. You are given to rest each day in the Sabbath rest that is Jesus Christ, for all your sins have been brought to an end, heaven has been opened to you, and you have the sure and certain promise of the resurrection. You, who have had nothing to do with creating all things new, are given to rest in God, rest in Christ, and enjoy His new creation even now in a life of doxology, praise and thanksgiving to your Creator and Redeemer, receiving every day His gifts in Christ Jesus. You can rest in the knowledge that Christ has brought an end to strife and deliverance from sin, that death is in its death throes. “It is finished.” The Word of God accomplishes what it says. There is nothing left for you to do now but to wait, and to rest. Easter is coming. In the meantime, behold the wounds. Behold the Crucified. His blood covers your sins. His death brings you life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday (B)
April 9, 2009
Text: Ex. 24:3-11

“For the life… is in the blood… it is the blood that makes atonement” (Lev. 17:11; ESV). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). So it is in our Old Testament lesson that Moses takes half the blood of the burnt offerings and peace offerings and pours it in basins, and half he throws against the altar, thus sanctifying the altar. The sacrifices are types, picture prophecies if you will, of our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for the sin of the world, for your sin and mine. The blood of the sacrifices is a type of the blood of the once for all sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ. The life is in the blood. The blood makes atonement. The blood sanctifies. Moses reads the Word of the Lord, the whole Book of the Covenant, in the hearing of the people of Israel. And the people say, “Amen!” “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (Ex. 24:7). The people want to live in covenant relationship to God. They do not want sin separate them from the God who brought them up out of Egypt. They want the life God gives. They want His atonement. They want to be sanctified. Thus Moses takes the blood from the basins and throws it on the people. It is a bloody mess. Their clothes are stained. The place stinks. The people now stink like blood. But the life is in the blood. “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words” (v. 8).

Of course, the people could not begin to do all that the Lord had spoken. They could not begin to be obedient. Even a cursory reading of the first five books of the Old Testament, the whole Old Testament for that matter, finds the children of Israel ensnared in disobedience, idol worship, and the sins of the pagans again and again. This is why the blood is so necessary. This is why the people need the blood. This is why Moses showers them with it, throws it at them, soaks them with the blood. Because the life is in the blood. The blood makes the atonement. The people cannot make atonement by keeping the Law. The people cannot merit the life of God by keeping the Law. They cannot keep the Law at all. They are by nature sinful and unclean. They have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. Life and atonement must come from somewhere else, from something outside of the people, in fact, from God Himself. The blood covers the sins of the people. The blood sanctifies the people for fellowship with God.

But it is not the blood of bulls and goats that does this in and of itself. It is rather that to which the blood of bulls and goats points that has all the power. I am speaking, of course, of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The sacrifices of the Old Testament people of Israel had to be made again and again for the sins of the people. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, upon the cross of Calvary is the once for all sacrifice, for all the sins of all the people, not just of the Jews, but of all people, including all here present this evening. The blood of Jesus Christ covers ours sins. The blood of Jesus Christ sanctifies us for fellowship with God.

The people of God in the Old Testament received the benefit of the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of the covenant, sacramentally through the sacrifices. For them, the blood of bulls and goats brought forgiveness, life, and salvation because God said so in His Word. He connected His promise with those sacrifices. The life is in the blood. The blood makes atonement. The blood makes pure. Even though our Lord Jesus had not yet been born into the flesh, the Old Testament believers received all the benefits of His sin-atoning work on the cross through the sacrifices, because God said so.

But we are New Testament people. We no longer make sacrifices of bulls and goats. So what about us? Even though Jesus has already been born into the flesh, suffered, and died for our sins, how are we to receive the benefits of His sin-atoning work? It’s not as though we can go to the cross. The cross doesn’t exist anymore. We are removed from the cross by thousands of miles and two thousand years. No, we cannot go to the cross, beloved, and even if we could, even if somehow the cross of Jesus Christ had been preserved, it wouldn’t do us any good. It would only be a useless relic. When we need the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, we do not go to the cross, but to the place God has promised to give us all the benefits of the cross, to the Word, to Baptism, and to that upon which our meditation especially is directed tonight, the Lord’s Supper. Just as the people of God in the Old Testament received life and atonement and purification through the blood of the sacrifices, we receive the same sacramentally through the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper. But this is no mere bread and wine that we receive. It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in, with, and under the bread and wine, because our Lord Jesus, God in the flesh, says so. It is the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus given and shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. In this sense, it is over and above the Old Testament sacrifices. For the blood in the Old Testament only symbolized Christ’s blood. The sacrifices only symbolized the sacrifice of Christ. They were not Christ Himself. Here in the Sacrament of the Altar, however, we have the very body of Christ, the very blood of Christ, really here present, so that we actually receive it in our mouths. We know we have it because of the promise. Christ says of the bread, “this is my body” (Mark 14:22). Christ says of the wine, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (v. 23).

Like the people of God in the Old Testament, on our own we cannot begin to do all that the Lord has spoken. On our own we cannot begin to be obedient. Experience itself tells us this, and the Word of God teaches us that we cannot keep the Law of God. That is why the blood is so necessary. “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). “(T)he blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The life is in the blood. The blood makes atonement. On the altar this evening we receive the blood of the covenant the Lord has made with us in accordance with His Word, the covenant written in Jesus blood, that on account of Jesus Christ His Son all our sin is forgiven, we are set free from death and from our bondage to the devil, we are God’s own children.

After the events of our text, a very bloody Moses and the priests, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up on the Mountain of God. They saw the holy and righteous God sitting on His throne, and they lived to tell about it. They were covered by the blood of the covenant, and they ate and drank in the presence of God. This evening and every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you have an encounter with the living God and you live to tell about it. Because the life is in the blood. You eat and drink in the Lord’s presence, and you do not die. For you are covered with the blood of the covenant, even the blood of the sacrificial Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. That blood is placed upon your lips and flows into your body to purify you. It is the blood of Christ that makes atonement. Therefore come, O Christians, to the altar of God. Come and eat and drink in His presence. Come and taste and see that the Lord is good. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Gerhard on the Death of our Lord Jesus Christ

"In this passage where it is reported that Christ gave up His spirit, we should remember, first, that Christ truly did die. For the words are clear and distinct: Christ departed and gave up His spirit. Our reason finds this astounding and cannot reconcile itself to it. That God created heaven and earth -- that He is righteous, all-knowing, merciful and mighty -- [our reason] can comprehend to a certain extent. However, that God's Son actually died on the cross is [to our reason] silly scandal and foolishness. We, however, should believe God's Word more than the judgment of our reason; and of this we should be certain: that Christ, God's Son, truly died. For upon this [fact] rests the foundation of our Christianity, yea, also our salvation."

--Johann Gerhard, An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ, Elmer M. Hohle, trans. (Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 1999) pp. 285-86.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion (B)

April 5, 2009

Text: John 12:12-19; Mark 14:1-15:47

Let us Pray: “Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”[1] Amen.

This morning, we had two Gospel lessons, one of them dreadfully long. The first dealt with our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on in majesty to die. The second, the long one, included the whole Passion narrative from the Gospel according to St. Mark, the whole account of our Lord’s suffering and death. Over the past five weeks we’ve sat through a conflation, a harmonization of the entire Passion history from all four Gospels in our midweek Lenten services. On Friday, Good Friday, we will hear most of the Passion account from the Gospel according to St. John. Why do we spend so much time and energy on the Passion, the suffering and death, of our Lord Jesus Christ?

The Evangelists themselves, all four of them, devote more time and space in their gospels to the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ than to any other event. From the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday to the burial of Jesus, St. Matthew devotes seven out of 28 chapters to the events of Holy Week. St. Mark devotes five out of 16 chapters, St. Luke five out of 24, St. John eight out of 21 chapters! Why is this? Because Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, along with His victorious resurrection from the dead, is the defining moment of human history. And Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, along with His resurrection from the dead, for the forgiveness of our sins, is the defining article of our Christian faith. That is why the Evangelists spend so much time and space writing about these events, and why we spend so much time and energy reading and listening to and meditating upon our Lord’s Passion. These things are true! And in the Gospel accounts we hear the eyewitness testimony of those who were there. These things are for us, for our forgiveness, life, and salvation! And in the Gospel of our Lord’s Passion and death and resurrection, we receive all the benefits of His sin-atoning work.

We began this morning with a bit of divine drama. We held palms in our hands and joined the people of Jerusalem in greeting their King with shouts of “Hosanna, Lord, Save us now!” We processed with our Lord Jesus into the sanctuary singing glory, laud, and honor to our Redeemer and our King. This is a great illustration of what happens every time we hear and read the Gospel. We step out of time and space and join our Lord on the palm-strewn road. We step out of time and space this morning to witness the events of our Lord’s Passion. In hearing the Gospel, we have a front-row seat as our Lord Jesus Christ rides on in majesty to die for us, for the forgiveness of our sins, for our salvation.

Listen, then, as the chief priests and scribes whisper among themselves how they might stealthily arrest Jesus and put Him to death. Watch as Jesus reclines at table in the house of Simon the leper to have His feet anointed with costly perfume, in preparation for His burial. Watch, beloved, as Judas Iscariot, the keeper of the money bags, who often helped himself to what was in the treasury, money meant for the poor, and who was among those indignant that the perfume was not sold and the money given into his keeping, seeks out the chief priests and scribes to help them with their wretched plans.

Watch as the disciples gather with Jesus in the upper room for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover. Watch as Judas departs into the outer darkness to do what must be done. Woe to him. But watch what Jesus does for the other disciples, as He takes for them bread and says, “this is my body” (v. 22), wine and says, “this is my blood” (v. 24), and it is, because Jesus says so. And it still is, as often as the disciples of Jesus Christ eat this bread and drink this cup until He comes, because Jesus says so.

Watch, beloved, as Jesus and His disciples sing a hymn and go out to the Mount of Olives. Watch as Jesus earnestly prays to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, His soul sorrowful unto death. Watch as Judas arrives with an armed crowd to arrest Jesus, betraying Him with a kiss.

See now as they lead Jesus before the High Priest. They accuse Him and convict Him of blasphemy. He only tells the truth. They spit on Him and strike Him and mock Him. See as they hand Him over to Pilate. See Barabbas go free. Hear the shouts of the crowd, “Crucify him!” (15:13). Watch as the soldiers lead Him away and clothe Him in royal purple, press a crown of thorns upon His head, place a reed for a scepter in His hands and then beat Him with it. Watch as they worship Him in mockery. Watch as they lead Him out to crucify Him.

Behold your beaten, bloody, crucified King enthroned upon the cross. Behold the thorny crown, the nail pierced hands and feet, the pierced side. Hear the mockery of the crowds. Behold the darkness over the whole land. Behold, and do not turn away. It is an ugly sight. It makes us cringe. It is an offense. It is a scandal. God hangs in the flesh upon a Roman cross. It is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. It appears as though the devil has won. So far is it from what we expected when we jubilantly welcomed our triumphal King, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. But even so, we must not avert our eyes, beloved, from His true triumph. Upon the cross extended, Jesus Christ has brought an end to sin and the tyranny of the devil. He has paid the price for that awful load of this world’s transgression. He has bought you back from hell.

This is good news! This is the Gospel! Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins. Here is the central event in human history. Here is the heart of the Christian faith. You are reconciled to the Father on account of the holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Since this is true, surely we can spare a few extra minutes to hear about it. For the Gospel is the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit delivers the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father and all the benefits of the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ through the Word, the Word read, the Word preached, the Word in the water, the Word in the Supper. This is all gift. This is all free to us. God has done it all. The Father sent His Son to win our salvation. The Spirit brings the salvation of the Son to us in the Word.

And so we sat through a dreadfully long Gospel lesson, yet there is really nothing dreadful about it, for by it the Holy Spirit brings the cross to us, brings Jesus to us, and gives us faith in Him. Now we need not fear the power of sin, death, and the devil. Jesus has conquered these as He bore our sins on the cross. Let us then, by the help of God, be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we watch and pray this Holy Week. Let us keep this sacred time. And in so doing may we be prepared joyfully to keep the Paschal Feast in sincerity and truth, even to the Day of our Lord’s Resurrection. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Quoted in Treasury of Daily Prayer (St. Louis: Concordia, 2008) p. 151.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Lutheran Study Bible vs. Lutheran Study Bible

An important word from the Rev. Paul McCain about the difference between Concordia Publishing House's The Lutheran Study Bible vs. the ELCA's Lutheran Study Bible:

As many of you are aware, Concordia Publishing House has been working hard at producing and publishing The Lutheran Study Bible. This work began nearly six years ago, and the title of the Bible was announced publicly a long time ago. We learned a year or so ago that the ELCA was producing a Bible and that they decided to call it: “Lutheran Study Bible.” The ELCA Bible is now in print. I encourage you, particularly if you are a pastor, to advise your folks that the ELCA Bible is not The Lutheran Study Bible by CPH. The two Bibles are quite different in content, style and purpose. Most significantly, the ELCA Bible takes a different approach on key doctrinal points than does The Lutheran Study Bible. So, please be aware, and spread the word, that The Lutheran Study Bible is coming, from CPH, in October 2009, and that the ELCA Bible is something quite different. Be sure to point people to The Lutheran Study Bible web site, or its Facebook Group, or Twitter feed. I respectfully request and encourage you to share this blog post on your blog site, e-mails, congregation newsletters, etc.

As an example of the differences between these two Bibles, here is how each deals with the Great Commission in Matthew 28. First, the comments from The Lutheran Study Bible, then the comments from the ELCA Bible. Each Bible’s notes on these passages are quoted in their entirety, without editing or excerpting.

The Lutheran Study Bible on the Great Commission
28:18–20 Though all God’s people are to bear witness to the Lord (cf Ps 145; Is 43:10), the focus here is on the apostles and their calling as leading witnesses and representatives of Jesus. (Compare to the authorization in Mt 10:1–7.)

28:18 “All authority.” Christ’s human nature, which had refrained from exercising the divine authority belonging to the person of Christ, now is fully exalted and given free use of divine authority (cf v 19). “He can also powerfully effect and do everything that He says and promises” (FC SD VII 43). “The Church’s authority and the State’s authority must not be confused. The Church’s authority has its own commission to teach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments [Matthew 28:19–20]. Let it not break into the office of another. Let it not transfer the kingdoms of this world to itself. Let it not abolish the laws of civil rulers. Let it not abolish lawful obedience” (AC XXVIII 12–13).

28:19 “make disciples.” See note, 5:1. Jesus gives us the tools to make disciples: Baptism and His teaching. all nations. Not just the Jews, but Gentiles too (cf 10:5–6). baptizing them in the name. “Name” is singular, followed by the threefold naming of the divine persons. This illustrates the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. See p 0000. Those baptized in the name of the Father have God as their Father; baptized in the name of the Son, they receive all the benefits of the Son’s redeeming act; baptized in the name of the Spirit, they receive the life-giving, life-sustaining power and presence of the Spirit. Christian Baptism is founded on this institution. See note, Nu 6:22–27. baptizing. Washing with the water of new birth. “Baptism is no human plaything, but it is instituted by God Himself” (LC IV 6). “It is necessary to baptize little children, that the promise of salvation may be applied to them, according to Christ’s command to baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19). Just as in this passage salvation is offered to all, so Baptism is offered to all, to men, women, children, infants. It clearly follows, therefore, that infants are to be baptized, because salvation is offered with Baptism” (Ap IX 52).

28:20 “teaching.” Disciples are made not only through Baptism, but through the ongoing catechetical work of the Church. observe all. Christians are called to do more than “obey”; they are called to treasure God’s Word in their hearts. commanded. Not only Christ’s moral injunctions (the Law) but also His invitation to trust in Him (the Gospel). I am with you always. Not only in Spirit but also according to His human nature. See “be with,” p 0000. “He is present especially in His Church and congregation on earth as Mediator, Head, King, and High Priest. This presence is not a part, or only one half of Him. Christ’s entire person is present, to which both natures belong, the divine and the human—not only according to His divinity, but also according to, and with, His received human nature” (FC SD VIII 78). end of the age. When He returns visibly.

28:16–20 Christ commissions His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations through Baptism and teaching. Christ promises to be with us, and He is the one who makes disciples through our baptizing and teaching. Today, remember your Baptism and confirmation in the faith, which are precious blessings for the Lord’s disciples. His love and care are new for you every morning. • Send us, Lord, to make disciples in Your name in accordance with our callings in life. Amen.

The ELCA Bible on the Great Commission
28:16-20 the eleven disciples went to Galilee: The eleven meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. Even when the eleven see him, some doubt. Jesus’ resurrection returns to the question of his authority in 7:28-9:34; 21:23-32. Through the resurrection, God has given Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth. This does not mean that only now does Jesus have authority. It establishes his authority exercised throughout his life and ministry (28:20). The end of the Gospel sends the reader back to the beginning (4:12-9:34), and it gives God’s answer to the Pharisees’ charge (9:34). In contrast to 10:5-6, 23, Jesus now send the disciples to make disciples of all nations. That does not mean make everyone disciples. Most people who are helped by Jesus and believe in him never become disciples. Jesus includes in salvation people who do not believe in him or ever know about him (5:30; 25:31-45). Disciples are students, called for the sake of the world to learn from Jesus and to bear witness to the kingdom. They are salt and light (5:13-16). Jesus promises to be with them always as they carry out this mission. Previously, Jesus promised to be present in the exercise of forgiveness (18:18-20) and in the “least of these” who suffer (25:31-45). (p. 1658)

End of quotes.

Please refrain, when commenting in this discussion, from specific attacks on any specific publishing companies. The purpose of this post is simply to lend clarfication and issue a word of caution about potential confusion. Thanks for your kind and patient understanding.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Holy Week and Easter

Pastor’s Window for April 2009

Holy Week and Easter

Beloved in the Lord,

The beginning of April brings us to Holy Week and Easter. This is a sacred time for our Lord’s Church as the 40 Days of Lent come to their culmination in our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion on April 5. On this day we gather in the narthex with palm branches in hand to hear the Palm Sunday Gospel (John 12:12-19: The Triumphal Entry) and sing our hosannas with the people of Jerusalem as we process into the sanctuary. After a time of silence, the mood dramatically changes as the shouts of “Hosanna” become shouts of “Crucify.” We turn our attention to our Lord’s Passion (suffering) and cross. The Gospel lesson for Sunday of the Passion is the whole Passion account recorded by St. Mark (Mark 14:1-15:47). This is a long reading, to be sure, but it focuses us for the week ahead on our Lord Jesus Christ and His innocent, bitter suffering and death, which He endured for our forgiveness and salvation.

We will celebrate the service of Triduum beginning Thursday night, April 9 (Maundy, or “Holy” Thursday) 7 pm. Triduum means “three days.” The services for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday Easter Vigil actually comprise one service. Thus there is no benediction or closing hymn Thursday or Friday and no opening hymn Friday or Saturday. On Maundy Thursday we commemorate our Lord’s institution of His Holy Supper, receiving His body and blood in the Sacrament. As the service concludes, Psalm 22 is read while the altar guild strips the altar and chancel (the altar area) in preparation for Good Friday. Worshipers leave in silence, setting apart this somber and holy time for meditation on our Lord’s Passion.

On Good Friday (April 10, also 7 pm) we once again come face to face with all that our Lord suffered for us on the cross in a special Tenebrae service (service of darkness). Worshipers enter in silence. As we mediate on our Lord’s suffering and death the lights are progressively dimmed until all light is extinguished. The Paschal Candle is also extinguished and taken out of the sanctuary, symbolizing our Lord’s body being taken down from the cross. Then follows the strepitus (the slamming of the book), symbolizing the sealing of Christ’s tomb.

We leave in silence and darkness on Good Friday, only to arrive in silence and darkness Holy Saturday for the Easter Vigil (April 11, 7 pm). The new day, Easter, begins at sundown on Saturday. The Paschal Candle is lit from a fire. Christ is risen. Death could not hold Him. The light of the Paschal Candle is spread to the vigil candles of all present. The light of Christ and the hope of the resurrection spread to those who believe in Him. We process into the sanctuary to meditate on a series of readings from the Old Testament foreshadowing Baptism, the new creation, and the resurrection. The lights are gradually turned on until finally all the lights brightly shine to reveal our sanctuary decorated for Easter. We receive from our Lord His true body and blood, crucified for our sins, risen for our justification. This time we don’t leave in silence, but once again take up our alleluia, leaving the sanctuary with praise and thanksgiving.

On Easter Sunday we will have two opportunities to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord: Easter Sunrise Divine Service at 7 am (followed by breakfast in the fellowship hall), and Easter Festival Divine Service at 9:15. Each service will have its own readings and sermon and different settings of the liturgy. I encourage you to consider coming to both.

The services of Holy Week and Easter allow us to step out of time and space to stand before the cross and the empty tomb. This is a holy season for the disciples of Jesus Christ. God grant us all cleansed hearts this Lententide, that we may be prepared joyfully to celebrate the paschal feast in sincerity and truth.

Pastor Krenz