Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Pastor’s Window for May 2010
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Beloved in the Lord,

Sunday, May 23rd, is the Day of Pentecost, and also Confirmation Day for us here at Epiphany, as Sami Powell and Bray MacIntosh will be confirmed and receive their first communion. Pentecost, which means 50, was originally a Jewish harvest festival, also known as the Feast of Weeks, that took place 50 days (7 weeks) after the beginning of the grain harvest, which corresponded to the Passover. So it was that 50 days after the celebration of Passover, 50 days after the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostles and the other disciples of Jesus were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost with Jews from all over the world. The disciples were gathered together in one place, when suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind filled the house, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads. They began to speak in tongues, which is to say, known human languages that they had never previously known or studied. They spoke the Gospel in the native languages of all those Jews from throughout the world who had come to celebrate Pentecost in Jerusalem. You can read about this event yourself in Acts 2.

That mighty rushing wind is the promised Holy Spirit, who came upon the disciples to lead them into all truth, just as Jesus said He would: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26; ESV).

Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does He do? He is the third Person of the Holy Trinity (one God, three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Lutherans are often charged with not talking enough about the Holy Spirit. It is a false charge (we talk about Him all the time, particularly how He works upon us in the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments!), but it springs from something that is actually quite true, and that is that the Holy Spirit is always pointing us to Jesus, who alone is the way to the Father (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is always directing attention to Jesus. Jesus says as much: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14). The Holy Spirit is often called the “shy” Person of the Holy Trinity, because He is always drawing attention to Jesus Christ.

For if you have Jesus, you have the Father, and you have the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son (Jesus). The Holy Spirit gives us faith in Jesus Christ. “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who calls us by the Gospel. He doesn’t just zap us into believing, and He doesn’t come through feelings or voices in our heads, but through the Gospel, His holy Word preached and printed on the page, and tangibly given to us in the water of Holy Baptism, and the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar. The Holy Spirit calls us to faith by the Gospel, gathers us into the holy Church, enlightens us with His gifts (again, Word and Sacrament!), sanctifies us (makes us holy), and keeps us in the one true faith of Jesus Christ. He is really, as we confess in the Nicene Creed, “the Lord and Giver of life,” for He gives us eternal life in bringing us to faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior.

In the Christian Church, Pentecost has come to be celebrated as the Day the Holy Spirit was given to the Church in a special and miraculous manner. Each of us have our own personal Pentecost the moment we come to faith in Jesus Christ. When we come to faith, that is the Holy Spirit’s work. He has come upon us and dwells with us and in us. For many of us, that happens when we are baptized into Christ as infants. Infants can believe because faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is given in Baptism. Confirmation Day is a celebration of that personal Pentecost in the lives of our confirmands. We will hear evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in Sami and Bray as they confess the faith into which they are Baptized, and which they have come to know from Luther’s Small Catechism. And upon their confession, they will be admitted to the Lord’s Table to receive His true body and blood, another vehicle of the Holy Spirit whereby He will continue to work in them to strengthen and sustain them in the one true faith.

God bless our confirmands. And God grant us all His Holy Spirit, who ever directs us in faith to Jesus Christ, who alone is the Way and the Truth and the Life, in whom we have access to God as our Father.

Pastor Krenz

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday (C)
April 25, 2010
Text: John 10:22-30

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

O Lord Jesus Christ, faithful Shepherd of your flock, gather us into the sheepfold of Your holy Christian Church. Shepherd us, O Lord, for we are a fallen mess, and have made a mess of everything. By Your holy, precious blood You have redeemed us from sin, death, the devil, and hell, yet our fallen nature still clings to us, and so we are still stupid sheep who wander off, eating the poisonous weeds of false doctrine, ignorantly meandering into the clutches of wolves and robbers, the enemies from which You have freed us, carried away by every wind of the world, slipping back into sin, giving in to the temptations of the evil one. O Lord, have mercy upon us. Deliver us from ourselves! Deliver us from all harm and danger to body and soul. Find us when we are lost. Snag us with Your Shepherd’s crook. Take us into Your loving arms, in spite of our kicking and bleating and biting, and restore us to Your flock. We are helpless on our own. But with You as our Shepherd, we have no want. You will lead us away from poisonous weeds to green pastures where we may feed on Your Word, beside the still waters of our holy Baptism into Your death and resurrection. You will restore our soul and lead us in the paths of Your righteousness, that we may love and serve You and our fellow sheep. You are the only Shepherd who can lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, for You died, and behold, You are alive, risen from the dead, the firstfuits of them that sleep. And so we fear no evil, for You are with us, guiding and comforting us with Your rod and staff. And You prepare a Table for us, the altar upon which, by Your Word, is Your true body and blood under bread and wine, given and shed for us and distributed to us for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. Indeed, goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life, for we will dwell in Your House, in Your Sheepfold, forever. All glory be to You, O Lord, and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must confess in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, that “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Is. 53:6; ESV). It is not a compliment when our Lord calls us sheep. Sheep are unintelligent, helpless creatures prone to wandering right into the midst of danger. Sheep cannot survive without a shepherd. With great compassion for us, our Lord Christ comes among us as our Good Shepherd. He knows us each by name, for He has given us our name, His Name, in Holy Baptism, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And on account of that same Baptism, we know our Shepherd’s voice. One thing sheep have going for them is that they know the voice of their shepherd, and they will not follow a strange voice. They only follow the voice they know and trust. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, gathers and keeps us safely in His flock by His voice, which is to say, by His Word. We follow Him by listening for His voice and hearing and doing His Word. But not all to whom our Lord speaks listen to His voice. Thus the Jews in our text. Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, which is to say, Hanukkah. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon, the last standing remnant of Solomon’s great temple, around which the new temple was built. Rabbis often gathered here with their disciples and taught under the shelter of the colonnade. But this time, the unbelieving Jews gathered around Rabbi Jesus, refusing to be taught. “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (v. 24). But Jesus had told them. He had told them plainly in all His preaching and teaching. And His works… His works testify to His identity. He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The Jews, and especially those at the temple, the Jewish religious elite, should have recognized from the Words and the works that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. He fulfills the whole Old Testament. But they do not listen. They do not listen because they do not believe. They do not believe because they are not part of Jesus’ flock. They are not part of Jesus’ flock because they have separated themselves from the sheepfold. Israel was the chosen people of God, to whom the promise of the Messiah was first given. Jesus Himself was a Jew, of the house and lineage of King David, the promised Son of David who would eternally sit on the throne of His father. To the Jews the Scriptures had been given, Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, the Scriptures in which there is eternal life, because these testify to Jesus. The point is that Israel was God’s flock. But they turned aside. They did not heed the Shepherd’s voice. They went their own way. They were lost. They rejected Jesus as their Good Shepherd. And the consequence of this is, when they have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there will be no shepherd to lead them. Jesus is the only Shepherd who can lead you through that valley to the other side ALIVE! God grant the conversion of the Jews (as indeed many already have been converted!), that they may recognize and believe in their Messiah, Jesus Christ, and so have eternal life.

And the point is this: Take heed to the voice of the Good Shepherd! If the Jews who were God’s chosen people could wander away and be lost, by no fault of the Good Shepherd, but by their own stubborn refusal to hear His voice, you can be lost too. Do not wander off on your own way. Do not heed the voice of strangers, who want to rob you and kill you. Follow only the voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. It is so important that you heed the Shepherd’s voice. And you do that by hearing the Word. Hear the Word. Read the Word. Pay attention to the Word. Live by the Word. It is life to you. Any other way is death. Any other way leads to poisonous weeds, robbers and wolves, and finally, death and hell. You know your Shepherd’s voice. You have come to know your Shepherd, even as He knows you each by name. You have come to know Him intimately through preaching and His Word. He calls to you. He gathers you into the Church. He waters you and feeds you and tends you and protects you. Under His care, no harm can come your way. He has chosen you to be His own. And here is what He gives you: Eternal life! “I give them [my sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (v. 28). Only you can separate yourself from the love of God. Otherwise, as Paul says, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). And because you are united to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, this is what your Good Shepherd will do for you in heaven and in the resurrection: You will stand before the throne of God day and night to serve Him in His heavenly Temple. You will eternally be in His presence. He will shelter you so that no scorching heat will strike you. Never again will you hunger or thirst. Jesus will shepherd you, and lead you to springs of living water. All the evil, all the sin, all the sadness, all the pain will be at an end. No enemy can hurt you anymore. And God will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Rev. 7:15-17).

Why does the Shepherd do all this for us? Because He loves us. He loves us and gives His life for us. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14, 15b). He lays down His life for us. The Shepherd becomes a Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Lamb led to slaughter in our place, for our iniquities, to pay our debt to God in full. The Lamb is slain, but behold, He lives. He who lays down His life also takes it up again. Christ is risen, and we are free, forgiven, restored. The lost sheep have been found, washed, nursed, fed, and delivered back into the sheepfold. And the angels rejoice. And if this Good Shepherd lives, as indeed, He does, then we also will live! It is the Father Himself who has delivered us into the pierced hand of the Good Shepherd. And no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand. The Father loves us, as Christ loves us, for Jesus and the Father are one, and they impart their Spirit to us, to keep us with Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, in the one true faith. The Spirit gives us ears to hear the voice of the Shepherd, and to follow Him.

Let us pray: O You who know us each by name, even our Lord Jesus Christ; shepherd us and lead us, that hearing Your voice, we follow You, even through the valley of the shadow of death, to the place where You will give us eternal life; for You died, and You have risen from the dead, and live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Second Sunday of Easter

Second Sunday of Easter (C)
April 11, 2010
Text: John 20:19-31

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

Beloved in the Lord, Christ is risen, and we, His people, have tasted in full measure that the Lord is good. We have heard the Word of life. We have been forgiven of our sins. We are baptized into His death and resurrection. We have literally tasted His goodness in the bread and wine of the Supper, the true body and blood of our crucified and risen Lord. Yet St. Peter entreats us, as we entreated one another this morning in the Introit, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2; ESV). Milk? Really? In other words, the basics? Do we really need to return to the basics? Long for them, even? We so often tire of the pure spiritual milk. Especially after a spectacular holiday, holy day, like Easter, where with great pomp and circumstance we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. We feasted. The feast continues this morning. But Peter tells us to long for milk. We’d rather spice things up a bit. No more of this milk, all this talk of the “basics” of the Christian faith. We want less doctrine, less body and blood talk, less of the same, more change, any change, different worship, more excitement, more warm and fuzzies. Enough with the wholesome milk. Give us the volcano nachos and the cotton candy.

But here is the problem: We are infants. Our stomachs can’t handle the volcano nachos and the cotton candy. Nor are they good for us. They have no nutrition. They do not feed us. They make us unhealthy. We need milk. We need pure spiritual milk. Because this pure spiritual milk gives us peace, the peace the world cannot give, peace in the midst of doubts, peace that dispels all doubt, peace with God, the peace of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. On the evening of our Lord’s victorious resurrection from the dead, He came into the midst of His disciples who were locked away for fear of the Jews, who doubted the good news that Jesus had conquered sin and death, and He gave them pure spiritual milk. He spoke His Word: “Peace.” “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

Beloved, this pure spiritual milk sustains our very lives in Christ. It is a matter of eternal life and death that you get this spiritual milk. And thanks be to God, it is readily available to you. The milk is the Word and the Body and the Blood of our dear Savior. His Word is peace. Peace flows from His wounds, His thorn-pierced head, His nail pierced hands and feet, His spear-riven side. It flows from His wounds and to you who believe in Him. He gives it to you right here and now, where He forgives your sins. For His peace is nothing other than the Holy Absolution, the forgiveness of sins. It is peace with God, from whom you once were separated, with whom you once were at enmity because of sin. All of that is over, because Jesus speaks His peace to you. The peace that Jesus gives is reconciliation with the Father, who is now your Father though your Baptism into Christ. The peace flows from His wounds. By His wounds you are healed. The peace comes not through the volcano nachos and the cotton candy, not through anything else but His Word of peace, preached, read, and distributed in the Sacrament. His peace comes to you through the pure spiritual milk.

This is why our Lord, on this night of His resurrection, instituted the Office of the Holy Ministry. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld’” (vv. 21-23). Jesus established the Office of the Holy Ministry, beginning with the Eleven apostles, that the called ministers of Christ might distribute His peace, the peace of sins forgiven, by feeding His people with His pure spiritual milk: preaching His Word, Law and Gospel, teaching young and old all things whatsoever the Lord has commanded, conducting the public worship, baptizing, administering the Lord’s Supper, forgiving the sins of the penitent and withholding forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent. These are the basics, and Peter says that this is what you need, because in these means of grace your Lord Jesus gives you peace, real peace, His peace. And so also in this way, your Lord breathes on you the same Holy Spirit He breathed upon His apostles, the Spirit who creates and sustains faith, gathers you into the Holy Church, and gives you life in Christ.

You so need this milk, whether you know it or not. You so need this peace of Christ. You so need this Holy Spirit. Because you are infants. Like the disciples you fear, and lock yourselves away. Like Thomas, you doubt, and demand the Christian faith on your own terms. But this milk is given, these things are written “so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (v. 31). The only cure for fear and doubt and idolatry, the only cure for any sin, is the peace of Jesus Christ that flows from His wounds and is distributed in His Word, the pure spiritual milk.

You get that milk here. The milk is the Word and the Sacrament, the basics. St. Peter pleads with you to long for that milk. Long for it, because of your great need for it, and because you have tasted that the Lord is good. Cultivate within yourself and within your family and this congregation an appreciation for these gifts of Christ, a longing to receive them. Here are some practical tips for doing just that. First of all, be here! “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25; NIV). Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:2). Come often to meet Him. Come as often as possible. Come to worship and pay attention. Pray that the Word of God enters your ear and fills your heart and proceeds to your lips in confession and praise. Listen to the sermon. Hang on your Lord’s every Word. Receive His body and blood with great rejoicing for your forgiveness and strengthening. Come to Bible class. Make sure the kids are in Sunday School. Learn as much as you can about your Lord and His marvelous grace. And this is not just a Sunday thing. Set aside time each day for the Word of God and prayer. Read the Scriptures daily. What a gift that you can pick up the Bible for yourself and read it with your own eyes. Not everyone can do that. It is illegal to own a Bible in some places in the world. It is illegal to be a Christian in some places in the world. Rejoice in the gifts you’ve been given. Do daily individual and family devotions. Utilize the resources of the Church. Immerse yourself in the Catechism and hymnal and prayer books of the Church. What a great resource we have in the Treasury of Daily Prayer. Use the Portals of Prayer that are free to you on the table in the narthex. Receive the Lord’s gifts. Don’t be legalistic about it. These things are free to you. But don’t withhold Christ from yourself in the name of Christian freedom. Receive liberally from His liberal hand. And having received, give. Confess. Confess Christ. Take Him into your daily vocations. Speak of Him with all those with whom the Lord puts you in contact. Love your neighbor with the love of Christ and provide for his needs. Live in your Lord’s gifts. Live by faith. Live by the milk. Live in your Lord’s peace.

For when you meet the living Christ where He has promised to be for you, in His gifts, you do indeed taste that the Lord is good. For He gives you His peace, dispelling all your fears and doubts. He gives you His pure spiritual milk. He forgives all your sins and imparts His Spirit. He speaks His dynamic and life-giving Word and places you in relationship to God as your heavenly Father. This is the victory that our Lord won on Easter when He burst open the tomb, defeating death forever. He did it all for you. There is nothing you can add to His victory. You only receive. Like infants. For it is all by grace.

Beloved in the Lord, He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Easter: A Matter of Life and Death

Pastor’s Window for April 2010
Easter: A Matter of Life and Death

Beloved in the Lord,

St. Paul makes clear just what is at stake in the matter of our Lord’s bodily resurrection from the dead: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17; ESV). And if that is the case, death is the final word. “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (vv. 18-19). The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day is the pivotal question of the Christian faith, and a matter of eternal life and death for every one of us individually. For if Christ has not been raised, the Christian faith is one big joke, and you best eat, drink, and be merry now, for tomorrow you die, and that is the end.

Easter matters. It matters to you in a very personal way, for upon Easter rests your eternal future. What if the Christian faith is all one big joke? Then we who believe in Christ are of all people most to be pitied, because we have constructed our whole life of faith on a lie. We live, in that case, according to a lie. We live with a hope that is unfounded, a hope that says that this life has meaning that it does not, in fact, have, if Christ is not risen from the dead. For the Christian confesses that this life receives its meaning from the God who went to death and hell to rescue us as His beloved children, and that in so dying He was victorious over death, bursting the bonds of death in His bodily resurrection. And so we have hope that this earthly life is not all that there is, that there is more, much more, in heaven, and in our own future resurrection on the Last Day. All of this is a lie if Christ is not risen.

This is why the next words of St. Paul are so important: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20; emphasis added). These are earthshaking words. This is no mere nice thought, pious wish, or spiritual resurrection of Christ in our hearts. Christ has “in fact” been raised from the dead. Bodily. That is to say, this event, unprecedented in the history of the whole world, has now taken place in history. And so also it is a history-determining event, one that gives meaning to all of history, the history of the fall of creation into sin and the redemption of that creation in Christ. And it gives direction to history as that which will culminate in the resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day.

Thus Christ is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” If He is first, this means that others will come after. Indeed, this is how it will happen: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). This can only be true if Christ is risen. And “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead”!

And my point in saying all of this here is that Easter is not just another family holiday, as even so many well-meaning Christians like to paint it (a pastor should never hear the excuse that you weren’t in church on Easter because you were spending time with family!). And Easter certainly should not be abandoned as another commercial holiday, a la the Easter Bunny and eggs and baskets and candy. Easter is rather a matter of eternal life and death for every one of us. Because Christ is risen, we have eternal life! And this is cause for great rejoicing, and for reveling in our Lord’s gifts.

The place to be, then, on Easter, and on every Sunday, which is always a celebration of Easter (we worship on Sundays because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday), is here at the altar of our Lord Jesus Christ, here where you hear His Word proclaimed, where you are forgiven your sins, where you gather around the font to remember that you are God’s own child, baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, and where the living Christ Himself places His body and blood into your mouths, the body and blood given and shed for your forgiveness and life. We do not take Christ’s resurrection lightly. Rather we cling to it in faith as our only lifeline in this world of death. For Christ’s resurrection is all the difference between our eternal death in hell, and our eternal life in Him.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed (in fact!)!! Alleluia!!!

Pastor Krenz

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Sunrise and Festival Divine Service

Easter Sunrise[1]
April 4, 2010
Text: John 20:1-18

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

Mary Magdalene has the glorious privilege of proclaiming to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20: 18; ESV), which is as much as to say, “He is risen. All that He said is true. He is who He claimed to be. All that we hoped of Him is true. Death could not hold Him. He is truly the Messiah, the Savior of the world, who has conquered sin, death, and the devil. We are saved. We have eternal life, because Jesus, who was dead, lives!” Mary is an eyewitness, and she brings the comforting, albeit astounding, good news to the disciples: The tomb is empty. Death is swallowed up in victory. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Indeed, this Easter Day is the Day that the LORD has made. He raised Jesus from the dead on this Day. He sealed our salvation on this Day. We’ve done nothing to deserve or merit this Day. We cannot earn this Day. This Day is made for us by grace. There is nothing left for us to do on this Day but rejoice and be glad in it (Cf. Psalm 118).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is keystone of our faith. If Christ is not risen, our faith is futile. We are still in our sins. If Christ is not risen from the dead, the holy Christian faith is a lie, and we live our lives by a lie. If Christ is not risen from the dead, all hope is lost, death is our end, and there is no meaning to this earthly life. But as Paul declares so confidently to the Corinthians: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). This makes all the difference for us. Since Christ is risen from the dead, our faith is NOT in vain. Our sins are forgiven. The holy Christian faith that we believe and confess, the faith by which we live each day and take each breathe, is true! Death is not the end! Rather, Christ is the end of death! And we look forward to heaven, where we will be with Jesus and all the saints when we die. And when Jesus returns, we look forward to the resurrection of all flesh, when our bodies will be raised and reunited with our souls, and we will live eternally in bliss in a new heaven and a new earth, forever in the presence of our gracious God.

The resurrection of Christ, testified by over 500 eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15:5-8), is supremely important for us, and of tremendous comfort. Our hope in Christ is vindicated. For the resurrection proves that our Lord Jesus Christ is who He says He is: the eternal Son of God, very God of very God, who took on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. That He died proves that He is truly human, for God cannot die unless He is at the same time man. And that He is risen proves He is God, for man cannot rise from the dead by his own power. It has never happened in all of human history, except in the case of Jesus, as Paul says, He was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

So also the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves that His teaching is the truth. We can believe His doctrine, and stake our very lives, our eternal lives on it. For Jesus had promised many times, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’… he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19, 21). Remember the criteria for judging whether a prophet is legitimate, sent from God: “when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet” (Jer. 28:9). A prophet’s teaching is true if what he predicts comes to pass. The greatest of the prophets, our Savior Jesus Christ, predicted that He would suffer and die and rise again on the third day, and in fact Christ has been raised from the dead! It is as Jesus said to the Pharisees, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man,” namely, on the cross, “then you will know that I am he,” that I AM the LORD, I AM who I say I AM, and that I have taught the truth, for I will rise from the dead.

Because Jesus is who He says He is and because His Word is truth, we have the forgiveness of all our sins, eternal life, and salvation in Him. For Jesus’ resurrection proves that the Father has accepted Christ’s sacrifice for the reconciliation of the world. The resurrection is the Father’s divine stamp of approval over His sin-atoning work on our behalf. For our Lord Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (5:10). The resurrection of Christ is the justification of the world before God. God declares us righteous with the righteousness of Christ by accepting His substitutionary death on the cross in payment for our sins and raising His Son out of death.

And so we know that baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection, united to Him by faith, we have eternal life. Because Christ is risen, all who believe in Christ will rise to eternal life with Him. It is as Job confessed this morning in our Old Testament lesson: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). Our Lord Jesus promises, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (11:25-26).

All of this is comprehended in Mary’s proclamation, “I have seen the Lord.” As it made all the difference to the disciples who had suffered the anxiety and doubt of their Lord and Master’s suffering and death, who were locked away for fear of rejection and persecution of their countrymen, who had given up all hope of salvation in Jesus Christ and despaired over their denial and desertion of their Savior; so it makes all the difference for us who suffer our own anxiety and doubt in this fallen world and in this body of sin and death, who lock ourselves away from our neighbor for fear that our love will be rejected, who are weighed down by the guilt of sin, which is always a denial and desertion of our Savior. Beloved in the Lord, we have here the eyewitness testimony of Mary. Jesus is alive! He is who He says He is. His Word is truth. Our sins are forgiven. We are reconciled to God. We have eternal life and the sure and certain hope of our own resurrection from the dead in Christ Jesus. And so we declare this good news to one another as we say it again: He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This sermon is based on the Synodical explanation of the Second Article of the Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: Concordia, 1991) pp. 139-40.

The Resurrection of Our Lord – Easter Day (C)
April 4, 2010
Text: Luke 24:1-12

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

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:5-7; ESV). We live our lives in this fallen world and in this sinful flesh having forgotten and continually forgetting this life-bestowing and life-sustaining truth: Christ is risen! Remember what He said, how He must suffer, must be crucified, must die for sinners, and on the third day rise. But we don’t remember. We live as if death has won. We live our lives as if in bondage to the sin and death our Lord defeated in His death and resurrection. Like the children of Israel who were led out of slavery in Egypt, we grumble. We grumble that we do not have what we want and think we need. When the Lord gives bread, we grumble that there is no water. When the Lord gives water, we grumble that there is no meat. When the Lord gives meat, we grumble against the Lord’s prophet and against the Lord’s doctrine. We are never satisfied. We long for the fleshpots of Egypt. The slavery of sin and death calls to us with an alluring nostalgia, and we beg to go back. And so we live in sadness and grief, in strife with our neighbors, with our family members, with our spouses. We are depressed. We look for hope and happiness in the empty promises of false gods, would-be messiahs, politicians, work, sex, money, things. We have forgotten. We have not remembered. We live as if Christ has not been raised from the dead.

But away with all of that! It is Easter! And in fact Christ has been raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20)! Beloved, you have been freed from your bondage to sin and death. Your sin, your grumbling, your longing to be enslaved again, your strife, your idolatry, your despair, has been taken by our Lord Jesus Christ into Himself and nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb. And when our Lord rose from the dead, He left our sin and sorrow sealed in that tomb. He is victorious over those things. He is victorious over death. Remember what He said. Behold, He is alive. And He gives you new life now.

The women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, did not remember Jesus’ Word. When they came to the tomb at early dawn that first Easter, they brought spices to anoint a corpse. They were living as if death had won. But when they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled away, and no body of Jesus! They were perplexed. The only reasonable explanation is that His body has been moved or stolen. It took the appearance of two angels to convince them otherwise. “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you” (Luke 24:6). Believe His Word! This is what He said would happen. He said that it was divinely necessary that He be handed over and be crucified and on the third day rise! Thus the women “remembered his words” and they hurried to tell others the good news. As is always the case among Christians, when we encounter the earth shattering good news of the empty tomb and the risen Lord Jesus, we cannot keep it to ourselves. We must proclaim it to others, that they also may have real hope and lasting joy and salvation in the Lord who brings life, that they may no longer live as if death has won.

But the apostles and all the rest did not remember Jesus’ Word either. The women ran to tell them the good news, “but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (v. 11). The apostles, who did not live in a culture obsessed with the politically correct, dismissed this assertion as silly woman-talk, when in fact our Lord here honors women as the first witnesses of the most important event in all of human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! The apostles dismissed the report. They remained in unbelief. They did not remember. They lived as if death had won. It would take an appearance of the risen Lord behind locked doors to convince them otherwise (vv. 36-49; John 20:19-23).

Peter was no better than the rest. He did not remember Jesus’ Word. He had been living as if death had won since his three-fold denial in the court of the high priest. Now having heard this strange testimony, he ran to the tomb and stooped to look in. He marveled, he was astounded, that the linen cloths in which our Lord’s dead body had been wrapped now lay there alone (Luke 24:12). He marveled because he did not remember. The empty tomb should not have surprised him. Remember how He told you, dear Peter, that this very thing must happen, that He be handed over and killed and on the third day rise! Peter did not remember, but he was reminded when the risen Lord Jesus Himself appeared to him (v. 34).

The women forgot. The apostles forgot. Peter forgot. And we forget. It is the common affliction of this sinful, fallen flesh, that the things of the Spirit do not make sense to us, and are easily forgotten, and so we live as if death has won. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:20; emphasis added)! And this changes everything. Remember how He told you. Remember how He tells you always in His Word. Good Friday had to happen. The Son of Man had to be betrayed into the hands of sinners, for sinners’ sake. The Son of Man had to be crucified, suffer and die, as the punishment for our sins. And if the story had ended there, death would, in fact, have won. But the story did not end that way. In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. Death has not won. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (v. 26), but in the meantime, death is powerless. “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’… thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 54-55, 57).

God gives you this victory daily in your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. This morning, God gives you this victory in His holy Word, and in the blessed Sacrament of our Lord’s crucified and risen body and blood. This morning, the risen Lord Jesus Himself meets you and speaks to you and feeds you. He leads you once again out of your bondage to sin and death. He reminds you of what He told you. He tells you again. He presents Himself here to you alive. He is risen, just as He said. The tomb is empty. Death is in its death throes. Away with sin and sorrow. Away with grumbling and slavish longing. Away with the devil and his lies. It is Easter! Christ has won! He is the Victor! And you are free! No longer live in the bondage of sin and death. Live in the life He has given you, His life, eternal life, resurrection life. Marvel if you will. It is marvelous. But remember what He tells you. It is really true. In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. The news is too good to keep to ourselves. So let us proclaim it to one another again: He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

Good Friday

April 2, 2010

Text: John 19:30 (ESV): “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

“It is finished,” Jesus said, as “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). 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 01, 2010

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday (C)[1]

April 1, 2010

Text: 1 Cor. 11:23-26 (ESV): 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

When our Lord Jesus says of His Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24, 25), He does not mean simply to “think about” Him or to “call to mind” His image or His work. Remembering, in the sense in which Jesus here speaks of it, is, in fact, to participate in Him and in the salvation that He brings. And that participation is passive on our part. It is a passive act of receiving what our Lord Christ here gives, His true body and blood, under the bread and wine, for you, for the forgiveness of sins. Body, blood, forgiveness of sins, the victory of the cross, bestowing and strengthening of faith, all of this is present because of the Word of the Lord, because He says so. For in His mercy, our Lord remembers us, and speaks His good Word to us, a living, active, powerful, liberating Word that always does what it says. When Jesus says of the bread, “This is my body,” it is His body, and we who receive it participate in His body. When Jesus says of the wine, “This is my blood,” it is His blood, and we who receive it participate in His blood. When Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven,” your sins are forgiven, and you participate and live in this forgiveness. Remembering is so much more than calling to mind. It is participation by receiving your Lord’s remembering of you.

This was the idea when God commanded the Israelites in the Old Testament to remember the Passover. In remembering, they actually participated in an event that happened to their ancestors in the past. The LORD had remembered His people Israel, beheld their suffering in bondage, and promised to release them. And release them He did. Every celebration of the Passover since was seen as a participation in the first Passover. The people participating in the Passover remembrance received in this way the same salvation their ancestors received when they were brought by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm out of the Land of Egypt. Those who were not actually and physically there that fateful night when the Angel of Death took every firstborn of man and beast in Egypt, but passed over the homes of the Israelites whose doorposts and lintels were painted with the blood of the sacrificial lamb… those who were not there, are there in the remembrance of the Passover. They are there in the eating of the lamb and the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs and the drinking of the cup. The LORD remembers them also, and graciously grants them the same salvation from bondage that He had given His people of old.

We were not present for our Lord’s Passion. None of us have ever stood before the “old rugged cross.” But as with God’s people in the Old Testament, so for the New Testament people of God, the new Israel, the holy Church, God makes our salvation present to us here in a meal. It is a means by which our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Himself brings the cross to us. He gives us His body and blood in the Holy Supper. Receiving this, we are given to participate in the greater Passover, the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover. We are given to eat THE sacrificial Lamb who was sacrificed on the altar of the cross, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Eating the body of this Lamb, His blood touching our lips and flowing into us, we are safe from death and eternal condemnation in hell. The doorposts and lintels of our hearts are painted with His blood, indeed, we are immersed in His blood, baptized into His death, and so the Angel of Death passes over. For God remembers us and grants us salvation. He leads us out of our Egyptian bondage to sin and death, through the wilderness of this fallen world, into the Promised Land of heaven and the resurrection.

You cannot go to the cross when you need forgiveness and salvation and life. The cross doesn’t exist anymore, and even if it did, it would be no help to you. It would be just a useless, superstitious relic. But you can come here, to the altar of God, and here our Lord Jesus will bring the cross to you. He will bring His suffering and death to you. He will bring His atoning sacrifice to you, the sacrifice that has reconciled you to the Father. He will forgive all your sins. And even as He is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity, He will grant you new and eternal life even now, today, here, at this altar.

So, who receives this Sacrament worthily? “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training” for reception of this blessed Supper. “But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.”[2] Beloved in the Lord, believe these Words. For they are God’s Words. They are the Words of the Word made flesh. Believe these Words and thus receive what they say and give, the forgiveness of all your sins, and so participate in the salvation won by your Savior. For God has remembered you, and given you this Sacrament, that you who are dying might eat and drink and not perish, but have everlasting life. You are covered with the blood of the Lamb. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This year’s Lenten series is based on Words of Life from the Cross (St. Louis: Concordia, 2010).
[2] Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).