Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

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

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