Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vigil of Easter

Vigil of Easter: Exodus for All[1]
March 30, 2013

Text: Amos 9:7 (ESV): “‘Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?’ declares the LORD. ‘Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?’”

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            Israel’s exodus from Egyptian slavery is a major theme of the Easter Vigil.  Remember, it is at the center of the Passover, the Old Testament Festival in which God’s people would gather around the table for unleavened bread and wine, bitter herbs, and a lamb that had been sacrificed, reminding them that their fathers in Egypt slaughtered a lamb and painted its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their dwellings so that the angel of death would pass over.  This was the last and greatest of the plagues by which the LORD delivered His people Israel.  Every first-born of man and beast was claimed by the angel of death, except those protected by the blood of the lamb.  The Israelites were to commemorate the Feast each year, and so sacramentally participate in the exodus by the meal.  The son and the father recited liturgical lines that would bring the significance home to the whole family: “And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery’” (Ex. 13:14). 
            In our text from Amos 9, however, the LORD reminds His people that what He did for them, He also does for others.  God does not play favorites.  His exodus is for all.  He sent His deliverance to Cush, a land far away from Israel around the modern nation of Ethiopia, and He sent His deliverance to the Arameans and the Philistines, nearby sworn enemies of Israel.  And the point is this: Israel was not to be secure in their status as a favored nation.  God had delivered them from Egypt, to be sure.  But He could send them back into captivity, and He would do so in 722 BC at the hands of the Assyrians.  This in response to their idolatry, their abuse of the poor, the rampant miscarriage of justice, and the spiritual arrogance that had taken hold on the nation.  But so also the promise.  There would be a remnant.  The LORD would restore His people Israel.  It would be a new exodus accomplished by the Son of David, the promised Messiah.
            You know something of what it means to be enslaved by an enemy who “taunts and destroys.  [You] feel his accusing whip slice open [your] past.  [You] hear his war cry, ‘Because you thought this, watched this, did this, and said this you will have hell to pay!’  Sensing his hot breath on the [back of your neck, you] hear him calmly whisper, ‘I will draw my sword, and my hand will destroy you.’  Jesus calls this enemy a ‘murderer and a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).  Peter says he is ‘a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).  Paul describes him as ‘the god of this age who blinds our minds’ (2 Corinthians 4:4).  And John calls him a destroyer (Revelation 9:11)” (Lessing). 
            But here is what the LORD does for you in the face of your enemy.  Just as He blew His Spirit and the waters of the Red Sea covered Pharaoh and his host so that Israel could escape, just as He blew His Spirit and brought His people out of bondage in Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem, so the LORD promises to deliver you.  Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).  The Spirit blows into the womb of the Virgin Mary and the Son of God becomes flesh.  He becomes flesh to go toe to toe with our enemy, the devil.  He does it in a most mysterious way, by an exodus through death to resurrection.  The religious authorities conspire against Him.  He is betrayed by one of His own, handed over to the Romans, falsely accused, unjustly condemned, mocked, beaten, spat upon, crowned with thorns, and made to carry His own cross outside the City to the place of execution.  There, He is nailed to the wood and lifted up, naked and humiliated, to bear the sin of the whole world.  The enemy thought he had won.  He thought he had successfully defeated the Christ, the Lord of life.  “I will draw my sword,” said the devil, “and my hand will destroy you” (Lessing).  “Blood-soaked and spiked to a tree for six hours, [our Lord’s] lungs scream for air.  After a loud cry He bows His head and dies.  But (and make no mistake about this either), the Lord blew His Spirit once more and made a way through the sea of death to bring His Son to life forevermore!  ‘He is not here!  He has risen just as He said’ (Luke 24:6)” (Lessing).  
            Beloved, the Lord still blows His Spirit.  He blows His Spirit over the water of your Baptism into Christ, and you are born again.  The Spirit hovers over the baptismal water, and you are freed from your sin, freed from your death, freed from the devil who has been conquered in the death and resurrection of Christ.  And because Christ lives, into whom you’ve been baptized, you are assured of this: The Spirit will blow yet again, on the Last Day, and raise you from the dead.  The trumpet will sound.  The Lord Jesus will appear.  And what will finally happen to the devil?  Our Lord Jesus will seize that ancient serpent and throw him into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19-20).  You are free from his tyranny forever. 
            In the meantime, there is a meal.  God’s people gather around the Table to eat unleavened bread and drink wine, and in this way partake of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  It is the Supper of His body and blood.  Protected by the blood of this Lamb, the angel of death passes over, and God’s people, you, beloved, are taken in exodus from this land of bondage to the Promised Land of God’s Kingdom.  “The exodus is here.  The exodus is now.  The exodus is for all” (Lessing).  This exodus is for you.  For 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] The theme and many of the ideas in this sermon are from R. Reed Lessing, Restore the Roar! (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012).


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