Sunday, April 30, 2017

Easter 3 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“With Us Still”
Text: Luke 24:13-35 (1 Peter 1:17-25)

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

You’ve been on that road, the road to Emmaus, like those two disciples on that first Easter night. Maybe you’re on that road right now. The road of struggle and sadness. The road of disappointment and dashed hopes. The road of fear and an uncertain future. The road where your mind is filled with more questions than there are answers. That road . . . it’s a hard place to be.

We get on that road with our everyday lives. When we’re little we have plans and hopes and dreams. We are excited about life. What I’m going to be when I grow up. A house, a spouse, and children, and happily ever after. The car I’m going to drive, the job and career I’m going to have, the difference I’m going to make in the world.  . . .  And then we find ourselves on the road to Emmaus. Things didn’t work out quite as planned. It wasn’t as easy as we thought. People we thought would help us instead worked against us. There is death and disappointment. And so instead of skipping along like we thought we would and dreamed we would, we are shuffling down the road, heavy laden, and wondering about life.

We get on that road also with our spiritual lives. As new Christians we are excited about the faith. We want to tell others about our Saviour. We look forward to learning about the Word and growing and making a difference. And then we find ourselves on the road to Emmaus. Things didn’t work out quite as we thought they would. We find out that faith is hard and that the Church is not full of wonderful people, but sinners like us! One day our faith seems to be growing and the next we are filled with doubts and fears. There is the death and disappointment and sadness of folks who leave the Church. And so instead of skipping along like we thought we would, we are shuffling down the road, heavy laden, and wondering about our faith.

You’ve been on that road, the road to Emmaus. You may be on that road now, or maybe you were in the past, or maybe you will be in the future. Yes, that other disciple, walking to Emmaus with Cleopas, is you.

For those two disciples, walking to Emmaus that night, had one thing on their minds: the cross. They looked at what had happened, and compared that to what they had been hoping for, and they came to this conclusion: it’s over. Done. That cross ruined everything. Now what? 

We think that too, when the cross comes into our lives. When our hopes and dreams meet the detours of trials and failure and suffering. When sin comes crashing down on us, we make wrong choices, or we become unwilling pawns in someone else’s game. We wonder if God sees, or knows, or cares. And we look at what has happened or is happening, and compare that to what we had been hoping for, and we too can come to the conclusion: it’s over. Done. Now what?

That’s the voice of unbelief. And it can be a rather loud voice, can’t it? In our ears, in our minds, in our hearts. And it seems right, and it seems true, and it seems to make sense. 

Except for this: the crosses in our lives are there for our good. Maybe they’re not what we thought would happen, not what we hoped or dreamed would happen, not what we were planning on . . . but what God brings into your life He brings only for good. And the evil that comes upon you in this life? He can use that for good, too. When you’re on the road of disappointment, sorrow, sadness, and struggle, that may be hard to believe, but that makes it no less true. The God who created all things good is working good in you, too. Even through crosses.

And so to those two just-like-us disciples, Jesus comes that night. The crucified Jesus. The risen from the dead Jesus. The victorious and triumphant Jesus. But He keeps them from recognizing Him right away. For He has work to do, first. Teaching. About the cross. To teach them that the cross was part of God’s good and gracious plan, and from the very beginning. That this happened not for ruin, but for good. Not to shatter hope, but to give hope. Maybe not the way they thought it would be, but better. In ways they could not yet imagine.

So while He walks with them, Jesus opens up for them the Old Testament. Beginning with Moses and then going through all the prophets. And He says: See? God knew this was going to happen. See? God planned for this to happen. See? This cross, this death and resurrection, was the plan for good all along.

They listened. Their hearts were burning within them. But, like us so often, they didn’t quite get it. Because when you’re on that road, when you’re in the thick of the struggle, it’s easy to hear the words, but it’s so hard to believe them. Because things look and feel and seem so bad. Because the voice of unbelief telling us the opposite of all that, seems so right and true and sensible. Because the Word of God seems so contrary to reality! Jesus is dead and buried, not victorious. My life is in tatters, not victorious.

But here’s what Easter teaches us; and here’s what Jesus needed to teach those disciples on the road to Emmaus: God specializes in raising the dead. Satan and unbelief want us to think death is the end; that it’s all over, done. That when our plans don’t work out, that it’s all over, done. That when life’s tough, that it’s all over, done. But in reality, God is just getting started. Because through death He gives life. Death and resurrection is God’s go to pitch, to make us stop relying on ourselves and what we think is and should be, and to start relying on Him and His Word. And to start believing that whatever is happening in my life right now is for my good. Yes, even if it seems the very opposite.

That’s your Father’s baptismal promise to you. His promise when in that water you were raised from being dead in your trespasses and sins to a new life with Him, He promised that as His child, He would give you only good. Not just what you think is good, but what He knows is good. Sometimes those things are the same, but often they’re not. Often they are good struggles, good disappointments, good challenges, good crosses. And while it’s hard to believe that sometimes, that’s why Jesus opens up the Old Testament to us, and now also the New Testament, and says: See? Struggles where I worked good. See? Disappointments where I worked good. See? Challenges and crosses where I worked good. Do not be unbelieving, but believe. For what I did then for them I am doing now for you.

Their hearts were burning. They wanted Jesus to stay with them. Did He? Well, yes and no, perhaps we think. Yes, He stayed a while and had dinner with them, but then no, for then He left. But did He? Well, actually, no, He did not leave. Yes, He did stay with them. For, we are told, He vanished from their sight. And that’s quite a different thing than leaving. 

And when it happened is instructive, too. It was while they were at table. His table, really. For though He was a guest, He took charge. And He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. Was it the Lord’s Supper? Probably not. But the way Luke writes it, he sure wants you to think that way, and make that connection. That to us who are on the road to Emmaus with all its doubts and fears and struggles, we are not alone. Our Lord is with us. Even if we cannot see Him with our eyes, He comes to us in His Word, and is with us. He comes to us at the table, and is with us. He is right here, with us. With us with His good, and with us for our good. To give us life from the dead now, that we might also have life from the dead forever. Because that’s His specialty, you know. 

Which is good, for your life is as Peter said today: All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower falls . . . Or in other words, dying.

So maybe right now you’re like the green Spring grass and the beautiful Spring flowers that are bursting out all around us, that make the springtime so many people’s favorite season. And maybe it’s also the time of life we like best, when we’re young and things are new and the possibilities seem endless. But Spring doesn’t last long, does it? Pretty soon the weeds pop up, the heat of summer comes, damaging storms, searing drought. Does God love us in the Spring but not so much in the other? Of course not. Stay with us, Lord. And He does. Through it all. Because even though all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the grass, and though the grass withers and the flower falls, Peter then adds this word of comfort: [but] the word of the Lord remains forever. And not just the word that we hear and read, but the Word made flesh remains forever. The Word that conquered death in His resurrection and who can therefore never die again. The Word who came to and stayed with those disciples and who comes to and stays with all of us on our roads to Emmaus.

And then they saw things in a whole new way. And they took the same road back to the others, to encourage them. And you’ve been on that road, too. When your eyes have been opened and you’ve been enabled to see things in a new way. When you’ve been raised from the death of disappointment and struggle and disbelief and given forgiveness and joy and life. You’ve been on that road, too. And maybe to help those who are on the road who are still walking the other way and still asking, still wondering, What shall we do? Perhaps it is through you that they will hear what they’ve never heard before. Perhaps it is through you that they will receive hope and life. Perhaps you are the one who will come and stay with them, and through you, Jesus. That in the midst of death, there be life. 

For that’s Jesus’ specialty, you know. To take those who are on the road of sin and death, and give them life. To turn two disciples around from knowing only death to proclaiming The Lord has risen, indeed! And not just two disciples, but starting with them and even to today. ‘Cause that’s what we say this whole season . . . did you notice? We say their words! We confess that Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] He is alive, and with us, for good. Just as He said.

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Easter 2 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“The Gift of Peace”
Text: John 20:19-31 (Acts 5:29-42; 1 Peter 1:3-9)

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews . . .

The disciples were afraid. You can’t blame them. After what they had just seen. Their teacher, their Lord, taken away from them - and so quickly! The last three days had been a blur. And they were afraid. Afraid of what people can do. Afraid of what these people could now do to them. Because people can do all kinds of things to them. And to us.

Just look around. People kill. With swords, crosses, guns, bombs, and chemicals. And inventing new ways of killing all the time. People hurt. With whips, words, fists, hate. And inventing new ways of hurting all the time. People oppress, steal, belittle, rape, bully, mud sling, and enslave. And sometimes what is done doesn’t even make much sense - as if any of that I just said does, right? But think about it: at the same time babies are being aborted, new ways of conceiving them are being invented! We’re worried about health care and yet assisted suicides and mercy killings are on the rise. And while some weapons are banned, others - bigger and more lethal - are being invented.

Those words Jesus spoke from the cross were never truer: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). We really don’t know what we’re doing, do we?

But Jesus does. What He’s doing. What He came to do. And the cross couldn’t stop it. The grave couldn’t stop it. A giant stone or a locked door couldn’t stop it. In fact, this is what He came to do - break these. Defeat these. Overcome these. So that we who are locked in fear for fear of what people can do to us - and do do to us! - so that we can have peace. And with peace, joy. And with joy, confidence and life.

Because that’s really what Jesus was doing for the disciples that night - giving them their life back. Just as He had taken up His life again, risen from death and the grave, so He was giving them their life back again. Raising them from fear and unbelief, to life again.

So He comes to them. To those who thought He can’t come; He can’t help. He comes and helps. And He not only comes, He speaks to them. Words that make all the difference in the world: Peace be with you.

Think of all the things Jesus could have said. Think of all the things the disciples maybe wanted to hear. The things we want to know about life and death and life after death. But Jesus speaks this. Some things are not for us to know now. But this is. This is what Jesus wants us to know now. His peace. His forgiveness.

Think also of all the things Jesus could have done. Think of all the things the disciples maybe wanted Him to do. Slay their enemies and take revenge on those who did this to Him. But Jesus does this. This is how He gives peace. Not by getting rid of His - and our - enemies, for then He would have to get rid of those disciples, and us, wouldn’t He? For the times we in our sin have caused fear and trouble and hurt for others. 

And that kind of peace doesn’t work and doesn’t last anyway. Just ask the Romans. They tried to get peace through the cross. But they couldn’t. That’s why they had to keep crucifying people. Thousands of people. And you know it too. When one enemy goes away, another springs up in its place.

So no, that is not His peace. This is. The peace of a cross which finally did bring peace. Peace with God. The peace of sins forgiven. The peace of death defeated and the grave torn open. A peace, as Paul would later say, that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). That is there even when it shouldn’t be, humanly speaking. But is, because it’s not from us, but from God. Not our doing, His doing.

The kind of peace the disciples had that we heard about in the reading from Acts. Those people that killed Jesus were still out there and had, in fact, arrested the disciples. But they are no longer afraid of them. They have peace and joy and confidence when really, they shouldn’t have! (Humanly speaking.) It’s one of the reason why the Jewish leaders couldn’t figure them out. Why are they like that? Why would they rejoice that we beat them? Why would they not stop and so risk their lives?

If they would listen, they would know. For this peace comes through the Word of God. The Word that Jesus spoke to them, and speaks to us. And through His Spirit given to us through the Word that Jesus breathes. The very breath of God, breathed into Adam in the first creation, now breathed into us for re-creation. To give us the forgiveness and life we need.

A new life. A life the same, yet new. Different, yet new. For the Jesus that came to those frightened disciples was the same Jesus they saw nailed to the cross, speared in the side, and laid in the tomb. See? Here are the nail holes, He says. Here is where the spear went in. It’s the same Jesus, yet different. New. Resurrected. Triumphant. 

And that’s the life He has for you. The life He gave to the disciples, to Thomas, and the life He then sent them - and those who would come after them - to keep giving. As the Father sent me, even so I am sending you. They would go, and He would go with them. They would speak, and He would speak through them. They would forgive, and He would forgive through them. That there be peace for those locked in fear. Life for those locked in death. Forgiveness for those locked in sin. And hope. Hope for resurrection and life. For new life in an old, sinful world.

And the same Peter who was locked in that room that night, would later write about this new life here received - calling it a new birth. We heard those words today. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Born again. In Baptism. To a living hope. A new life. The same, yet different. A life, he goes on to say, in the midst of trials, but which the trials cannot overcome. Because its being kept in heaven for you. Because that’s where Jesus is. And where He is, you are, and will be.

So with such a hope, with such a life, though we sometimes want to hide from the world, just like the disciples; and though we may even want to hide from ourselves and what we see in our own hearts and lives . . . we need not hide. No. Peace be with you, Jesus says. See, here, My Body, My Blood. The same body and blood that hung on the cross. The same body and blood that Thomas groped. The same, but different. New. Resurrected. Living. And here not for your hands but for your lips. Not for proof, but for forgiveness. To pour My new life into you. That you taste and see that the Lord is good.

And blessed are you who have not seen as the disciples did in that locked room, and yet have had this new life poured into you. Blessed are you who have not seen, who have not seen as Thomas did, and yet have believed. Believed what? What John said. The reason why he wrote all these things. That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name

Life. New birth. In His Name. His Name put on you in Baptism that marks you as His. That marks you as His, and makes you what He is - a son of God. And so you are, as we sang: 
Sons and daughters of the King,
[to whom] the grave has lost its sting (LSB #470),
and so to whom peace has been given. Peace in forgiveness and blessing. To live, and to give. To live not in fear. And with freedom to give to others. Sons and daughters of the King, to whom the grave has lost its sting

For Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia! 
And blessed are you, who believe.

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Resurrection of Our Lord Sermon

Jesu Juva

“Still Fighting? Why? He is Risen!”
Text: Matthew 28:1-10

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Angels are not in the habit of sitting around. Whenever you hear of angels in the Scriptures, they are most often moving. Either bringing messages from God, standing at the ready to guard and protect us, or fighting the old, evil foe. Sitting around is just not in their job description.

So today, when we heard of an angel sitting, it’s significant. Sure, he is bringing a message from God. And sure, first, he acted, rolling away the stone from Jesus’ now-empty grave. But then, Matthew tells us, he sat on [that stone]. He sat on it. He stops standing, moving, fighting. He sat on it. Which is, I think, a seemingly insignificant detail filled with great significance. 

For he sits for this reason: the fighting, the battle is over. Look at the soldier guards, how strong they look now, trembling in fear and struck down like dead men. The fighting, the battle is over! The fight of the cross, the crushing wages of sin, the terror of death, and the battle against satan, is done. It’s over. There is a victor. The One who is no longer in the grave. And so the angel can rest. He sits down. Signaling with this deed the good news he is also proclaiming this day.

And his good news is this: Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay

So first off, two things. First, do not be afraid. Do not fear the Romans. Do not fear the Jews. Do not fear death and the grave. Do not fear the guilt of your sin. They have done their worst to Jesus but He has defeated them. They could not hold Him down. Yes, you saw Him die . . . but now look! He is up. He is risen. As He said. As He taught His disciples. As He said through the whole Old Testament. The prophet greater than Moses has provided an even greater exodus from the sin that has enslaved you. The Son of David has slain the even greater Goliath that has been threatening you, the one named death and hell. So do not be afraid! Instead, rejoice! 

That was the first good news of the angel. And the women did . . . sort of. They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy

Now, Matthew doesn’t tell us but the other evangelists do (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1), that the women had gone to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus; to properly take care of the body for its burial. What had been done in haste on Friday, to get Jesus down from the cross and into the tomb before the Passover started at sundown, would now, after the Sabbath is over, be done carefully and properly. Grim work.

But that’s the second good news of the angel: there is no dead body of Jesus to anoint! The only body of Jesus there is is a living body, a body that was dead and is alive again. You see the stone, you see the guard, but a dead Jesus you do not see. You will see Him, the angel says. Alive. But no more grim work to be done here. And so the women quickly dropped their weapons and ran to tell the disciples.

Wait . . . what . . . weapons? Matthew doesn’t say anything about weapons. True enough. They had no spear or sword. But they were still fighting. The battle against death. As feeble as their efforts would be, they would do what they could with their spices and anoint the body of Jesus. So what the angel was telling them here was really: stop fighting! Or to put that in a question form: Why have you come to still fight a battle that has already been won?

And that’s why the angel tells the women to go tell the disciples - for they were still fighting too. Fighting not with sword or spear, but with locks and hiding places. Fighting their guilt, fighting their fear, fighting their despair and unbelief. They, too, needed to know that they were still fighting a battle that had already been won. That Jesus is risen! Death is defeated and sin is forgiven. Satan has been stripped of his two most powerful and, really, his only two weapons: sin and death. If we need not worry about these, then what does he have left? What can he now do to us?

But there are still more that need to hear this, this good news. The women fighting death needed to hear it and the disciples fighting guilt and despair needed to hear it - but so do we. And we, too, need to be asked: Why are we still fighting the battle that has already been won?

Yes, why are we still fighting? 

Why are we still fighting for honor, power, and position?
Why are we still fighting for the things of this world?
Why are we still fighting sin and guilt by locking it up in our hearts, hiding it, denying it, or trying to justify ourselves and what we’ve done instead of repenting?
Why are we still fighting not to serve others but to be served by them?

And why are we still afraid?
Why are we still afraid of laying down our lives for others?
Why are we still afraid of what others think of us, and so afraid of what they will say of us?
Why are we still afraid of confession? 
Why are we still afraid of death?
And afraid, we pick up our weapons and fight. 
We fight against each other. We fight against God. Why?

The good news for you today is that you need not fight anymore. Jesus has won the victory for you, a greater victory than all your fighting could achieve anyway! So rest and rejoice! In Him.

Rest and rejoice. For did you not hear what St. Paul said today? Why are you still fighting for you life here, when your life is hidden with Christ in God!?

Your life is not something you can see or measure by worldly standards. You have a new life. 

For you have been raised with Christ - that’s baptismal talk. Just as Christ is risen and His tomb empty, so you too have been raised with Him to a new life. Your tomb as temporary as His.

And so, Paul says, set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Stop fighting the same old fight for the same old life and the same old stuff. That’s not who you are anymore; that’s not where your life is. Your life is in Christ. 

And though you maybe cannot see that now . . . maybe you look just the same as others, or maybe even worse or worse off . . . and though maybe your life doesn’t look very glorious now, when Christ who is your life appears, Pauls says, then you also will appear with him in glory. Then we will see the reality. Then we will see the victory that has been ours all along.

Why are we still fighting the battle that has already been won? Jesus’ resurrection has changed everything. Sit, rest, and rejoice in your Saviour.

Rejoice. Did you know that word was in our reading today too? You probably missed it because the English used the word Greetings! But when Jesus met the women after they had left the tomb and were on their way to the disciples, that is what He said to them - not just: Hi! How ya’ doing? But rejoice! Here I am, risen from the dead! Rejoice, I am alive! It is, in fact, the same word the angel Gabriel spoke to Jesus’ mother Mary when Jesus was conceived. Rejoice! Why, then? Because God was fulfilling His promise of sending a Saviour. And rejoice why, now? Because God had fulfilled His promise of saving us. So from the newly filled womb of Mary to the newly empty tomb, we have joy in Jesus and His work for us. The One who has come to fight for us, so that we can drop our weapons, lay down our arms, and rest in Him.

And that’s what we’ll do now, in just a few moments as Jesus comes here to meet us in His Supper. We’ll not take hold of his feet as the women did, but eat His Body and drink His Blood, which is better. For in so doing, we receive His victory - His forgiveness, His life, and His salvation. For this is no dead body we receive - there is no dead body of Jesus! Only His living body, and He comes here to us to give it to us. To give all of Himself to us. That we live, and rest and rejoice in Him.

And then, we’ll do as the women did: we’ll depart with fear and great joy. Great joy that we need not fight anymore, yet still fearing not fighting in a world that knows only fighting. Still fighting the fear and guilt and despair that wells up from the sinful flesh that still clings to us. Still fearing our sabre-rattling enemy who wants us to fear how powerful he wants us to think he still is.

But the empty tomb tells a different story. The truth of what we heard today: that the Lord has triumphed gloriously! Christ has risen from the dead and all things are under his feet. And then as Peter said: that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation (Small Catechism). There is joy and peace.

So why are you still fighting? Why are you still afraid?

Let us sing praise to Him with endless joy;
Death’s fearful sting He has come to destory.
Our sin forgiving, alleluia!
Jesus is living, alleluia!  (LSB #466, refrain)

Yes, alleluia! For Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Vigil Homily

Jesu Juva

“Rest in the Word”

The United States dropped the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan a couple of days ago. The noise from that blast deafening. The destruction overwhelming. But after the echoes cease and the crumbling settles, there is quiet. A complete, almost heavy, silence. 

In a little less dramatic way, the same is true after a storm. After a significant snow storm, when the earth is blanketed in white, if you go outside, there is quiet. A complete, almost heavy, silence.

It is the same silence we felt here the past two nights. On Thursday, the service was over, the altar was stripped. We stood in silence. A complete, almost heavy, silence. What just happened? What do we do next? 

Last night as well. We heard of Jesus’ passion, the lights were out - except for one. Silence. What just happened? What do we do next?

It is the silence of rest. What is usual and ordinary stops. And there is quiet. A complete, almost heavy, silence. A sabbath rest.

That is what we do tonight. Rest. But not just rest by doing nothing. Rest as God intended it. Rest in His Word. Tonight answers the questions: What just happened? What do we do next? We hear from the Old Testament what just happened, because it was foretold what would happen. The great stories of the Old Testament in reality just glimpses of the even greater story of what Jesus would do. We think about this, and then know what to do next. That will come tomorrow, as we break out in full-throated joy on Easter. But not yet. Tonight we rest.

The Church used to do that as well with those who were baptized at Easter. After such a big event in their lives, they needed time to rest and think: What just happened? What do we do next? And so the whole week after Easter, they rested in the Word of God. Everyday, hearing the stories and hearing of what had just happened to them. Their new life. Their new reality.

So we do that too. We remember our baptism and the new life given to us; the new reality in which we now live. The life of Christ crucified, the life of Christ risen, now our life. That’s a big deal, though we may not always think about it or realize it.

Because really, with the death and resurrection of Jesus, the mother of all bombs has been exploded. Satan thought he was dropping it on us. The reality is that Christ was dropping it on Him. And now his kingdom is in ruins. His answer to the questions: What just happened? And: What do we do next? quite different than ours!

And that’s why we can rest. Satan’s kingdom is in ruins. Christ has won. And so our quiet is not like the devastating aftermath of a bomb blast, but more of the after-the-snowfall quiet. Or as Isaiah put it: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Tonight, Christ has covered the ugliness and filth of our sin with His perfect, white, pure forgiveness. So that we can rest, now and forever, in His love.

And so tonight we enjoy a sabbath rest as God always intended our sabbath rest to be - not just a ceasing from work, but a resting in His Word. A resting that gives us far more. 

So listen as Jesus explains to us from the Old Testament what just happened? and what do we do next? Marvel at how He has stitched all things together in Himself, as we wait - as I tell you every year - not as mourners remembering the dead, but as wise virgins awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom.

Oh, and in case you were wondering . . . about the rebuilding that takes after a bomb blast, and the shoveling that takes place after the snowfall . . . well, Jesus has taken care of that, too. His body is risen and restored to life; what was destroyed has been rebuilt. And so, too, will our bodies be, when on the Last Day He shovels all the dirt off our graves and we rise to life with Him. And that day will be a day of rest as well. Not a day of doing nothing, but true rest. An eternal sabbath rest. Resting in the Word and in His praise. Forever.

This is the night. Come and rest.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Good Friday Evening Sermon

Jesu Juva

“And the Light Increases . . .”
Text: John 18-19; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

An early Medieval theologian and monk named Hesychius of Alexandria wrote that when Jesus preached of not hiding a lamp under a basket but putting it on a stand for all to see (Matthew 5:15), Jesus was talking about Himself. For He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), now put up on the stand of the cross to give light to all the world. To enlighten us to the greatness of God’s love, and the greatness of His forgiveness. That He would do this, what we remember especially this night, for us. For sinners like us. 

And so a strange thing will be happening tonight. As the lights dim and the candles go out, at the same time as it will be getting darker, it will also be getting lighter. For the light of Jesus and His love will be getting brighter and brighter. As His life decreases our life increases. The son dies as a criminal, that we sinners live as sons of God. That’s what this night, and indeed Jesus’ whole life, is all about. You and your life.

So tonight we remember that our great high priest passes from life to death and the grave, not in defeat, but to conquer it. That then passing from death to life, rising from the grave and passing through the heavens, we will do so also with Him. That is our confession, our testimony, as we gather here tonight. That there is light in the midst of darkness, and life in the midst of death. Because sometimes in our world - and even in us - the darkness and death seem to deep, too much; the evil too great. The way people treat each other. The wars and inhumanity. The evil that is approved of as good, and the good that is rejected as evil. And we wonder about the future. We doubt whether the good will really win or be stamped out. And we fear, for ourselves and for our children.

But tonight we see that we are not the first to live through such times. As Jesus hung on the cross, shedding his blood and breathing His last breaths, His followers wondered all those things, too. And probably more. Everything was coming apart and unraveling. All their hopes, dashed. Their faith greatly shaken. A world of all evil and no good is a frightening place indeed.

But the one who gave them their faith would not let it be extinguished. He would sustain them through this time of great darkness, even as He will sustain us. And not just for a few days, until the joy and light of Jesus’ resurrection, but until the Last Day, when Jesus returns and we pass through the heavens with Him, to light without darkness and life that has no end. We know that day is coming. We know that the darkness and evil we now see will not win. We belong to the one who is greater than it all.

So that’s why - as we hear the story again and the lights are dimmed and the candles are extinguished - at the same time as it will be getting darker, the light increases . . .  The world sees a dying man. We see a victorious Saviour.

So we’ll hear in a moment that when Jesus is arrested, Peter draws the sword. No Peter - this is not that kind of fight. You can’t win it that way. The victory will be in Jesus’ death. And a candle goes out, and the light increases . . .

Then we’ll hear of Peter’s denials. Without his sword, robbed of his earthly weapon, he cowers in fear. This fight will be fought by only one. Alone. And a candle goes out, and the light increases . . .

Then Jesus is on trial before the earthly authority. And here, the Good One is called evil, and the evil they are doing they think good. Pilate asks, What is truth? He doesn’t really want to know. He is mocking. Can truth be known? Does truth even really matter? Or does what we think is best matter more than the truth? Many today ask those same questions and think those same thoughts. But in response, Jesus doesn’t fight back, He simply confesses the truth. For the truth will win. And a candle goes out, and the light increases . . .

After that the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled. Jesus is stricken, smitten, and afflicted. He bears our griefs and carries our sorrows. He is mocked, He is struck, He is belittled. And then the chief priests utterly and fully rejected their God: We have no king but Caesar. It is as John wrote at the very beginning of His Gospel: He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. Jesus is handed over to be crucified, where He will be death’s death. And a candle goes out, and the light increases . . .

Next, He is stripped of all His garments and hung up on the cross. The Romans did it to shame Him, but He is not ashamed. For Adam, without sin, was naked but not ashamed. And so Jesus, the sinless one, is not ashamed. He is restoring what Adam lost. He is making all things good again. And a candle goes out, and the light increases . . .

Then we see and hear the love of our heavenly Bridegroom. The One who left His Father to come down to earth, now also leaves His mother to cling to His Bride, the Church. To us. To you. He will not save Himself. He will save you. He will cling to you, your sin, your death, your grave, that you have Him, His forgiveness, His life, and His kingdom. He says it is finished, and “it” is. Not His life - your salvation. And a candle goes out, and the light increases . . .

And then finally, He is laid in the grave. How many have been laid beside Him in such graves since that day? Friends and loved ones, young and old, well-known and unknown. He joins them, so that they may join Him. All washed with the blood and water that flowed from His side, washed clean of their sins. He joins them, so that they may join Him. And when you, one day, join Him there, in the grave, it is with that confidence: that you will join Him not only there, but where He now is, in Paradise. And a candle goes out, and the light increases . . .

And how bright that final light shines in the darkness. John’s words again. What He wrote at the beginning of His Gospel, now true: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). And so we’ll sing: 
And then from death awaken me, 
That these mine eyes with joy may see, 
O Son of God, Thy glorious face, 
My Savior and my fount of grace.

And He will. 

Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end (LSB #708 v.3).

And we will.

Because tonight, the light is on the stand for all the world to see.

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