Sunday, April 22, 2012

Easter 3 Misericordias Domini

John 10:11-16 – Misericordias Domini – April 22, 2012
What Makes Our Shepherd Good
If someone were to say that he is a good cook, we would expect him to be good at cooking food.  If someone were to say that he is a good athlete, we would expect him to be coordinated and quick.  To say that someone is a good this or a good that is to say that he does this or that well.  For any given discipline, there is a specific set of criteria to distinguish the mark of excellence.  So then, what makes a good shepherd?  What are the criteria?  Well, he must tend the sheep.  This means he needs to lead them to green pastures and still waters; he needs to keep them from straying; and above all, lest it all be for naught, he needs to be equipped and willing to fend off predators that would snatch the sheep and scatter the flock.  A shepherd who does this is a good shepherd. 
It doesn’t make any sense to call a shepherd good apart from saying what the shepherd does.  And so when Jesus calls himself the good shepherd, he immediately follows up his claim with his qualifying credentials.  “I am the good shepherd,” he says. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  Who Jesus is and what he does always go together.  His sacrificial suffering and death sum up for us all the duties of the good shepherd.  The tending, the feeding, the leading are all found wrapped up in his dying on the cross. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good Friday

John 18-19 - Good Friday - April 6, 2012
(Adapted from a sermon prepared by Christian A. Preus)
What is Truth?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
O Son of God, eternal Word,
Divine Redeemer, dearest Lord,
We marvel at Thy suff’ring;
For Thy disgrace, and pain, and shame,
We'll ever magnify Thy name,
And praise Thy glorious off’ring. 
Amen.  Jesus teaches us to say Amen.  Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer, which we have been considering during our evening services this Lent, and so we say Amen to it.  Jesus teaches us to say Amen not simply by telling us to say Amen when we end our prayers.  But He Himself also sets the example. 
Jesus says Amen when He wants to affirm that something is true. How many times throughout His ministry here on earth did He say this word!  Amen is the word of one who is confident of the truth.  And Jesus was very confident of the truth.  In fact, He was the very truth of which He spoke.  Jesus declared to His disciples shortly before He went to the cross: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; nobody comes to the Father, except through Me” (John 14:6).  Jesus is truth, and His words are truth.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-15 - Maundy Thursday - April 5, 2012 
Here Is Where We Learn of Love

Jesus loved His disciples.  He spent three years teaching them what He had come to teach us.  He taught them that the Son of Man must be betrayed and suffer many things, and that He must be lifted up and draw all men to Himself.  He taught them what it meant to love by teaching them what it meant to be loved by God.  Jesus is loved by His Father.  This love extends before time and into eternity.  But it is grounded in time in the hour that Jesus had waited for.  “Therefore My Father loves Me,” Jesus said, “because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  Think of what this means!  This means that the love that the Father and the Son had shared from eternity was from before all time wrapped and bound in that singular act that Jesus had been born to do.  God’s boundless love that knows neither beginning nor end cannot be known at all apart from what happened once and for all on the cross.  HERE ALONE IS WHERE WE LEARN OF LOVE. 

Easter 2 Quasimodogeniti

John 20:19-31 – Quasimodo Geniti – April 15, 2012
Our Historical Faith
Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia! That word “indeed” is an important word.  We do not say “He is risen in my faith,” or “He is risen in my hopes and dreams.”  That would be ridiculous.  No, we say, “He is risen indeed, in fact, in reality. Alleluia!”  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historical event no less than His crucifixion and death under Pontius Pilate.  Our faith does not rely on anyone’s religious thoughts.  We don’t rely on what is within us; our faith relies on what is outside of us.  We rely on actual events that really happened.  Christian faith corresponds to reality. 
What we preach and what we believe depend entirely on Christ being raised from the dead.  St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”  What we preach and what we believe is true. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8 - Easter Sunday - April 8, 2012 
He Is Risen!  He Is Raised!  The Stone Is Rolled!

Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!  What more appropriate thing to say on this day when we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord from the dead?  The proclamation speaks for itself.  There is so much significance to the fact that Jesus who was dead is now alive that it is hard to say anything more significant than the plain and simple fact: Christ is risen.  Alleluia!  Every Christian should meditate on this.  And so we will. 
Christ is risen.  Christ is raised.   What’s the difference?  Well, it’s the same difference as between lie and lay, or sit and set.  But this is more than a lesson on proper grammar – believe it or not, there’s something useful to be learned from this distinction.  To rise is to stand up by one’s own power.  That’s what Jesus did.  To raise is to cause something else to stand up that has no power in itself.  That’s what the Father did for Jesus. 
So who did what?  Did Jesus rise?  Did the Father raise?  Well, both.  Just as the golden sun rises in the east, so the glorious Son of God rose from the dead.  Just as parents raise up a child, so the Father raised His crucified only begotten Son from the grave.  Let’s consider both of these statements: Jesus rose.  The Father raised. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday

John 12:12-19 - Palm Sunday - April 1, 2012 
Praising our King

Every election cycle we witness it all over again – although this year it has seemed to last especially long – politicians running for public office trying to sell themselves as public servants who have your best interests in mind.  It’s an interesting thing to watch if you don’t let it depress you too much.  But while they all try to court your trust and win your vote with affected displays of meekness, it becomes painfully clear every year that it is not always your peace and prosperity that drives these men and women to aspire for public office.  It is raw power.
Now, I know this sounds pretty cynical of me.  And I know there are some politicians out there who have good intentions to rule wisely and fairly.  But true statesmen are few and far between.  Power corrupts.  The very taste of it turns seemingly harmless ideologues into oppressive tyrants.  When we go to the polls, we often resign ourselves to choose the lesser of two evils.  We’re not looking for a political messiah; we don’t expect one; we’re just looking to get the best we can.  Of course, it’s good to pray for, and even campaign for, good rulers.  But this doesn’t mean we have much confidence in the things they can accomplish for us.  It is as it says in Psalm 118:
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man; it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9).