Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8 - Easter Sunday - March 31, 2013 
God’s Words & Actions Speak Loudly

There’s a famous saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who lived about 800 years ago, that says: “Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.”  Now, people like to pretend that this is really profound, as though the true nature of the Gospel is seen in the things that we do rather than in the things that we say.  But it is not profound.  It sounds pretty clever, sure.  But it’s really quite absurd.  And we know that!  Because the Gospel consists of words.  They are God’s words.  They tell us something.  God’s words report His actions, and, in fact, it is God’s word itself that carry out His actions.  God’s word actually accomplishes what He speaks. 
They say that actions speak louder than words.  Well, sure they do.  This is true as far as we are concerned, but not with God.  With us, when there’s a disconnect between what we say and do, we call it hypocrisy – like when someone says one thing and then does another.  Or we might simply chalk it up to weakness – like when someone makes a promise to do something, but then lacks the strength to perform.  But with God, neither of these is possible.  First of all, because God cannot deny Himself or lie.  Second of all, because God is almighty.   It’s not possible for Him to say that He’ll do something and then find Himself unable to do it.  He’s God.  There is no dissonance or discrepancy between what God says and what God does. 

Easter Sunday

1 Peter 3:17-22 - Easter Sunrise - March 31, 2013 
Crushing the Devil’s Head 

Jesus purchased and won us from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  He did so not with perishable things like gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.  He did this in order that we might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom of grace here on earth.  This life consists of the forgiveness of all our sins, and the daily cleansing of a bad conscience.  We have been redeemed to serve God in holiness.  We live by faith — because, although we are given the Holy Spirit who works new desires in our hearts to will and perform what pleases God, we still must contend with our flesh and blood.  We sin.  The holiness we possess as redeemed children of God is a holiness that we possess by faith in the Son of God.  We see this holiness in Christ, not in ourselves.   He is the life of all the living. 
But in good time, when in God’s wisdom we leave this world – whether by death or by our Lord’s imminent return, we will live forever in God’s kingdom of glory.  What we now know and see dimly will be made clear and bright.  We will no longer struggle against sin or doubt or depression or chronic pain or whatever else makes life such a bear.  Our bodies will be glorified and spiritual even as Christ’s body has been glorified.  Our minds will be enlightened and wise and sharp because they will be completely conformed to the mind of Christ.  Our holiness will no longer be an article of faith, because the mystery of our union with Christ will be unhidden.  We will know our Lord even as we are known.  We will spend eternity in the presence of Him who once was slain to redeem us.  His blood will clothe us forever in the righteousness that will never leave us ashamed. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

John 19:31-37 - Good Friday - March 29, 2013 
That the Scripture Should Be Fulfilled

Our Lord suffered in body and soul on the cross to save us poor sinners from the eternal sufferings of hell.  Isaiah foretold it in that beautiful chapter that I just read.  God’s Servant bore our sin.  The Lord God laid them on Him so that He might take our place.  He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted as though He were responsible for every sin that makes God mad.  That’s what it means to take our place.  He took our place under His Father’s anger – an anger that He totally agreed with.  And He agreed to endure it too.  No one has ever known such pain.  But He knew it.  And by His knowledge, God’s righteous Servant justified many.  Because His pain was not useless — it was not senseless.  By suffering the way He did, Jesus bore our iniquities. 
God justifies us, that is, He declares us to be righteous in His sight, by taking our sin away in a very real way.  God requires that we live a holy life.  He also requires that the sinner be punished for his sin.  God receives satisfaction for both – both the obedience that we could not render and the deserving death of the sinner – in the same place!  He demands the perfect life of His Son.  And so, in obedience to His Father’s will, Jesus poured out His soul unto death. 
And when He did, although His physical thirst was mocked by sour wine, His thirst for our salvation was fully quenched — because it was in His pain, and in the mockery He endured that Jesus made peace between God and sinners.  There was nothing beyond the painful death of Jesus that God demanded for our salvation.  This was it!  And that’s why Jesus was able to cry out what He did: “It is finished! – it’s done!”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-14/Matthew 26:17-30 - Maundy Thursday - March 28, 2013 
For You

The Passover was to be celebrated as a statute forever.  Even before God commanded Moses what to do, He made it very clear how important its celebration would be for years to come and even forevermore.  “This month shall be for you the beginning of months.”  Their whole calendar would be reoriented around the events that God would soon accomplish.  “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord, throughout your generations, as a statute forever.” 
But, of course, we don’t celebrate it anymore, do we?  The reason is simple.  Christ fulfilled it.  The Passover pointed to what Jesus would do to save sinners from eternal punishment.  The reason God was so adamant about its continual celebration wasn’t because of the ritual itself.  No, it was because God requires faith in Christ.  Consider these words from Psalm 51:
O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lent Midweek

Luke 23:33-34 - Lent I-V Midweek - February 20, 27; March 6, 13, 20, 2013
Confession & Absolution / Office of the Keys
Forgive them!
And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” 
O sinner, come thy sin to mourn,
So vast and vile that it has borne
Christ to this vale of anguish;
Son of a Virgin, sweet and mild
In poverty the Holy Child,
Thy substitute, did languish;
Behold, with faith, God’s only Son!
Come nigh and see what Love has done
To save thee from damnation;
The Father cast on Him thy guilt,
For thee His precious blood was spilt,
To bless thee with salvation.  Amen. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lent 5

John 8:46-59 - Judica, Lent V - March 17, 2013 
Seeing Death Aright

To be “of God” means to be born of God.  It means to have faith in God.   The Holy Spirit engenders faith in our hearts through the forgiveness of sins.  That’s how we are born of God.  We receive forgiveness by believing God’s word.  The power to give us new birth in the Sacrament of Baptism is nothing other than the command and promise of Jesus that through this Sacrament of water our sins are indeed forgiven and we are received as God’s dear children.  The power here again is in the words He speaks.  We benefit from Jesus’ words by believing Jesus’ words.  Through faith in Him, God rescues us from the sin and death that we have inherited from our father in the flesh, Adam.  And He gives to us by faith a new and better inheritance – it’s a spiritual inheritance with His eternal Son, and our Brother in the flesh, Jesus Christ.  He is the second Adam, the Perfect Man.  Who can convict Him of sin?  No one.  Not even God. 
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. 
So wrote King David at the end of Psalm 139.  And yet only Jesus is able to say this with full confidence of impunity: search Me; try Me.  He says this to God!  And “which one of you,” He asked the Jews, “convicts Me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?”  Jesus exposed their unbelief.  They couldn’t accuse Him of anything false He had either said or done, but they didn’t believe Him anyway.  And Jesus told them why: “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”