Saturday, April 7, 2007

Easter Sunrise

“The Gardener” John 20:10-18 Easter Sunrise Matins
+ In the name of Jesus +

Mary Magdalene is standing near the tomb in the garden weeping. A garden, a woman, a grave--that sounds a lot like Eve, doesn’t it. Was it not in the garden that Eve, with Adam, fell away from God? In so doing did she not bring a curse of pain and sorrow upon herself? Was not death the result of her and her husband’s sin? In her helplessness and hopelessness and loneliness, Mary Magdalene, the daughter of Eve, weeps.

So it is for all the children of Eve, for all you who are dust to dust. Everything is only temporary in this vale of tears. Nothing lasts. It is written, “All people are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall.” Even youthful glory is permeated by the degenerative power of death. It’s the hollowness that you still have after you’ve taken in your fill of all this passing world has to offer. It’s the so-called “fun” you rationalize that ends up taking from you more than it gives. It’s the camaraderie you seek by going along with the crowd that turns out to be a sort of crowded isolation. There’s ultimately no avoiding the brokenness of mortality. In the end you are left right where Mary is, bent over, staring through wet eyes into the mouth of the grave.

But what does Mary see? Not only does she see that Jesus’ tomb is empty, but she also beholds two angels sitting where the Lord had lain. And these messengers of the Lord ask her, “Why are you weeping?” It’s almost as if they said, “There’s no need for tears any more. For the crucified One whom you seek has risen. He who bore the curse of the world’s sin has redeemed you from the curse forever. He who was held by the jaws of the grave has shattered those jaws and has destroyed death’s power over you. He who did battle with the kingdom of darkness has crushed the devil’s head by His holy cross, setting you free from hellish bondage. Do not cry. For Jesus is alive for you as the triumphant conqueror and the Lord of all.”

Mary turns around and sees Jesus. But she doesn’t yet know that it’s Him. She mistakes Jesus for the gardener. And yet she really isn’t mistaken, is she. Jesus is the Gardener. For He is the Second Adam. And was not the first Adam the caretaker of Eden’s garden? So also Jesus is risen to restore you, His people, to Paradise. This New Adam walks in the garden in the cool of the new day and reveals Himself to the daughter of Eve. What He brings to her and to you is not judgment but justification, not sin but righteousness, not death but life. Jesus completely reverses and totally undoes the fall. It is written, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Jesus is not only the Gardener, He is also the Seed which is planted in the garden. He is the promised Seed of Eve which overcomes the serpent. Jesus had said that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, then it is fruitful. So it was that Jesus was crucified and planted in the garden tomb. The Seed had to die and be buried in order that it might sprout and bear fruit.

Jesus, then, is the New Vine of the garden, which has arisen out of the earth. And by the watering of this garden, which is Baptism, He bears fruit, that is, He produces Christians who are made alive in Him and who are given to share in His resurrection. You are the fruit of Christ’s labor. The sweet juices of His goodness and mercy fill you. The water of life flows through Him into you. Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.”

Jesus makes Himself known to Mary simply with one word. The sheep know the Shepherd’s voice, and He calls them each by name. In the joy of this sudden recognition, Mary cries out “Rabboni!” “Teacher!”

Has not the Teacher also revealed Himself to you by calling your name at the blessed font? Indeed, by water and the Word He drew your name into the name of the Holy Trinity, uniting you with Himself and thereby making you a child of God. So it is that Jesus says, “My Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Do you see what that means? You are given the same status as Jesus. All that Christ is and has He has made your own: release from sorrow, abounding forgiveness, indestructible life and joy. By virtue of your baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection, you are now His kin, His own flesh and blood, restored to communion with God and with one another. Believing in Him you shall share in the eternal inheritance of His new creation.

Therefore, it is written, “‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. . . God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”
+ In the name of Jesus +

Thursday, April 5, 2007

St. John Passion

The 12th Station of the Cross - Jesus dies on the Cross.
This particular station is found in St. Raphael's Cathedral, Dubuque, Iowa.

From My Friend Pastor Aaron Koch. Some brief meditations on the different sections of the St. John Passion for Good Friday.
John 18:1-11

The devil had come to Adam in the garden full of deceit to bring upon him the curse of death. Now Judas, into whom the devil had entered, comes full of deceit to Jesus in the garden, betraying Him to death. But Jesus is not like the old Adam, who hid among the trees in fear. He is the new Adam who has come to undo the curse by His cross. Jesus goes forth boldly to meet His captors, fully prepared to drink the cup of judgment given Him by His Father.

Jesus is the great I AM, the eternal God revealed in the burning bush to Moses. His name causes His enemies to draw back and fall to the ground. For all who do not call on His name in faith will fall to their own destruction. Yet He who took up our humanity submits to their capture, saying "Let these go their way," so that none of the disciples given Him would be lost. For Jesus came that they and all of us who bear His saving name might be released from the powers of darkness. This victory is won not by the sword but by sacrifice.

John 18:12-27

Jesus is led away in chains as if He were a dangerous criminal. For His teaching threatens those who are self-righteous. He is questioned by the religious leaders and then slapped in the face for the answers He gives. They are not really looking for answers but excuses to execute Him and to justify their deeds. We also slap Jesus in the face whenever we try to justify ourselves and don't humbly pay attention to preaching and His Word.

Peter has three chances to confess that he knows Christ. Three times Peter fails. He would have to live for a while with the awful emptiness of his disloyalty and failure. We know that weakness of the flesh, too, when we deny Jesus with our words or behavior, seeking to avoid negative consequences to our reputation or our income or our life. Apart from Christ, Peter can do nothing, in spite of his good intentions.

Jesus had told Peter this would happen. Jesus did so not only to cut brash Peter down to size, but also to teach Peter that His love would remain despite Peter's sin. Peter would call Jesus' words to mind when the rooster crowed and weep. But he would also realize that Jesus didn't reject him even though He knew this about him ahead of time. So also with you-Jesus knows you and how you will stumble and falter. And yet He doesn't reject you; He sticks with you despite yourself. The rooster's crow is not only a call to repentance but also a call to faith in Jesus' constant love.

John 18:28-40

The Jewish leaders do not want to enter Pilate's Praetorium, especially during this time of the Passover, lest they be defiled by being in a Gentile building. But they are already defiled within by their sinful motives and desires. So also, we are all too often concerned about outward righteousness and appearances, when the Lord looks at the heart and desires the inward righteousness of faith. To be undefiled is to confess your sins for what they are and to trust in Him who is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jesus stands before Pilate. Pilate received His authority from God. And now God in the flesh humbles Himself to be placed under this authority. The Judge of all men is being judged by a man. Judgment should be based on truth, but the only thing Pilate can say is "What is truth?" All fallen human beings are liars, the Psalm says. But Jesus is Himself the truth. He is reality. He is the way things are, the truth of God's mercy shown to those who have not deserved it.

Pilate finds Jesus innocent, no fault in Him at all. But the crowds don't want Jesus, they want Barabbas. The violent robber goes free that Jesus might rob us of our sin by being violently executed. The one who took life lives; the One who gives life dies. This is God's good and gracious will, that Christ should die in the place of sinners. Jesus goes to death in our place, so that we might live forever in His place, in His kingdom, which is not of this world. Pilate's plan to release Jesus fails. The Passover Lamb will be sacrificed by the Father to take away the sin of the world.

John 19:1-16

Pilate brings a bloodied and humiliated Jesus out before the people and says, "Behold the Man!" Jesus is the only real Man, the only one whose masculinity has not been corrupted and diminished by His own sin. He is the real Man who lays down His life for His beloved Church, His elect Lady. He allows Himself to be scourged and mocked and treated inhumanely in order to rescue her. He bears her thorny curse to release her from it. "By His wounds we are healed." Those who are less than men cannot stand the sight of Jesus and cry out "Crucify Him!"

Such people of this world follow those with the power and the influence. "We have no king but Caesar," they say. But earthly rulers fail you, as it is written, "Trust not in princes, in mortal men who cannot save." Only this King, Jesus, can save. He exercises His authority not be being served but by serving, giving His life as a ransom for His subjects. He saves not by killing but by being killed, sharing in our mortality so that we might share in His immortality.

John 19:17-24

Jesus is crucified at Golgotha, the Place of a Skull. His cross, like a dagger, is here stabbed into the Skull. And in this way death itself is killed. Though His feet are pierced, yet those same feet crush Satan's head and pulverize the power of the grave.

The religious leaders don't like the fact that Pilate put the title over our Lord's head, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." They ask him to change it. But the earthly authority whom God has established says, "What I have written, I have written." God even causes this pagan ruler to proclaim the truth. Jesus is the King of the Jews, that is, the King of all those who are the true children of Abraham, who trust in God's promises in Christ, and who are credited with His righteousness by grace alone.

Christ is naked on cross. He bears our shame. We try to cover ourselves with the flimsy fig leaves of blame and denial. But God strips away our excuses. The darkness must be exposed to the light. The sin must be laid bare. And so Christ hangs naked, covered with our shame, so that we might be covered with His seamless garment of righteousness.

John 19:25-30

Jesus honors the woman who bore Him, who nursed Him, who raised Him. And He honors His disciple, who stood by Him with His mother in this difficult time. "Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother." Jesus' words create a bond closer than family and bring comfort to those who mourn. Mary and John here picture the church and the pastors who care for her. They are given to receive and honor each other according to the word of Jesus.

Then Jesus says, "I thirst." He is parched, dried out by the arid barrenness of our sin. He becomes bone dry for us so that through Him we might we be drenched with living water, doused with His Spirit in baptism and the Word, drinking up His mercy in the cup of His Supper. He thirsts for you, so that you might learn to hunger and thirst for His righteousness.

Finally Jesus says, "It is finished." That's all one word in Greek-it is finished. It is the last Word, the Word that declares that all has been fulfilled; everything has been accomplished to secure your salvation and win your forgiveness. Nothing more needs to be added. The job is done, finished, paid in full, a completed gift given to you, no strings attached. These are good words for you to remember when you are in doubt about your salvation, or when you are afraid of death. Remember and believe what Jesus said, "It is finished." You are perfected and complete and at peace in Him.

John 19:31-37

Jesus does indeed die as the Passover lamb, for it is written of the Passover lambs in the Old Testament, "You shall not break one of its bones." The blood of the Lamb again stains the wood. The cross is the Church's doorpost and lintel. Inside the house of God, we are safe. Death passes over where the blood of the Lamb has been applied.

A soldier pierces Jesus' heart, and from His wounded heart flows water and blood-a fountain for cleansing from sin and impurity. John emphasizes that he's telling the truth about this; he wants you to pay attention. For the church has her life here, in the wounded side of Jesus, from which flows the water of baptism and the blood of Holy Communion. In those sacraments all the blessings of the cross are given to you. The church is the new Eve, created from Jesus' side as He sleeps the deep sleep of death.

John 19:38-42

We finish where we began: in a garden. Our Lord is buried in the tomb. By His rest in the tomb He has sanctified our graves and made them a place of rest, a place of sleep from which our bodies will awaken. The holy Seed has been planted in the garden. From this seed immortal life will take root and germinate and bloom. This is a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid. For Christ is the firstfruits of them that sleep. Be buried in Christ by faith, that you may be raised with Him when He comes again.

Maundy Thursday Sermon

Revised Sermon
Maundy Thursday

1 Corinthians 11:23-32, John 13:1-15, 34-35

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The night before God's people left Egypt was a horrific and bloody night. Children, cattle, and lambs died. They died because Pharaoh's heart was hard; because Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit. They joined the rebel angel armies of Satan. They took up the cause of death and plunged all creation into chaos and destruction.
But the lambs were innocent. They had not rebelled or sinned. They had not enslaved their brothers. Yet they died that night. They were sacrificed in the place of guilty people. The lambs' blood marked the doors of those who submitted to God's Word through Moses, who in repentance pleaded for mercy to the only One who can give it. Thus while the angel of death took the firstborn of the Egyptians, those marked by the blood of the lambs were spared. That blood counted for them and the angel passed over them.
It was a bloody night because while God loves the world, He has no sympathy for those who reject Him, who attempt to worship Him by some other name, who like Pharaoh will not hear His Word, or who ask Him to share their devotion and prayers with false gods. They get what they desire, the inheritance of the fall, death. He has no sympathy either for the lambs. Their blood is the price of man's rebellion. He is unflinching about the sacrifice. They have to die that men would again be His. And thus God loved the world by killing them. He hid His people under innocent blood. The killing angel passed over them. God spared them from death through death.
But it was not enough that the lambs died in their place, that their doors were marked, that they hid behind that innocent blood, and trusted in God to deliver them. They still needed life. So they ate those lambs. Safe from death, they ate in a foreign land, in haste, in preparation for a pilgrimage to freedom. They drew strength and nourishment for the journey from the flesh God provided. It was a double giving: one a substitution, a satisfaction, the removal of guilt, and the turning away of the angel of death. The other giving was a feeding, a filling, a bestowal of righteousness. Thus they escaped slavery with the strength to travel to the promised land.
The night before Our Lord's departure was also a bloody night. In the Garden His anguish turned to bloody sweat. But His Father was unflinching about the Sacrifice. He had to die so that men would again be His. God loved the world by killing Him. His blood would stain thorns, lashes, the hands of evil men, the wood of the cross, and the dust of Golgotha. That God would spare men death through death. But first, His Blood stained the Cup and the lips of His children. He marked the doors of theirs hearts with His blood and thus warded off the angel of death. For He is our Passover Lamb. He takes away the sin of the world. He does what those lambs in Egypt illustrated and prophesied. He lays down His life in a double giving: one of substitution and one of feeding. He dies in our place. He gives Himself as the food of salvation, providing strength and courage.
Thus we remember Him in the eating and the drinking. We proclaim the Death He died, once for all, as an atoning sacrifice to remove all wrath, all guilt, all sin; the Death that makes men who believe in Him safe from death and heirs of life; the Death that triumphed by defeat and from which has issued forth the reign of Life. His living flesh is eaten by the mouth. It slips past the teeth and down the throat. He is present in bread and wine in the genetic material, the skin and bones, the tissue of Mary's womb which felt the nails and which rose again on the third day. But it is only seen, comprehended by faith. For He is present according to His Promise, by the power of His unfailing Word. It is what He says it is or He is a liar.
When men receive Christ in His Body and Blood but deny it, are impenitent, or are making a hypocritical confession, they receive Him whom they have rejected in this Sacrament that confesses unity. They make a mockery of His gift. Thus, St. Paul, warns that such an unworthy reception is a reception of condemnation. What God meant for good, fallen men pervert and use for evil, to promote their own agendas and create their own unity. Thus the Church has been afflicted over time with the likes the crusades and the inquisition. Even the Sacrament of the Altar can be misused to the detriment of men's faith when it is forced into the categories and rules and society of men. In such evil ways Satan turns men for whom Christ died into the first born of Egypt who die for themselves. St. Paul issues this stern warning on purpose. We must heed it. We must examine ourselves. We must be judged by the Lord, conformed to His Word, and chastened in love so that we are not condemned along with the world. On this side of glory the Church fights, struggles, hurts, and is persecuted. She is divided because of sin. She suffers in those divisions. They are painful. But that suffering is her chastisement. And chastisement always beats condemnation.
So, examine yourself, O Christian. God has called you. He has baptized you into His Name. He has given you faith. He has revealed His grace and will in His holy Word to you so that you are sorry for your sins and want to do better. You trust in the sacrifice of the Messiah as the appeasement of God' s holy wrath against you. You rejoice in the acceptance and favor you have found in Christ. You confess the Lord's actual Body and Blood, crucified and raised, offered in bread and wine for the remission of sins in the Holy Communion. And you make together a common, united confession of the same. You call each other brother and sister, not in the abstract, but in the concrete reality that you are united not just in heaven, but also here on earth.
Thus, you come on bended knee seeking mercy and correction, seeking to receive the Body and Blood to your good. Are you worthy? Yes. Because God has made you worthy through His sacrifice. He has forgiven your sins, given you faith and a fellowship, a confession, brothers and sisters who believe the same. He has done it all for you. He thus joins you to Himself and to each other. You who eat this Body in repentance and faith together at this Altar make one bold confession: He who died on Mount Calvary died for us and rose again to bring us to life. His Word is true. He never lies. The grave could not hold Him. He is alive. And He is the only hope for sinful men; the only Savior; God and Man in one Christ, who has loved us to the end. His Doctrine is what sets men free and liberates them from all false gods and all false teachings of the devil. He will bring us at last to the promised land and to our father Abraham.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Maundy Thursday 2007
John 13:1-15, 34-35

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
That night, in the upper room, Jesus knew His hour had finally come. His exodus was at hand and the reason for His incarnation was about to be fulfilled, for “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
What did that love mean? It meant taking on the form of a bondservant, becoming a slave. It meant rejection by the very people He had come to save. It meant arrest and torture after being betrayed with a kiss. It meant being deserted by those He loved— being forsaken by man and God. It meant the silence of His Father in the hour of His greatest need. It meant suffering alone, utterly alone, the horror of crucifixion. But, above all, it meant loving you to death, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...” (John 3:16) into death for you, that you might believe and live. That is what this love of Christ means.
So, it is that, Jesus girded Himself with a towel, poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ dirty feet. He took on the task of the lowliest of house slaves as an example of His humility and sacrificial love. Jesus knew, only too well, what the coming hours would bring. After all, it was for this purpose that He was born.
St. Paul tells us Christ “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8)
Jesus came to serve and to cleanse, to give Himself over to the wrath of His Father in your place and pour out on you, and into you, the holy Blood of the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) “The Son of Man did not come to be served,” you see, “but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45) So Jesus foreshadows His greatest act of love by washing with water those He would soon wash in His Blood.
On this most holy of nights, Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples in keeping with God’s command. In this, He brought to an end the old covenant, and immediately established a new and lasting covenant in its place; a covenant in His Blood. On this night Jesus set aside the things of the former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness, for the Law made nothing perfect, and He gives to us a new and better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18-19) He gives to us His own Body and Blood.
No, St. John does not include our Lord’s institution of the Supper in his description of what took place on that night. For that, we must turn to Saints. Matthew, Luke, and Paul. Still, that does not mean that the Supper is not there, for it is in the very fabric of John’s entire Gospel account. It is woven into the tapestry that is the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, it is seen in John’s account of the wedding at Cana where Jesus turns water used for ritual washing (the Law of the Old Testament) into the (Gospel) wine of the New Testament.
We see it in the multiplying of the loaves and fishes as Jesus feeds five thousand plus on life sustaining bread and then compares Himself to the manna, or bread, from heaven, and we hear the Supper preached in Jesus’ upper room discourse: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Finally, it is seen in the Blood flowing from the nail wounds in His hands and feet, from His lacerated flesh, and His spear pierced side.
Therefore, one cannot possibly understand or remotely comprehend the love of God apart from this sacred, priestly feast. For in this Holy Supper is the very Body given in love for you, and the very Blood poured out in love for you. It is for this very reason, Jesus calls Himself the true Bread from heaven, which gives life to the world, (John 6:32- 33) promising that whoever eats this Living Bread and drinks His Blood will have eternal life, being raised up by Him on the last day. (John 6:53-54)
This Blood is inextricably entwined with the waters of Holy Baptism. And so the washing of His disciples’ feet this night, a picture of Baptism, and the water that also rushed from Jesus’ riven side on Calvary, are bound together with the Blood of Christ, poured out, making you children of the Most High God, giving to you His Holy Name, and through faith, mystically joining you to Jesus, giving you a share in His death and resurrection, and bequeathing to you His righteousness and eternal life.
So there, in the Upper Room, in spite of knowing all that was in store for Him, in spite of knowing all the ways with which He would be betrayed, Jesus girds Himself as a slave and washes the filth from the feet of His betrayers. Jesus knows all that will shortly take place and yet, His compassion, His love, is for His disciples and for you. “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
His concern is not for Himself; His heart is set on His disciples, and you. He knows that He will accept the scorn of the world that you would have the Father’s love. He will die alone that you would have the company of heaven. You see, this is the will of the Father, for He does not desire the death of a sinner, but would have all men be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4) He has loved you to the end.
And so, to the end, which is no end at all, but the beginning of your eternity, you receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in remembrance of what He has done for you—putting to death, death itself, and conquering sin and the devil. In His Holy Supper He feeds you with the Bread that came down from heaven to satisfy your hunger for righteousness. He offers you the Blood that He sweated in the garden and the Flesh that was nailed to the Cross as the perfect love that never ends. He gives you the same Body that left behind the shroud and napkin in the empty tomb and ascended to God’s right hand. Jesus gives Himself, His life, and His love, for and to you. Jesus takes away all your foul sins and in their place gives to you His righteousness, His forgiveness, and His peace.
Jesus fulfills the promise of the first Passover with His death. By His Blood, death can no longer harm you. Death passes over. With His Blood Jesus has made you His own, a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Come now, you who have been bathed and are completely cleaned. Receive the love of Christ that you may love one another. Receive that which gives you strength to give as you have received. Receive His true Body and Blood, given and shed for you and hear the Word of the Lord, “I forgive you all your sins.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Easter Monday

Easter Monday
April 9, 2007
Exodus 15:1-8; Hebrews 9:1-28
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Even the Old Testament people of God knew the promise of resurrection and life everlasting. Job’s faith clung to the promise of redemption and resurrection, standing in the flesh before the Almighty God.
Sure, the promise of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection were not yet fully revealed. God’s time had not yet fully come. But that does not mean that God was not active or that He did nothing for His people.
Nor did it mean that no one looked to God’s promise of a Savior. Job had hope in the midst of suffering. Even though he lost everything, he rejoiced in the hope of everlasting life in the presence of God. His friends told him to give up, to curse God. Job must have done something to anger God and cause Him to bring about such great suffering on one man.
Today, people will give you similar “wisdom,” even some of the bestsellers on the Christian bookshelves. They say that as a Christian, you have the power to be a success and to live life to the fullest. If you’re not experiencing material blessing in your Christian life, you must have done something wrong or maybe you’re not doing something right.
Tell that to the faithful Christian who loses a dear loved one. Tell that to the faithful Christian struggling to pay bills. Tell that to the faithful Christian who just received word that she has terminal cancer. Tell that to any faithful Christian who suffers in this world. You and I know the truth. We know that we are sinners living in a fallen world. Through God’s Law, we know our sin, which brings death.
But God’s Son, Jesus, brings life beyond the grave. On the Cross, Jesus redeemed not only our souls, but our bodies as well. His resurrection from the dead reveals what God has prepared for you – resurrection and life!
Resurrection is hope in the midst of suffering. Resurrection is hope that clings to God’s promise fulfilled in Christ. Your eyes of faith see Him now, but on the Last Day you will stand with Job and all the faithful, and in the flesh you shall see God face to face. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“I know that my Redeemer lives; What comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living head.” (LSB #461, verse 1)

Good Friday Matins

Good Friday
April 6, 2007St. John 18:1-19:42
Exodus 12:29-32; 13:1-16; Hebrews 6:1-20
“It is finished.” (St. John 19:30)
The last and great word of Jesus from the Cross: “Tetelestai.”
“It is finished.” With this word, Christ announced to everyone – to the Father and the Holy Spirit, to Satan and his hell hounds, and to the whole human race – “mission accomplished.” We have been saved from Satan, death and hell, and have been presented to God without blemish or sin.
Death is said to finish us off. But here Christ finishes off death itself. This little word “it” carries a lot of force. The fulfillment of all prophecy comes to its completion. The words of King David in Psalm 22, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” become reality.
The separation between God and man, because of sin, is broken. God’s ultimate gift is given: the life of His own Son for your salvation. Because of this gift, you are a citizen of heaven, and a child of the Heavenly Father. All of that is accomplished. That is IT.
It – the mission – is finished. A great exchange took place. You deserve death, but you receive life. Jesus deserves life and received death. What a mystery! That God would exchange our frail, sinful lives for the life of His Son. What a miracle there is in the little word, “it”. That word ushers in freedom from death to slavery and sin. Satan, too, heard that word and cringed. He, too, is finished.
It is finished. The tense of the verb is present perfect. The victory is an accomplished fact. The Son’s purpose in coming down from heaven has been completed. The gulf between heaven and earth is bridged. This announcement was made by God to God. The Son tells the Father that it is all done. Even as He yielded up His life, Christ claimed the victory.
What an amazing truth! God looks at you through Jesus and loves you as His dear child. You have been brought into His family through the waters of Holy Baptism, and He sustains you with His very Body and Blood shed on this Tree, because “It – all of it – is finished.”

Wednesday of Holy Week

Wednesday of Holy Week
April 4, 2007
St. Luke 22:1-23:56
Exodus 10:21-11:10; Hebrews 4:1-16
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (St. Luke 23:34)
Each of the four Evangelists paints the picture of our Lord’s Passion in a particular way. St. Luke, a trained physician, shows us that Jesus is the compassionate, merciful, forgiving Savior – even when He is suffering death on the cross. So only in Luke, do we hear Jesus say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Jesus shows us what it means to pray, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But there is always more with Jesus. St. Stephen prayed for forgiveness for those who stoned him. But while our Lord prays for their forgiveness, He actually also does the forgiveness.
To forgive means to pay the price for what someone has done against you. It means to bear the punishment for the wrong and let the sin and its penalty rests on you. Only God can do that. So when Jesus says, “Father, forgive them”, He is at the same time undergoing the punishment that makes that possible. When Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them,” He is praying for your forgiveness – for your inborn and daily sin that made His death necessary – and, at the same time, Jesus is suffering the death that will win and give you just that.
Luke’s compassionate and merciful Jesus is not meek and mild. He is strong to save. He stands in there and takes the punishment and for your benefit suffers the death He doesn’t deserve. As Jesus, Himself, says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” (St. John 15:13). And yet, the compassion of our Jesus is greater even than that – because He lays down His life and suffers death even for His enemies. Jesus’ prayer is for you. He doesn’t just speak forgiveness, but accomplishes it by bearing and carrying your sin in His body to death.
Jesus knows what He is doing. He is dying, so that His forgiveness, life and salvation might be delivered to you even today – by Holy Baptism, by Holy Absolution, and by the Holy Supper of our Lord’s Body and Blood. All for you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Holy Week

Holy Week

The Church Year finds its high point and center in Holy Week, when we celebrate the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord. No other week of the Church Year is celebrated with such solemnity, devotion, and reverence. No other week deserves the name Holy Week alongside those days in which the church accompanies her Lord on His way to the cross and to the grave and rejoices in His victory over death. It is the week toward which the entire church year moves and from which it receives its meaning and content. During this time, the church's services crowd together as she sings her most earnest laments and her songs of penitence and then again rejoices most heartily in His victory.

The journey of Christ to the cross draws close to it's fulfillment as our Lord's Passion begins when He enters Jerusalem in triumphal procession. The palms of Palm Sunday greet the Victor who by His death frees His people. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week we continue to prayerfully reflect on our Lord's Passion, we meditate on the events which took place leading to the cross, and we petition our Father in heaven to hear the cries of His people and prepare our hearts. Our worship is heightened during the last three days of the week, the "Holy of Holies" of Holy Week, as we commemorate our Lord's first institution of the His Holy Supper (Maundy Thursday), His betrayal, and then walk with Him anew to the Holy Cross of Calvary (Good Friday). Though Good Friday is the high point of Holy Week it is not the high point of the Church Year, as on Holy Saturday evening our sorrow gives way to Easter joy!

During this week, we do not worship as a sort of historical society simply commemorating past events but rather we adore Jesus Christ as our true King, who is not humbled by His passion and cross but rather glorified and exalted through them, and who will soon be revealed as the victor over sin, death, and hell. Thus, through all the lamentation and sadness there is also solid trust, unwavering hope and joyful thankfulness as we await His, and thereby our, victory!

Holy Monday

Monday of Holy Week
April 2, 2007
St. John 12:1-43
“So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after him.’” (St. John 12:19)
It seems that everyone was curious about Jesus: Pilate, Herod, the Jews. The word that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave was getting around. People were eager to see this great miracle worker. This excitement, of course, was not good news for those who were plotting to careful kill and dispose of Jesus. But the Son of God will not be a victim of their plans. He willingly goes to Jerusalem. No one has the power to take Jesus’ life from Him. He lays it down and He will take it up again. He will be “lifted up”, that is, He will die on the cross to draw all people unto Himself, including the Greeks who came to Philip with the request: ”Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” (St. John 12:21).
They will see him. On a Tree. Jesus said, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” At the wedding in Cana when Jesus performed His first miracle, He said, ”My hour has not yet come,” (St. John 2:4). But the time is now. This was the hour for which He came into the world. It is time for the sinless Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. What the world would judge to be an hour of shame and defeat, Jesus calls the time of His glorification. In fact, Jesus prays: “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name,” (St. John 12:28).
Glorified how? At the Cross! He says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” St. Augustine put it like this: “The death of Christ was the death of a most fertile grain of wheat.” Planted in death, Jesus will be raised to life on the third day, becoming, as Paul says, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
You are the harvest that is produced by the death of Jesus. His death destroys your death. And by His rising from the grave, He gives you the pledge of your own resurrection to life eternal, the fruit of which He gives you even here and now. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we implore You that we, who amid so many adversities do fail through our own infirmities, may be restored through the Passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” (Collect for Monday of Holy Week)