Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday - what others said

a devotion for today by Ephraim Syrus, modernized and edited by Rev. David H. Petersen from the public domain text as found in Phillip Schaff's Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week and Hebrews

The King James Bible 1611 ed. ends the Epistle...Image via Wikipedia
since we are in Hebrews now, you might take the time to listen to Dr. Art Just talk about the book on Issues, etc 24 (and you can find Dr. David Adams talk about Exodus there too, a long with a lot of other good stuff!)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palmarum 2011 Homily - Matthew 27:11-66, Philippians 2:5-11

 (With gratitude to Rev. Todd Peperkorn, whose sermon I expanded)

          Not during Matins, but during our other services a little piece of Scripture text called the Gradual goes between the first and second readings.  The Lenten Gradual is from Hebrews 12.  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  This, along with the Gospel lesson is our text for today.

          If I asked you to describe the death of our Lord, you would probably use words like “sad” or “tragic,” “difficult” or “painful.”  You might say it was the only way to save us from our sins.  Most likely you would not think to use such a happy word as “joy”.  Yet the theme of joy runs through many hymns of Holy Week.  The book of Hebrews says this is why Jesus endured crucifixion by sinners for sinners.  So what joy that kept Jesus going?
          In the midst of His way of sorrows, our Lord’s ongoing joy is you and your salvation.  It is near impossible for us to understand the level of God’s love – that He would send His Son to die for people who treat Him as shamefully as you and I do.  Sometimes we imagine God is like a stern old man who just barely lets us squeeze into Heaven.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  His passion for your salvation is His greatest desire!  From the very beginning, the world’s Creator wanted you to live in eternal bliss with Him and all the saints in Paradise.  He knew already back then that you would stumble and fall – and He knew He would come to save you.
          Notice the evidence of His heart for you in the events of Good Friday.  Christ’s silence before Pontius Pilate tells of His love for you loud and clear.  With divine might, Jesus could have walked away freely and no Roman soldier could have stopped Him.  With just a word, legions of angel armies would come to His defense.  After all, what do you do when people tell lies about you – and what would you do if you had God’s unlimited power?  Yet what the Lord most wants is to have you in love – and He cannot gain that by violence.  Therefore, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus did not open His mouth, like a lamb before its shearers is silent. 
Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...                          Image via Wikipedia
          Further evidence of the Lord’s love is heard when Pilate asks the crowd why they want Jesus crucified.  “What evil has He done?” (Matthew 27:23).  The answer is none.  Pilate’s wife is right to say Jesus is a righteous man – the only righteous man who has lived without sin, perfect in every way.  Yet there Christ goes, shouldering your sins and mine to His cross and grave.  The guilty one is set free and the innocent Jesus is condemned to death – for us men and for our salvation.
          More evidence of His love is found when He hangs in unspeakable pain on the cross.  He endures what you and I cannot.  He suffers real separation from God.  In the words of Psalm 22, He loudly asks, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  In part, this is answered a few sentences later, when the Temple curtain is torn in two at our Lord’s death.  In order to remove the separation between God and man, the Son was separated from His Father – experiencing the Hellish punishments in our place, as our substitute and Redeemer.  How often have we denied Him, betrayed Him, or fled from Him?  Yet Jesus has not fled from serving and saving you by His steadfast, holy obedience.  Why was Jesus forsaken?  So that your graves will open and you and all believers would be raised to eternal life - and we get a sample of that in the mysterious earthquake, the tombs opening, and the dead saints raised back to life by Christ’s death.
          Finally, in the midst of everything else that looks wrong, a bit of relief comes as something goes right.  The centurion on guard at the Cross and those with him are filled with awe.  They make the great confession, “Truly this was the Son of God!”  Truly indeed!
          As we enter Holy Week, let these thoughts prepare you to receive God’s gift on Maundy Thursday and next Sunday at His Supper – His guarantee first given the night He was betrayed to death, the promise that God is with you and for you, that God forgives you, the pledge that God will join you together with Him in an everlasting covenant.  A covenant of life, not death.  A covenant of peace, not hatred and war.  A covenant of forgiveness, not shame. 
          Brothers and sisters, fix your eyes on Jesus this week –  and every week for that matter.  When difficult days, scary, painful and trying times come upon you, endure them the same way Jesus endured His suffering – trusting that the future is in God the Father’s hands.  Have this same mind of Christ among you, with faith in His Word of love.  Submit to His will.  Be obedient even to the point of death.  For Christ has already done these things out of His love and desire for your salvation.  After Jesus humbled Himself, God exalted Him – and He promises to exalt you, because God has baptismally given you the name of Jesus that is above every name.  With your eyes fixed on Jesus, you know for certain no matter what happens today, tomorrow is safe.  With heaven in your future, the things of this life cannot permanently hurt you in Christ.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Palm Sunday TDP Reading - Exodus 8

This Lent, I preached on the plagues against Egypt, using the excellent midweek series written by Sober Peasant in 2010, which he based upon articles in 2002-3 by Rev. Karl Fabrizius for Gottestdienst.

Here are two thoughts:

Exodus 8:7 makes me think of Psalm 2, as the kings make their plots against the Lord, but He just laughs in Heaven.  The magicians can bring more frogs to the land - but that just makes matters worse!  Things don't get better until Moses and Aaron plead with the Lord to take away the frogs from the Egyptian pharaoh and people.  But then the frogs' death stink - though not nearly as bad as our sins and death stink.  Yet the sacrifice prescribed in the Scriptures is sweet smelling to the Lord.

Gnats - The magicians try to copy this one - and fail.  Only God can create life from nothing but dust.  He did it with Adam.  And when our body returns to the dust, for dust we are, He will resurrect us out of our dust!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday in Lent 5 - Exodus 2 - What others said...

William Weedon, Commemoration of Moses 2008
The Finding of Moses (Ex. 2:5-10)Baptism's grace in Moses' early life - being condemned to die, he was cast into the water, from which he was drawn out and adopted as a royal prince; even so in Baptism we are sent into the water to die, but are drawn from it and adopted as the royal kings and priests of God in Christ.
(I also posted this last year on Mark 14:50)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Exodus (Sunday in Lent 5 through ?)

since TDP will be spending some time in the book, you might want to listen to some general overviews of it by David Adams, Paul Schrieber and John Saleska.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Homily for Lent 5A - John 11

(HT Sober Peasant and Thinking Out Loud, for many of the thoughts contained herein)

            Laura pointed out a sad headline this week that asked, “Want to Save Money?  Don’t Get Married.”  It was about how marriage can make couples pay higher taxes than if they were single.  She and I then talked about how the good things in life do require sacrifice – but those sacrifices are worth it in the end.  For instance, just think how much better off financially your parents could have been if you were never born.  Yet they gave up freedom and other things for you – in fact they gave themselves to you.  In a very small way, that reflected God’s own self-giving love for you.  God is pleased when you show this sacrificial love for your spouse, child, parent, friend, or even a stranger, because He first loved you.  And just as you hate to hear the hostility against marriage in our day, in a small way that reflects the hatred God has for the sinful aggression against His holy gifts.
            Likewise, God’s hatred for death is greater than how much we hate it.  For a while we might tell ourselves that death does not bother us, that is actually a good thing.  However, God helps us to be honest with ourselves.  He inspired St. Paul to describe death as an enemy to be defeated.  Now, certainly God uses the circumstances of death to accomplish good things like the Gospel comfort of knowing them to be with the Lord in the better place.  But death is still evil.  It takes our loved ones away and leaves an emptiness in your loved ones’ place.  I still miss my grandparents over a decade after their death.  Every now and then I find myself thinking I need to visit one of your fellow church members, only to remember that their funeral was long ago. 
            We cannot do anything about death tearing asunder the love that God has joined together.  If we had been angry at each other, we could apologize.  If they were sick, we could sit with them and hold their hand.  But dead – we can express our love for them, but not TO them.  We can take care of their remains, but they do not know the difference if someone else does it.  We start talking like Mary and Martha.  “If only… if only I had been there more.  If only I had done things differently.  If only the doctor had known what to do.  If only I had my loved one back…”  
"Adam and Eve" - Adriaen van der Wer...Image by Tilemahos Efthimiadis via Flickr
            Just as the love we have for each other is a small reflection of the love God has for us, and just as the hatred you have for sin is a small reflection of how much God hates it, so also the sorrow you have over death is small compared to God’s sorrow over it.  Consider how this story makes it clear that our Lord Jesus is deeply moved by the death of Lazarus.  Even greater was His sadness was in Eden, when death spread to all humanity because of Adam and Eve’s sin.  On that day, Paradise became a cemetery – where joy was replaced with grief as death consumed life and our holy relationship with God was murdered.
            We heard that here four weeks in Adam and Eve’s “if only’s” – “God, if only You had not given me this woman.  If only You had not created the snake and the tree.  If only You had done things differently.”  Both Mary and Martha take up that refrain in today’s text when talking to Jesus.  “Lord, if [only] you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32).  Our prayers can sound that way too when we tell Him what to do.  “God if only You would make everyone cherish marriage.  If only You would have made yesterday go differently.  If only you had answered our prayers for healing.”  As if God needs our advice or help in running the universe.  As if we are all that great at managing our own lives.  As if we care more about life and hate death more than God does. 
raising LazarusImage by Martin LaBar via Flickr
            “Lord, if you had been here…”  Yet Jesus was there.  Four days later than Mary and Martha hoped, a lot later than Adam and Eve hoped, but God our Savior was there and He was not too late.  When the fullness of time had come, the Lord of life stepped into this world of death.  Not just to tell us that He loves us, but to give Himself in love.  Not just to give us resurrection and life, but to be our Resurrection and Life.  He comes not just to raise one dead man, but to be the salvation from death for the whole world.  Where Adam and Eve turned this world of Paradise into a cemetery, Christ turns this world scarred with graves into the new earth of Paradise. 
            Christ’s encounter with death that day in Bethany leads directly His fight with death on His cross.  Raising Lazarus makes Jesus more popular than ever, so the enemies of Jesus begin making plans to kill him.  However, dear brothers and sisters, you know that Christ’s victory over death with the raising of Lazarus was a preview of Christ’s own victorious Easter – when God once and for all bursts the chains of death, strips Satan of his power over us, and overcomes our sin.
            Christ’s day in Bethany also gives a preview of the work He does in and among us today.  In Baptism, where by water and His Word Jesus calls us out of the death of unbelief to the new life of faith.  In His work of Absolution, where Jesus bursts us free from the chains of guilt that drag us down.  Today, as that day in Bethany, Jesus is here and is the resurrection and the life for us – that we may have a new life now and forever. 
            Right now that can be tough for you and me to see.  You might feel like Mary and Martha, mired in the disappointments and death, the trials and troubles that test and tempt you.  You look around like Ezekiel in today’s first reading, and you see only dried out piles of bones – like you live in a cemetery of dead relationships and dreams.  All you can focus on are the tombstones of the past, mocking you and claiming victory over your sorry life.
            In the midst of this valley of the shadow of death, your Lord comes to prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies.  He most certainly promises to deliver you from all this evil, though our Father does not promise how soon He will do it.  So that you might bear your cross and die with Jesus, He delivers to you His life-giving body and blood.  Take, eat and drink to receive His forgiveness, resurrection, and life.  Even though your enemies mock you, though your past haunts you, they cannot defeat you.  That victory has already been won – for you are in Christ and Christ is in you.  Therefore, “there is… now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  And so the same Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead will raise your body to the glorious freedom of His resurrection.
Tomb of Saint Lazarus in BethanyImage via Wikipedia
            You do not have to dwell on the “if only’s” of a different past.  Live in confidence and peace as you leave your regrets behind in Christ’s forgiveness.  Whatever weeping you may need to do, know that Jesus weeps with you until that Day when God wipes away every tear and there is no more sorrow, sickness and death.  Look forward to the different life that Christ is giving now and in the future, where your cemetery is turned to Paradise.  Like Lazarus, hear the Word of Christ that makes you rise to the new life of sacrificial love – as God in Christ first sacrificed Himself in love for you.  Amen. 
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Friday Lent 4 - Mark 13

    Nature is doing its annual job of pointing to that Day when our Master will come “in clouds with great glory.” For when Jesus talks about the end, He does not mention the Fall or Winter when things are dead, but the Springtime.  "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that [the Son of Man] is near, at the very gates” (Mark 13:28-29).  The buds and blossoms on the trees signal Spring has arrived and Summer is near.  Likewise, the sun, moon and stars going dark, and all the other earth-shattering signs Jesus mentions elsewhere are signs that the eternal summer of God is about to come upon the world.  And not one of our miserably humid scorching summer days either – but the nice summer days when you can enjoy life without breaking a sweat.  Rather than dreading doomsday, God wants His people to look with eager expectation for the coming of His Kingdom and its eternal joy.  For the Christian, the End does not mean everything is over and done with, but that the time of waiting is over.
    Thoughts about Judgment Day expose how weak we are as Christians.  We have divided loyalties.  Part of us cannot wait for the joy of Christ’s return.  And part of us wants to put it off.  How can we survive the Judgment?  What help is there for our horridly divided hearts that both want to leave this world to be in Paradise and also are afraid of having to say good-bye to this world?
    Jesus tells us our only hope to survive is in His Words.  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31).   His Words tell us the universe will fall to pieces – and for that matter, our own little worlds will fall apart as well.  Yet when such things such as death and disasters, decay and divorce happen, Christ’s people have hope – the sure and certain hope that Jesus is near, at the very gates.  Because that is what His Word promises.  As everything is falling apart, Jesus wants you to get a whiff of the Springtime in the air.  Know that the Resurrection Summer is about to break in and change everything in God’s creation. 
    It was Holy Week when Jesus told us of the sun and moon going dark and the stars falling from the sky.  Later that week, on Good Friday, these heavenly lights would give a sneak preview of that Day.  Darkness covered the land for three hours as the Creator struggled with hell on a cross.  Lift up your eyes to see the Son of Man and Son of God lifted up on a pole, dying with your sin and your shame and your death and your hell.
    This Master who once was dead, but now lives and reigns, is the One who comes.  Not just at the end of time, but even now.  In His Body and Blood.  Though today He is hidden in bread and wine, on that Day He will be revealed for all the world to see.  Some will be ready, others not.  How you prepare for the coming of the Lord in Communion is similar to how you prepare of the coming of the Lord at the End.  Listen to Scripture.  Repent of sin and desire to be done with it.  Desire to forgive and be forgiven.  Do not take Christ’s promises and blessings for granted.  Trust that no matter what you do or fail to do, the Holy Spirit has made you worthy and well prepared for Christ’s coming as you believe in Christ’s words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”