Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday 2016 and the Annunciation

How do you consider this day? How do you find the words to describe today? It is March 25. In nine months it will be Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Nine months. The amount of time God ordinarily takes to form a child in the womb.
How many parents were uncertain about their child’s future and questioned, “Do I really want to bring a child into this cruel world, filled with such heartache and suffering?” How many husbands and wives see a world on the brink of collapse and decide not to have kids? Whatever anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt that your parents had before your birth, God overcame them.
It is March 25. Nine months before Christmas. And it is Good Friday. God was not uncertain about what would happen to His Son. The Lord knew exactly the torment His beloved Child would face when He came into the world. He knew the mockery and the rejection. Yet He still sent the Angel Gabriel to announce to the Virgin Mary that the Holy Spirit would conceive in her the child who “will be called holy – the Son of God.”
We do not think much of talking about the nine months before the birth of Jesus in the same breath as we talk about His death. Not often, but it does happen when the Church confesses the Apostles' Creed, which moves us straight from the Lord’s conception, to His birth and then to His suffering and death. He “was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.”
Some people wish the Creed would talk a little about Christ’s life of merciful works and His word of truth. Yet in moving directly from Jesus’ birth to His Crucifixion, the Creed makes an important point – The Son of God became man to die for us.
The eyes of the man without faith see a tragic ending. They see a man born to a poor mother and father hung on a tree of death for no good reason. They see a sorrow-filled conclusion to an otherwise well-lived life. The Suffering Servant Jesus Christ makes no sense for those who think that the goal of life is to pursue happiness and avoid pain.
O believer, that is not the way it is with you. For you know this is at the very heart of how Jesus reconciles the world to God. He comes to save us from our sins – our actual sins of thought, word, and deed that reject God and mock His Holiness; and also our original sin that we inherited from Adam through our parents, for we were all sinful at birth, sinful from the time our mother’s conceived. We are natural born sinners, with hearts that are naturally inclined to doubt God. Yet here is the good news that makes this Friday Good – Jesus Christ saves us from our uncertainty, our doubts, and anxieties that imagine God has forsaken us and removed His protection from us.
The Son of God pays for your life with a pain that is real and raw, a death that is dark and cold. Yes, His soul is troubled, but He refuses to ask His Father to save Him from this hour. It is for this purpose that He has come to this dark hour – so that the Father would save you from eternal darkness. Jesus endures it all for your sake.
His sacrificial death melts our cold hearts as we see that it was no small matter for God in the flesh to come into our world, knowing what agony His suffering and death held for Him. And it is no small matter that that same God in the flesh who went the way of the Cross still comes to you today.
However, saying “Christ died for you” does not magically make all your problems disappear in a puff of smoke. This is not Hocus Pocus – but rather this is the body of Christ given into death for you.  There will be tears of pain for you to shed as you take up your cross and follow Jesus – because we are not yet at the Resurrection. Jesus does not show us how get around suffering in this life or how to avoid it. Rather, He leads us through suffering, cross and death to Resurrection. Jesus says to His followers, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16). Soon every tear from faithful eyes will be dried. Soon you will behold that He who died on Good Friday is now alive forevermore.
But until then, as you see a world torn up by war, our country torn by politics and immorality, and even your own body and the health of loved ones being torn up by sickness and death – nonetheless hold fast to your confession of faith in Christ. With confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4). Walk by faith, not by sight. When unbelievers and your old sinful nature tell you to cry out, “Where in the world is God?”, you can honestly reply that God is hidden. Yes, darkness does veil His lovely face. But even though God is hidden in lowly flesh, His Word lights the way for you to find Him. The Lord is in the womb of the Virgin Mary for nine months, in the manger at Bethlehem, in the darkness of the Cross of Calvary on Good Friday, in the water and the blood that streamed from His pierced side. God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our trespasses against us (2 Corinthians 5).

Today “your life is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” He will overcome all your worries and uncertainties. For Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us and has given His only Son to die for us and for His sake, forgives us all our sins. Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Keeping and Treasuring The Word: St. Joseph

I'm busy getting ready for Palm Sunday and Holy Week, plus attending a wedding today, so here are some things you can read in the meantime if you aren't quite as busy:

Keeping and Treasuring The Word: St. Joseph
Rev. Stuckwisch on Joseph - the strong, silent type