PDF Print E-mail
the sermon for

the resurrection of our lord

12 april 2009



The open grave is the fruit of the cross!



Every Wednesday evening. . .  for five weeks, now. . .  since the season of Lent began. . .  we've been getting together to talk about the marks  or the signs  of the church.  To talk about those things that make us who and what we are a god's own people.  That first Wednesday in March, we talked about the word of god. . .  The next three weeks, it was the sacraments  baptism, the lord's supper, confession and forgiveness. . .  And then, a little over a week-and-a-half ago, on that last Wednesday evening before Holy Week began, we looked at the cross.  "The holy Christian people," wrote Luther, "are. . .  recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross."  Of course, he's not talking about the piece of wood.  But, rather, about suffering.  Suffering is a sign, a signal that we are the church.

And, this year, it was that last Wednesday that sharpened my perspective of Holy Week.  It's been a thread that's run through all my thoughts. . .  It was there in Monday's luncheon meditation at St. Luke's.  It was there on Maundy Thursday. . .  Good Friday. . .  And, this morning, Easter morning. . .

We have been called by god. . .  we have been chosen. . .  to suffer.  We've been called and chosen to suffer because of what we believe. . .  because of whom we believe in. . .  And, more importantly, we've been called and we've been chosen to suffer because we care!  Because we care just as Christ has cared!  Turning the other cheek. . .  Going the extra mile. . .  Doing unto others. . .  That's all about suffering. . .  suffering as Jesus suffered. . .  Forgiving our debtors. . .  Feeding the hungry. . .  Welcoming the stranger. . .  It's all loving one another. . .  loving one another just as Christ has loved us. . .

"When Christ calls a person, he bids that person come and die."  That is the cost of discipleship.  That's the price for believing.  We are created in the image of god.  Together, we bear the likeness of Christ.  That means, when we follow. . .  When we follow. . .  we must, first, pick up our cross.

But, today is Easter!  It's a celebration of the resurrection.  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Today is about life!   It's about living!  We sit out the lilies!  We dust off the alleluias!  We pull out all the stops!  However. . .  There is something I think we need to understand about this particular morning. . .

Today isn't important simply because it's Easter.  And this celebration doesn't matter in and of itself.  It doesn't stand alone.  You see, the resurrection isn't here IN SPITE OF the cross.  The resurrection isn't here IN SPITE OF the cross.  It's here BECAUSE OF it!  There is only one reason why there is a resurrection.  And that reason is because of last Friday!  The only reason we're here, this morning is because Christ was there on the cross!  Because he suffered under Pontius Pilate!  Because he suffered!  Because he died!  Because he was buried!  Because he descended to the dead!

Easter didn't begin when the service began a few minutes ago.  Easter didn't even begin when we woke up this morning.  Easter began on a dusty roadway just outside Jerusalem with the palms and the hosannas!  Easter began in an upper room with a small group of colleagues sharing bread and wine!  Easter began in a garden with a greeting, a kiss, and a betrayal!  No.  The only reason we are here this morning is because of that cross!  Because of that cross, that tomb, and that gravestone that wouldn't stay put.  The only reason we are here is because god. . .  is because god loved us so much that god gave his son. . .  not simply to rise for us, but to die for us!

It is god's love for us that created this moment.  It was god's love for us that conceived it. . .  that gave it birth. . .  It was that love that put us above everything. . .  that put us above everything  even life. . .  even living. . .

It's not. . .  It's NOT. . .  in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life that we do what we do in the name of god.  But it's in the sure and certain hope in that sacrifice. . .  It's in the sure and certain hope in that suffering. . .  It's in the sure and certain hope in that love. . .  that our life receives its meaning and purpose and direction!  And not just our life as persons. . .  but our life as a people, as well!  Our life as a congregation!  Our life as a church!

We don't do what we do because it seems like a good idea!  We, certainly, don't do what we do because it's fun!  We do what we do because it's what Christ has done!  We do what we do because we love. . .  love just as he loved. . .  And with that love. . .  With that love. . .  comes a cross. . .  With that loves comes sacrifice. . .  With that love comes suffering. . .  But we know. . .  we believe. . .  that it is that love that changes lives. . .  It is that love that makes things different. . .  that makes things new. . .  Both individuals. . .  and communities. . .

We are not here because of the resurrection alone.  But the resurrection is here. . .  Easter is here. . .  because of the cross!  But, then again, I guess that's why everything else is here, as well. . .  the word. . .  the water. . .  the bread. . .  the wine. . .  God gave it all when god gave Christ. . .  gave Christ to break. . .  and to bleed. . .  and to die. . .  For in that breaking and bleeding and dying was planted the seed of this sunrise. . .  of this new dawn. . .

We, like the women before us, have come to the tomb. . .  NOT to see the Jesus who was raised. . .  BUT the Christ who was crucified. . .  For it is that one. . .  THAT one. . .  who set all of this in motion!  It's his blood. . .  and his sweat. . .  and his tears. . .  that has given this world. . .  this creation. . .  a second chance. . .  a whole new beginning. . .

And, you know, my friends, it's our blood. . .  and our sweat. . .  and our tears. . .  that continue to do the same!  It may not be under Pontius Pilate. . .  And it may not be nailed to a cross. . .  But the suffering. . .  and the sacrifice. . .  and the love. . .  is the same!  And it will continue to produce the same results. . .   LIFE!  LIFE EVERLASTING!

No.  It's not in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection that we live and move and have our being.  But it's in the sure and certain hope of the cross!  It's in the sure and certain hope of the sacrifice. . .  of the suffering. . .  of the love. . .  that makes all of this possible!  We are created and recreated. . .  We are made and remade. . .  in the image of god!  Together we bear the likeness of Christ!

We have been marked WITH THE CROSS. . .
forever. . .
and ever. . .
and ever. . .
 
PDF Print E-mail
the sermon for

the second sunday of easter

19 april 2009



"If" the cross. . ., "then" the resurrection!



Up until about thirty years ago, each and every Sunday morning we would read the same lessons that we read the year before. . .  that we read the year before that. . .  and the year before that.  But then, with the publication of the green hymnal, all that changed and we adopted a three year lectionary.  I guess the thought behind the action was that we would read three times the amount of bible in worship we had been reading.  So, not, we are able to read different lessons each Sunday for three consecutive years before we start repeating them.  One year, for instance, the gospel reading is from Matthew.  The next, from Mark.  The year after that, Luke.  And, every now and then, for good measure, we throw in verses from John's gospel. . .  like now. . .  during the Sundays of Easter.  But where we usually. . .  where we usually read a passage once every three years, today we read the same passage we did last year. . .  today we read the same passage we will next year. . .

Today, we read a different passage from Acts.  We sing a different psalm.  We listen to a different second reading.  But it is the same old twenty-three verses from John that we hear year. . .  after year. . .  after year. . .  and that we will hear over. . .  and over. . .  and over. . .  If fact, ever since the fall of the Roman Empire, the church has been reading this particular passage each and every second Sunday of easter.  John.  Chapter twenty.  Verses nineteen through thirty-one.  That's why it was such a surprise for me to read the same verses and to see. . .  to hear. . .  something different!  Something new!  Something I'd never heard before!

"It was evening on the first day of the week. . . ."  Easter evening!  The disciples are afraid.  They are together behind locked doors.  And, we're told, Jesus comes and stands among them!  "Peace," he says.  "Peace be with you!"  Peace is yours!

For years, I'd listen to sermons about the same thing. . .  Jesus coming to us in our fears. . .  bring confidence. . .  courage. . .  I'd listen how Jesus took a timid little group and with them. . .  through them. . .  changed the world!  And it was always the same. . .  year after year. . .  over and over. . .  And I'd say the same thing. . .  year after year. . .  over and over. . .  Nothing creative.  Nothing different.  Nothing new.  But, this year, all that changed. . .

Maybe it was because of a verse we read last week.  Maybe it was because of something we read that Paul had written.  He was talking about tradition. . .  about handing on what he'd been given.  "Christ died for our sins. . .  On the third day, he was raised. . .  And he appeared. . .  first to Cephas. . .  to the Twelve. . .  "Then he appeared to more than five hundred. . .  at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died." . . ."  It was that last reference that caught my attention.  "Then he appeared to more than five hundred. . .  at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died."

I couldn't remember any other reference in the New Testament to that particular appearance.  As far as I remembered, this one verse in 1st Corinthians is the only mention of it!  Of all the other stories of the resurrection that have remained. . .  of all the other stories of the resurrection that have been preserved. . .  there's none that speak of five hundred.

So, with that in mind, reading through today's pericope. . .  through today's lesson from John. . .  I saw something I hadn't seen before. . .  That first night. . .  that first Easter evening. . .  when Jesus came and stood among the disciples. . .  It wasn't simple the disciples who were locked in that room. . .  Jesus was there, as well!  And it wasn't just the disciples that were shut up.  It was Jesus, too!  What never sunk in before is how clandestine. . .  how secretive. . .  the whole thing was!

It was never the way I would have risen!  If I'd been raised from the dead, EVERYBODY would have known about it!  EVERYONE would have heard!  After all, it was only the day after Passover!  Jerusalem was still chocked full of pilgrims.  People from the world over!  The temple was open for business.  Pilate was still in town.  If I would have been raised, I would have found a way for EVERYONE to know!  But instead of knocking on Pilate's door. . .  and instead of walking up to the chief priests. . .  and instead of appearing on some nearby mountaintop. . .  he simply "came and stood among" a handful of friends!  There's something so mysterious. . .  so subversive. . .  about it all!

Paul writes of Jesus appearing to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time.  But in the gospels. . .  in the gospels, you can count on your fingers and toes all the people to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection.  In Mark, in the passage we read last week, Jesus never even showed up!  There was merely a young man dressed in white and a promise to meet them in Galilee.  In Matthew, there's only two women  Mary Magdalene and the "other" Mary.  Jesus meets them on their way back into town from the tomb.  And, of course, there's the last few verses where Jesus commissions the disciples on the mountaintop.  "Go into all the world. . ."  he says.  Luke. . .  John. . .  each add a few more names. . .  a few more stories. . .  But, for the most part, Jesus appears only to a small, closed band of believers.  Never anything remotely like what Paul was talking about.

Read through the stories of the resurrection and it's as if the truth of Jesus' rising was never meant for the crowds. . .  Jesus' rising was never intended for the multitudes. . .  But, instead was meant. . .  was intended. . .  to be just "our own" little secret!  A secret that would motivate and inspire the church's mission and the church's ministry!

The resurrection is important!  Don't misunderstand me!  But if the resurrection was to be the heart and the soul of faith, it seems to me that the church would have made a bigger deal out of it. . .  it seems to me that GOD would have made a bigger deal out of it. . .  If the resurrection was to be the heart and the soul of believing, it seems to me that we would be hanging open tombs on our walls and dangling them around our necks!  But we don't.  Instead, it is simply a cross.  A cross.

That's what John wrote about when "his" Jesus says, "If I be lifted up. . ."  He was talking about the cross.  Not the resurrection.  Not our praise.  And the "greater love"?  It, too, isn't about what happened  what happens  on Sunday morning.  But it's about what happens on Friday afternoon!  No.  That that first easter evening was not meant for everyone.  But it was meant for us.  For our increase and for our encouragement!

"Jesus  when he calls a person  bids that person come and die."  He bids them, first, to pick up their cross and, then, to follow.  And it's only for those who take that invitation seriously that the resurrection has any meaning. . .  any significance. . .

To be sure, love  that love that kneels at our feet. . .  that love poured out in sacrifice and suffering. . .  that love expressed in compassion and concern for others. . .  To be sure, that love brings with it life  new and never-ending!  But it's only the cross. . .  the suffering with. . .  the suffering for. . .  that has the ability  the ability and the power  to rescue and to redeem!  The open tomb is only the proof, the confirmation of what the cross has accomplished!  The risen Christ stands among us. . .  so that we can do what he has done!  He shows us the wounds. . .  the scars. . .  so that we can go and do the same!

So, my friends, we've heard the words many times before.  And, without a doubt, we will hear them, again, many, many times.  John 20:19-31 .  However, they weren't meant for everyone.  They were meant for us.  For us and for those like us.  So that we, too, could suffer. . .  and be crucified. . .  and die. . .  and be buried. . .  and descend to the dead. . .  Christ is risen!  And because of that, we can finally. . .  we, too, can finally lay down our lives. . .

 
<< Start < Prev 211 212 213 214 215 Next > End >>

Page 215 of 215
Copyright © 2017 Midland Lutheran Church , 2705 West Michigan, Midland, TX 79701 (432) 694-1373
RocketTheme Joomla Templates