Monday, April 25, 2011

1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Sunrise Service; April 24, 2011;

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ” (1 Corinthians 15:1–8, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Christ is risen! He has risen indeed! Amen.

Christ IS risen! Did you hear it in the text? Saint Paul tells us the Christian faith in a nutshell. Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day. Actually a careful translation of the text could actually read he has been raised. Meaning he is raised and he is still alive (for those grammar buffs the verb is perfect passive). Jesus resurrection isn’t only a past event. It is a current event. What he did in his life, death, burial and resurrection is true even today, even for you, even for me! He stands risen. Jesus is alive even now. He HAS BEEN raised and still is raised. He was dead but now is alive. Christ died, he was buried, but Christ IS risen.

And it isn’t just wishful thinking either. Paul gives us a whole list of witnesses, reliable ones. When he penned it you could, with a little foot work, go and find people who saw Jesus alive after he was crucified, dead and buried. A group of five hundred people isn’t a group in a corner. Paul says, most of whom are still alive, inviting the inquiry. Why is this so important? Well, listen to what he says a paragraph later:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ” (1 Corinthians 15:12–19, ESV)

Everything we do here, everything we believe, teach and confess, everything we say, hangs on that thread. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a myth all of Christianity is a myth and untrue. Then we may as well go home and try to enjoy the spring weather. But Paul continues

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. ” (1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV)

It all links together. Jesus’ death on the cross for your sin means everything. It is punishment for your sin, your rebellion against God, your inability to do completely what the law requires, what God requires. Your selfish thoughts, deeds and actions. Your desire to have what God has given to your neighbor. Your self justification. Your excuses for not giving aid to those who need it. All of it against God’s perfect law. All of it deserving his punishment, eternal punishment. AND All of it paid for by Jesus Christ crucified. He is the answer to your sin. He is God given for you for forgiveness. That’s Jesus dead on the cross… for you.

But just as his crucifixion is everything, so is the resurrection. Jesus goes to his death for you willingly, giving himself in your place, but he also chooses to live again. He takes up his life again. He stands risen. No one before or since has ever done such a thing. It comes about just as he said.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” ” (John 10:14–18, ESV)

This is the resurrection. This is its meaning for you and me. Jesus’ resurrection sets everything in its place. It means everything. My and yours sin, done for on the cross. My and yours punishment done for in Jesus’ death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes everything he does and says true. He says he’ll die and rise again. He does it. He says our sins are forgiven. They are. He says death has no hold on us and we too will rise with him. It doesn’t. We will. He says my enemy Satan is vanquished. He is. He says we receive him in, with and under bread and wine, for the forgiveness of our sin. It is true. He says he puts his name on us with water. In Holy Baptism we are his. He says his Word, the Bible, is dependable and true in everything it says. It is. It is all proven by his resurrection. Christ IS risen!

This is the Gospel, the Good News of God. This is how you are being saved. Believe it. Trust it. Rejoice in it. Because Christ IS risen!

Oh, and don’t forget. Jesus also promises you will rise from your death. Listen to Jesus:

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. ” (John 5:28–29, ESV)

And even more, through faith in him, you will share in a resurrection like his. That’s all a part of the forgiveness he won for you on the cross. Speaking of God’s promise to you in Holy Baptism Saint Paul says,

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. ” (Romans 6:5, ESV)

What it means is that the death we think is the big one is really the little one. Our body will die. We will be with Christ. Our body will decay. We will be rejoicing with our brothers and sisters in Christ, thanking him for his great mercy and forgiveness. And then, as promised, one day soon Jesus will come on the clouds with his holy angels and call us from our graves. Our bodies will rise again, and we will live forever, without sin, without suffering, without tears, in our completely human bodies. “The hour is coming”, Jesus says. And his word is true because Christ IS risen. This is why our funerals are different. We mourn because of separation. We mourn because our sin has brought us to death. But we also rejoice. Death isn’t forever. It is only the beginning of eternity, an eternity of rejoicing in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Christ is risen! He has risen indeed! Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Devotion - Luke 23:55

At the Grave of Jesus. .. Luke 23:55
They witnessed his burial. His body lay there, lifeless... pale... inside the white linen shroud. The women held each other for comfort; they couldn't believe what they were seeing; His lifeless body. Lifeless? How could He be lifeless? After all that He had done... after all He had said... Hadn't he confronted evil everywhere he went? Didn't the demons run screaming away from him? Hadn't he proven he was stronger than death? But now the darkness of the death held him, and his life was gone. The brightness of his eyes... the smile that brought warmth... the voice that calmed fears... they were all gone. Mary Magdalene struggled to remember his voice. She remembered how gently it would come over her when he spoke. She remembered how the sound would fill her like life itself. She remembered how fear and doubt evaporated into nothing. She wanted to hear it now... as she looked in the tomb... the tomb where her Lord lay dead. Mary's mind traced over the time she had spent with him, following him, watching him, and listening to him. What would he say at this moment? What words of hope would he offer? Hope? Yes, that was it... he would give her hope. But, what hope was there in the face of death? What hope was there as she stood staring into the dark hole that swallowed up everyone? Death was her future. Death was the future of all who breathed and dreamed. Every time she visited a grave she saw it. Each death she witnessed brought her own into focus. Every death moved the darkness a little closer. The darkness would come to her, soon enough. And yet, with the crucified Jesus lying before her there must be some hope. He had spoken of death often enough. She remembered the little girl, who died of a fever. "Why do you weep? She is only sleeping." Jesus said. His words filled Mary's mind as she remembered being told how Jesus lifted the girl alive again to her mother's arms. But, most of all she remembered the words Jesus had spoken at the grave of Lazarus. When they all stood there looking into that open grave, just like they were looking now into his. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die." The sound of the rolling stone pushed his words from her mind, and the loud dull thud that sealed the tomb left only silence. But, in that silence she realized that death was sealed there in that tomb with Jesus. The death of all those she had mourned... the death her of parents... the death of her friends... and even her own death lay there wrapped in that shroud and sealed in that tomb. And in her mind, was a flicker of hope, like a single candle in a darkened room. It was hope that was stronger than the image of her dead Lord that now filled her mind. It was hope that knew that this was not the end.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2 Peter 3:8-13; Weekday Lenten Service Five; April 13, 2011;

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. ” (2 Peter 3:8–13, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We are waiting the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. You and I, living in our sin soaked culture; our brothers and sisters under persecution the Middle East; Faithful saints struggling to feed themselves in Africa; All over the world the primary occupation of all Christians is waiting. We wait for the resurrection of the body as we say every worship service in the Creeds of the church. It will be a glorious day when Jesus comes on the clouds with his holy angels and the graves split open and dead rise and we are all caught up with him in the air (1 Corinthians 15). The joy of it will be beyond compare. To think that this body, this soul, this person will be with Christ and family and friends forever, perfect in Christ, is indeed a life long comfort. So until that day of resurrection we wait, eagerly, in hope.

And yet, unless the Lord comes before, we also wait for another event, death. Maybe not so eagerly. Open eyed my grave is staring. It’s there in my future and yours. How will it come? Car accident. Cancer. Heart failure. Violence. War. Old Age. Disease. This is known only to God. Your grave waits for you and it never sleeps. Your grave threatens all that you have, all your relationships, all your accumulated wealth, all of your education, all of you. No one is spared from it. Your children, your parents, your spouse, your friends, your family, you! Open eyed it stares over all you do. Like the old cartoons of the vulture hanging over the character’s head as he slogs through the desert in search of water. It shadows everything you hope to do and accomplish. How could there ever be any comfort here in the face in this enemy?

Our comfort isn’t found in death. In fact, Saint Paul calls it the last enemy that will be defeated. Death is the unnatural end to a sinful life, the just punishment for a sinful body. A funeral is proof of the wages of sin. Even though the body lay in state it must eventually, go to the grave.

God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It. LSB 594, v 5

There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I’m a child of paradise!

I am baptized into Christ, what comfort does this give whilst I look into the eye of my grave? Well, indeed if it were not for Jesus Christ there would be no comfort here. If there were no God at all there would be no comfort. If there is no God death is a forever sleep in nothingness, an end of all things. Everything that is done, thought and loved in life is all there is and nothing more. The vastness of forever nothing has no comfort only the coldness and darkness of nothing. And worse, with God’s existence. Sinful human beings cannot be with God (nor do they desire to be with him). That means to be separated from all that is good and right and true, living in the presence of God’s never ending anger over your sin.

There is no comfort in death, indeed there can be no comfort, apart from Jesus Christ. And listen to Saint Paul again:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ” (Colossians 1:11–14, ESV)

Forgiveness of sins is the key. Forgiveness of sins is our rescue from the domain of darkness, our rescue from death that ends in nothing or eternal punishment. And Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of sins. His death on the cross is your forever death. His death on the cross is your eternal punishment for sin. He faces God’s eternal wrath and anger over sin. He suffers hell, your hell. This is exactly what Saint Paul means; he calls death empty of its victory and power.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, ESV)

All of the horror of death is emptied in Jesus Christ. What is the connection to Holy Baptism? I am baptized into Christ. In Holy Baptism you have been “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). In it you have died with Christ and been raised to new life with him. In it you are given the gift of eternal life with Christ, eternal life with the Father not in his eternal anger over our sin. In fact, for those in faith, for those in baptism, for those clinging to the cross of Christ for forgiveness, death is completely changed. Instead of all that it is, it becomes what Christians already are doing, waiting. It is interesting that what we are doing now, waiting for the day of our Lord, doesn’t really change in death but only becomes even more intense. We sing Even there that is in death, I’ll sleep secure. After your death, as your body decays, as it must. While it sleeps, You’ll be rejoicing in your salvation in Jesus. Like the thief on the cross, through death’s sleep you’ll awake with and find Christ. Your first thoughts and only thoughts will be praise, and joy, and wonder at the salvation of God for you, a sinner. A child of paradise. And there you’ll wait again for the resurrection of my body; wait for all God’s promises in Christ to come to their fullness; wait again to be joined by those who have preceded you and those who will follow you in death. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

John 11:47-57; Fifth Sunday in Lent; April 10, 2011;

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. (John 11:47-53, ESV)

Why did Jesus have to die? (From an outline by Rev. Thomas Manteufel, CJ Vol 31, 1)

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Papa,” the inquisitive young boy said to his father, as they paged through a picture book together, “why is that man bleeding? And what is he doing on that piece of wood?” (from a story by Søren Kierkegaard) He’s asking a good question. But he’s not the only one. Look at the beautiful stain glass window there. John the disciple of Jesus and Mary Jesus mother, stand close enough to be spattered with his blood. Can you see the question in their eyes? “Why do you have to die?” Peter said as much also when Jesus informed him of his upcoming suffering and death. Jesus told Peter about his coming death in Jerusalem. Peter took Jesus aside and said, “This shall never happen to you!” he said, meaning, “Why would you have to die?” Jesus rebuked him in the strongest terms. Saying Peter’s words were the work of Satan. As for us, today we continue our push through the season of Lent. It’s a time when we focus specifically on the Crucified Christ. We have less than two weeks before we gather in the darkness of Good Friday and at the glow of a single candle ask that very question again. “Why did Jesus have to die?” It is an important question; some might argue the most important question that any person can ask. That’s because knowing the answer to that question and clinging to it in faith is the difference between life and death, the difference between spending eternity with God among the praises of His angels, or suffering for eternity in the presence of Satan and his demons.

The question of why Jesus must die, is also being discussed by Jesus’ enemies in the Gospel reading for today. The Sanhedrin, the church council, gathered to discuss “the problem of Jesus.”

“What are we to do?” They asked. “If we don’t do something it’s all going to end very badly. Everyone is going to believe in Jesus and the Romans will destroy us.” Their fears are based on unbelief and misunderstanding. They see Jesus as a threat to the nation and more specifically their political power. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. In their minds, Jesus had to die for the sake of the peace, to protect them from the realities of Roman occupation. There unbelief leads them to their plot. Jesus gave them many signs of who he was. He healed, preached and even raised the dead. They don’t see it. They refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is from God. St. Paul describes their unbelief in his letter to the Corinthians:

None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:8, ESV)

You might say that on the surface, Jesus had to die, because people plotted to kill him. But there is a deeper truth. It is spoken unknowingly by Caiaphas. He speaks better than he knows. He declares exactly why Jesus must die but he means it for his own purposes and his own benefit.

You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish. (49-50)

The Gospel writer John tells us that in spite of himself, Caiaphas speaks the truth for God. He unwittingly prophesies about Jesus. When Caiaphas speaks God is speaking, too, even though they are saying different things. Jesus indeed dies for the people. But it isn’t as the Chief Priest thinks, Jesus gives up his own life, I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:15b, ESV) Jesus is the man who gives His life for all people. He goes to the cross in their place. He suffers the punishment that sin deserves. And through His punishment and death all people have everything they need to avoid an eternity in hell.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)

Martin Luther says it like this:

Our sins must be either upon our own necks or upon Christ. If they remain upon us, we are lost forever, but if they be upon Christ, we are saved.

…and St. Peter like this:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)

“Why did Jesus have to die?” He died to guarantee that you and I could live with God forever. He was “railroaded” into death by jealous human beings to be the unfailing source of forgiveness of sins that all people need, you and me, the boy and his father, and even the ones who made the plans that led to his death.

Caiaphas said that Jesus should die for the nation. Once again he understates the truth. According to St. John there is still more to Jesus death. As he tells us, Jesus died to gather into one the children of God. Caiaphas knew Jesus had to die, but he refuses to believe that Jesus’ death is for him. Knowing about Jesus death isn’t enough. Satan himself believes that Jesus died. Faith in Jesus is believing that he died for you. Faith in Jesus is trusting his death on the cross to remove your sin. Faith in Jesus is holding on to the promises of eternal life that Jesus earned for you on that cross. That’s what it means to be a child of God, having that kind of faith in Jesus. It is through that faith we are made one family in Christ.

for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28, ESV)

Why did Jesus have to die? He died to gather his people into his family the church. Picture the scene in your mind. Jesus, dead on the cross, a soldier pushes a spear into his side to assure that he is dead. Out pours blood and water. When we gather here to worship, we begin in the name of God. The very same name is spoken over us and connected to us through water. We just heard Paul tell us that in Baptism we put on Christ. Jesus’ death brings us together. No matter who we are or where we come from Jesus’ death for our sin is our common ground. We say as much when we gather around the Lord’s altar to eat and drink the bread and wine that is his body and his blood. When we eat and drink we say that no matter what has happened between us, Jesus’ death forgives it all.

Maybe we take it for granted Sunday after Sunday. It is tempting after all to look past his death it to something else that seems to be more important. “I know Jesus died for me now tell me something I can use in my everyday life.” But there is nothing more important that I can tell you. As Paul said to the Corinthians we preach Christ crucified… to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:23,25, ESV)

Sin separates us from God; all sin is ultimately against him, a rejection of his ownership of us. But sin also affects our relationships with other people. You know how difficult it is to talk with people you’ve hurt. You’ve seen it on talk shows; the host brings together victims of violent crime and the ones who committed the crime. The pain is evident. The difficulty of the confrontation makes for dramatic television. The offenders seek forgiveness; the offended seek closure and restoration. But sin doesn’t have to be violent to cause separation, even the smallest sins causes disruption of our relationships. That’s the reality of every day of our lives. Our sins push people away. Their sins turn us away from them. The forgiveness we receive through faith in Jesus death ends our separation from God and one another. It makes us one in Jesus.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesians 4:1-7, ESV)

“Why is that man bleeding? What is he doing on that wood?” The boy asked his father. In the story the father has an answer for his son. Now you have an answer to. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Ephesians 5:8-14; Third Sunday in Lent; April 3, 2011;

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:8-14, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, … I will turn the darkness into light before them” (Isa 42:16) Isaiah writes that in the Old Testament lesson for today. Those words remind us a lot of the reading from the book of John where Jesus heals the man who was born blind. Jesus does exactly what Isaiah said, he turns this man’s darkness into light. That blind man himself said as we will sing in our closing hymn today, “I was blind but now I see!” as the story continues he sees more and more. The more the Pharisees grill him about how he was healed the more his faith grows. In the end he gives a very powerful witness to Jesus. He worships Jesus, the one who took his blindness away. He moves from darkness into light.

The Pharisees go the other way. They see the light that Jesus brings but they choose to stay in the darkness. The fulfillment of the prophecy is there for them to see, the blind man who was healed, stands before them. It is sight and light brought to a man born blind, but they refuse to believe. For the man born blind, Jesus created a completely new world of light where there was only darkness before. How much different would his life be now?

That brings us to the answer to that question according to St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The man that Jesus healed was blind, in darkness, and now he is in the light, he could see. The world that he only knew by his other senses was brought to new light. And not only that, but he could see the one that God had sent to be the Savior of the world. He saw the “Son of Man,” the light of the world.

You and I, we can see. We’re not blind. Only a few of you even know what it’s like to struggle with problems with your sight. Maybe you know person who is blind, but most of us do not. We have the best of medical care that corrects and protects most of the problems we have with our eyes. I have three pair of glasses! In lots of ways we see better now than any generation. When I was a senior in High School the teachers told me they thought I might need glasses. I didn’t believe them, but I went to the eye doctor anyway. It was one of those “in-the-mall” eye clinics. After the checkup the doctor brought me out to pick the frames for the new glasses he said I needed. As I sat there he must have seen the dubious look on my face. “You don’t think you need glasses do you.” “No!” I answered. “I can see just fine.” He pointed out the window of the shop to a tree. “What do you see?” he asked. “A tree,” I said in a sarcastic voice. Holding the lens that would be my glasses prescription in front of my eye he asked again. “Now what do you see?” “Leaves!” I said. Before that, I didn’t know that that when you looked at a tree you were supposed to see leaves. I was blind to it. I was brought into the light. I couldn’t wait for the glasses to be done.

We also have light… at least the electric sort. It’s not very often that the power goes out around here. The lights are very dependable. Once in a while, we have power outages from snow and ice. Whenever you mention the power being out you always here about the old days when the snow piled up the roof and power was out for weeks. All that is just in our memory, our lights rarely go out today. But even if we can see and we have light there is darkness to be found in our lives. It’s blindness that doctors have no cure for. It is darkness that you can’t fix with a flashlight. And it all lives in the chambers of our hearts.

We live with this darkness every day. We struggle with what we know is right and what we want for ourselves. It comes out in our selfish desires. It comes out in our anger. It comes out in our laziness. It comes out in our apathy. We know the darkness. We most often point it out when we see it in other people. But we know that what we see in others is only a reflection of our own troubles. What’s more, God’s light, His Holy and Perfect Word exposes us for what we really are. It shines the light on our sinful nature. When what’s in our hearts is in control of our lives there can be only darkness in our lives.

Saint Paul also knew well what he was talking about when he said; “You were once in darkness…” He lived it in his own life. Before Jesus changed his life he stood by and approvingly watched as people threw stones at Stephen until he was dead. Stephen died because he confessed Jesus. He was the first Christian martyr. Paul even held the killers coats while they worked. Paul’s world, before Jesus, was darkness. And even if we don’t care to admit it, we know what he’s talking about, too. We don’t like it when the light of truth shines on our dark hearts and reveals our sin. We would rather keep our secrets, secret. We want our private lies, our private desires, and our private darkness, to be only ours. But, God’s light shines on it and exposes it all and when it does we want to cower in the corner, and stay in the darkness.

But, Paul also says that we are Children of the Light. We are that because we have been made so by the Jesus. He said himself that he is the light of the world. He not only brings light into the world, like when he made the blind man see, but he is the light of the world. Jesus is life, and that life, is the light of men. St. John says at the beginning of the Gospel of John. So Saint Paul can talk about our darkness as a thing of the past. Just look how Paul says it You were once in darkness… he said, but now you are light in the Lord. God’s Word of Light shines on us and tells us of our need for a Savior. It shines on the darkness in our hearts and exposes it. God’s Word also tells us that Jesus Christ is the Savior we need. He won forgiveness for the sin that is in our hearts. God’s Word tells us again and again of God’s great love for us in Jesus. His love was so great that, on a darkened hillside outside of Jerusalem, the Light of the World endured the pain and suffering, the punishment and the condemnation, that our darkness deserved. All the darkness of the world was gathered into that one place, and placed on Jesus. He took the darkness of our sin to death, and left it in the grave. We know what happened after that, he rose again. He came alive. The darkness of death was defeated by the Light of the World. That’s the Light that shines into your darkness with God’s great love.

When you walk into a darkened room you simply flip a switch and soon light floods every corner. We do it every day without thinking. Light makes a difference in the room. The Light of Jesus makes a difference in your life. Jesus is your Light. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in Word and Water and Bread and Wine, he pushes the darkness away, and we see Jesus even more clearly. The Light that Jesus gives defeats the unholy, secret, dark things in our hearts. Like the blind man who saw the light of the world for the first time when Jesus fixed his eyes, our lives are also forever different.

Paul tells us again, Live as Children of the Light. The fruit of a life as a Child of Light is evident goodness, righteousness, and truth. And that describes you and me, too. Even though there still times when the darkness comes out, because of Jesus we always have the moments of light. Visits to the hospital miles away from home, a caring touch for a hurting relative, and an understanding smile. Speaking the truth in love when it is needed. Faithful, often unnoticed, work for the church, or your family. Money that sends missionaries to the farthest, darkest corners of the earth. The Light of God shines in and through us, as the love of God reaches out from us, to the dark world that is all around us.

And there are times when we point to the darkness of the world around us, and shine the Light of Truth there, too. It isn’t that there isn’t darkness in us, but that God’s light is needed out there. “…light that makes everything visible.” There are times to speak up about sin in the world: to defend the lives of the helpless; to point out what God says is evil. So there are times when we must speak out against public sin. It’s not that we want to condemn but that we want to bring to light what God had done about the whole world’s sin. We want there to be repentance to life. We what God’s light for other people, too. Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. “God has sent Jesus Christ to remove the darkness from your life.” We say to those whose lives are controlled by the darkness. “Turn to him and live in the light.”

Jesus sent the blind man to a pool of water to wash the mud off his eyes. When he did his new life in the light began. Our new lives, our new life in the light begins with our washing too. Every day we as we wake, when the light of day wakes us from sleep and we hop into the shower or wash our face, we remember the new life, the light that Jesus brings to our lives in Baptism. We remember that we were blind but now we see. We remember that Jesus washed the darkness in our hearts away. We are no longer blind but are in the light. We also remember that every day we wake and rise only because the Light of Jesus Christ has shines on us. The Light of the World shines through us to make us a light to the world. Darkness no longer controls us, but light, the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Jesus. Amen.