Sunday, April 30, 2023

John.10.1-10; Psalm 23; The Fourth Sunday of Easter; April 30, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:1–10, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Who’s your shepherd? Maybe that seems like an odd question. But I think it’s a fair one. Who’s your shepherd? We have after all designated a whole Sunday service to the “Good Shepherd.” So, when I ask, “who’s your Shepherd,” you may quickly reply, “Well Pastor, that’s obvious, The Lord is my Shepherd! Just end the sermon right now and let’s all go home.” The Lord is my Shepherd, is indeed the answer to the question, but maybe we should think about it just a little bit more before we go home to lunch in the oven.

Who’s your Shepherd? It is an important question. It’s important because the Lord isn’t the only shepherd out there. The Lord seems to have lots of competition, especially these days, especially these very busy days. Maybe even though you say The Lord is my Shepherd, you are really listening to one of the others. Maybe you’re straying from the Good Shepherd’s flock. Maybe one of these competing shepherds, maybe one of those false shepherds, is leading you. In fact, it would be surprising if they didn’t have some influence over your life, because there are a great many false shepherds vying for your attention. They are out there, calling to you, wanting you to follow them. And what’s more they don’t “come through the gate” Jesus says, they climb in some other way. We may not even recognize that they are there.

There is one “shepherd” that is calling out for us to follow, one that’s obvious and overt. He calls out to us 24 hours a day. We, in fact, have invited him into our homes and our pockets and given him a place of prominence. No other “shepherd” has more influence on us than the daily bombardment of the screen. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, TikTok, Amazon prime video, over the air television, and cable TV. It isn’t that the technology is evil. It isn’t that we become vegetables by sitting in front of the tube (although that can be a real problem). The problem we are talking about this morning is the constant repetition of themes and images that come to fill our thoughts and minds. So many of those messages are in direct contrast to the “paths of righteousness” that the Good Shepherd would lead us on. So much of what this “shepherd” has to say is hidden in and among messages that seem to be so good. No “shepherd” is better at playing on our sympathy than this one. But he comes in the back way. We take him out of our pocket and put him in front of our eyes whenever we have nothing else to do. He deceives us by telling us that what the whole world thinks is more important than what God, the creator of the world, thinks. He does it by sheer repetition. This shepherd comes to steal away, and to kill you, and you, are a captive audience.

The “Good Shepherd” isn’t like that. As Jesus says, he comes in the gate. He calls out to his sheep, by name. They know him and follow him. The “Good Shepherd” can be trusted and followed. He knows the right way. He leads his sheep on the well-worn paths of righteousness. The path of righteousness is the good way to go. It leads to a fullness of life; a way of life that preserves and protects, instead of kills and destroys. Other “shepherds” don’t lead that way. There are many “shepherds” also who tell us that the way is wide and easy. They tell us that many roads lead to the same place. It really doesn’t matter which way you choose, as long as you are sincere. This Religion says this “shepherd,” is for personal comfort; for personal growth in times of trouble; or even for personal wealth and happiness. It is called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It’s easy to follow this “shepherd,” too. When he calls out to be followed, he only asks that you recognize that “the truth relative” and “what’s true for you isn’t true for everyone” and “do whatever is in your heart” and “if it feels good, do it”.

But the “Good Shepherd” isn’t like that. He says there is only one right path to follow.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)
There is only one way. The “Good Shepherd” leads in that way. His way leads through the green pastures, and beside the quiet waters, and only the way that he leads ends at the banquet table in the House of God.

There is another shepherd that calls out to you to follow him… and that shepherd has more influence over you than all the others do. He is the shepherd that lurks in your very own heart. He’s the part of you that wants nothing to do with God or the Good Shepherd. He wants to be his own shepherd. He wants to be in control of his own life and live it his own way. “I can make that decision on my own. I don’t need God’s guidance. God can’t really mean that this thing that feels so good is sinful. I can do whatever I want; the commandments don’t apply to me. Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” Unfortunately, this shepherd can’t be separated from us. He’s a part of our being. And none of us, who are alive, lives without him. It’s perfectly natural for us to want to follow him. We call it “looking out for number one,” or “Taking care of myself, first.” But, you see, the sheep can’t lead themselves. The sheep don’t know which way to go. When every sheep starts doing what is right in his own thinking and then the flock gets scattered, then none of them make the journey safely. When we follow ourselves as our shepherd, again the way leads to death.

Again, that isn’t the way of the Good Shepherd. He gathers his sheep together and leads them. He knows the sheep want to go their own way, but he corrects them. He calls out to them to keep the flock together. He walks in front of them to show them the way.

There is no picture, no image, which is burned into our minds that is stronger than that of Jesus the Good Shepherd. We find it in countless paintings and multitudes of art. I’ll bet most of you have it somewhere in your home. We can understand this image. That’s probably why the 23rd Psalm is the favorite bible passage of so many people. When Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd we automatically go to an image we hold in our minds, we know what he means. Who’s your shepherd? It isn’t the shepherd that calls you from your computer screen your pocket, calling you to believe lies. It isn’t the shepherd that tells you there are many paths that all lead to the same place. It isn’t even the shepherd you harbor in your own heart. No, none of these are the Good Shepherd. Your shepherd is the Good Shepherd.

The Lord, Jesus Christ, is your shepherd. You are his sheep. He knows you very well. He calls you by name. He has marked you as his own with the very still waters of baptism. He has claimed you from the jaws of the world, Satan, and your own sinful flesh. He has gone to the cross to make that connection firm. He is the shepherd that gives his very life for the sheep.

You shall not want. He supplies you with all that you need for the journey through life. He guides you. He leads you. He protects you. He makes you lie down in green pastures. He leads you beside still waters. He restores your soul. Sometimes you need to be made to rest. The Good Shepherd knows that too. The pastures that he leads you to are full of green, green grass. There are restful and there are quiet waters there. You are well rested when it’s time for the journey to continue. He guides you in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He guides you in the way of truth. That’s the best way to go. It is the way that makes life full and complete. He does it, not because you are a special sheep, but because he is the “Good Shepherd.”

Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for he is with you; the journey is a very dangerous journey. Danger is all around. But there is no reason to fear. The Good Shepherd is with you. In fact, the Good Shepherd has already died for you. Jesus has already walked through the shadow of death, he was crucified, died, and was buried. But he didn’t stay in the shadow; he walked out the other side and was raised from death to life. He promises to walk with you, to lead you through death, too. You don’t need to be afraid because you will also walk from death to life.

His rod and his staff, they comfort you. Even if you begin to stray, even when you begin listen to other shepherds, Your Good Shepherd is there to bring you back. He uses his rod to drive the other shepherds away. He uses his staff to hook you and keep you close to himself, close at hand, where you can listen to him, see him, and follow him. He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He anoints your head with oil; your cup overflows. You are his honored guest. Your enemies, those false shepherds, are not able to influence you. The blessings of Your Good Shepherd overflow.

Surely goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, on this journey, with your Good Shepherd, His goodness and love follow you. They pursue you and make the journey rich and full of wonder. and you will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. When the journey is over, when the destination is reached, it is only the beginning; because your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is leading you home, to the place that he has prepared for you. There everything you experienced on the journey, the goodness and mercy, the overflowing banquet, the comfort, his presence, and the abundance of his blessings, will never end.

So, we come back to the question that we began with, who’s your shepherd? He’s the one you listen to. He’s the one who leads you. He’s Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

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

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Luke.24.13-35; The Third Sunday of Easter; April 23, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:13–35, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I think it’s wonderfully amazing how Jesus is so much at the heart and center of this text. We have a print of a painting of this very scene in the restroom. Jesus stands between these two disciples who have left Jerusalem. It is the very place Jesus said he would meet them, and were walking away to Emmaus. Jesus tells them about scripture.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
But before that the two were talking about, “all these things that happened.” That means Jesus death, and the rumors of his resurrection. And Jesus appeared to them. But they didn’t know who he was because that’s the way Jesus wanted it to be. “What are you talking about? As you’re walking away from Jerusalem.” And the two disciples were dumbfounded that someone would not know what was going on. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know these things that have happened in these days?” The truth is Jesus knows more about what has happened than these disciples. But they are about to find out. “What things?” says Jesus. It’s about one of the most ironic statements in the Bible. “We had high hopes for Jesus of Nazareth. But, he was crucified dead and buried. Some women we know told us that he has risen from the dead. But none of this makes any sense to us.” “Don’t you know your Bible?” Jesus chides. “Doesn’t it say in the prophets that these things are necessary to happen? Doesn’t it say that the Christ should suffer all these things?” Then Jesus conducts a Bible class on the road. Jesus walks through the Bible with his disciples as he walks with them on the road to Emmaus. From beginning to end, he shows them how the Scriptures are all about him. He interprets the texts of God’s word for them, showing how he is the center of it all. Showing how he was the sacrifice for all human sin, bringing forgiveness through grace.

The disciples invite this unknown man to eat with them. And Jesus reveals to them who he is in the breaking of bread. Just as they see it, Jesus in the Scriptures, Jesus seated with them in their meal, Jesus teaching them on the road to Emmaus, he leaves them that thought. They later told the other disciples that their hearts burned within them while Jesus talked to them on the road. When Jesus told them that he was the center of Scripture the meaning and purpose of the Bible was “opened to them.”

As an aside, this is one of the main reasons that I know Lutheran Theology is correct. Because we put Jesus at the center of everything in the bible.

What the disciples didn’t know is that Jesus was the center of their journey. He is the most important thing. Scripture is all about Jesus dying on the cross to forgive our sins.

The Emmaus disciples ran back to the upper room. They couldn’t wait to tell the other disciples that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. They wanted to explain how Jesus opened Scriptures to them. They couldn’t wait to explain how Jesus resurrection proves that the main thing Jesus had come to do through his life, death, and resurrection is bring the forgiveness of sins. After all, it was all there in the Scriptures. Just as Jesus appeared to them in the breaking of bread, just as his presence was made clear at the end of their walk to Emmaus, Jesus was made clear to them as the center of the Bible.

So what does this mean for you and me? It means it whenever we read or study the Scriptures we ought to be looking for Jesus. The whole Bible is about him. Our sinful tendency is to look at the Bible and make it about us. We read the Bible stories and we want the application to be what were supposed to do, who we are supposed to be, how we are to make ourselves right with God. And although we can get helpful insight on living from God’s word, as Jesus told the disciples on the Emmaus Road, the Scriptures are opened to us when we see Jesus in the text. We understand Scripture clearly only when we see the main purpose. Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinful people. Our journey through life is to be a journey with Jesus, footprints from here, through death, to life forever with him. The only way for us to walk with Jesus is to see him in the

place that he comes to us. That is the Holy Scriptures. His Word is Jesus at work. And, just so you know, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are simply God’s Word connected to physical elements, water and bread and wine. There is no place else to find Jesus working. We should not look for him in feelings in our hearts, or the dreams of little children or even our own dreams. It is in Word and Sacrament alone where Jesus comes to us.

So the Bible is always about Jesus. And maybe we should have a few examples of looking for him there. What about Philippians 4:13. Maybe this is your confirmation verse.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, ESV)
Now you might think that St. Paul is giving some great advice. That he’s giving hope Christians about how their whole future is opened to them. That they can do anything that they set their minds to doing. But that’s not exactly what he’s saying. He is in fact talking about his life of suffering. What he means is that when our minds are focused on who Jesus is and what he has done for us in his life, death, and resurrection, we can live through the trials of life knowing that we have life forever with him. Knowing that nothing that happens to us, that seems evil, is punishment from God but rather a way for God to remind us how much we need Jesus.

Or how about Isaiah 43:1?
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1b, ESV)
There is indeed great reason to fear in this world that we live in. Christian persecution is greater now than it has ever been. If you care to look, every day brings news of our brothers and sisters in faith who die rather than deny their Savior. Christians in Africa are being crucified. In the Middle East, they are regularly beheaded. The culture all around us is increasingly hostile to the message of Jesus. When we dare to say what is right and wrong according to God’s Word we are held up for ridicule and even persecution. In fact, to stand firm on what God says is a dangerous place to stand. But we stand there because it is the only place for us to stand. God gives us his name in Holy Baptism. It is the name of Jesus, and it carries everything that Jesus did. The name of Jesus placed on you, gives you the forgiveness he won on the cross. All of this makes you God’s very own child. Persecution, trouble, hardship, and even death are only things that will bring you closer to Jesus. There is no reason to fear you have God’s faithful promise of life forever.

And finally Joshua 24:15.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15b, ESV)
Now this one certainly sounds like something we do, serving the Lord. We ought to understand what serving the Lord means. First of all Joshua is confessing faith in God who saved them from slavery in Egypt. He says, even if other families turn to other gods he will remain true to the one who saved him. Joshua’s response is to God’s salvation. As for me and my house, we will serve the God who saves us. The word “Lord” in this passage is all capital letters. And it really is God’s name, Yahweh. And it is the name that means, “I AM.” “I AM” is the name that God gave the Israelites to know who was saving them from slavery. This same God sends Jesus to save us from our slavery to sin. He is the God who comes in human flesh in Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our forgiveness. To serve this God is to recognize first what he has done for us on the cross. In service of the Lord in a family first begins with bringing that family to hear God’s word. And therefore, teaching them of God salvation through Jesus Christ.

So on the road to Emmaus; we learn how to keep Jesus at the center of our lives. God gives to us Holy Scripture that points us to Jesus. That’s what our faith journey is. A life lived in the forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross. Amen.

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

Sunday, April 16, 2023

John.20.19-31; The Second Sunday in Easter; April 16, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:19–31, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus barges in on the disciples, doors locked, huddled in, hunkered down, in quite hiding. They are afraid of the Jews. They are afraid of the cross. Afraid of being discovered. You can imagine them in the pale darkness of dusk, doors and windows locked, not wanting to light the lamps for fear of being found. At that moment, everything Jesus taught and did, didn't mean a thing. After all he was dead. The establishment has won. All their master's accomplishments were locked in the darkness of the tomb, where Jesus lay.

Jesus breaks in...

He interrupts their fear, their sorrow, their doubt. He appears behind locked doors. He passes through walls. He doesn't need an invitation. He doesn't need the key. He is the key. He is alive. His first words to them bring them what they need. Peace, shalom, an end to turmoil and anxiety. He shows his fatal wounds. His hands and feet and the spear. He is the one who was dead. He is alive again. It was just as he said,
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22, ESV)
They were glad when they saw Jesus. They rejoiced in their hearts. And there is more there than realizing that Jesus isn't dead. I'm sure it took time for it all to sink in. Jesus is alive. He was dead. He is alive. He conquers his enemies. He conquers his cross. He conquers his grave. He is alive. They are full of fear. They are full of sorrow. But all fear and sorrow evaporate in Jesus. He offers peace, shalom.

Do you see how he gives it?
“Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The cross is it. Forgiveness is it. When we look at the cross and see a dead Jesus on in, we are seeing forgiveness. We are seeing the peace that he brings. When we look at the risen Lord with nail prints in his hands and feet, and a spear hole in his side we are looking at forgiveness. We are seeing the peace that he brings. That's what Jesus means when he says peace, shalom. He connects it to the cross. When Jesus barges in he is interrupting doubt, and pain, and sorrow and fear.

Jesus breaks in...

…through all your barriers to bring peace. You may be huddling behind pain and sorrow, loss, or facing death. You may be huddling against your enemies, sin, death and hell, viruses, fellow employees, family members who ridicule neighbors, or even God himself. Amid all this Jesus breaks through all these barriers and brings peace to your fear. You have good reason to fear. All hell has broken loose. It comes from inside of you. It comes from the world around you. It comes from the old evil lion who stalks around seeking someone to devour. This is the "Unholy Trinity", our mortal enemies, our sinful nature, the world, and Satan. And these are all threatening. These are evident in your life. Sin, death, and evil are there daily. And you are the target, to be dragged to hell.

But Jesus breaks in...

This is what God does. We have it in spades in Jesus. He breaks every barrier. He defeats every enemy. He shows you his hands, and his feet and his side. These are the marks of God's great love. These are the testimonies to you of what he has done for you. The pain and death of the cross break through to life and freedom. This is the forgiveness of sins...

Sin is the big barrier, the mother of all barriers. Sin bears itself out inside of you as you struggle to do the right thing and fail. Sin bears in the world out in the world as it pressures you to deny all that God says is right. Sin is what the Accuser holds against you as he whispers the truth of it in your ear, trying to get you to believe that God has no way of restoring you. Sin is the barrier between you and God. When sin has its way with you, all goodness and love pass away. And sin bears death on its shoulders and delivers it to you as just punishment.

But Jesus breaks in... with forgiveness.

Forgiveness of sins is what God delivers through Jesus, his Word and his Sacraments. Peace. Shalom. His hands and feet, and side show you what is yours, what should be yours, but what is now his. Fear is no longer necessary. No more hunkering down in the dark. No more listening to the inner voice, or the outer voice or the satanic voice for false comfort. Forgiveness of sins restores the One True Voice. Jesus [says to you], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one [not sin, death nor the power of the Devil] will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27–28, ESV)
Jesus breaks in... with forgiveness.

He breaks into the world. Your neighbors, your friends, your enemies are huddled in fear behind barriers. Jesus breaths on you The Holy Spirit. Through him the way, the truth and the life are with you always. The forgiveness he gives to you is given to give away. All you do is take your finger and point to the hands, the feet, and the side of the Savior. All you do is point to the place where the Word of God dwells. All you do is speak the truth.

Jesus breaks in... Amen.

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

Sunday, April 09, 2023

1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ; April 9, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
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 sin and yours, done for on the cross. My punishment and yours 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.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

John.12.20-33; Palm/Passion Sunday; April 2, 2023

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:20–33, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The time had come for Jesus to be glorified. Make no mistake the glory of Jesus is the cross. So important is the cross to all that Jesus is and does, that if you take away the cross you have no Jesus. We Lutherans get very picky about this. We say crux sola est nostra theologia. Which means the cross alone is our theology. It is the theology of everything we believe, teach, and confess. It is the theology of every sermon. In fact, a sermon without the cross is no sermon. A sermon that is the same if the cross is removed is no sermon. We Lutherans preach Christ crucified just as St. Paul said
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2, ESV)
or even more so
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, ESV)
in our catechism we are taught in morning and evening prayer that we should begin our prayers with:
...make the sign of the holy cross and say, In the name of the Father and of the  Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is our connection to Holy Baptism and the Cross of Jesus. Every day we live in our baptism under the sign of the cross. And when we do that, every day we are reminded that in baptism under the cross we are incorporated into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God's name is placed on us with the sign of the cross. And where God's name is so is his glory.

Jesus is on the cross for you. Jesus comes to his full glory on the cross for you. He is located there in a way that is different from God being everywhere. He is there in glory, for you! It's a time and a location. We confess in the creed that it was "under Pontius Pilate." And Jesus says, "the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." And "for this purpose I have come to this hour." Jesus’ throne is the cross. There is God on the cross. There is God on the cross for you and for all people. It is located in time and space for you.

Martin Luther said, "The Gospel is not Christ." What he means is the gospel is the proclamation of Christ. And the proclamation of Jesus Christ is the proclamation of the cross for you. It's the cross for you here and now. The word about Christ, the proclamation of the cross, brings all that was done for you to you. You can't travel through time and go back to the cross to have your sins forgiven. It is the word that delivers forgiveness to you. The word about the cross. And the word about the cross is put together with water and delivered to you. And the word about the cross is put together with bread and wine and delivered to you. The words spoken, the water, and the bread and wine are located here and now. It's easy to find. You only have to go to a particular place at a particular time to receive all that Jesus did for you on the cross. So much is your need. So much is God's glory. That he would bring his glory to your need in a way that leaves no doubt. The word strikes your ears. The water strikes your head. The bread and wine strike your tongue. It is God in his glory there for you, on the cross and here for you now. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.