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He Ascended Into Heaven

Sermon: “He Ascended Into Heaven”

Lectionary Series C; Seventh Sunday of Easter; The Ascension of Our Lord

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

This past Thursday was the Ascension of Our Lord. It is a day in the church year that is all too often overlooked. Yet, this should not be the case, especially considering that we confess in the Creed each week: “He Ascended Into Heaven”. The Ascension of Our Lord serves as a bridge between Easter and Pentecost. But it is far more than a bridge. It is the coronation of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Perhaps when we think of a coronation, what comes to mind is a high school coronation of a homecoming king and queen and their court. Though this is somewhat helpful, it pales in comparison to what the coronation of Christ was like.

As Americans, we probably struggle to grasp the significance of a coronation. We do not have a monarchy. We do not have a king or queen. The closest we have to a coronation is an inauguration. And though thousands attend the inauguration of our president, it seems to fail in the realm of the pomp and circumstance as a king or queen sits upon their throne and the crown is placed upon their head.

In fact, as I thought of a coronation, the only images that came to mind for me were from movies. I am a big fan of the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. I love the books, and I love the movies. There is a scene at the end of the final film. The great enemy Soron has been defeated. The people then gather in victory at Osgiliath, the great white city, and there in the upper outdoor court, everyone gathers from far and wide to behold the coronation of their king. King Aragorn stands before the people as the crown is placed upon his head. And as soon as the crown is placed upon his head, the people let out a shout of joy and victory. It is a beautiful image to consider in light of the Ascension of Our Lord. Perhaps you have others that come to mind.

The Ascension of Our Lord took place in Bethany on the Mount of Olives. The disciples were all gathered round, and then Jesus blessed them. And while He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried upon into heaven. And then they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God.

It seems hard to fathom that they worshipped Him and rejoiced. It has been my experience in life that good-byes are hardly a time for rejoicing. Coming from a blended family growing up, I have had my fair share of good-byes. My older siblings would visit for a month in the summer. That was often the only time I would see them in the year. And every time I went to the airport, it would rip my heart out to say good-bye yet again. Good-byes are painful. To endure a good-bye is like having a piece of you torn away from your body. At least that is the way it feels to me. I hate good-byes.

Yet the disciples were rejoicing and worshipping when Jesus left and ascended into heaven. It would seem that such an occasion would leave them downtrodden. Here Jesus had journeyed with them these last three years. They had seen Him die and now rise back to life. Now He was leaving again. It would seem that they would feel abandoned, if anything else.

But this was no abandonment. This warranted no hard good-bye. The Ascension of Our Lord to be coroneted as King of the universe was a time of celebration. And it still is to this day. As I said before, the Ascension of Our Lord is more than just a bridge between Easter and Pentecost. It is a bridge between heaven and earth.

As Jesus departed from this earth to take His rightful spot at the right hand of God the Father, He did so for us. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3).

Jesus is up in heaven preparing a place just for us. Just think of the love and care, the attention to detail, the great lengths He is going to in order to make sure all is prepared for our arrival. He can’t wait to have us with Him for all eternity, so He is making sure that our entrance into His house will be far beyond what we could ever ask for or imagine.

But He knows there is more to the journey that remains for us. So, Scripture also says that Christ is the one who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:34). From His throne, Jesus is praying for us, pleading for us, bringing our requests to God the Father Himself. And there is nothing more that the Father delights in hearing than the voice of His Son. So, let us call upon Jesus’ name. He is our advocate with the Father (1st John 2:1).

As our advocate then, He exercises His authority and power for our benefit. Through the means of grace, through Word and Sacraments, Christ the King protects us from the evil one. Through the means of grace, Christ the King prepares us for His final return giving us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Now to our human minds, it often doesn’t make sense how words and water, simple bread and wine can do all that. To our minds it would seem to make more sense if Jesus would have just stayed on earth. But His being on His throne in heaven in no way diminishes the impact He still has here on earth.

The Ascension of Our Lord is in no way a retreat into heaven, but it is instead an advance of Christ’s saving work here on earth. Not by our own reason or strength are we able to grasp this to be true. In fact, all too often we take God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament for granted, failing to prioritize it in our busy lives. Which is why, just like the disciples who stood looking into heaven, we need help to believe that the Ascension of Our Lord is no abandonment, but it is exactly what we need from our King.

It is as Jesus told His disciples, Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7).

This is why the disciples worshiped and rejoiced as they saw Jesus go up into heaven as He had opened their minds to the Scriptures. They knew He was not abandoning them. He was sending them the Helper, just as He promised. He was sending them out to be His witnesses, to proclaim the good news of great joy that would be for all people. And all along the way, He would be there to help them, support them, equip them, and strengthen them.

And the same is true for us as we are called to be His witnesses. With the same Spirit that was given to the disciples, so too are we sent and clothed with power from on high. In the Spirit given to us in our baptism, we are called upon to Share Hope and Teach Christ in the confidence of our King who sits upon His throne in heaven. Let’s constantly ask ourselves, who in our midst needs to hear this good news of great joy just like us? A family member, a friend, a co-worker?

We are called upon to give witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Though His throne on earth was a cross where He bore on His head a crown of thorns, He is now enthroned and exalted in the halls of heaven. The great divide that existed between humanity and God has been ended. When Jesus ascended and took His spot at the right hand of the Father, everything was now done. Sin, death, the devil, it was all done for. This is the message that is placed upon our lips as we join with those disciples in worshipping and rejoicing.

We have a God whose work of redemption for us is complete. We have a God who is ruling over the entire universe for us. We have a God who is preparing a place for us. We have a God who is interceding for us. And so let us rejoice in our God, our ascended King.

This is why we gather here today. Like those disciples who were continually in the temple blessing God, so it is with us. Because this is where our strength comes for serving as His witnesses. This is where His Word and Sacraments are. This is where Jesus is at, our ascended Lord and King.

We gather to worship at the feet of our King whose final reign is now at hand. And it won’t be long and we will soon see Him descend from heaven with a cry of command and the voice of an archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God. It won’t be long and we will always be with our Lord. Praise be to Christ our King! In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

These Words are Trustworthy & True

Sermon: “These Words are Trustworthy and True”

Lectionary Series C; Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Gospel Reading: Revelation 21:1-7

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hear again these words from our text: And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

My goal for this sermon today is that you as hearers would trust in the Word of God so that you may behold the beauty of the new heavens and the new earth that Christ has won for you for all eternity. (Pause)

Trust, can be a difficult thing. We live in a world that lacks trust.

I recall a time on a servant event where I was asked to come forward and participate in a trust fall. If you haven’t done a trust fall, it is where one person stands behind another person, then tells the person in front of them to fall back trusting that the person in back is going to catch them.

Well, during this trust fall, there was an added dimension. I was blindfolded. After being blindfolded, I noticed that the voice of the person who was supposed to catch me, was no longer near me. I could hear their voice in a different part of the room. So, when it came time for them to tell me to fall back, I responded, “No way!” While everyone was laughing, I kept insisting that I was not going to fall back. Well, little did I know that the person who was supposed to catch me had had someone else stand up behind me to catch me. It was just that I couldn’t see that with the blindfold on. No way was I going to trust enough to fall back.

We live in a world of broken trust. Promises have been made and shattered far too many times, sometimes even by those closest to us.

Trust can also be misplaced. We can place a great deal of trust in family, friends, spouses, and even ourselves. But in doing so, we are so often let down.

It’s no wonder that we are taught to fear, love, and ‘trust’ in God above all things. He alone is the only One who is truly trustworthy.

Then again, how often do we struggle to trust in God? How often in the difficulties of this life have we thought that God has somehow failed us? When we didn’t get the good grade on the test, when the diagnosis was less than favorable, when the relationship fell to pieces, when the loved one of ours dies. In so many instances, we can fall prey to the temptation to think that God is not trustworthy.

In my morning devotions as of late, I have been reading through the book of Joshua. Towards the end of the book, God’s people have entered into the Promised Land. Now it was time to divvy up the land among the tribes of Israel. What a joyous time this must have been as they had been set free from Egypt, their forty year wilderness wanderings were now over, and now they could enjoy the land God had promised to their forefathers long ago.

It’s the end of that Scripture passage that I wanted to share with you.   Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. (Listen carefully to these next words.) Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass (Joshua 21:43-45).

Not one word of the Lord had failed. All came to pass. His Words are Trustworthy and True. God’s promises come to fruition. Every one of them.

What is a constant struggle for us though, is that God does not promise good grades, favorable diagnoses, perfect relationships, or that we won’t have loved ones die. On the contrary, He tells us in His Word: In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.

To our limited human minds, it often does not make sense to us that in this world we will have trouble. As Christians, there are times where we are falsely led to believe that our life as believers should be better than others. We are tempted to think that as believers we should be rewarded with health, wealth, and even be free from trouble. But that is just not the case.

Trouble in this world is a guarantee. We are sinners living a sinful world. We can expect this world to be in constant decay. It was true ever since the fall in the garden. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they guaranteed for themselves and for every generation after them, that there would be the presence of sin, its effects, and death itself. It’s what we call original sin, and we have been reeling from the impact of that first sin ever since.

That’s why it is so comforting that our text for today invites us to redirect our attention away from the sinfulness of this world to what is yet to come.

Listen again: Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:1-4).

Did you hear that? This earth is going to pass away. We will dwell with God. There will be no more tears or death or mourning or crying or pain any more. All that will pass away. The new heaven and the new earth are so grand that John doesn’t even tell us much of what ‘is’ there. Our words simply fall short. Instead, he tells us what is ‘not’ there. All the miserable realities of this world (tears, pain, death), all of it will be gone, and we who are the bride of Christ will dwell with God forever.

John gives us a glimpse into the future…a glimpse beyond the Last Day…a glimpse beyond the resurrection of the dead and into the life everlasting. It was a view into the future after Christ returns and claims us as His own. It’s an opportunity to see that everything God said He was going to do, He did. As it said in the book of Joshua, Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

What wonderful encouragement for us as we so often get down and discouraged as we wait for these words of John’s revelation to come to fruition. What comfort to know that God has not forgotten us and will not abandon us. He won’t abandon us when the end comes, and He doesn’t now either.

Consider those Israelites again, as they wandered in the wilderness. Consider how they rebelled and grumbled. (Ever rebelled or grumble in life?) Each time they did so, when they repented, God was there to forgive, restore, and supply. He gave them manna from heaven, water from a rock, even their sandals didn’t wear out through those forty years of wandering. He gave them all that was needed.

So it was for them, so it is for us. We don’t know the length of our days. We don’t know how long our wait will be for the words of this text to come to fulfillment. But what we do know is that our God who is faithful will provide all that is needed so that we may endure unto the Last Day when we will behold what John beheld with our own eyes.

Consider the verse from last week’s service, which also happens to be our theme verse at our school next year: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).

Goodness and mercy. God’s gifts are not just one and done. His gifts are constant. In His Word and Sacrament Christ Himself comes to us to strengthen and nourish us to endure unto eternal life. And every time we receive the Sacrament, we proclaim Christ’s death until He comes again. We proclaim that everything He said He was going to do, He did. God is faithful.

Just listen: And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son (Revelation 21:5-7).

It is a done! His Words are Trustworthy and True. Signed, sealed, delivered. Not with gold or silver, but with the holy and precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of Jesus. Forgiveness is yours. Life and salvation is yours. Your Savior has died your death on the cross, and proclaimed that “It is done!” Done for are your sins. Done for is your death. And done for is the devil himself. It is done!

This is the beauty you are given to behold here in the season of Easter. Because nothing speaks of God’s faithfulness more than the cross and the empty tomb. He is risen, just as He said. So, living in that resurrection reality, fix your eyes on Christ in ‘His Word’ to set your sights on the future resurrection glory He has won for you.

God’s Word is the lamp to your feet and the light to your path. It is your two-edged sword that fights off the evil foe. It is your bread of life that will strengthen and sustain you for the journey ahead. It is the truth that will set you free. It is your Savior Himself who defeated death and the grave so the new heavens and new earth could be yours for all eternity. So trust Him, He is making all things new, all for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Listening to the Shepherd - Pastor Gless

Sermon: “Listening to the Shepherd”

Lectionary Series C; Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Gospel Reading: John 10:22-30; Psalm 23

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

How good are you at listening? Scripture repeatedly says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” God speaks through His Word, and the expectation is that we will listen to Him.

How good are you at listening? Today is Mother’s Day. Today is a day we celebrate the gift of our moms. Thinking about our sermon theme for today, as well as the fact that it is Mother’s Day, how well do we do at listening to our moms? As a child, how many times did our mom have to tell us to do something before we did it? What would our moms say about our listening skills if we asked them? We may not want to know.

How good are you at listening? Husbands often get put into the category of selective listeners. Often for good reason. Selective listening is where one chooses to listen to the things that matter to them, where the rest is disregarded.

How good are you at listening? In pre-marital counseling, I will often teach a couple about reflective listening. This is different than active listening. Active listening is listening in an effort to actively provide a response once the other person is done speaking. Reflective listening is paying attention so closely that you are able to repeat back to the person what they said, and then ask, “Did I understand you correctly?” If the message was understood correctly, then you respond.

How good are you at listening? Most of us would probably be forced to confess that we are not the greatest at listening. We are either too busy, too distracted, or we simply don’t care enough to listen to the person talking to us. Either way, we fail at listening.

Why do we need to listen? Well, think of it this way. Before the world of the GPS, and if you didn’t have a map, you needed to listen to someone give you directions. If you didn’t listen well, what would happen? You would get lost. The same can be said of a student who doesn’t listen to their teacher or a worker who doesn’t listen to their boss. The student who doesn’t listen to instructions will not do their assignment correctly. The worker who doesn’t listen to their boss’s directions, will not complete the work project well. We could no doubt come up with several other applications for why listening is essential.

Our text provides just that. Listen again: At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock (John 10:22-26).

The Jews would not listen to Jesus. Even though the works of Jesus had pointed to the fact that He was Christ, they still wouldn’t listen. They wouldn’t believe His Word. So, Jesus made clear to them that if they wouldn’t listen, they were not part of His flock.

This should serve as a warning to all of us. When Jesus speaks, we are called upon to listen. He is the Shepherd, and we are the sheep. We are called upon to follow Him. But to not do so runs the risk of grave consequences. If we choose not to follow Him we are choosing to not be a part of the Good Shepherd’s flock, and that leads to eternal damnation. That’s why I ask, how good are you at listening? Listening to Jesus in His word is essential to our salvation, as well as our safety along the way.

Just look at what happened to Jesus. Here he is walking in the temple during a time of celebration, and a pack of ravenous wolves came up to pounce on Him. The Jews had no desire to listen. They had every desire to devour. In fact, just after our text, if we were to read one verse further, they picked up stones to stone Him.

Just like it was for Jesus, so it will be for us. But such attacks may not be as obvious as the one Jesus faced. It might be more subtle. Remember, the evil one works through deception. He is prowling around seeking to devour us to drive us away from the Good Shepherd so he can cast us into despair and ultimately, eternal death.

That’s why it is so important for us to be in the Word. In the meaning of the third commandment (Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy), it says, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and ‘gladly’ ‘hear and learn’ it.” We listen to God’s Word ever so intently so we can be wise and discerning. There are so many messages thrown at us on a daily basis that it can be overwhelming to try and weed through them all to figure out what the truth is anymore.

Ask yourself: What are the voices that you listen to? Who is speaking to you? Are they leading you to Christ, or are they leading you away from Him? Are you able to discern between the voices to determine what is good, right, and salutary, and what are flat out lies? How often are you in the Word to listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice? (Pause)

At this time of year, I can’t help but think about all those youth who will be graduating. Graduation is such an awesome time of celebration. But it is also a time of great temptation. There is such a great temptation to abandon the regular rhythm of listening to God’s Word in worship. The independent life screams for freedom, and all too often that includes freedom ‘from’ having to go to church.

This is why it is so vital for parents to help their kids by making worship a regular priority during the formidable years of high school. Confirmation is not graduation. It is merely a stepping stone in the faith. The years of high school are essential years to listen to God’s Word to fine tune those listening ears so that when they get out into the real world, they are fortified against the attacks of the wolves. Then, when their child does go off to college, parents ought to help them get connected to a local Lutheran Church that helps them to remain faithful to the point of death and so receive the crown of eternal life (Just as they vowed in their confirmation).

And this is true for all of us. We all need to be intentional about prioritizing  our time to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. The devil is working so hard to pull people away from the Shepherd. And the sad reality here in America, is that he doesn’t have to work that hard. He does it through subtle voices calling us to things like a life of greed. He makes us think that we never have enough. Enough money, enough power, enough stuff.

Our pursuit of greener pastures tempts us to constantly trade in our time to listen to the Good Shepherd. How often would we rather listen to the voices that tell us to do what we want to do, than take the time to be with the One who makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters? (Pause)

Our Good Shepherd knows how slippery the slope is to fall away from Him completely. He knows just how crafty the devil and his pack of wolves are. He knows the dangers out there, and that’s why He calls upon His sheep to listen to Him.

Jesus said: 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 will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:27-30).

Fellow sheep, how good are you at listening? Through His Word, Jesus calls each of you by name. He knows that far too often you have wandered from Him. Maybe you are in that position now. Maybe you are stuck in a sin right now, and you just can’t figure out how to make your way back to the Shepherd.

And that’s what is so awesome about your Shepherd. When you are lost, He goes out looking for you. He leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the fold to search for His lost sheep. That’s how much He loves His sheep. That’s how much He loves you. And that’s why He has called you here today. To listen to His voice. To hear that call to repentance. To confess your sins. To be forgiven.

He who called you to the still waters of your baptism still calls you by name. You belong to Him. His grip on you is ever so tight. You are wrapped up in the hand of the Son, in the hand of the Father, because they are One. And they have a hold on you. So fear not! The wolves are no match for your shepherd. You are held in His righteous right hand.

Jesus listened to the voice of His Father and willingly stretched out His hands on the cross to save you. The same hand that was stretched out on Calvary to save you, holds you. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and He lays down His life for His sheep. And you are His sheep. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you need not fear any evil, for your Good Shepherd is with you. His goodness and mercy follows you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in His house forever.

So, my fellow sheep, listen to your shepherd’s voice. For faith comes by hearing. Listen to His Word. He will not lead you astray. He will guide you, guard you, and protect you. He will keep you safe and secure until that day that you will behold with your own eyes: The Lamb in the midst of the throne who is your shepherd, who will guide you to springs of living water, and He will wipe every tear from your eyes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Welcomed into the

Sermon: “Welcomed into the Presence of the Resurrected Jesus”

Lectionary Series C; Third Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Gospel Reading: John 21:1-14

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

My grandfather was fascinated with native Americans and nature. He loved to study native American culture, and he loved to explore God’s gift of nature all around him. He was also a very soft spoken man who rarely ever spoke much. But when he did, he would share with you pieces of wisdom that he had learned in his studies or on his walks in the field or the woods.

Unfortunately, as a young, active boy, I was rarely ever interested in hearing what my grandfather had to say. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to study Native Americans. I also couldn’t figure out why anyone would navigate nature as slowly as he did. The outdoors were for playing in, not meandering about with eyes of curiosity.

From my perspective as a young boy, time with my grandfather was really…well…boring. In my mind, grandpas and grandmas were supposed to be there for me to keep me entertained. My grandfather just didn’t do that for me. Instead, he kind of kept me bored.

If only I could go back in time and knock some sense into my younger self to help him see and appreciate what he was missing. To help him to realize that in those stories of Native Americans and walks throughout the woods and the fields were truly some of the best moments in my life. To be in the presence of someone who loved me enough to spend time with me and share his wisdom with me…there simply is not much that could be greater. As I share this, I must confess that I do so with a great deal of guilt and regret.

It is quite honestly the same way I approach this text for today. You see, in reading it through and studying it, I found myself to be…well…rather bored. There was nothing entertaining in it. There was nothing exciting. Nothing that gripped me and said, now that’s going to be a rocking’ awesome sermon, if ever there was one. It’s just rather bland, if you ask me. And bland is boring.

I share all of this with a great deal of guilt and regret. Far be it from me, a pastor, to tell you that God’s Word is boring. But, I am just being honest. Take into consideration where we have just been as of late in the Scriptures.

We have witnessed Jesus enter into the streets to shouts of “Hosanna”. We have listened to the plotting and scheming of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day as they sought to kill Jesus. We have beheld Jesus wash His disciples feet and give them the Lord’s Supper. We have gathered at the foot of the cross and listened to Jesus cry out “It is finished!” as He died our death. We have joined with Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, and all those who witnessed the resurrection. We have heard Thomas as he would not believe, and then Jesus came and let him touch His hands and His side after He had been raised from the dead.

All of these have been exciting texts to preach on. Entertaining texts as well. Today, it is just not so. Today, we hear of the disciples going back to work. They got in their boat and they caught nothing. Then some guy they can’t recognize at first on the beach tells them to throw the net on the other side of the boat. They do it, and they catch 153 fish.

Now to those that fish, that would be exciting. I don’t fish, so honestly, it doesn’t grab me that much. What’s more, I have heard of Jesus doing that before. I have heard him turn five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food for five thousand men, plus women and children. I have heard of him do that again for four thousand men, plus women and children. So, quite honestly, this text seems to lack pizazz. I am left bored with a simple invitation from Jesus who is on the shore by the fire who says, “Come and have breakfast.”

You see, it just seems that with all of the pomp and circumstance that we have had as of late, that the readings would keep the momentum going. It would seem that after the resurrection from the grave, the excitement would just keep building from there. But that is not what happens. Instead we get invited to listen in on a meal on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And what’s more, there isn’t much said either. It’s really quite a bland conversation. And bland is boring.

We live in a day and age where the demand for the exciting and entertaining is at an all-time high. We expect to be amused at all times, and heaven forbid that we might have to sit somewhere and just pause for a moment with nothing to do. But that’s not how our minds operate in this digital age.

Now that everything is a mere click away, we expect that we will be entertained at all times. What’s more, not only do we expect it, we don’t know how to navigate life without it.

I once watched a YouTube video, (ironic, I know, as I talk about the demand to be entertained). In that video a group of girls were challenged to a media fast apart from their cellular devices and other forms of screen time. What do you think their response was, especially for the first few hours? They freaked out. They didn’t know what to do. And the constant mantra was, “I’m so bored.” But after adjusting for awhile, they started to find great enjoyment in time together, playing games, baking. Plus, they slept better. They found that they didn’t have to be entertained by their phones 24/7.

If we are not careful, our so-called need to be entertained would have us miss the remarkable reality present in this text. I must confess that I missed it the first time I read through it. Do you know what that remarkable reality is?

Jesus is there. The One who was nailed to a cross to suffer for the sins of the world…the One who cried out to His Father on our behalf…the One who breathed His last breath, died, and was buried. He is the One who is on the shore calling for His disciples to come have breakfast with Him. The One who was dead, is now alive.

Lord forgive us whenever we would be bored with such a reality. And yet that is one of the top criticisms of being in church. It’s too boring. Why should we come to church if we are not going to be entertained? It’s the same old stuff again and again. There’s nothing new. The pastor says the same things each week. I’ve heard all those Bible stories before. Wake me up when something new comes along. Better yet, don’t wake me up, I will just stay here and worship St. Mattress.

Our necessity for the exciting and entertaining has dulled our wits to the beautiful reality of the resurrection. Just because we have heard something before doesn’t mean that it has somehow lost its shock and awe. A dead person is alive. And not just a moment where the person might have been gone and their heart started beating again. No, Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb from Friday until Sunday. There was no life in Him at all. Then by God’s awesome power, He was raised back to life. This is not bland or boring news by any stretch of the imagination.

Yet, that is so often our response. It’s why churches continue to dwindle in attendance, Bible classes and Sunday School classes lack for students of the faith. Somehow, there are more exciting things to do, more entertaining things to do…than be welcomed into the presence of the resurrected Jesus.

After all, that is what takes place here. The same Jesus who met His disciples by the shore after being raised from the dead comes here to us today. He welcomes us to simply rest in His presence, to be still and know that He is God.

Being still is tough. Just ask that boy at the beginning of the sermon who sat there wiggling about as his grandfather tried to tell him stories of Native Americans and facts about nature. Most of us could probably relate when it comes to the Divine Service.

What goes through our mind when the service goes longer than an hour? What goes through our mind when the pastor challenges us to take an additional hour for Bible Class and Sunday School? What goes through our minds when the service goes long and the football game starts at noon?

Yet here we are, invited into the presence of the almighty God just like those disciples were on that beach. And how often, like I said I was when I first read this text would say, we are just bored. As I said, I say this with a great deal of regret and guilt. Because I can say it’s happened to me too.

The selfish desires of the flesh pull at us so hard. It’s just so difficult to truly just stop and appreciate all that Jesus has done for us. And that’s the beauty of this text. It invites us to take a moment of pause. A moment to ponder what it means to truly be in the peaceful presence of the resurrected Christ. To know that everything He said He was going to do, He did for us…because He loves us.

And what’s more, He is here today to serve us. He serves us Himself. Though we don’t deserve it in the least, though we have traded time with Him in for countless worldly things, He still welcomes us here…into His presence. It is here that He serves as our host. It is here that He says, “Take and eat, take and drink.” And so we do. And once again our sins are forgiven. Our salvation is secured. And we may be at peace…as we are welcomed into the presence of the resurrected Jesus. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Peace Be With You

A lot can be said of a reliable vehicle. Any of us who have ever experienced any breakdowns in our vehicles through the years can attest to this. When I think of reliable vehicles, I think of my first car.

My parents bought me my first car when I was sixteen back in 1997 for five hundred bucks. It was a 1974 Plymouth Satellite with 36,000 original miles on it that someone had had packed away in storage somewhere. It was kind of rust colored with a cream colored vinyl top. It was a four door big boat of a car which we called “The Beast”. The Beast’s body had a leak in the roof, the muffler needed repairs, the heater core needed replacing, the gas gauge didn’t work, it got 13 miles to the gallon in the summer and 8 miles to gallon in the winter, and on and on the list went.

So, why do I say that I think of The Beast when I think of a reliable vehicle? Because what this car did have was a V8 318 engine in it. Now I am no car buff, whatsoever. But I was told again and again, that even though the rest of the car may have issues, that engine was always going to be reliable. And wow, were they right. That engine purred. Not only did it purr, but it idled at 45 miles per hour. I could drive to my friend’s house a few miles away or to school or to work at the golf course, and hardly ever have to touch the gas pedal. The Beast was a reliable vehicle to get me from point A to Point B.

For us as Christians the reliable vehicle God uses to deliver to us His gift of the peace that passes all understanding is His Word, along with His Sacraments.

God’s Word is performative. That means that it does what it says. Behind each Word of Scripture is the crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ. He is the Word that was in the beginning with God and is God. He is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us and is full of grace and truth. And what He says does not come back void. Through the vehicle of God’s Word, God’s gifts are delivered.

We see that in our text for today. 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 (John 20:19-23).

Through the vehicle of His Word, Jesus delivered His peace to His frightened disciples and they responded with gladness. There they were gathered behind locked doors filled with trepidation at the thought that the next sound at their door might be another mob of Jews seeking to kill them. And why shouldn’t they think that? The last image they had in their minds was the unruly crowds calling for Jesus’ crucifixion, then hauling Him off, and killing Him on a cross. We would be fearful too, if the leader we had been following for the past three years was killed.

It was into this locked room of fear that the resurrected Jesus entered in. And the first word out of His mouth was “Peace”. It was not, “Hey guys, why did you run out on me when the guards hauled me away from the Garden of Gethsemane?” It wasn’t, “Hey, why didn’t you speak up for me when everyone was yelling “Crucify”. No, the first word out of the resurrected mouth of Jesus to His followers was “Peace”.

And with that, “Peace” was delivered. And not like the peace we think of from the 60’s (hand gesture). No, it was this kind of peace (show hands). Jesus physically showed them His hands, and He showed them His side. In fact, it is quite remarkable that those that use sign language even emphasize these wounds of the hands as they use the name Jesus. The sign for Jesus is (show sign).

Jesus let His disciples see what true peace looks like as He showed them His hands and side. He allowed them to behold that all that He said He was going to do, He did. And now, here He was in their presence delivering them “Peace”.  

We gather here in the house of the Lord seeking that same peace that passes all understanding. Like the disciples, we too have our fears. We fear for our family’s health and safety. We fear for our ‘own’ health and safety. We fear the future. We fear that our sins of the past will come back and haunt us. We fear that our sins are too big to be forgiven. We fear dying. We fear death.

Fear is debilitating. Fear is paralyzing. And that’s exactly what had happened to these followers of Jesus as they gathered behind locked doors…until Jesus came and changed everything with the peace of His presence.

But if you weren’t there, it would have been a struggle to believe it. After all, we humans so often demand to see something before we believe it. And that’s the way it was for Thomas. He didn’t believe. Even though the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord,” he still would not believe. He demanded to see Jesus with his own eyes, and to place his hands into the nail marks and the place his hands into Jesus’ side. He demanded proof.

And that’s what Thomas got. 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 into 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 have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:26-29).

Thomas had been listening to the other disciples tell him for an entire week that they had seen the Lord, but he would not believe it. He needed physical evidence. He simply could not wrap his mind around the thought that Jesus was alive. That is, until Jesus came in and spoke the same words He spoke the other disciples: “Peace be with you.” And then taking it a step further, Jesus met Thomas’ demands. He let him touch the nail marks and place His hand into Jesus’ side. And with that, Thomas believed.

But Jesus’ words of rebuke are as much for us as they were for Thomas and the other disciples: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Jesus tells us to put an end to our lack of belief. He knows that we also struggle to believe the words that testify to Jesus’ death and resurrection. He knows that we also have our doubts and reservations when it comes to the Word of God and it doing any good amidst the fears we have in our lives.

So often, we fall prey to our own emotions and our limited human reason. If we can’t feel God’s peace, then we wonder if it is really there for us. If the circumstances of life that we think should change to end our fears don’t end, then we think that the peace God delivers must not be for us. Or we think it is only some sort of superficial peace, but not a real peace, not a peace that passes all understanding.

And then there’s the understanding part. Because God’s will and His ways don’t make sense to us, and because He doesn’t work in our way and in our time, and we lack trust and patience, we are often left to conclude that the peace of God might be only an illusion of some kind or something that was only for the disciples to have, but not us.

Our weak faith or even lack of faith finds us located in that same room with the disciples. Debilitated and paralyzed by our fears. But it’s more than simply fears that we have for the cares and concerns of this life. It’s the fear of actually trusting in God more than we trust in ourselves. This is where we come face to face with our own idolatry. To trust God means to believe in His Word whether we get to see the physical proof of His resurrection or not. To trust God means to believe His Word and His presence in that Word, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Because that’s what it means to have faith.

And faith is not something that we try and muster up enough strength to produce. Faith is a gift. And the vehicle God uses to deliver His gift of faith to us is His Word. The Word made flesh who dwelt among us. It’s Jesus. The One who rises from death and says, “Peace be with you.”

You see this ‘peace’ is more than just a word, or a nice thought, or a good feeling. This ‘peace’ is a person. It’s the resurrected Jesus who is located in that word of peace. And He is here today to deliver to us Himself. He delivered Himself to us with the water in our baptism when He made us His own. He delivered Himself to us in the holy absolution that the pastor spoke forgiving us of all of our sins. And He will deliver Himself to us in a matter of moments in, with, and under the bread and wine in His body and blood. And it is all so that we may have peace.

You see, peace is not something that is earned. Peace is given to us by Jesus who won it for us. Peace comes in Jesus ending the separation between us and the Father by His death on the cross. Peace comes in our idolatrous sins being forgiven. Peace comes in death being defeated and the victory of the Jesus’ resurrection winning the day. That’s what Jesus came and brought to His disciples, and that’s what Jesus comes and brings to you and I today. Peace to our hearts that are filled with fear. Peace to our minds filled with doubt and disbelief. “Peace be with you.”

That’s what the divine service is all about. God delivers the peace of His presence in His Word made flesh so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His name.

Bearing that in mind, let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, as He reveals Himself in His Word. Let’s read it, learn it by heart, mark it, and inwardly digest it. For the Word is the reliable vehicle to bring Christ to us, to create and strengthen our faith and to bring us the peace of the resurrection. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

 

 

Oh, to Have Been There! Pastor Gless

Sermon: “Oh, To Have Been There!”

Lectionary Series C; Easter Festival Service

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:1-12

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Oh, to have been there! What would it have been like? How awesome would it have been to make our way with the women who first arrived at the empty tomb! Oh, to have been there!

When we last gathered on Friday, we considered what it must have been like to have been there at the cross. On that night, we joined with those who witnessed the death of Jesus.

It was on that dark and sacred night, that we sang the first three verses of the hymn, “Were You There”. We sang, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb? And with each verse we sang, it caused us to tremble, tremble, tremble. Tremble at the very thought of having been there.

Oh, to have been there. On that night that we call ‘good’, however, we were left hanging. The story did not end with Jesus being laid in the tomb. There is one more verse that needed to be sung. Here on Easter morning, we just sang: “Were you there when God raised Him from the tomb?” As we consider those who were there on that first Easter morning when God raised Jesus from the tomb, it causes us to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Oh, to have been there! What would it have been like? How awesome would it have been? To have made that journey to the tomb with a skip in our step as we looked forward to what we would behold with our very own eyes. To get there, and see that the stone had been rolled away. To have seen angels and to have heard them speak of the resurrection. To have looked into the empty tomb. The joy would have been too much to contain. Oh, to have been there!

But unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it went. For those that were there, that’s not the way that it was on that morning that God raised Jesus from the tomb. Far from it, really. In fact, we may tremble at the thought of what did take place that first Easter morning.

Oh, to have been there. The women who made their way to the tomb with spices early Sunday morning in no way expected that Jesus was going to be raised from the dead. Otherwise, they would not have gone with the spices. They went there totally expecting to wrap a dead body. What they thought was going to be a good work done for their Lord, was actually only a reflection of their lack of belief.

They should have believed though, and so should the disciples as well. But when they heard the news of the empty tomb from the women, even they thought the news was nonsense. But they should have believed nonetheless. They had been told otherwise.

Jesus had told them before that He would rise from the dead on more than one occasion. He did not keep it a secret why He had come, and how He was going to accomplish His mission in life. But it didn’t seem to matter how many times He told them, they still did not believe.

Oh, to have been there. Then again, in some regard, we have been there. No doubt each of us have been in the valley of the shadow of death. We have gathered near the graves of those we love who have died. We have stared in the eyes of someone we love as they near their last breath. We have said far too many goodbyes. And when we face the reality of death, believing the words of Jesus seems impossible.

Believing the words of Jesus is so hard when everything appears like we have been let down. When death takes hold of a loved one lost to cancer…A battle is lost with heart disease…A tragic accident occurs...A life is cut far too short. The wage of death stings us to the very core. Death is devastating.

Sitting in those hospital rooms, living rooms, funeral planning rooms, we just can’t believe this has happened. Even though the wage of sin is death, we can’t believe it has come to this. And we can’t seem to believe there is any hope moving forward after this.

So it so often goes while walking in the valley of the shadow of death. Not only can’t we seem to believe our loved one is dead, but we also can’t seem to believe there will be a resurrection either.

Like those who gathered by the tomb, we forget the promises of Jesus. Our judgment is clouded by the darkness of death. So, we turn inward, rather than upward to try and make it through. We try and justify death as something that is natural when that is so far from the truth. We occupy ourselves with distractions, and we try and do anything that will keep us busy in an effort to cope.

But where is God’s Word in all of our sadness and sorrow? What place does it have as we grieve and mourn?

Just like those who were there that first Easter, it is vital for us to listen to the voices of those angels who spoke from that empty tomb. Because those words are just as much for us, as it was for them.

“While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. And they remembered his words.”

Oh, to have been there! To have heard those angels proclaim that the resurrection was for real! He was not dead! He was alive!

Those women, just like us, needed to be reminded of the promises of God. While living in this valley of the shadow of death, we need to hear God’s Word again and again. It’s what draws us out of our sorrow and sadness to see what the empty tomb really means.

It means there is hope. A sure and certain hope. A hope that does not disappoint. We may grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve in the hope of the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! It means that our sinful debt has been paid in full! It means the sting of death has been removed. It means that death is swallowed up in victory. It means that every time we stand in that valley of the shadow of death…be it of our loved one...or the day we face our own death, we do not need to fear. For all those who die believing in the Lord Jesus as Savior, we will rise as well. That is what the empty tomb proclaims. Jesus’ victory is our victory!

We may have trembled at His death on Good Friday, but that trembling has been exchanged for the trembling of rejoicing and celebrating.

And I know, there are certainly times when it is hard to believe it. There are certainly times when our words would echo that father who cried out to Jesus when he desired his son to be healed of an evil spirit, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” But even as we make that cry, our gracious God is there to help us.

Our God knows that we are helpless to believe in Him and His resurrection on our own. He knows that we simply cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him.

But that’s why He called each of us by name to faith in Him in our baptism. And that’s why again and again, He calls us into His house to be reminded of His words, and the truth those angels proclaimed.

He knows that we need to be called by the Gospel. And the Gospel proclamation that we gather in celebration of today is the same those women heard at the empty tomb. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!”

Oh, to have been there! What would it have been like? How awesome would it have been! To have looked into that empty tomb! To know that all that He said He was going to do, He did! He died our death. He forgave all of our sins…all the times we failed to believe in Him, all of the times we failed to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. And then He did what was thought to be unbelievable as He rose from the dead…Just like He said.

Oh, to have been there! And in fact, we are invited there today! We are joined with Mary Magdalene, Peter, John and all those who witnessed the resurrection at that empty tomb. Just think of it! All the generations of Christians for all times will join with us in a matter of moments. In, with, and under bread and wine, the resurrected Jesus will come to us. Countless Christians, as far as the eye can see, as many as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore will join us in a foretaste of the feast to come in just a few moments. If that doesn’t cause us to tremble, what will?

Here together, we will feast on forgiveness. We will be lavished with life. We will be saturated with salvation. We will gather together with all the saints and archangels to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.

The empty tomb proclaims today, that death does not get the final say! There is a resurrection to come!

And oh, how we can’t wait to be there when that day comes! To know that the last enemy of death has been defeated once and for all. And on that day, there won’t be just one empty tomb. All the tombs will be opened. All will be raised, as we tremble with excitement at the sound of trumpets and the voice of an archangel.

Oh, to be there! … When we will join together in a new heavens and a new earth and the former things will not be remembered. There will be no more weeping or cries of distress. And there in the center of it all, we will see Jesus! The One we’ve been waiting for. The One we’ve been longing to see. The One we just can’t wait to thank again and again for all that He has done for us.

Oh, to be there! …In the presence of our resurrected Savior Jesus for all eternity! “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” “He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!” Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Weeping and Rejoicing

Sermon: “Weeping and Rejoicing”

Lectionary Series C; Easter Sunrise Service

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Gospel Reading: John 20:1-18

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

When is the last time that you cried? What is it that makes you cry? Tears are a hallmark of this world. Tears and life go together. Tears of pain, violence, frustration, disappointment, sickness, misunderstanding, and death.

If there is anything that makes us cry, it is our sin and the effects of sin in our world. It is only a risen Christ who has the answer to sin and its consequences. Today’s text is all about what gives us good reason to cry and the answer to our tears. Mary had good reason to cry.

As we heard in our text, Easter did not start with rejoicing for Mary Magdalene. It began with tears. It was under the cover of darkness in the early hours of the morning. Such a sad journey it must have been for Mary as she went to say her final ‘good-bye’ of sorts as she made her way to the tomb.

Yet, while it was still dark, Mary saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb, so she panicked. Who would disturb the tomb of her Lord? She ran back as fast as she could to report the alarming news to the disciples. Peter and John, in an instant, made their way to the tomb. John got there first, but Peter was the first to enter the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, the face cloth folded up by itself. John then went in and believed. Yet neither understood the Scripture, that Jesus must rise from the dead. They then returned back to their homes, leaving Mary all alone by the tomb. (Pause)

Mary, from the village of Magdala. A woman known for having had seven demons cast out of her by Jesus. A woman who had witnessed His crucifixion. She had seen Him breathe His last. Oh, how these images must have stolen her sleep the past couple of days. And now, she was forced to consider the reality that the dead body of her Lord had been stolen. It was all too much! All that was left to do was weep.

No doubt we have all been there. Overcome with a weight of grief and sadness, faced with the harsh reality of mortality. It is a burden unlike any other. There is a sinking feeling in the chest, almost as if there is a pile of rocks on our rib cage. It makes breathing ever so difficult. In fact, each breath is drawn out into long gasps for air, almost as if we are drowning…drowning in our own tears. We can’t help it. The sting of death is just too painful.

It is no wonder that this world is called a vale of tears. We have each had our fair share of good-byes. That severing of body and soul is a felt reality for those who are left behind to mourn. We are left to look upon the tombs and the gravestones of those who once brought joy to our lives. It may sound like a simple statement, but it’s not: death hurts.

The harsh reality is that it is supposed to hurt. It is the wage we pay because of our sin. Where the supposed easy thing to do would seem to be to blame God for death, it is we who have brought it upon ourselves. We are the sinners. We are the ones who failed to meet God’s demand of perfection. And for that failure, there is a price to pay. And like all consequences, that price hurts. Death hurts.

This is very evident as we page through the Old Testament. We hear that the people of God mourned when Moses died for thirty days. We hear that they mourned when Aaron died for thirty days. When Joseph, Jacob’s son died, the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days. Throughout Biblical history, there has been an intentionality to take time to mourn.

It’s no wonder that God tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

How sad is it though, that we live in a world that doesn’t afford us such time. This world says we should hurry up and get over death. Employers may only give a couple paid days off, if any, when a loved one dies. Then the expectation is that we return back to work as if nothing happened with all of the same demands placed upon us before the death occurred. It is the mentality that if we simply busy ourselves enough with tasks, the pain will go away. But the pain doesn’t just go away. Oh, we may bury it under a heap of duties and any other thoughts we can muster up, but the pain is still there.

Do you know how long it takes to heal from an ‘expected’ death? Three years. Do you know how long it takes to heal from an ‘unexpected’ death? Seven years. And really, one doesn’t ever really fully heal from death. That pain never fully goes away on this side of eternity because we will always miss our loved ones who have died before us.

So it was for Mary Magdalene as she wept outside the tomb. It was a time to weep, a time to mourn.

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

The trauma was more than she could bear. It was more than she could handle that her Lord had died, but to try and wrap her mind around the fact that someone had stolen Jesus’ body was just too much. Not even angels could sway her from this sad situation. It was too much to handle.

Death is always too much to handle. We may try to handle it on our own, but only to our own demise. We are inclined to try and press through the grief thinking that if we just focus hard enough, we can get to the light at the end of the tunnel. But, the darkness of death is too daunting.

It looked as though Mary was going to be left in a vale of tears and hopelessness. We can all too often relate. But, for Mary, everything was about to change. And as it did with her, so it does for us.

“Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”

In an effort to draw her out of her weeping, Jesus asked her the same question that the angels asked. “Why are you weeping?” What may sound somewhat insensitive was actually Jesus’ way of pointing to the fact that there was no reason for weeping.

But her sorrow was simply too much. She was still stuck in the thought that Jesus’ body had been stolen. It never entered her mind that this could possibly be Him. After all, no one rises from the dead on their own. No one, except for Jesus, that is.

With one word, Mary’s weeping was turned to rejoicing. One word. And that word was, “Mary.” The same Jesus who had cast out seven demons from her body. The same Jesus she had seen die her death. The same Jesus she had seen laid in the tomb. The same Jesus she had come to pay her last respects to. He was now right there before her, and He was calling her by name.

So, it is for all of us. The resurrected Jesus has called each of us by name. In our baptism, we were called by name. We were marked with the cross of Jesus upon our forehead and upon our heart. We were washed with the water and the Word as we were called by name. The resurrected Jesus knows each of us by name because we belong to Him.

And because we belong to Him, all that is His belongs to us. His perfect life, His death, His resurrection. All of it. We who were doomed to face the darkness of death because of our sins are not left to wallow in our weeping. He who died our death now lives. This is a time to rejoice!

“Alleluia! Christ is risen!” … “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

Yes, there is an answer to our weeping and our tears. It is found in the One who rose from the dead on the third day and calls us all by name. And one day, He will raise us from death and wipe every tear from our eyes. And there will be no more death, nor more mourning, no more crying, no more pain…

All because…“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.”

And giving thanks was all that Mary could do as she clung to her Lord and Savior. It was as if she simply could not let go. Her gratitude and rejoicing was overwhelming her as her hands held tight to the resurrected Jesus.

“Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and Your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.”

What she proclaimed as her weeping was turned to rejoicing is the good news of great joy that we have been given to proclaim in this world. We may live in a vale of tears, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We have the hope of the resurrected Jesus alive and well within us. The very One who has called us by name, has called us to share His resurrection hope so that all those who weep, may rejoice. Rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus, our Lord and Savior!

“Alleluia! Christ is risen!” … “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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