Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4 (Good Shepherd Sunday)

At the church I attended today, six young people were confirmed. How appropriate! The readings were Acts 20:17-35 (sermon text), Revelation 7:9-17, and John 10:22-30.

Those in white, coming out of tribulation for believing in Christ, are commended to God. Ever are there temptations to sin, and long are our lists of tribulations. Why? God has allowed them for our good. Creation awaits Christ's return; meanwhile, tribulations cause us to cry to Him for mercy. We are the sheep of the Lamb, the Shepherd. He speaks to us in many ways - church, parents, creation, the Word, sermons, etc.

Pastors faithfully wield the two-edged Word. Law must come first. It kills. Gospel necessarily follows. It brings to life. All our sins are no longer! After justifying us in God's eyes, it sanctifies during the rest of our lives. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain for us! This whole counsel of God is what each pastor must preach. If he does, it is our fault if we don't listen. Listen to Jesus, our Shepherd speaking through undershepherds.

At the end, we will be clothed in white. The Lamb has chosen us.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A day of preparation

Saturday was the Jewish day of rest. On Friday were preparations for the Sabbath. Should we not also, as Christians, use this day (Saturday) as our preparation to listen to God? For ears that are not paying attention will not hear what is spoken.

Confession is part of this. From a classic hymn:

Alas! my God! my sins are great,
My conscience doth upbraid me;
And now I find that at my strait
No man hath power to aid me.

And fled I hence, in my despair,
In some lone spot to hide me,
My griefs would still be with me there,
Thy hand still hold and guide me.

Nay, Thee I seek—I merit naught,
Yet pity and restore me;
Be not Thy wrath, just God, my lot,
Thy Son hath suffered for me.

If pain and woe must follow sin,
Then be my path still rougher,
Here spare me not; if Heaven I win,
On earth I gladly suffer.

But curb my heart, forgive my guilt,
Make Thou my patience firmer,
For they must miss the good Thou wilt,
Who at Thy teachings murmur.

Then deal with me as seems Thee best,
Thy grace will help me bear it,
If but at last I see Thy rest,
And with my Savior share it.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter 3

Today's readings: Acts 9:1-22, Revelation 5:1-14, and John 21:1-19 (sermon text).

The disciples were called by Jesus, and in the Gospel they were called again. Likewise they were also given food a second time. It happened at the same body of water both times! (Genesseret is another name for the Sea of Tiberius.) It has come full circle; repetition reinforced Jesus' teaching. He completed His Father's work, but His work continued through the apostles (undershepherds). Peter was appointed a minister of the Gospel - he who had denied his Lord under oath! Did Jesus therefore deny him? No - He forgave.

The Word gives what it speaks - peace. Although we deny Him by not trusting Him with everything (therefore deserving of wrath), the Gospel brings us comfort. Our Lord comes through all barriers and fills our emptiness with His peace. Despair is displaced, fearful holes are filled. This is why we worship - we are sinners who need to be filled.

"Come and eat," says the Bread of Life. We deserve no peace, yet it is freely given to us by the One who died for all. He call.s you back and feeds you the medicine of immortality! Know that you don't love Jesus as you ought, but that He loves you. Be restored by His love in the blood.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter 2

Christ is risen!

Today's readings, at chapel church, were Acts 5:12-20, Revelation 1:4-18, and John 20:19-31 (sermon text).

Thomas doubted the true Messiah before seeing Him risen. He put his trust in the wrong place - his eyes and hands were his basis for belief. Yet Jesus granted his needs - he needed to touch to believe, and Jesus presented His hands and side. All of the disciples had a hard time believing that Jesus had risen. They needed to see Him too - Thomas was just delayed.

Jesus gave the proof to overcome the disciples' doubt. "Believe!" Thomas, by the Spirit's power, believed and was emboldened enough to spread the good news. Pray that God would destroy our statues - our brains, someone else, money, ourselves. Stop your doubting and believe, for Christ has given you everything necessary to cry out "My Lord and my God!" He forgives you; believe it. He has given His body and blood to prove it!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter 2010

You, dear readers, get TWO sermons today! As for me...well, let's just say Easter songs sung as both a soprano and an alto give a unique way to lose one's voice. Definitely worth it.

From the Sunrise Service (readings were Job 19:23-27, 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, and John 20:1-18):

Christ's resurrection is our joy! We now wait for our own resurrection.

The sunrise service tradition began in 1732; before that, the equivalent was the Vigil, since the Jewish day begins at sundown. But the women went at sunrise to the tomb, weeping, for their Lord was gone. And Christ met Mary, calling her by name. Thus she knew that He was risen!

John focuses on Jesus meeting individuals, for each one is accountable individually to God. Each of us needs Jesus. Together we are Christ's and the Church. But here in the reading, Jesus met with Mary Magdalene, and later with Peter and Thomas. In each case, seeing Him transformed unbelief into belief. Before was a lack of knowledge; after was understanding.

Unbelief is easy. Instead, we should live the faith springing from belief brought by Christ. He came when Mary wasn't seeking Him, only His body. She understood later. But so many do not. Tell them of Christ the firstfruits, who calls each of us by name. For that reason we call Him "Teacher" and heed His instruction.

From the next service (readings were Isaiah 65:17-25, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, and Luke 24:1-12):

The women had spices. Normally the body would be embalmed at home with spices to prevent a stink (cf. story of Lazarus). Surprise: the stone was moved, the body absent! The women were perplexed and had all the wrong reactions. Now follow the Word: Christ had told them that these events would happen (v. 6b). Good Friday is connected with Easter after all, the retrospective icing. The main things was His death for our sins, necessarily followed by His resurrection for our justification.

Remember the words. Tell them to others, both Christian and non. Pray that the told believe the words. Heed them as Peter did. He ran! And having seen, he marveled, dumbfounded. Let us be the same - follow the Word and be dumbfounded at the words! -- The grave cloths were folded neatly; therefore we fold those covering the elements in Communion. He comes to them, and into us, at His word. This is unbelievable - but it's true! He is risen!

Soli Deo gloria.

Christ is risen!