Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sermon for Easter 3: "Filled with Christ's Touch" (Luke 24:36-49)

LISTEN

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

Jesus says to His apostles: “Peace to you! Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Touch Me, and see” (Luke 24:36, 38-39a).

 

Much of today’s Gospel lesson seems like a repeat from last Sunday. Much of it seems like a re-run. We’ve heard this before! A re-run already! Today, we have the same proclamation of peace by Jesus. We have the same showing of His hands and His feet. We have the same touching of Jesus. Could Luke be retelling the events of Easter evening and of the events eight days later from John 20? Maybe. It is certainly possible. Yet, the emphasis of Luke’s Gospel is different, and it is this difference that we are focusing on today.

 

This morning, we continue the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord! Now, the fallen world may celebrate Easter for one day with its bunnies and eggs, but we continue this celebration with our triumphant cry: Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

 

One day is not enough to celebrate the joy of the life and salvation of our risen Savior, because this is Good News that needs to be shared! Just as we share what happened to our favorite sports team, television show, or premium live event, what Jesus has done is far more important! Jesus has defeated the powers of death, hell, and Satan through His death and bodily resurrection!

 

As important as Jesus opening the grave and rising to life, today on this Third Sunday of Easter, He opens the minds of His apostles “to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). This too, is Good News, for without this opening, the open tomb would be of no benefit to them. They needed their minds opened to the Word of God in order to believe and understand the Good News of the open tomb. Jesus opened their minds so that they – and us – could always touch Jesus.

 

Jesus opened their minds. Now, this is far different from the worldly idea of “open-mindedness.” To the fallen world, to be “open-minded” means to be open to all kinds of thinking, to all kinds of opinions, and to all kinds of views. From this way of thinking, there is no truth, but only different interpretations and judgments, which only lead to confusion and doubt. Not knowing what to believe. Not knowing truth. This is not what Jesus is doing. 

 

Instead, Jesus is cleaning out all the junk that fills their minds. He is cleaning out the cesspool of filth and falsehood and fear and all kinds of wrong thinking and ideas and is filling their minds with His truth and His wisdom. It is only Jesus who can open the tombs of our minds and fill them with the light of His Word and Truth, with repentance, faith, and forgiveness, as we may know Him and believe and be saved.

 

And this is what the risen Christ is still doing today, here, in this place! 

 

But first, just like last week, we need to know who Jesus is. Just as the apostles were, we are. We are troubled and full of doubts. So, what does Jesus do? He shows them Himself! He says, “See My hands and My feet, that is I Myself. Touch Me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

 

You see, the apostles were convinced that they were only seeing a spirit – a ghost! Even now, there are many people who are convinced that Jesus only rose from the dead spiritually. These people say that the spirit is more important than the body. In the early church, this is what the Gnostic heretics believed. They believed the spirit was good and the body was evil. And this heresy remains today through the transgender movement.

 

But here, Jesus is proclaiming that to be human is to be both body and soul. After woman was created by God in the Garden of Eden, Adam – after the rib was taken out of his side – said, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). He didn’t say, “Ahh, she is only flesh,” “Ahh, she is only spirit,” or “Ahh, she is only bones.” No, Adam said, “[She] is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

 

As it is with Jesus, so it is with us, we are flesh and bones, we are body and soul. To be complete, we are never only one and not the other.


By His physical presence, Jesus stands among His apostles after having overcome everything: sin, death, and the devil. Jesus is standing among them as the Resurrected Crucified One. 

 

The apostles had fears and doubts, just as we do. We pretend to be bold and courageous, but Jesus sees right through us. He knows every one of our doubts and fears. Just like the apostles, who witnessed miracles and signs, we too, hear of Jesus through the Word in the Divine Service and at Bible studies, but we still don’t fully believe and trust. To that, Jesus says, “Touch Me and see! I’ll show you that My resurrection and My living body are for real!”

 

So, this is precisely what Christ does with His apostles. Yes, they see Him, and they touch Him, but is it really Him? To this doubt, Christ says, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41). They gave Him a broiled fish, and He took it and ate. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

 

Jesus is no spirit! Spirits are not flesh and bone. Spirits cannot chew, swallow, and digest. Jesus is fully man with body and soul!

 

Now with that assurance, Jesus not only opens their minds to His presence, but He also opens their minds to His Word. Jesus says: “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

 

First God acts and we receive, then we act. For just as children learn how to speak by being spoken to, and learn to act by first imitating their parents, so do we as children of God. It was only after Jesus opened and cleaned out their minds by filling them with the Truth, that Jesus calls them to be eyewitnesses: to speak of what they have seen and what they believe. And through the work of the Holy Spirit, they will speak just as they were spoken to, to love just as they have been loved, to forgive just as they have been forgiven, and thus to open minds, which are filled with confusion and doubt, filled with sin and death, so that the light of Christ’s cleansing forgiveness might shine on them and all people. 

 

Yet even though the apostles – and you and me – are doing this work, it’s not really us doing it, it’s the Holy Spirit working in us who gives us the courage and strength to tell of Christ and welcome others here to receive His gifts of Word and Sacrament.

 

Yet even though the Holy Spirit is working in us, this doesn’t mean that when we speak of Jesus that everyone will listen. I wish that was the case, but Satan has blindfolded so many people from the light of Christ. Worldly wisdom, false gods, and false truths of the prince of this fallen world cloud so many hearts and minds in order to deceive them and mislead them into false belief, despair, and other great shames and vice. We too, can easily become deceived by this fallen world.

 

So, how do we not become deceived by this fallen world? Well, we must open our minds to understand the Scriptures! We must be filled week in and week out with Christ’s touch. But we appear to be at a disadvantage. Today, we don’t have the privilege of seeing Jesus face-to-face. But is that completely true?

 

Remember last week when Christ appeared to His apostles in the locked upper room? What did Christ prove by His appearance? He proved that His kingdom on earth is no longer bound to this world. His kingdom is no longer limited to place, space, or time.

 

Christ is here! You may not see Him just as the apostles did, but He is here. He is always where He promises to be! Today, we see the Crucified Jesus through our Holy Spirit-created faith. Today, Christ is here as He fills you with His gift of His Word. In His Word, we see the Crucified Jesus through Scripture. In fact, we not only see Him, but touch Him. There in that Book, we feel Christ and hear His Word, cover to cover, as He says to us: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47a).

 

Christ is here to also fill us through His Sacraments. He is here to forgive you of your doubts and give you peace. He is here to fill you with His life-giving body and blood, that once received, you go and share this good news with others! You share God’s good news with Christ’s words, His truth, His love, and His forgiveness. 

 

Through the Means of Grace – Word and Sacrament – the Holy Spirit is working in you and through you as you speak His Word, as He opens the Scriptures to you, as He works in you to open the Scriptures to others, as He opens and fills hearts and minds in the crucified and risen Jesus. Through Word and Sacrament, Christ fills us with His touch! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

 

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

+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Sermon for Easter 2: "Bringing True and Lasting Peace" (John 20:19-31)

AUDIO: POPcast

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

“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…” (John 20:19a).

 

Last week’s Gospel lesson from Mark 16 left us with some questions. Yes, we heard the angel’s Gospel proclamation to Mary Magdalene: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified One. He has risen; He is not here” (Mark 16:6). But we were left without a sighting of the resurrected Jesus. Now, Jesus knows that we need His physical presence. And He did show up for us last week in His Word and Sacrament, but we are still wanting more. 

 

For the apostles on that Resurrection Day, they didn’t know what to think. To be sure, they had heard from Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, that Jesus is risen from the dead, but they were still sitting in fear and fright behind locked doors. Their hearts are too weak and heavy to believe the news they have heard. They didn’t know what to believe. Then all of a sudden Jesus stands among them and says: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19b). Jesus didn’t sneak through a broken window or use a spare key. He just appeared. He arrived to bring peace to His weary apostles.

 

With Jesus in their presence, He gives them “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, [that] guards [their] hearts and [their] minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Now, this peace is not worldly peace. As Christians, like us, they will continue to daily suffer misfortune and hostility. Like us, Satan will continue to oppress them and afflict them. Like us, the fallen world will continue to alarm them with persecution and tyranny. And, like us, their own sinful flesh will continue to alarm them with their own weaknesses and impatience.

 

For these apostles, they are sitting there behind locked doors in great fear of the Jewish authorities. Except for Thomas, they will not go out. All they see is death before them. But even before Jesus arrives, they are at worldly peace. Nobody is there threatening their lives. Nobody is there attempting to kill them. Yet inwardly their hearts tremble. Inwardly, they have no peace or rest.


It is in this fear and anxiety that Jesus comes. It is in this fear and anxiety that Jesus comes to soothe their hearts. It is in this fear and anxiety that Jesus sets His apostles at peace.

 

Now, don’t misunderstand. Jesus is not taking away the danger. Jesus is not removing the malice of the Jewish authorities. Outwardly, everything remains unchanged. But now, through Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you,” their hearts are no longer afraid. 

 

Outwardly, like us, all the misfortunes remain: sickness, poverty, sin, the devil, and death. These evils do not cease. But inwardly, the apostles are at peace. The apostles are strengthened. The apostles are comforted. Through those words, “Peace be with you,” they no longer care about any misfortune as they become more and more courageous and bold.

 

The same goes for us, when Christ comes through His Word and Sacraments, He lets all our external adversities remain, but strengthens our faith. Out of timidity, He makes a fearless heart. Christ makes a trembling heart bold. He makes a restless conscience peacefully quiet. Through Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit makes us confident, courageous, and cheerful in the things that would otherwise frighten us, such as the power of sin and death, and all other distresses. Christ’s peace is a true and lasting peace, which remains forever and is invincible as long as you cling to Christ.

 

However, this peace only happens and comes when Christ points His apostles and us to His hands and His side. It is only when Christ shows us through the Word that He was crucified for us and shed His blood and died for us. Through His death, He has paid for our sins and appeased and warded off God’s wrath for us. This is the sign that comforts our afflicted consciences and hearts, which assures us of divine grace and the forgiveness of sins.

 

But what could it mean for Jesus just appearing inside a locked upper room? Well, Jesus came to His apostles this way to point out that after His resurrection, His kingdom on earth will no longer be bound to a bodily, visible, tangible, and worldly way of life, to time, place, space, or the like. Rather, Jesus is now present and rules through His power everywhere, in all places and at all times, when and where we need Him, and He will always be with us and help us unhindered through His Word and Sacraments.

 

 

This Christ did on that first Easter evening, but not every apostle was there. Thomas was missing. As for where Thomas was, we do not know. But for some reason, Thomas was the only apostle who wasn’t frightened enough to remain behind locked doors. Even though Thomas made his way outside, He still had the same anxieties as his fellow apostles. He still had the same doubts of his fellow apostles. Those anxieties and doubts that Jesus calmed for the others.

 

After Jesus departed, Thomas returned. Immediately, the other apostles told him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25a). After all that the apostles have gone through, Thomas likely thought that his fellow brothers were playing a joke on him. How could this be? Jesus was dead. So, Thomas said, “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” (John 20:25b). Thomas is hedging His bet. This is as if Thomas said, “You can say you saw Him, but I don’t believe you. Prove it!”

 

Eight days later, all the apostles were together, including Thomas. While the doors were locked again, Jesus appeared and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:26). Then Jesus, knowing Thomas’ heart, 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” (John 20:27).

 

With those same calming words, “Peace be with you” and His gestures toward His hands and His side, Jesus calmed Thomas’ anxiety and fear. Now with confidence and courage, Thomas says, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).

 

A lot of times, we like to criticize Thomas by calling him “Doubting Thomas,” forgetting that Thomas was of the same mindset as the other apostles. They all doubted. They all lived in fear and anxiety. Peace only came when the Crucified and Risen Christ appeared. Peace only came when Jesus showed them His hands and His side and said the words, “Peace be with you.”

 

This morning, Jesus is offering us peace. He is bringing us true and lasting peace, the peace which this fallen world does not understand. He is bringing to us “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7a). Jesus brings us this peace to all repentant sinners through the gift of absolution that He instituted. 


Following that second announcement of peace, Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you. 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 20:21-23). This peace Jesus gives to His apostles in connection with His wounds is peace won for all mankind. This is what Jesus is declaring with this second announcement of peace. Like the apostles, we too, have been sent out by Jesus as His disciples. Jesus is calling us to tell this good news of peace to all who would hear it as we have received this peace from Him.

 

As redeemed and forgiven in Christ, the Church is commissioned by the Crucified and Risen Christ to forgive repentant sinners in His Name. When we do so, those sins are also released in heaven. They are wiped away, as if those sins never occurred. At the same time, the Church is also commissioned by Christ to retain those sins of the impenitent sinner in His name. The impenitent sinner is one who is not sorry for their sins against God and their neighbor. They have no guilt or any need for Jesus. They refuse to repent of their sinful life, but instead choose to continue in sin. For such a person as this, those sins are not forgiven, but remain on the sinner, who must account for them before God.

 

True peace and lasting peace is only received through faith in the Crucified and Risen Jesus. This Word of forgiveness is spoken by the Church in the stead of Christ through the Office of the Holy Ministry. To reject it is to reject the benefit of forgiveness.

 

Jesus pronounces this blessing of peace only on those who believe upon hearing the Word of peace from the Church without requiring visible or tangible proof. Thus we, who have not seen, may with certainty trust the same word of peace the apostles did. 

 

Jesus’ third announcement of peace is for us. “These words 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 20:31). Unlike the apostles, we cannot see Jesus’ hands and His side, but the Crucified and Risen Christ has not left Himself without witness. We can open our mouths to receive His very Body and Blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. In this blessed Sacrament, Christ assures us again and again that our sins are forgiven. May Christ’s Word and Sacrament fill you with the true and lasting peace only Jesus can give. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

 

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.  + SOLI DEO GLORIA +

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord - Easter Day: "Salvation Comes in the Morning" (Mark 16:1-8)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus]. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb” (Mark 16:1-2).

 

When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome arose on that Easter morning, it was dark, it was very dark. It was not just the darkness of night, but the darkness of their hearts. They did not come to the tomb, because they believed Jesus was alive. They came to the tomb, because they believed Jesus was dead. They did not believe Jesus was going to rise from the dead.

 

One week ago, they saw Jesus enter Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna.” Jesus was adored by the crowds as they laid palm branches before Him. Jesus had a king’s welcome. But now just mere days later, those shouts changed from “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him!” Jesus went from adoration to hate as He was arrested, mocked, spit upon, flogged, crucified, and killed. 

 

All was dim and dark for the Marys and Salome. They hoped that Jesus was the promised Messiah, but now His body lays dead, sealed in a tomb.

 

It was even darker for the Apostles. They are not just sad, but they are hiding and afraid inside a sealed upper room. They are full of fear thinking that they could have the same fate as Jesus.

 

But as the Marys and Salome were preparing the spices to anoint Jesus’ body and the Apostles were in hiding behind locked doors, God was working salvation amid all this suffering and fear. Even for you and me, when you think that all is lost and God isn’t working when you are suffering, believe me, He is.

 

Throughout the Old Testament times, there are numerous instances of God’s work of salvation being completed in the night and made visible in the morning.

 

In 1 Samuel 5, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, and they brought it to the people of Ashdod. The Ark was brought into the house of their false god Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early in the morning, they found that their false god Dagon had fallen down onto the ground before the Ark of the Covenant. So, naturally, they picked up Dagon and put him back in his place. That next morning, when they rose from sleep, Dagon was once again on the ground before the Ark, but this time the head of Dagon and both his hands were cut off.

 

In Isaiah 37, while at night, Hezekiah is rescued from the Assyrians after the Angel of the Lord strikes down 185,000 soldiers in their camp. The evidence of this is noticed when the people of God arose early in the morning to see those 185,000 dead soldiers (Isaiah 37:36).

 

In Daniel 6, for not giving up his faith in Yahweh, Daniel is sealed into the lions’ den overnight for certain death. “Then, at break of day, [King Darius] arose and went in haste to the den of lions” (Daniel 6:19). To his relief, Daniel is alive.

 

In Judges 6, at night and at God’s command, Gideon pulls down the altar of Baal and the altar of Asherah. The evidence is revealed “when the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down” (Judges 6:28).

 

God is working salvation even when we don’t notice it. In these cases, He was working salvation while everyone is sleeping. He does this so, “[we] will sing of Your strength; [so we] will sing aloud of Your steadfast love in the morning” (Psalm 59:16).

 

While at night, sealed in that tomb, Christ the Crucified rose from the dead and declared His victory over the power of sin, eternal death, and hell. He, in fact, put on a victory parade as He descended into hell as “He went and proclaimed [His victory] to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19). Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

 

A lot was happening when nobody noticed. God has a way on giving us His steadfast love, even when we don’t even ask for it. We never asked to be saved, even though we needed to be saved. Our sinful nature believes that all is well without God. Our sinful nature believes that you have earned what you have. In fact, all that we have is God’s daily bread given to you – your food, clothing, shelter, good government, and the like.

But God doesn’t stop there, yes, He gives us all we need for our temporal life now, but He created us to live forever in His love.

 

Through deceit, Satan, in the form of a serpent, convinced Adam and Eve to question God’s love for them and instead follow Satan’s lies. Satan’s lies are still being listened to as they are the wisdom of the world: “Did God really say?” “If God really loved you, He would let you do whatever you want!”

 

Satan led humanity into loving vice – pride, envy, gluttony, lust, greed, wrath, laziness – and abhorring virtue – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:19-24). 

 

But God the Father loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His only-begotten Son to suffer the death we all deserve – death by crucifixion – in order to save us from His wrath and from the powers of sin, eternal death, and the devil.

 

So, while we were all unaware of all that was happening between the body of Jesus being laid in the tomb through that glorious Easter morning, our salvation was being procured. Then when those Marys and Salome came with their spices, even if they did not understand, their joy came in the morning. Salvation was visible that morning, even if they didn’t notice it – at first.

 

“And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him’” (Mark 16:5-6).

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Salvation is revealed with the morning! But there is something worth noting here with these words from the angel. The angel’s words are really conveying that Jesus remains the Crucified One – for it is only through the crucifixion that salvation comes. So, this should really be rendered as “Jesus who is – and remains – crucified.”

 

However, on this Resurrection of Our Lord Day, you may still have another question lingering. Mark’s Gospel suggests that Jesus did not arise at sunrise, but likely in the darkness of night, before the dawn. This should raise the question: What about Jesus saying He would rise on the third day?

 

Well, in those days, days were counted inclusively. So, according to the Jewish reckoning of time, the events before sundown on Good Friday were still on the day that had begun at sundown Thursday. So, sundown Friday through sundown Saturday was the Sabbath. Then the first day of the week began at sundown Saturday. These constituted the “three days.”

 

But our text from Mark 16, suggests that Jesus did arise at night, either on the Sabbath or after the start of the day after the Sabbath, but no matter what, the evidence of His victory over death is still the same: “very early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2). The evidence is still the same, and this is why we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord on Sundays, which is the first day of the week, the eighth day of creation, the day of our justification.

 

But there is still something rather odd about Mark’s resurrection account. Yes, we have Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. We have the empty tomb. We have the angel giving the women the duty of telling this good news to Peter and the other apostles. Who is missing? Jesus. There is no sighting of Jesus. But through the words of that angel, we have the gospel: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified One. He has risen; He is not here” (Mark 16:6). This angel, this messenger of God, is the messenger of Good News. Our sinful minds try to reason things out and to see if Jesus is truly risen from the dead. But it is only faith in the crucified and risen Jesus that calms our doubts and fears. The Resurrection is a matter of faith. It’s a matter of trusting God and His Word. So, we must repent of our unbelief. 

 

Jesus knows that we need His physical presence as well. And He will make His resurrection appearance next week to the apostles in the locked upper room. But we want Him too! And He does come to us. His grace, mercy, and forgiveness come to us where He said He would be present: in His Word and Sacraments.

 

The very work of the crucifixion, the payment for sins, comes to us through His holy Supper. Here, He appears to you in this Easter celebration, in His Word, and in His very body and blood. Through faith, that is, trust in His Word, we receive Him into our presence and enjoy the forgiveness of sins. There, in lowly bread and wine, you see Jesus and you hold Jesus, just as He told you! Salvation comes in the morning! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed, alleluia! Amen.

 

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


+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +

Sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Sunrise - "Easter Living" (1 Corinthians 5:6b-8)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

Had Christ not been raised, our preaching and your faith would be in vain, you would still be in your sins, but in fact, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

 

Since you have received forgiveness of your sins, through the Crucified and Risen Christ, the Apostle Paul calls Christians to be Easter people. He is calling us to Easter living. Paul is calling us to celebrate the Easter festival not in celebrating our sins, but as forgiven people in Christ.

 

Through the Holy Spirit, Paul writes, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5b-7).

 

The Apostle Paul fathered the church in Corinth, but this church caused the most headaches for its father. In so many ways, Corinth most closely resembles the western Christian church today. 

 

For the most part, the western Church has deluded itself into believing that the caring thing is to be infinitely nonjudgmental and inclusive. But this is simply a demonic lie. This lie causes the church to allow cancerous abuses to continue unchecked to the point when that cancer takes over the whole body and the body dies.

 

So, what was going on in Corinth? Well, they should have all been ashamed of an incestuous relationship in their midst, but instead, for the most part, the church was fine with it as Corinth took pride in their openness and tolerance. They were complacent about sin. In fact, they encouraged all sorts of sexual immorality, saying, “Love is love.” They were boasting that the forgiveness won for them by Christ Crucified gives them outright permission to do every sin imaginable.

 

To all this pride in sin, St. Paul admonishes them. Paul says to them, “You have the Gospel and you have become Christians, but you are also to live according to the Gospel by fleeing and avoiding everything that is not in conformity with faith and Christian conduct.”

 

In a culture where bread was the staple food, the Holy Spirit inspires St. Paul to offer this wayward church an object lesson: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened” (1 Corinthians 5:6b-7a).

 

You see, everyone knew how a little leaven would permeate a batch of flour, causing it to swell and rise, ready for baking. At the same time, this powerful ingredient, so useful for baking, also came to symbolize evils which had the power to spread.

 

One of those evils was false doctrine. As it is with leaven, false doctrine works the same way. It may appear like a good thing at first, but quickly, false doctrine takes over and Christianity is lost. As it was for Corinth, they wanted to preach the Gospel of Christ, but mixed with the fallen world. This is the case with the mainline western church today. As the mainline denominations reasoned away Biblical authority, the sinful flesh and the fallen world took over. Truth was lost. 

 

You see, when one begins to give way to the flesh and to abuse freedom, even under the name of the Gospel, then that yeast is mixed into the right Christian conduct and quickly corrupts faith and conscience, it sweeps on until Christ and the Gospel are completely forgotten.

 

If it wasn’t for Paul admonishing the church in Corinth, Christianity would have been lost there. With love, Paul admonished and urged them to seep out this yeast, since the church has already begun to practice all kinds of sinful acts. 

 

With only one drop of poison, sweet wine and medicine are made harmful. Likewise, if only a drop of impurity is added to God’s Word, it is corrupted and it is good for nothing. The worst thing about leaven is that it spreads and adheres so strongly that it cannot be gotten out. It’s like cancer. It needs to be completely removed.

 

So, Christianity cannot tolerate false teachings. If it is mixed with human additions, then it will be obscured and damaged, and souls are led astray. To this, Christ says in Matthew 9:16, “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.”


As Easter Christians, faith cannot coexist with living according to the depravity of the flesh in sins and vice against the conscience. In one chapter later, Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, no adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

 

So, as Easter Christians, we must sweep away the old yeast of sin – whatever sins they may be – and we are to teach those in our midst to sweep away the old yeast, those who have given into the devil’s lies. We must teach them and tell them that their old yeast must be swept away and that they are not Christians if they consistently give in to their sinful flesh and purposely remain and persist in sins against conscience. For it is so much worse when sin is done under the Name and cover of the Gospel, for in that way the Name of Christ is slandered and despised.

 

For, if we are Easter Christians, we are “a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We must sweep away the old yeast. Being a new dough and letting the old yeast remain is not fitting for celebrating Easter, for if it is not swept out, the new dough will be completely leavened and corrupted, so the previous sinful life would gain the upper hand and overthrow faith.

 

Through the Crucified and Risen Christ, we have become unleavened. Christ says to us, “You are clean because of My Word” (John 15:3), but Christ also says, “Every branch that does not produce fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2).

 

It is Christ alone who makes us clean. He makes us clean through the Word and faith. But this isn’t immediate. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ works in us daily to cleanse us until we become purer and purer. He makes us purer through the office of the Holy Ministry with admonition, rebuking, improvement, and strengthening, just as Christ did through St. Paul at Corinth.

 

So, how do we live as Easter people? Well, through the work of the Holy Spirit, He leads us to appropriate and transpose our lives and behavior. Just as was done in Corinth, He does for us! The purity of the Corinthian church was at risk, but the triune God didn’t leave them in their sins. It was the work of God who led them to repentance, faith in the forgiveness of sins, and the new life in Christ. And it is the work of God who leads us to repentance, faith in the forgiveness of sins, and the new life in Christ, too!

 

We must trust in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) as He has made Corinth and us a community of repentant sinners who live under the cross of Christ. We have “washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb” (Revelation 7:14). Fellow purified and redeemed, it is un-Christian to tolerate a fellow brother or sister in Christ who shows open contempt for the Gospel by their unwillingness to repent and look for forgiveness to Christ crucified for we are only made holy, redeemed, and clean through the crucified Christ. 

 

So just as Paul exhorted Corinth, he also exhorts us to properly celebrate the fulfilled Passover inaugurated by Christ’s crucifixion and His bodily resurrection! For Christians, Easter is not just today. It’s not just Sundays and Mondays with the mini-Easters of the Divine Service. No! For us, Easter is every day! We are forgiven in Christ, so let us live forgiven in Christ!

 

As we celebrate the new life in Christ, we should no longer be infected by “the old leaven” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8) of sin and arrogance. Nor should this new life feature “malice and wickedness” (1 Corinthians 5:8). Rather, we live the new life in Christ with fresh, unleavened bread “of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8).

 

In just mere minutes, Christ will give us forgiveness of sins through the Easter Lamb of unleavened bread in the Sacrament of the Altar. We add nothing, except that we receive Christ’s body and it eat it through faith, which Christ bestows to us and gives to us through that eating and drinking.

 

May we always celebrate the Easter festival in sincerity and truth for Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

 

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

+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Vigil - "Dust of Our Dust" (Genesis 3:15)

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, … I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel’” (Genesis 3:14a, 15).

 

We should all speak well of the dead. It is obvious that we rejoice with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are with Christ in the Church Triumphant. But what about even the most vile of mankind, you know, those of the likes of Hitler, Lenin and Stalin, Pol Pot, and Chairman Mao? Well, as Christians, we should strive to speak well of them, too.

 

You see, there is no joy in their deaths – or any death, for we belong to Jesus Christ, and He takes no pleasure in the death of sinners. So, no matter how badly we have been mistreated or abused, no matter what vile people have done to us or to those we love, we ought to recognize that they are just as human as you and me. For those who die apart from Christ, they go where there is no joy and where punishment is both just and eternal. 

 

So, how could we joy in that? How could we be glad when we know it is unnecessary, when we know that Jesus loved them and gave His life for them, that He longed to gather them to Himself in perfect grace?

 

Our Lord has not called us to vengeance. He has not called us to enact retribution. No, our Lord has called us to compassion and mercy. We are to love our enemies. So whether a “good person” dies or a “bad person” dies, that person is still a person. And even when evil people meet their end, we should respond in humility and in fear and speak well of them, too. For barring the return of our Lord Jesus Christ first, we shall all die the common death of mankind.

 

In any case, the sorrow and demise of our enemies cannot bring us joy or even gladness. Only repentance and faith in Christ can do that. As fellow redeemed in Christ, our desire is never that anyone be damned. Rather, it is the same desire of our Lord, that all mankind would turn and receive His forgiveness and be saved from the power of sin, death, and the devil.


But… But there is one exception. There is one for whom we hold no respect. Who could this be? Take a second and think. It’s Satan; aka: the devil, Lucifer, “the Father of Lies.” We renounce him, his works, and his ways. 

 

Yesterday, the Lamb was slain. But we do not mourn for Him. He is not dead. He is risen! Jesus lives! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

 

The doorposts of our hearts have been sprinkled with His blood, which Christ poured down our throats, and the destroying angel with his sacrificial knife, fearful and terrifying, has passed over us. We are safe. We are protected by the holy, precious blood of our living Savior Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us.

 

So, tonight on this evening of Easter Vigil, hell mourns while we dance on the devil’s grave.

 

Our piety has no sympathy, no compassion for the worst of all tyrants who held us for so long in bondage, who deceived Eve, who has tormented us through the years with lies and temptations, who is responsible for all the evil known to mankind. We have no respect, no humility, no fear, no sorrow at his destruction. We rejoice that Satan’s power over those in Christ is no more.

 

So, let us hoist the crushed head of the serpent upon a stick and place it at the city gate! Let all of Satan’s demons know that they have lost. They are done. They have no power. Our Redeemer lives, and we are now marked with His blood. The power of hell cannot harm us. Jesus has routed the last enemy and absorbed death’s sting. He has stolen the grave’s victory. He has overcome. He has won the day. He has restored creation. Jesus trounced Satan. 

 

For us in Christ, Satan’s accusations against you have been silenced. You are clean. You are free. You are innocent. Your sins are forgiven. It was God the Father’s will to save you, and now it is done. The powers of sin, death, and Satan have met their end, because Jesus lives! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

 

The serpent has met his end. His skull is crushed. He can’t get up. He is as dead as death. We are free. We are alive. And our joy is before us, for Jesus, our Redeemer lives. His tomb is empty. His soul returned to the dust of Eve. He rose from the dead and has paved our way to life everlasting with His bodily ascension into heaven.

 

This is the very purpose for which Jesus joined Himself to our dust, to our death, to our demise, in the Virgin’s womb. He came to be our substitute, to take our place, to do what Adam should have done but did not.

 

By the death of Jesus, “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” now means only that we follow Jesus. For He is dust of our dust, bone of our bones, ash of our ashes. When we return to dust and rest in the womb of the earth, this is simply passing through death to Jesus for us who trust in Him. 

 

God joins us to Himself when the good work He has begun is complete through yours and my death. By His death and bodily resurrection, Christ has paved your way to paradise. He has ascended to His Father to bring you heaven.

 

The power of sin, death, and the devil are no more. Our evil foes have been banished. All wickedness is put to flight. God and man is reconciled in Christ! 

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

 

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

+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +