Sunday, April 20, 2014

What Are You Seeking?

The sermon from April 20, 2014. The text is Colossians 3:1-4:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

What are you seeking? What are you looking for? Why are you here? Today the Church celebrates Jesus' resurrection from the dead and His victory over sin and death for our forgiveness and our life. But why are you here? What are you looking for?

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Is this what you seek? Jesus is your life, and so because He lives, we will live also! This news calls for us to rejoice not just today but each and every day. Is that why you're here? Are you always seeking to have the gifts He gives to you from above, seated at the right hand of God the Father? Do you seek to have life from the One who once was dead, but now is living?

That first Easter morning, as recorded in our Gospel reading from St. Matthew, we hear the angel's word spoken to the women: "[Jesus] is not here, for He has risen, as He said" (Matt 28:6). The women had heard Jesus' words that He would die and rise again, He'd mentioned it several times throughout His ministry. Had they forgotten those words in the rush and stress of the past three days? Maybe. Or maybe, and more likely, they simple hadn't believed what He said. Maybe their unbelief at the foolishness of rising from the dead drowned Jesus' words. Jesus said He'd rise again, yet still, here they are seeking a dead and decomposing corpse in a sealed tomb.

The same could be said of us today, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Col 3:1-2) We seek all the wrong things in all the wrong places. So often, we're like the women at the tomb looking for the living among the dead. We're looking for assurance and peace in the things of the world: that God's blessings us with a healthy RRSP, a good job, the fact that we're a basically good person, or at least better than that guy, or the guy sitting next to us today. We look for our assurance of God's favour, that God exists and cares for us in all kinds of things. We'll even look to the word of a little boy who had a near death experience, like that boy from the book "Heaven is for Real," rather than look to the things above, to God's sure and certain Word and sacraments. We look for life among the things of the world, among the things of death. We seek dead things to give us assurance of life, we're looking for the living among the dead.

We seek assurance because our life is hidden. When we look at ourselves and the world all we see is sin, suffering, death and disaster. We hear news of people who commit suicide at such a young age when life's opportunities should be opening up to them. Hear of wars destroying lands, families, and lives. Hear of disasters that destroy livelihoods and rob us of things and people that we hold so dear. We look at ourselves and see a life still steeped in sin. We see a life that by all appearance is unworthy of God's favour and eternal life. We see all the signs of decay in ourselves or in our loved ones that point us to our open-mouthed grave that threatens to swallow us whole.

Last Friday, Good Friday, we heard Jesus proclaim, "It is finished," but we can't help but ask, "What's finished? Nothing seems to have changed." So the flesh tempts us and leads us into unbelief and away from Jesus victory and toward the things of earth and its laws, regulations and do good and good will be done unto you kind of futile hope. The kind of hope that leads us away from Jesus to share in the fate of the things of earth - to share in their death.

If are going to have assurance, peace and joy you need a hope that is certain and sure, a hope that stronger than you and your sinful flesh. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Here your Easter victory shines in. Jesus' resurrection puts an end to all your doubts, it stops all the temptations of the world and the flesh in their tracks. The tomb is empty! Jesus lives! It happened, it's a historical fact! All that Jesus did for you, His suffering, His cross, His death are enough to bring you peace and assurance. His death has destroyed death. His life is your life. You've been set free from sin and death, you've been set free from the things of the world. Jesus has won for you, as He said, "I have said these things to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

On that first Easter morning the angel rolled that stone away, he declared those wonderful words so that you may look into the tomb with Jesus' disciples and see that its empty. There is no body. There are no bones. There is no death here. Death is now powerless. Jesus' word of victory is true and complete.

So your life is hidden with Christ in God, He's got it safe for you, protecting your life with His mighty power. Jesus' resurrection is your assurance, your guarantee, that death won't have you, that the disasters of the world will end and all wars will cease. And "when Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory." (Col 3:4)

What hidden here will, on that day, shine like the sun for all to see. Jesus will bring you out of the grave to be like He is now, to share in His glory, His life and His victory over sin and death. On that day you'll be received into the company of the saints triumphant who are now at rest from all their labours to enjoy the blessed peace and joy of creation restored, the blessed joy of seeing your Lord and Saviour face-to-face.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Jesus lives, and He's with you even now to give you His gifts from above to protect you with His life, "that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places." (Eph 1:18-20) The power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in you now as you receive His gifts from above.

That power is at work in your baptism, your new birth from above, of which Paul says, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?" (Romans 6:3) At the font your sinful flesh that tempts you and leads you away from Jesus' victory and life dies. Here you've died and here you've been raised to new life with Jesus, the life that never ends, the life that never dies.

That power is at work in the Lord's Supper, in the food from above. At this altar the resurrected Christ comes to feed you with His own living body and blood, the medicine that wards off death to life everlasting.

That power is at work in His Word, His comfort from above. Here the living Christ speaks to you, He forgives your sins, and He beats back death with the news of His death and resurrection that mark you as His own, an heir of life now and into eternity.

Here is your Easter victory, here is your Easter joy! Here is the peace that surpasses all human understanding. Here is your Easter assurance. Seek life, seek Jesus' life and His gifts from above. And rejoice. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus In Control

The sermon from April 18, 2014. The text is John 18-19.

Old vs. New

The sermon from April 17, 2014. The text is Exodus 12:1-14:

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

A Word to Help and Sustain

The sermon from April 13, 2014. The text is Isaiah 50:4-9:

The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
5 The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
6 I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.
7 But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
8     He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
    Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
    Let him come near to me.
9 Behold, the Lord God helps me;
    who will declare me guilty?
Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment;
    the moth will eat them up.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Can These Bones Live?

The sermon from April 6, 2014. The text is John 11:1-45:
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him.