Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Monday, April 24, 2017
We get it right when we point to Jesus. Pointing to self is Law. Pointing to Jesus is Gospel. The Law tells us what we are to do and not to do. The Gospel tells us what Jesus has already done. The Law demands, the Gospel gives. So too with Justification and indeed with Sanctification.
Justification points to Jesus. Sanctification points us to self but through Jesus, thus indeed points us to Jesus as well. When Sanctification only points to self and not to Jesus, then we go back to the statement, “We get it right when we point to Jesus.”
So, what is the proper distinction between Justification and Sanctification? We begin with Justification, the heart and soul of Christianity (Lutheran Doctrine, Article IV of the Augsburg Confession and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession). Justification means to be made just and right in God’s eyes. When we acknowledge that we are “brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5), that “every intention of the thoughts of [our] heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5), that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), that “no one does good, not even one” (Rom.3:12), indeed that we are truly sinful human beings, then we realize there is nothing within us of redeeming value. Just as a drowning person cannot save himself, or he would not be drowning, just as a dying person cannot save himself or he would not be dying, just as we did not choose to be born, so we do nothing to justify ourselves before God. We do nothing to save ourselves.
If we were to attempt to put forth any merit on our own part as if we could, as Paul so well reminds us (the good that we would do we do not do, the evil we would not do that is what we do Rom. 7:21ff), if we attempt to justify ourselves by keeping the Law, which some are wanting to do (“but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” James 2:10), then we will be held accountable for keeping the whole law, which we cannot do. After the fall into sin, the world was cursed. After the fall into sin, Adam and Eve no longer knew only good. They knew good and evil. After the fall into sin, the will of all has been tainted so that our will is truly at odds with God. Our will is only to do what is evil, as Paul expresses (Rom. 7:21ff). As Paul reminds us, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).
Our right standing before God does not come from ourselves as we are not and cannot be the people He would have us to be. If we could be the people He would have us to be, then we would have no need of Him. What a fool we claim Jesus to be for sacrificing Himself when we point to ourselves for any iota of our own justification and salvation.
Justification is all Jesus. Jesus was born true God, begotten from the Father and true man, born of the virgin Mary. Jesus lived the perfect life for us in our place as our substitute, doing for us what is demanded of God (“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)) because we cannot be perfect. The fullness of the Gospel is this: that what Jesus did He did for us in our place as our substitute. Jesus obeyed all of God’s Laws perfectly: the ceremonial laws which pointed to Him and His sacrifice, the moral law of the Ten Commandments, and the civil law of the land. Jesus never sinned. After living in perfection He took our sins, all our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times, upon Himself and suffered and paid the price for those sins, hell (The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)). He descended into hell to declare victory over Satan. He ascended back to where He had come, and rightfully has taken His place in heaven where He now watches over us, rules over us and intercedes for us. This is Justification, and this God freely gives to us because it is His to give. We do not get it as if we “get saved,” nor do we claim it as if it is our claim. Rather it is given to us from the One whose it is and who can give it to us.
This understanding now moves us to Sanctification. Sanctification means the process of being made holy. God has justified us before Himself by the blood of Jesus; thus, when we stand before Him, He sees us robed in Jesus’ robes of righteousness, indeed as saints. Yet while we remain on this earth, we also continue to sin and will remain being sinners until we reach complete perfection in heaven.
Sanctification is expressed best in Martin Luther’s explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”
Just as we have expressed in Justification, so, too, in Sanctification we cannot believe in Jesus Christ our Lord on our own through our own efforts. Again as a drowning person cannot save himself or he would not be drowning (and if a drowning person attempts to help in the rescue it only serves to drown them both), so too we cannot choose Jesus or we would not be lost. It is the Holy Spirit who calls us to faith and gives us faith, and He calls and gives us faith through the very means of the Gospel–the message of Jesus and His work of redemption–buying us back from sin, death and the devil. Not only does the Holy Spirit call us to and give us faith, but He also enlightens us and strengthens us in faith through the means that God has given to give us His good gifts and blessings, His means of grace–His Holy Word, Confession and Absolution, and His sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Through these means the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” It is through these very means that the Lord gives His gifts, forgiveness, strengthening of faith, life and salvation. Thus, as Christians, our desire will always be to be where and when the gifts of God are given out so that we might be given even more of His gifts.
When it comes to God’s gift giving, we understand that God does not do fractions. He does not give us some of His gifts now and some more later, perhaps after we have done something for Him or something to earn a bit more. He gives the whole lot of His gifts now and a whole lot more later. All of His gifts He gives, and we are given to.
We count as good works, at least those that are seen as good works in God’s eyes, those works that are motivated in us by God, worked through us by God and give Him glory. These are what are truly good works in God’s eyes. These are not the same as social good works which are often done for a tax write off, for accolades, or for any other pointing to self reason. Indeed, more often than not we do good works when we are not aware of what we are doing.
Thus, just as Justification points to Jesus who has done it all and gives all to us, so too with Sanctification, we point to Jesus who motivates us so we are given to and we give God glory.
Some would have you believe that the more you grow in faith the more perfect and holy you get so that you may indeed be a mentor to someone else in their faith walk to help them to become more and more holy. If this were the case, that we become more and more holy, then we would need Jesus less and less until perhaps we would think we would need Him no more. As Lutherans we understand that the more we grow in our faith, the more we realize just how sinful we truly are and the more we need to cling to Jesus, just Jesus.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Is worship something we are doing for God (bringing our praise to God for all He has done for us)? Or is worship something God is doing for and to us? Some have suggested that in worship God is the audience, the congregational members are the actors, and the pastor and choir are the prompters; thus, worship is something we do, perhaps even need to do, for God. Of course, that understanding would imply that God needs something from us, perhaps our helping raise His self-esteem by singing praises to His name.
When we understand our sinful nature and our need to be given to by God, and when we remember that we are born with nothing and we take nothing from this world, and that it is God who has created all things in the first place and has created us to love us, then we get a better understanding that our worship service is an opportunity to come and be given even more of the good gifts and blessings God has to give which is why we call the worship service, not worship, but Divine (from God) Service.
Contrary to the popular misunderstanding, the Divine Service did not begin with Martin Luther and is most certainly not German. Rather it can be traced back to the first century around the world, even found in all parts of the world, and even can be traced back to Leviticus, now in its fulfilled form. In other words, our Divine Service is not simply something that was made up by the Roman Catholic Church and “tweaked” by Martin Luther to make it Lutheran. So, if the Divine Service can be traced back to the first century and parts of the service can be traced back to that to which they were given to point back in Leviticus, that is since the Divine Service originally pointed to Jesus through the ceremonial laws and now points to Jesus through the fulfilled parts of Scripture, perhaps we might be more careful in what we change or even if we should change any parts.
The Children of Israel were in a land, surrounded by pagan culture, false religion and gods that had all sorts of worship practices. As they desired to be more like those in the land, they moved further and further from God. This practice should be a warning to us. We would do well to beware of worship that seeks to look like the culture. When you see worshipers “getting down” with the jam of the band, ask yourself, “Is this any different than a concert I might attend?” If you cannot tell the difference, then maybe the culture and its norms have stolen your worship.
Worship is not entertainment and should not be confused with a concert. Worship is not vying for who is the lead or the star, who leads the “praise band.” Worship that is true worship, or orthodox worship is Divine Service and always and clearly points to Jesus, just Jesus, and not to self, not to the “leader,” not to anyone, but Jesus. Worship points to Jesus because Jesus is the One who is there giving out His gifts.
In worship everyone has a part. The called and ordained servant of the Word, the pastor, has the part of delivering the gifts of God to the people of God. He delivers these gifts through the means God has given to deliver the gifts, the means of grace. The pastor begins the Divine Service, the God Service by invoking God, by reminding the worshipers of their Baptism, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The pastor delivers the gifts of God through the pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins following the confession of the worshipers. The pastor delivers the gifts of God through the reading of the Scripture Texts appointed for that particular Sunday, and then expounding on that text in his sermon as he attempts to rightly speak Scripture. The pastor delivers the gifts of God through the Bread and Wine as he serves as the host at the Lord’s Table where he invites and distributes Jesus’ body and blood for the worshiper to eat and drink, thus participating in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
The laity, the parishioners also have a part in the Divine Service. The part of the worshiper is to be given to, that is to hear the Word of God, to believe the Word of God, to go out into the community and live the Word of God, even to share the Word of God with others as they are given the opportunity to do so through their various vocation. The laity are not called to distribute the gifts of God but to be given the gifts of God.
Worship, Divine Service reflects and flows out of Doctrine. In other words, Doctrine, what we believe, is intrinsically attached to practice, how we do what we believe. The two cannot be separated. Thus, because we believe that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well as Confession and Absolution and the Word of God are the very means through which our Lord comes to us to give us His good gifts and blessings, this belief, this doctrine is seen in the practice of the Divine Service.
We also understand that worship, Divine Service. is for believers as an opportunity to be strengthened in faith in order to face the world and take the message of salvation to the world through their various vocations. Evangelism may take place in the Divine Service as we invite our unchurched family and friends to “Come and see Jesus” in the Divine Service, but more often than not, evangelism takes place in our various vocations. As we have opportunities and as we are asked about our faith in our various vocations, we have God’s authority to speak and His promise to be with us to give an answer, a defense for our faith in Jesus. And God then does His part, that is the Holy Spirit works through His Word to give faith when and where He pleases.
Here are some simple ways to know if you are experiencing orthodox worship or doing something else, i.e. heterodox worship:
- If you can confuse what you are doing on Sunday morning to thinking you are at a concert, you are probably not at worship.
- If, in your worship song, you can replace the name of Jesus with your spouse or boy/girl-friend or significant other, then it is probably not a worship song.
- It there is a discussion concerning who gets top billing, then you are probably not talking about worship.
- If you have come to do something for God because you think He needs something from you, then it is probably not worship.
- If you are being pointed to anyone or anything for salvation besides Jesus, then it is probably not worship.
- If you are being told how God desires for you to be rich, famous, powerful, happy and so forth, then it is probably not worship (maybe a self-help seminar).
- If you are being told how good you are and how you can be the person God wants you to be, rather than being reminded of your sins and God’s grace and forgiveness, then it is probably not worship.
- If you do not see a cross, or altar, or anything that looks like the facility might be a worship facility, then it is probably not a worship facility and thus will probably not be worship.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Over the past six weeks, the Wednesdays of Lent and at our early Sunrise Service, we have been looking at the various characters, if you will, of the Passion of Jesus and of our Easter history. We looked at the characters of Judas, Peter, John (the disciples Jesus loved), Mary (His mother), Pilate, Jesus Himself, and the thieves involved in His crucifixion. We did step aside this past Thursday, Maundy Thursday and look at the account, the history of Jesus celebration of the Passover with His apostles and from that giving us the Lord’s Supper, His Supper and we understand that unless you understand the history and what Jesus was celebrating with His apostles and from that giving us His Holy Supper we really cannot understand what He has given to us, namely His true body and blood to eat and drink thus participating in His sacrifice on the cross for us. And on Friday, Good Friday, we stepped aside and looked at Jesus’ last seven words from the cross.
This morning we move to look at one last character of Easter history, and what a character this one is, that is we look at ourselves and our part in the Passion account and Easter History. Last Friday we watched as Jesus was crucified. This morning we come and celebrate His resurrection. As we hear the various eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus we know that we can believe these accounts because first of all they were eyewitness accounts. Second we know we can believe these accounts because of the change in the lives of those who bear witness of these accounts. We know we can believe these accounts because why would anyone bear witness of something that might bring them death unless they were true. Also, we know we can believe these accounts because these witnesses have borne witness to what they saw within a short period of time after they saw it happen. Finally, as we listen to these eyewitness accounts we know that the Holy Spirit works through these very words of God given through these writers so that by the faith He gives us through these words we too are eyewitness of these events.
Our first witness is from the Apostle John as he describes that first Easter morning, “1Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:1-9).
Two others who witnessed Jesus after His resurrection were Cleopas and another unnamed disciple. Their account is that they were on their way home to Emmaus from Jerusalem, and as they were walking along they met a stranger who, later they found out was Jesus. They relate how Jesus explained to them all of Holy Scripture, beginning with the Old Testament and the Prophets and how He was the one who came to fulfill all of Scripture. They concluded by saying, “33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:33-35).
One of the women that was close to Jesus was Mary Magdalene. John relates her encounter with Jesus after His resurrection. “11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13They 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.’ 14Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus 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.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus 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.”’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’—and that he had said these things to her” (John 20:11-18).
In all actuality, there are many accounts of what happened, and many witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. We have the many Biblical accounts as well as extra or outside the Bible accounts, such as the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus. As John tells us, “30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
In looking at the accounts of history, the Biblical and extra Biblical accounts we might summarize the following. First, the evidence is clear that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and this is as the prophets of old had foretold. Second, the evidence is clear that Jesus did do miracles. He did raise people from the dead. He did cast out demons. He did do many unexplainable things. Third, the evidence is also clear Jesus did nothing to deserve the death penalty, nor did He do anything to deserve any form of punishment. He was innocent. Fourth, the evidence is clear that Jesus did die. The sheer physical torture He underwent, the wounds from the bleeding from the whipping and beating and the suffocation on the cross were enough to kill any lesser person. He was dead when they removed His body from the cross. And fifth, there is more than ample evidence to the fact that Jesus did come back to life.
Let me explain it this way. If you and I were to stand before a judge, namely before God, the perfect Judge, in and of ourselves we would be declared guilty. We are reminded that if we sin in only one point of all of Scripture, we are guilty of all. We were conceived in sin. We are born in sin. Every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. We sin with our thoughts, in lust, in coveting, in hatred. We sin in word, speaking evil of others, gossiping, failing to explain everything in the best possible way, speaking mean and hurtful things to others. And we sin in action, in deed, doing things that hurt other people. We sin sins of commission, doing the things God commands us not to do and we sin sins of omission, failing to be the people God would have us to be. We simply cannot help ourselves, we daily sin much and we continue to add to our sinning. Apart from God working in and through us, because our will has been tainted by sin, because we have lost our free will from the fall into sin, all we can do is refuse and reject God and the gifts He has to give and we must admit that we do reject and refuse God weekly and even daily. We are guilty. To get to heaven we are required to be perfect. So, left to ourselves we would be eternally condemned. There had to be another way and that other way is the way of Jesus.
Jesus is the sinless Son of God. He had to be God in order to be perfect and in order to die and to rise. He had to be human in order to be our substitute. We cannot give our lives for others, because we owe for our own sins. Jesus can, and did, give His life for ours, because He owed nothing. And that is what He did. He took all our sins upon Himself. He paid the price, the wages of sin is death. He suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty for us in our place, hell, so that we would not have to, so that we might have forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness we also have life and salvation.
This morning we celebrate God’s great love for us. Indeed, even before He began creating the world in which we live, even knowing that Adam and Eve would sin, even knowing all that would happen, He created this world and He knew us and had us in mind when He was creating this world. When Jesus was born, He had us in mind. While He lived, Jesus had us in mind. When God placed our sins upon Him and as He suffered on the cross, He was thinking of you and me. When He rose from the dead He rose for us, for you and for me. Before He ascended back to heaven Jesus promised that He would come again and He will. Until that day we wait, living lives as priest in the priesthood of all believers, living lives as living sacrifices always being ready to give an answer for our faith to all who ask. That is why we celebrate today and every Sunday so that all the world might know that we worship a living God, a God of love, a God has done everything for us and given everything to us, forgiveness, life and salvation. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
I want to begin this morning as I have begun every mid week service during lent with the reminder that we call the Word of God the “Good News” and rightly so, for it is the good news of salvation for all who believe. This year during the season of Lent at the Midweek services and now through this Easter Sunday morning we have been hearing of the events surrounding the suffering and death of Jesus through the different characters of those involved in the events. Prayerfully we have gotten a better understanding of the personalities and thus the reasons for the specific actions of the characters through actual Biblical statements and “quotes” of each person.
Last week the person we met was the central person of the Passion account, Jesus Himself. We listened to Jesus’ own words describing the fact that His birth ushered in the beginning of the end of the world and His own words laid out for all those who would believe that He came to give His life as a ransom for all. This morning our person of interest is the repentant thief on the cross.
Last Friday we came and watched as Jesus suffered on the cross. We listened in on the seven last statements He made. You might recall that with Jesus were crucified two other criminals. The first criminal was the man who mocked Jesus with the others in the crowd. As he was told by the other criminal, they, both criminals were convicted of several crimes of which they were guilty, thus they deserved what they were getting, a just punishment for their sins.
The other criminal, knew he was guilty of numerous crimes, yet, as we can see from his confession on the cross, he was remorseful for the crimes which he had committed and we might be certain that he had faith in Jesus as his Savior. When the one criminal began to mock Jesus, the other criminal came to Jesus’ defense. “The other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom’” (Luke 23:40-42). It is evident from these words that this man believed Jesus to be the Savior, the Messiah, the One promised from of old.
You may remember that at Jesus’ trial there was another criminal that was accused and actually convicted for his crimes, and that was Barabbas. Barabbas received a stay of execution, because of the custom of the Pontus, that of releasing one criminal at the Passover. About this Barabbas we are actually told that he was a notorious criminal. He was known for causing riots, for insurrection, even for treason. Evidently he had his trial and was awaiting execution. Again, the reason he was not executed was because of Jesus. Every year at the time of the Passover celebration the governor allowed the people to choose someone for him to release, to grant a stay of execution and a full pardon. This year, Pilate put forward, Jesus, who was only accused of, but never really convicted of, rioting, insurrection and treason or Barabbas, who was a convicted criminal. The crowd chose Barabbas. Of course we know that the crowd shouted for Barabbas release as they were incited by the Pharisees and chief priests. Perhaps looking back we can see the irony of this whole situation, that is that the man who was guilty was set free and the one that was innocent was crucified. Indeed, we come as Barabbas. We are guilty of our many sins and we stand guilty before God, yet, God has taken all our sins and placed them on Jesus, the innocent, spotless Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. We are forgiven, free of sin as Jesus suffered and paid the price for our sins.
So, we have one thief we know who was unrepentant, thus we would surmise in his death he received the just punishment for his sins. We have another criminal who may or may not have been repentant, and who may or may not have any idea of why he was set free, yet knowing he too was guilty. And we have the one thief who recognized and confessed his sin and to whom we are told, this day he was with Jesus in paradise. Indeed in our world today, there are those who continually live unrepentant in their sins and if they remain so they to will go down to sheol, to hell. Perhaps we would do well to love our neighbor and gently call them to account, not that we are less sinners, but that we daily have contrition for our sins, that is that we admit, confess, and repent, and vow to turn from our sins, understanding that we can only keep our vow with God’s help. And then we are given forgiveness and with forgiveness we know we have life and salvation, even eternal life in heaven.
There are many people in this world who are not aware of the fact that the price for their sins has been paid. They may not even be aware of their own sins, sins of omission, not doing the things that they should be doing, and sins of commission, doing those things that they should not be doing, indeed doing those things that God forbids. Too many people are not aware that they sin sins of thought, word and deed. Again, we would do well to love our neighbor as ourselves and gently call them to account, not that we are less sinners, but that we daily confess so that they too might daily confess, repent, and turn from our sins, and be given forgiveness and have eternal life.
Finally there are those of us who know and recognize our sins. We know and understand how we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We know what God commands, especially what He commands us to not do, indeed we have the Ten Commandments. Yet, how often it is that we look at the Commandments and look to find a loop hole, or a grey area so as to justify ourselves. How often we sin against not one, but all of the commandments, perhaps not actual sins such as actually stealing something or killing someone, but we sin against the commandment nevertheless by harming and physically or mentally hurting someone, or by name calling or begrudging, which are sins against the commandments nonetheless. More often than not I would suggest our sins are sins of omission, not doing as we should. Again, we know what we should not be doing, but we tend to fail in what we should be doing. Are we helping and befriending our neighbor? Are we explaining everything in the best way possible? Are we eagerly and regularly coming to hear God’s Word, and not only hear His Word, but believe it and act on it, that is actually live as He tells us to live? How often do we look lustfully at another? And how often do we put other interests before our God? Indeed, as we look at our own lives we can see the fact that without Jesus, we would be lost and condemned persons, no different than the rest of the world, no different than Barabbas or the thief on the cross.
Thanks be to God that we know the good news of the message of the Gospel that our sins have already been paid for, cast as far as the east is from the west so far have they been removed. We know we have forgiveness of sins and it is this good news motivates us and moves us to repent of all our sin and to turn and try with God’s help to sin no more. And even though we continue to sin we continue to repent and strive, with God’s help. And as we know, with confession there is absolution, sins confessed, sins forgiven. And with forgiveness is life and salvation, thanks be to God.
This morning, this Easter Sunrise morning we come and rejoice and celebrate because we know the whole history of these events. We rejoice and celebrate because Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead. Thus not only did He pay the price for ours sins, He also completely and utterly defeated sin, death and the devil. We have this faith, this hope, this confidence that Jesus was born, true God in human flesh; that Jesus did live a perfect life for us, in our place because we cannot; that He did fulfill all of God’s Word and promises; that He did take our sins and the sins of all people, of all place, of all times on Himself and He did suffer the complete eternal spiritual death of hell for all sins for us in our place; that He died; that He was buried; and indeed, that He rose from the dead victorious over sin, death and the devil. We know that He showed Himself many times to be alive so that we can have confidence in those who have witnessed these events. We know that by faith in Jesus, faith given to us through His Word and Holy Baptism, faith strengthened through His Word and the Lord’s Supper, through sins forgiven through Confession and Absolution, we have forgiveness, life and salvation. What joy is ours, joy that stirs in us and moves us to say, to God be the glory for Jesus’s sake. Amen.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!