C.S. Lewis and the Grand Miracle of Easter

  Posted:Apr 20, 2014 (Brothers of John the Steadfast)

aslan_table Note: Although there certainly are many more, here are a few of my favorite quotations from the writings of C.S. Lewis that only add to the joy and supreme gladness of this day.

On Miracles

In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders…

…In this descent and ascent everyone will recognize a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life reascends…

…The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre. The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key. (C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p. 179-181).

Thus, as Lewis goes on to say in a later chapter:

He [Jesus] is the ‘first fruits,’  ‘the pioneer of life.’ He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened. (C.S. Lewis, Miracles , p. 237).

  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that if a willing victim, who had committed no treachery, was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe , p. 163).




Tolkien and the Great Easter Eucatastrophe

  Posted:Apr 20, 2014 (Brothers of John the Steadfast)

RisenLord Note: When J.R.R. Tolkien couldn’t find a word to express precisely what he was thinking, or trying to convey in his writing, he would simply invent a word. As he was a philologist, this is not difficult to imagine. So, when conveying the supreme purpose of the fairy story, what Tolkien calls the Eucatastrophe in his essay On Fairy Stories, he could find no word that suited his definition. This led Tolkien to coin the word, eucatastrophe. It comes from the combination of two Greek words, meaning ‘ eu’ for ‘good’ and ‘ katastrophe’ for destruction. In other words, it is a good catastrophe, the kind of event(s) you never see coming or least expect in a story. The Gospel, Tolkien says, is the story of the greatest eucatastrophe, that joyous sudden turn from death to life. And not only is it beautiful, but it is historically true and reliable. Here is a little Easter apologetics from Tolkien in his own words.

  On Fairy Stories

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction; it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused. (Tolkien, On Fairy Stories, p. 155-156, The Monsters and the Critics And Other Essays )

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

“I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane (….) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.” (Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 89)


"Christ lay in death's strong bands" - Luther's great Easter hymn

  Posted:Apr 20, 2014 By Matt Harrison (Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison)

"Christ's blood now marks our door. Faith points to it, death passes over."


“Amen” (The Lord’s Prayer; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Yes, “Alleluia” of course is the word of the day for Easter Day. We’ve been saving it up all Lent, and now today we finally get to let it loose. And what a day to do so! Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on this day, winning the victory for us over death and the grave. If that doesn’t elicit an “Alleluia,” I don’t know what will. “Alleluia” is a Hebrew word originally, and it means “Praise ye the Lord.” And praise is most fitting for us to render unto the Lord God for the great salvation he has assured us of by raising his Son from the dead.

“Alleluia,” the word of the day for Easter. But today I’d like to suggest another “A” word that works just as well on this day. And that is the word “Amen.” “Amen” also is a Hebrew word that has carried over into English. It means “to be sure,” “to be certain.” The basic idea is firmness or certainty. In the Bible, the word “Amen” expresses a certain affirmation in response to what has been said. And that idea, and the word itself, carried over into the Christian church, and on through all the centuries, all around the world, down to this very day. “Amen,” we say, whenever we want to affirm as solid and trustworthy whatever has just been said, whether that is a prayer or a blessing or what have you.

And friends, there is nothing more sure or trustworthy than Christ’s resurrection from the dead! Therefore Easter is a perfect day for a big “Amen,” as well as a big “Alleluia.” And the reason we can say a hearty “Amen” at the end of our prayers is because God himself has put a big “Amen” exclamation point on the work of Christ on the cross by raising from the dead. Easter is God’s “Amen!” to what Jesus did on Good Friday. And this in turn gives us confidence to say our Amen to the prayers we pray to God, knowing with all certainty that our heavenly Father will hear us and look on us with favor for Christ’s sake.

Listen to what St. Paul says about this in 2 Corinthians chapter 1: “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

Did you catch that? “All the promises of God find their Yes in him,” that is, in Christ. “That is why it is through him,” through Christ, “that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

“All the promises of God find their Yes in him.” Everything that God has promised to mankind, to ancient Israel, to the church, to us–all of these promises find their fulfillment and their focus in Christ. Track all of the promises of God in the Bible, and they all come to fruition in Christ. The seed of the woman, who will crush the serpent’s head. The seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. The new Moses and the new Joshua, who will lead God’s people out of bondage and into the Promised Land. The Son of David, the Messiah, who will reign over an everlasting kingdom. The Servant of the Lord, prophesied by Isaiah. All of these Old Testament promises were looking forward to their fulfillment in Christ.

Yes, including that Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53. The one who would suffer for the sins of the people. The one by whose stripes we are healed. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, the one who looked like the world’s biggest loser, scorned by men and seemingly abandoned by God. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him,” to put him to grief. And after he has been laid in a tomb, “he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” This is a prophecy of the resurrection of the Christ, after his atoning work of dying for the sins of the people–for our sins.

Here we can see that Good Friday was not a detour from the plan of God–it was the plan of God! It was not a temporary setback; it was instead the ultimate solution. The cross was God’s plan and God’s purpose coming to its goal, its fulfillment: Christ, the Messiah, dying for sinners in order to redeem them, to win their forgiveness and thus their freedom: freedom from guilt and punishment, freedom from the stranglehold that death had on us, freedom to be the people of God in faith and love and filled with the Spirit. This is what Christ did for us on that cross, stomping on the devil’s head, purchasing our release from bondage by the holy blood that he shed. This is the wonderful thing Jesus did for us by his death on the cross. And so Easter, then, is God the Father saying a great big Yes to all that. It is God affirming the work of Christ by raising him from the dead. The Father glorified the Son by highly exalting him in resurrection victory. Easter is God’s Amen to Good Friday.

And dear friends, this is why we now can be bold and confident to say our Amen whenever we pray to God. As our text in Corinthians says, “That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” We can say Yes and Amen to our prayers because we know Christ has given us access to the Father, and so it is right and fitting that we conclude our prayers by saying, “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and then adding a big old “Amen” to it.

And that includes of course the prayer our Lord himself taught us to pray, the Lord’s Prayer. If ever there was a prayer we can be absolutely certain God will hear and we can put an Amen on, it is that prayer. The Amen we say at the end of the Lord’s Prayer means, as Luther explains it in the Catechism–it means I can be “certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us.”

And so we come to the end of our series on the Lord’s Prayer, with the Amen on Easter Day. Can we be sure our heavenly Father will hear our prayer that his name be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done? Yes and Amen! Christ’s resurrection is how it happens. Can we be sure God will give us our daily bread? Yes and Amen! “If he did not spare his own Son, how will he not with him give us all things?” Can we be sure that God will forgive us our trespasses? Amen! That’s what happened on Good Friday, when Christ bled and died for our forgiveness, and God gave his Yes to that by raising Christ from the dead. Can we be sure that God will give us strength to face temptation and that in the end he will deliver us from evil, including the evil of death? Yes and Amen! Easter guarantees it!

So in the confidence that God has accepted the work of Christ on Good Friday by giving it his Amen on Easter Day–in this firmness and certainty, we can conclude the Lord’s Prayer and all our prayers with our own “Amen!” Amen, amen means “yes, yes, it shall be so.”

And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. And all of God’s people said . . . Amen!



Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

  Posted:Apr 20, 2014 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)

Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us.  Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

O God, in the paschal feast You restore all creation.  Continue to send Your heavenly gifts upon Your people that they may walk in perfect freedom and receive eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life.  We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Almighty God, through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences.  Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Almighty God, by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light.  Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Alleluia. Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.


A funeral to end all funerals. . .

  Posted:Apr 20, 2014 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
Sermon for Good Friday evening, preached on Friday, April 18, 2014

    Funerals are always endings.  After the death, the family and friends conduct the final devotional acts of love in shutting the coffin and putting the body into the grave.  Once it was done only by the family.  Now we pay others to do it for us.  But it is our final devotional act of love for those who die.
    Jesus too is buried.  Scripture tells us.  We confess it every Sunday in the creed.  He died and He was buried.  The disciples did not know what to make of it all.  The death of Christ scattered them as the prophets foretold.  None of them was ready for the end.  They were not there at the burial.  Only Joseph of Arimathea and a few of the women who followed Jesus.  He did not even get His own grave but borrowed the tomb Joseph had cut out of stone for his own family's use.
    But this time the grave is not the end.  The story is not over.  The enemies of our Lord secure the grave because they knew the promise of Jesus to rise again.  They wanted to make sure that no hanky panky took place.  They did not expect our Lord to rise but they did not want a lie to steal the hearts of the people.  So they secured the grave with a stone and a guard.
    Jesus was buried alright.  But the story does not end with a body, a grave, and a burial.  Tonight is the funeral for Jesus.
But it is a funeral like no other.  We will go home this Good Friday expecting to be back here for Easter.  We will return to hear the rest of the story, knowing already the grave is not the end, death did not win, and the victory is the Lord's still.
    Holy Week does not re-enact what Jesus did.  We can never do that.  We know what happens at the end.  There is no surprise left for us.  We already know and even now anticipate the future that our Lord has for us when death must cough Him up and bow to the Lord of life and of death.
    The surprise for us is not whether or not Jesus will remain in the tomb.  The surprise for us is that we will not.  What we see on Good Friday and what we will come back for on Sunday is the pledge and promise of our own futures in which we shall not die but live.  Because of this funeral on Good Friday, all our funerals are also transformed from mournful memories of an end to the promise of a future in which death has no power.
    There is more to come.  Not only in the story of Jesus but in our own stories.   What does Paul say: Do not grieve as the ignorant who have no hope.  In other words, do not give up to death what does not belong to death.  And that is why this Friday is called Good.  Because Jesus died for you, you do not belong to death anymore.  You belong to life.  Your body will lay in the tomb but it will wait for the Easter God prepared for you.     Jesus was buried.  This is no small detail.  His death was not a fake.  Neither is His life a matter of wishful thinking.  Because He died for you, you will not die.  Because He lives for you, you will rise in Him to your own joyful resurrection.  Because He died and sanctified the grave, we cannot look at death or the grave in the same way again. 
    Funerals are endings.  Complete with pictures of the past, tears of loss, and hearts broken in love.  That is all they would be.  Except that Jesus died and was buried.  He has sanctified the graves of all the saints so that those who die in Christ, live in Him.  He has emptied the grave of its power.  It no longer holds for us the ending but the beginning.  To be sure, our bodies will wait in the grave but as a sleep from which Christ will awaken us to new flesh and new blood and new life forever.
    Because our Lord died and was buried, we cannot look at death and the grave in the same way again.  We watch.  We wait.  He is the first born of the dead, of those who sleep in the grave, but there is so very much more to come.  His death has ended the terror of sin and its reign of death.  Like Christ, we go to the grave not as the defeated but as the victorious.  He has already prepared the way.  He has marched into hell and stolen the keys of death from Satan.  Now He has the power to unlock sin and death for you and me and for the whole world.  Amen.

Boarding the Ark in Baptism

  Posted:Apr 20, 2014 (Lamb Food)
The Resurrection of Our Lord — Easter Vigil
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13

Dearly beloved, this spring’s great deception is a Hollywood movie titled Noah , a big budget mixture of 5% truth and 95% far-fetched fiction.

Tonight, as we celebrate our baptism into Christ, we turn our attention to the real Noah, the real ark, and the real flood. For they foreshadow this washing of water with the Word that saves us from the flood of God’s wrath against sin.

I doubt any of us could bear the sadness that filled God’s heart as He watched His creation. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). There you have the depths of our sinful nature. With each generation that followed Adam, man’s wickedness increased as his sinful nature expressed itself more creatively and more boldly.

And so, God set out to cleanse His creation from the unrepentant sin that so polluted it. Water is the agent He would use. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Sometimes we forget that water covered the entire earth from the dawn of creation until sometime during the Third Day, when God separated the waters from the dry land.

1656 years later, God once again covered the face of the entire earth with water. He sent water, and lots of it.

For 40 days and 40 nights “the windows of the heavens were opened.”

For 40 days and 40 nights “the fountains of the great deep burst forth.”

For 40 days and 40 nights the “rain fell.”

So the Lord God flooded the earth with water and cleansed His creation of unrepentant sin, even as He kept believing Noah and his family—eight souls in all—safe and sound in the ark. As Noah and his family drifted in the ark atop the waters covering the earth, do you remember what it was that signaled that God’s wrath against sin had been appeased? A dove.

The first time Noah released that dove, it returned because there was no place for it to rest.

The second time Noah released that dove, it returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its mouth.

The third time Noah released that dove, it did not return at all. For God’s wrath had finally and fully been appeased.

Where that particular dove went we do not know. But jump ahead roughly 2500 years to the Jordan River and what do you find? The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. I don’t believe this is a coincidence.

Immediately after Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, “the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove” (Luke 3:22). Why like a dove? Because in Jesus Christ, the flood of God’s wrath against the sin of the world has receded. Jesus is the true Olive Branch, the true Peace between God and man. In Him, the “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) about which the Bethlehem angels sang had finally been accomplished.

Today, the Holy Spirit like a dove carries this Olive Branch—Jesus—in His mouth (John 15:26) and delivers the peace of Christ to you in Holy Baptism, where water and the Spirit are once again connected. Saint Peter proclaims: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Stated another way, Holy Baptism is the means by which you board the ark of the Christian Church. Saint Peter writes: “Baptism, which corresponds to [the flood], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

And while you are baptized only once, your whole life is nothing more than a daily return to baptism. For the Old Adam daily needs to drown and die with all sins and evil desires. And the New Man (Christ in us) daily needs to emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

On this night sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we gather together here in the ark of Christ’s Church to celebrate our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. At this baptismal font, or one like it in another location, each of you passed through the life-giving flood of God’s grace, received the Holy Spirit, and became a child of the heavenly Father.

And so, let the Easter celebration begin. Baptized into Christ Jesus, His death on the cross is now your death to sin, and His resurrection on Easter morning is now your new life in Him.

Never forget, dear friends, there is safety in the ark of Christ’s Church. Not just for 40 days, but all the days of your life. Christ is your Noah (your Rest). And He has promised to see you safely to the heavenly shoreline of God’s Ararat!

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

Light of Christ

  Posted:Apr 20, 2014 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
Easter Vigil Candlelight Procession and Exultet from Cheryl on Vimeo .

O God, You made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection. Preserve in us the spirit of adoption which You have given so that, made alive in body and soul, we may serve You purely; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Church Constitution and Bylaws — what works, what doesn’t?

  Posted:Apr 19, 2014 (Brothers of John the Steadfast)

conby I’m on the Constitution and Bylaws committee of my church. We’ve had many issues over the past 5-10 years with a set of legal documents that are too complex and detailed in some areas, and don’t say enough in other areas.

For example, it states that the full slate of officers will be presented at the February voter’s meeting; our election meeting is held in May, and the new officers take effect in July. Now I’m sure many of you have been on nomination committees and know that it’s just getting more and more difficult to get people to say “yes” when called on. It used to be that we had 2 (or 3!) people slotted for most of the positions; now we struggle until the weeks prior to the election meeting to fill the slate. So the last time I was on the committee, I stood up at the February meeting and said we are working on it, and basically begged people to be open to saying “yes” if we called them. We had very few positions filled at that point.

My point is that our constitution has several things like this where it goes into details that change over time and are no longer relevant.

So … what I would like is to open this up to as many people as possible — can you send me your church constitution and bylaws? Can you discuss below what types of things should be found in them, what should not be there, what works well or works especially poorly in your church documents? What do you wish had been there?

I’ve asked this a few times in different areas of facebook and gotten some good comments back, including to look at the Synod Recommended Guidelines for constitution and bylaws. We are also looking at Bethany Lutheran in Naperville’s Constitution and Bylaws .


Death does not take Him... He takes death!

  Posted:Apr 19, 2014 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
Sermon for Good Friday Noon, preached on Friday, April 18, 2014.

    In John 10:17-18 Jesus insists that no one takes His life from Him but He lays it down.  In other words, Jesus is not some unwitting victim of forces and powers beyond His control.  He is in charge of His destiny.  Death did not take Him; He took death.  We come here today to marvel at the One who took on the enemy that we run from as fast and far as we can.
    Jesus died.  He died willingly – not as one who loves death but as one who loves us more than death.  Death was His choice.  Death was His mission.  Death was the purpose of His life.  Death was the goal of the mission He was incarnate to undertake.  He faces up to the death we run from and He bears the full burden of the weight of sin none of us wants to carry.
    Dying was His choice.  He died the death that was ours to die.  He chose to redeem us over preserving His life.  He chose to pay the full debt of our sin even when the price of that debt was His own life in suffering on the cross.  This was His choice. Death did not take Him.  He took down death.
    Jesus died and won.  He did not win some moral victory – like the hero who goes down to defeat for His principles.  No, this was not some moral victory over sin but a real victory.  He disarmed the powers of darkness. He silenced the great accuser.  He turned the weapons of the devil back on himself.  He won us from death, from sin, from captivity, from fear...  He did not win to prove something to Himself or to the Father but for us.  He died because we have no choice but to die.  He paid for our sin because we cannot pay the cost of our redemption.
    This was no temporary victory – not some momentary win only to be undone by something later.  His victory is eternal.  So our Lord steals from the devil the power of death by taking up residence in the grave.  He marches into hell itself in order to take from Satan the keys of death and the grave.
    Jesus begs no sympathy from us.  He does not ask from us that marvel at what He has done.  He does not want our pity for the pain He endured for us.  All He asks of us is faith – faith to believe in what He has done, in the power of His victory to set us free, and in the new life we live right now.  All He asks of us is that we believe in His death that gives us life and that we lay aside all attempts to add to or replace what He has done with our own flawed and failed efforts.  All He asks of us is that we trust in this mercy and in this redemption.  Death did not take Jesus.  Jesus took death.  There is no gospel so sweet, no gift so great...  Our Lord is no unwilling or unwitting victim but the Lord of life who became the Lord of death as well – all for us, all to forgive us, and all to give us life stronger than death.  Amen.

Holy Saturday: Funeral for a Herring

  Posted:Apr 19, 2014 By Pastor Esget (Esgetology)

From Francis Weiser’s Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs :


"He suffers; we go free."

  Posted:Apr 19, 2014 By Matt Harrison (Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison)
The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Is. 53

He [Christ] is punished; we have peace. I, you, all of us have angered God; for that he needed to atone, so that we might be redeemed from sin and obtain peace. He suffers; we go free. the indulgence hawkers assured us that our desperate beads of sweat and gross carousings would, by the pope's indulgences, be freed from pain and punishment. They directed us to believe that our souls must suffer in purgatory, when in reality (even as they spoke) they already had departed in grace and love. Does not the prophet say, "The chastisement of our peace was upon him," in order that it might be well with us and we might enjoy good days? This great love and grace no person should ever so shamefully forget. The great harm the devil caused us in paradise [i.e. Eden] has been healed by Christ's wounds.

Luther, House Postils (Klug) I.444
"Holy Week: Fifth Sermon" "Preached publicly in the afternoon of the Saturday before Easter, 1531."

Wait for the Lord

  Posted:Apr 19, 2014 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)

“But Deliver Us from Evil” (The Lord’s Prayer; Luke 23:32-49)

“But Deliver Us from Evil”: The seventh and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. And how appropriate that we should come to this petition on this particular day, Good Friday. For the greatest evil that has ever been perpetrated on this earth is the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. I mean, really, Good Friday could just as well be called “Evil Friday,” that is the magnitude of the evil committed against this wholly innocent man, the most innocent man who has ever lived–indeed, the only truly innocent man to have ever lived.

But the reason we insist on still calling it “Good” Friday is because out of that monstrous evil God has worked the most marvelous good. It’s like what Joseph told his brothers after they had committed a terrible wrong against him. He said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” So also, in an even greater way, God has brought good out of the evil committed against Jesus.

And because of the incredible good that came out of the enormous evil done on this day, this is how and why we can pray “But deliver us from evil.” And we can be sure that God will do it, as we will now see.

Yes, Good Friday was the day on which the worst evil ever done was done. If ever there was a man who did not deserve to die, it was Jesus of Nazareth. He went about only doing good: Preaching repentance and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Teaching the truth of God’s word, in all wisdom and authority. Unfolding the true meaning of the Law, cutting through the wrong ways that the scribes and Pharisees had taught. Forgiving sinners who knew their need. Healing the sick–the blind, the deaf, the lame. Delivering troubled souls from the clutches of the devil. Feeding the multitudes. All these things were good, immensely good.

All good, and nothing wrong. “He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” Jesus was brought before the Roman governor, and Governor Pilate declared, “I find no guilt in this man.” Again he told the crowd, “After examining him, I do not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.” But the religious leaders who hated Jesus stirred up the crowd, so that they shouted, “Crucify, crucify him!” Once more Pilate said, “Why, what evil has he done?” Indeed, what evil has Jesus done? Answer: None. Even the criminal crucified next to him had to say, “This man has done nothing wrong.”

In contrast, you and I have done a lot of things wrong. The Bible calls this “sin.” It’s our general condition, and it comes out in specific acts that we can identify. Things that we do wrong, say wrong, and think wrong. Things we fail to do right, or think or speak right. It’s our lack of love for God, the fact we do not trust him as we ought, the ways we do not take his word and his commandments seriously. These are offenses against God and deserving of his punishment. Then there are the wrongs we do against our fellow man, especially to the people we encounter in our life. Our sinful nature shows up in the ways we fail our neighbor, the hurtful things we say and do, the ways we avoid helping people when we have the opportunity to do so.

But Jesus? There’s nothing wrong that he has done. No reason for him to be up there on that cross. He has every right to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Couldn’t God have stopped this, this outrageous injustice? Why are you letting this happen, Lord? This is your obedient servant up there on that cross! The bad guys are getting away with this! Why? Why?

Sometimes we search for answers, and we don’t know why. Even though we’re not perfect and sinless like Jesus was, still there are times when evil is committed against us. People do us wrong, unfairly. And sometimes they get away with it. Our reputation is tarnished, or maybe we take a financial hit. Then there are other times when evil things just happen to us, and there may not be anybody specific to blame. A flood, a tornado, a disease. Bad things happen, to bad people, good people, and everybody in between. Evil happens. And, when it does, we wonder if or when God is going to do anything about it.

It’s at times like these that we especially need to pray what our Lord Jesus has taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “But deliver us from evil.” Our faith is in our heavenly Father, in his goodness, and in the final deliverance he has promised us for the sake of Christ. Even when it looks like evil is prevailing–especially when it looks like evil is prevailing.

For that is exactly what Jesus himself prayed, when it looked like evil was having its way with him. Christ’s confidence in the Father’s deliverance did not waver. He summoned up what little strength he had left and he cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Here this seventh and final word from the cross echoes the seventh and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Saying “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” is simply another way to pray “But deliver us from evil.” Jesus here is entrusting himself into the hands of his Father to deliver him, body and soul, from this evil that is being done against him, this evil thing that’s happening to him. And in so doing, Jesus is providing for us the greatest model and example of prayer, prayer that is borne of faith.

And Jesus’ prayer was answered, of course. The Father did deliver his Son from evil. That’s what Easter will show. As Isaiah prophesied: “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Yes, God has delivered Jesus from evil. And for you who trust in Christ and are joined to him in Holy Baptism–you can be sure that in the end God will deliver you also from whatever evil or evils you face in this life.

Good Friday could really be called “Evil Friday,” because of the horrible evil done on that day. But in what was literally his last hour on the cross, in his last moments, Jesus’ last word from the cross was “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” This was his way of praying the petition he had taught his disciples, “But deliver us from evil.” And because of the great good that came out of that evil–the good news that our sins are forgiven and we are put right with God–and because the Father did deliver Jesus, this is how we can pray now, “But deliver us from evil.” For we know that our Father will do this for us, just like he did for Jesus. “Our Father in heaven will rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, he will give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to himself in heaven.”



Bach: "It is Finished."

  Posted:Apr 19, 2014 By Matt Harrison (Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison)
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