Tag Archives: Lutheran

“Christ is Risen!” 2018 Easter Sermon 04.01.2018

Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the RISEN Christ. Amen.

So this year, Easter falls on April’s Fools Day. The last time this happened was in 1956 and there will only be two more occurrences of Easter falling on April Fool’s Day this century. In case you didn’t know this, the actual date for Easter changes each year. It’s not a set date like Christmas. If you were paying attention as we received the gospel readings over the past four days of Holy Week worship, you’ll note that scripture doesn’t tell us that Maundy Thursday or any of the other days have a specific calendar date – only a specific day of the week. After all, God’s time is not the same thing as human time. It may surprise some, but God, in fact, does not have an Apple Watch.

I’ve never explored this too far but…the date for Easter is determined as the first Sunday, after the first full moon, on or before the Spring equinox.

OK – before I keep chasing after that squirrel, let’s move on.

Since the very earliest days of the Christian movement, there’s been a very significant, and somewhat foolish I might add, greeting used to signify Easter and the resurrection. Someone will say “Christ is risen!” And someone else will say “He is risen indeed!”

Let’s try it.
Awesome! You guys are great.

BUT – wait a minute. Weren’t you listening? Why are we shouting for joy?

In our gospel reading on this Easter Day, Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved have been to the empty tomb, don’t seem to understand what is going on so they decide to head for home in order to continue their Xbox video game tournament. Or something like that.

And Mary, one of Jesus’ closest friends and someone whom I believe we should see as one of the first disciples, is weeping.

So why are you and I, followers of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later, shouting for joy?

Here’s something about the resurrection that has rested on my heart this year. Peter, the other disciple, and Mary Magdalene don’t know what’s going on – they don’t know the end of the story. At this point, all they know is that Jesus – this friend of their’s whom they thought was the Messiah – has been brutally killed just a few days earlier. They don’t see any reason why there is going to be anything more to this story than the horrific, bloody death of their friend on a cross. They have to be thinking – this is the end. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on with our lives.

Early on this first day of the week, they come to the grave where they thought Jesus was to be buried, and he’s not there. Is that all there is to their story? Is the story of Jesus, God’s son, our Savior, over?

You and I know that death on a Friday we dare call Good, is not the end of the story. The first disciples to witness the resurrection didn’t know that, at least not yet.

As Mary is weeping, she doesn’t recognize Jesus, but Jesus recognizes her. Not because of anything she does, but because of what God does for her through Jesus.

We began worship today by giving thanks for and affirming our own baptism. In the sacred and holy waters and words of promise from God that is the sacrament of Holy Baptism, God claims us. A sacrament when we see Jesus recognizes us. Not because of anything we do, but because of what God does for us through Jesus.

Peter and the other disciple have no idea what is going on at the tomb “for as yet they did not understand the scripture.” Over the next few weeks in our worship life together, we’ll discover that they will begin to understand the scripture as they experience the resurrected Jesus first hand. Again, not because of anything they do, but what God does for them through Jesus.

After all of the Easter candy has been consumed – or hidden by wise parents – and the Easter dinner is over, and family and friends have returned to their homes and busy lifestyles; what does any of this mean? What does it mean to be a follower of this Jesus?

This Jesus who couldn’t even be stopped by death. This Jesus who recognizes and calls each of us by name as precious children of God – loved and claimed and freed – in spite of all of the ways that we try to turn and run from God. All of the ways that we try and put God to death expecting that we, somehow, can keep God dead.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the resurrection of Jesus is not simply a historical event that we remember each year like a national holiday or birthday. And the resurrection of Jesus is not only about some future hope that we have for ourselves and our loved ones after our earthly death.

I’m sorry, but if we focus all of our attention on a past or future event, we are completely missing the resurrection promise that’s right in front of us today. The resurrection promise of Jesus that calls us to live with a hope that we can experience and witness each and every day of our life together as part of the body of Christ. Hope that is only possible because of what God has already done, and is continuing to do for us, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

So don’t worry about Easter falling on April Fool’s day this year. You don’t need to ignore it. It actually might be helpful.

One ELCA pastor, Paul Lutter said – “Through his death and resurrection for us, Jesus Christ is God’s foolish power on the loose among us. Our strength is toppled by his weakness. Our wisdom is toppled by his foolishness. And we are never the same again. We are made new. We are turned upside down for the sake of Christ, who dies and is raised from death for us. We are given new identities. Marked with the cross of this foolish Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism, we are made fools for Christ.” [“Foolish Power,” Living Lutheran, April 1, 2011]

So for today, let’s greet one another as fools for Christ with foolish joy and proclaim “Christ is Risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And just like Peter, the other disciple, Mary Magdalene and every follower of Jesus since that first resurrection day, let’s not be afraid or stand around weeping. Let’s proclaim truth every day.

The truth that God has, is, and will always be a God of resurrection. A God of resurrection that conquers every death we will ever experience. A God of resurrection that sounds foolish to some. A God of resurrection that brings forth new life, always and in all ways.

And so tomorrow, on Easter Monday, let’s continue being fools for Christ as we greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And next weekend we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And later this year, we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

Thanks be to God! Amen.

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Confirmation Sermon 10.30.2012

John 8:31-36 • October 28, 2012

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

There was a time in many of our lives, water was poured into basin like this and then poured on our head or our entire body. The words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” were spoken as water flowed. A sign of the cross was placed on our foreheads. In our Lutheran tradition we say, “You are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever.” Not just for that day. Not just for the good days of our life. Forever. On that day and in that saving act of God’s love for us, we are claimed as God’s child forever. Often we are clothed in white at our baptism as a sign of being cleansed from sin and made pure in our new life in Christ. God comes to us in baptism and says, “I love you. You are my child, forever.”

Today, in your confirmation, you will stand before this congregation and make promises to God that you will continue to celebrate and live your life in Christ. New life that began in your baptism many years ago and will continue to grow and deepen in ways that extend way beyond your life on earth.

The white robe that you wear today is not a sign of your graduation from church. The white robe that you wear today is a sign of the promises that you make today. And a reminder of the promises that God made to you in your baptism, and that God makes with you today in your confirmation. A promise that God will be with you always. You don’t graduate from church today, your life in Christ doesn’t end today. Actually – it never ends.

I’ve enjoyed spending some time over the past couple of months with these fine young men and women who are being confirmed today. I don’t know if we ever asked each other directly what confirmation is, but we did talk about what it means to live our life in Christ beyond our confirmation day. In fact, many of them have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting upon what their life in Christ is after confirmation.

One part of our time together was viewing a film called Soul Searching: A Movie about Teenagers and God. It’s a film that is part of an ongoing study called the National Study of Youth and Religion sponsored by the University of South Carolina and the University of Notre Dame. This study seeks to understand better how God connects to the lives of American teenagers. In the film, they follow several teens from across the United States and try to understand how God fits into their lives. These are Jewish, conservative Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, mainline Protestants like Lutherans and Presbyterians, and even a radical atheist to round out the group.

Overwhelmingly, this research is discovering that much of religion in America today looks and feels like something that is significantly different from what historic religions, like Christianity, have represented for several thousand years.

The leaders of this study call the new religion that is appearing in places like the United States, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism says five things about God and God’s relationship to us – first, God did create the world and everything in it, but after creating everything, God has gotten out of the way and is now simply watching over everything from some golden throne in the sky; second, God wants people to be good; third, the goal of life is to be happy; fourth, God will solve your problems when you call on him; and finally, good people get to go to heaven when they die.

Maybe the most troubling part of this as a Lutheran Christian pastor is that I don’t think this view of God is something we see only in teenagers. In fact, this view of God and our relationship to God is probably very similar to what the majority of us who are gathered here for worship today believe.

What’s significant about seeing God in the way of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is this – in this view of our relationship with God, God in essence becomes a combination of divine butler and supreme cosmic therapist. God will swoop down from heaven and take care of your problems and only get involved in your life when you call on him, he’ll help you work out your difficulties, and will never ever get too intimately involved in your life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the God who first makes promises to us in baptism and claims us as his child is not our butler or therapist. The God who meets us in our baptism is not hiding in heaven waiting for you to call on him when you need help or want a front row parking spot at the mall. The God who meets you and I in our baptism is not interested in the bad days of life while being ignored every other day. The God who meets you and I in our baptism makes a promise us. A promise to be with us always – in good and bad, happy and sad, when we think we need God in our lives and when we could care less if God is there. God is not just a super-hero in the sky that we can call upon when we need help.

Brothers and sisters in Christ who are about to be confirmed – God was not the only one making promises when you were baptized. Promises were also made by parents and family, sponsors and godparents, and a Christian community of faith. These promises freed you to experience God through other people who care deeply for you and the world that God makes, freed you to experience God during times of worship and opportunities to serve your neighbor, and freed you to experience God in weekly confirmation classes where you were taught significant aspects of Christian faith and life like the importance of a lifetime commitment to reading and study of holy scripture and a deeper understanding of elements that are central to Christian faith like the Lord’s Prayer, the creed, and the ten commandments.

So, comfirmands, today is your day. Today, in confirmation, is your day of promise. Your day of promising to continue your life in Christ that began in your baptism. Your day of promising that you will give thanks for everyone who has helped you get to this day. Your day of promises that have little to do with a theory called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Today, you promise to pray for God’s world and ask for God’s presence in your life, to worship among God’s faithful people and be nourished in the Lord’s Supper, to read and study the word of God, to share the good news of God in Jesus Christ in all that you say and do, and to give of yourself in all ways and at all times for peace, justice, and the care of fellow brothers and sisters in this world.

It’s a blessing to be with you today as one of your pastors and to walk with you in these promises that you make to God in confirmation. My prayer for each of you today is this – that you feel the incredible blessing from God that this day is. That you always remember you never walk alone in your faith. And that each and every day you experience the unending love and grace of God in your life in Christ. Amen.