Resurrection!

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As most Americans are aware, this is Holy Week. The days ahead include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, aka Easter.

Amid all the aspects of the secular observance of Easter, Christians focus on the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s an awesome story, recorded in the New Testament in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20. I highly recommend you read all four accounts this week.

Lots of people will be in church this Sunday. Some are those lovingly referred to as CEO Christians: Christmas and Easter Only. Be that as it may, I hope and trust that pastors will focus not on the sporadic attendance of some but on the reality of death and our belief in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” (Apostles’ Creed: circa 390 AD)

This statement of belief in the resurrection provides hope and comfort, especially at the time of death of loved ones and friends. Earlier this week I wrote a letter to a friend whose wife passed away suddenly last week. Here are some of the words I wrote:

The author of Ecclesiastes writes: “There is an appointed time for everything  … A time to give birth and a time to die … A time to weep and a time to laugh … A time to mourn and a time to dance …” (Eccl. 3:1-2, 4) The times of dying, weeping, and mourning are not happy times.

That’s true whether a loved one dies after a lengthy illness or with no advance warning. At a time like this we echo the words of Simon Peter to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) That’s where we go at a time like this. We go to Jesus.

Many years ago his loved ones went to his grave, grieving deeply. They had lost the one who had been expected to change the history of the whole world. But he had died, as all men do, and his was a bitter and painful death.

Yet as those mourners came, by a miracle of the grace and power of God, their grief was turned to joy, their despair to faith and confidence! Jesus had risen from the dead!

Ever since that first Easter morn, believing people have come to the grave of their loved ones in confidence and trust … weeping, mourning, but not despairing, not lost, awaiting the promised resurrection of their loved one and the new heaven and new earth that lie ahead. (Rev. 21:1)

Terry and I pray that your times of weeping and mourning will be mitigated by the joy and hope that come from the peace of God that passes all understanding. We love you and thank God for you! A Blessed Festival of the Resurrection! That’s what I mean when I say: “Happy Easter!”

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The Great Escape

The Great Escape

That’s one of my favorite movies. Based on a true story, a group of allied prisoners-of-war (POWs) are put in an “escape proof” camp. Yet the prisoners outwit their jailers, dig an escape tunnel, and use motorcycles, boats, trains and planes to get out of occupied Europe.

One week ago yesterday was Ash Wednesday. I preached on a different great escape at Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas, Terry’s and my church home. The text was Luke 22:1-13. Those few verses describe seemingly unrelated things going on at that time in Jesus’ life.

While the Feast of Unleavened Bread, aka Passover, was approaching, leaders of the church were plotting Jesus’ death with the help of a man named Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus.

Luke simply interjects at that point that Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the Passover feast. When asked where they should do so, Jesus gave them a few clues. In the city, a man carrying a water jar would show them a house. The master of the house would show them a large furnished upper room. That’s where the Passover was to be prepared.

Luke doesn’t say what preparations the disciples were to make. Yet we know that Passover observances always replicated the original Passover meal, including unleavened bread, roasted lamb and bitter herbs. Although wine was not specifically mentioned in the original Passover instructions, wine was present when Jesus celebrated this Passover with his disciples.

The night of the original Passover, the angel of the Lord passed over the homes of the Israelites who had painted blood on their front doorposts. The blood came from the lambs they had prepared for the final meal they would eat in Egypt before leaving that country in the Exodus.

The angel passed over Israelite homes for the purpose of sparing God’s chosen people from the devastating impact of the last of the ten plagues that God through his servant Moses had inflicted upon the Egyptians. That final plague was the death of the firstborn son of every Egyptian family and also the death of the firstborn of all cattle throughout the land of Egypt.

The annual Passover commemorated the Exodus of the people of Israel from 430 years of Egyptian slavery, a reflection on how God saved his people as they left Egypt. That included crossing the Red Sea and surviving 40 more years of wandering in the Wilderness of Sinai before entering the Promised Land, the Holy Land of Palestine. It was truly a great escape!

Next time you receive Holy Communion, instituted by Jesus during this Passover meal, remember that God has rescued his people through the ages, not from physical incarceration but from the spiritual imprisonment of sin and death. Jesus did not escape the plot of those church leaders, but that was part of God’s plan that leads to eternal freedom! Praise God for that great escape!