Sunday, April 15, 2001

Easter Dawn

Easter Dawn   
April 15, 2001 
Luke 24:1-11   

Reasoning Through the Resurrection  

Introduction:  The account of the resurrection according to St. Luke is devoid of the spectacular. There is no earthquake, no rolling away of the stone, any terrified soldiers, or even the appearance of angels. Luke presents for us the reality of the resurrection as it happened, as a cold, hard fact. Luke gives us reasonable evidence that the resurrection is a reality; he uses reasoning as proof of the resurrection. We need this account for our world today, as we can not have a reappearance of the risen Lord. Today is the first Easter of the 21st Century. How will the world today be convinced of the reality of the resurrection?  Let's consider the evidence.

The cold fact of an empty tomb v. 3 "And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus."
Many great religious and spiritual leaders have walked the face of this earth. Buddha Mohammed, Confucius, Abraham, Moses; just to mention a few.  They each share a common legacy. If you would go to their tombs you would find their bones, as they are all dead. You can not say that concerning Jesus Christ. When you go to His tomb, His grave, you will find it empty.

The empty tomb is a cold hard fact that confirms the resurrection. His body is no longer there. It has risen. What happened to the body?  The tomb is empty! A skeptical and doubting world will have to answer that question. We have an answer. The tomb is empty because Christ is alive. He is risen from the dead.

The logic of the situation v. 5  "And they said unto them, Why seek the living among the dead?"
We as Christians do not worship a dead Christ. We worship a living Lord. That is the logic of the situation. Why would you seek the living among the dead? They can not rise. They can not speak. They can not handle. They can not answer prayer. They can do nothing for they are dead.

Christ, to the contrary is alive forever. So why seek Him among the dead? Such logic should be extended to our prayers. If Jesus were dead then our prayers would be simply words spoken to the wind, or, at best, spoken only to ourselves. But when we speak we address a living and triumphant God. For what is prayer other then a heart to heart speaking with a living and triumphant Savior. Why would we seek Him among the dead? He is not there He is risen and living. He lives eternally to save us and to hear us when we pray. The logic of Easter suggests nothing else!

Trust in the words of Jesus vv.6-8 "…remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. And they remembered His Words"
The resurrection did not happen as a fluke. It was predicted by Jesus countless times on many occasions. He had promised His disciples, on the third day that He would rise from the dead. He told them, "destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up"(John 2:19) And the Scripture is quick to remind us that this He was speaking of His own body. {John 2:21}

Jesus' predictions all came true. He promised us a resurrection and that is precisely what we got. He guarantees each and every promise. We can trust Him at His Word. When He makes a promise to us He is duty bound to keep His Word. He can do nothing less then keep His promises. Because He lives He will hear our prayers and answer them according to His perfect plan and design for your life. This you can count on Jesus will keep His Word!

Conclusion:  How do you react too an experience like the first Easter?  Can we today shard the women's experience? By faith we can!  Rejoice, then this day, He is risen, He is risen indeed hallelujah!


Easter Festival 
April 15, 2001 
Luke 16:19-31   

Is there life after death?  

Introduction: - Is there really life after death?  That is the question this world has been asking for centuries and, as we celebrate the first Easter of a new century, it is a question that is even more pertinent then at any other time. We are living in a declining society and many have observed that when a society begins to decay and decline it begins to lose hope. This can be reflected in our culture through art, television, and movies and in our past times.

Our declining and decaying society is rapidly becoming totally preoccupied with the subject of death. Consider please:

I. The findings

A.     Across the nations we have people quoted 

1.      Those who have experienced clinical death, where vital organs have ceased to function. 
2.      These people will be quick to tell you that they have had a "life after life" experience. What are we to make of this?

B.     Of these experiences there are a few observations for us to note. 

1.      Basically, they are all uniform. Each has a similar experience. 
2.      Included in these experiences are a sense of euphoria; open freedom; a review of life's events.

C.     What then are the results of such findings?  There are basically two.

1.      None were anxious to return. 
2.      None now fears death at all.

II. This must be fiction!

A.     To this discussion, and especially on this Easter, an exact definition of death is crucial to our discussion.

1. There are medical definitions, which describe to us that a person has died such as the loss of vital signs, brain waves, a heartbeat, etc. 
2. There is an actual definition of death that you and I as Christians use every day which is the separation of the soul from the body.

B.     What does this mean? 

1. It means that all these cases of "life after life" experiences were examples of clinical death. They were not cases of actual death. 
2. None of these people have actually returned from the dead. They were all near death experiences.

C.     So what are the results for this world? 

1. Confusion reigns supreme. 
2. People today are lacking in essential evidence of life after death.

III. What is needed today then, more then ever, are the essential facts.

A.     The fact remains that only one person has come back from actual death and has told us about it. 

1.      That one is Jesus Christ 
2.      The New Testament contains the record that He has given to us that we might know the truth of what awaits each and every one of us after we experience the reality of death.

B.     In our text for this morning there is much for us to consider by Jesus in His teaching. 

1.      There is something after death, which awaits all of us. There is life after death. 
2.      Life after death is in one of two locations; either heaven or hell. 
3.      He is real and awful. 
4.      There is no second chance after death. There are no "do overs" 
5.      There is no exchange of plans after death. Recall verse 26: "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you can not; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." 
6.      Stations here and in the hereafter are not related. Wealth in this life does not guarantee wealth in the life that is to come. 
7.      Positions there are determined by decisions made now. Reject not, the Lord Jesus Christ!

IV. Our Future

A.     We must face the inevitability of death. 

1.      There is a difference between facing death and being preoccupied with death. We must learn to know the difference. 
2.      Physical death then is totally inescapable. The Bible reminds us that it is appointed for a man to die, once and then comes judgment.

B.     Thus we must be prepared for what waits us at death's door. 

1.      The Bible says it is necessary to be "born again" if we are to see heaven. 
2.      To be "born again" simply means to be "born from above". In other words, to be "born again" means to be born spiritually, to be born from God.  When were you "born again"?  You were born again when you were baptized into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. St. Paul tells us that all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed by Christ.  In your baptism you were buried with Him in His death and raised to new life by the power of your baptism.

Conclusion:  Don't get taken in by something untrue regarding life after death. Take the Word and the record of the only One who has ever come back and told of it. His Name is Jesus Christ and on this day we celebrate life; the life that He has given to us and that life that can not end! A Blessed Easter. Amen. 

Friday, April 13, 2001

Good Friday

Good Friday   
April 13, 2001 
Luke 23:34

"Father Forgive Them"

Introduction: His was now over, the procession had wandered it way to Calvary.  The cross was stretched out, and the Lord laid back upon it. The nails were pounded and the cross dropped into the grown. Lifting His eyes to heaven, the Son of God prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do..."

I.     Why did He pray this petition?

A.   It expresses His essential reason for dying.

1.  He died that all might be forgiven.

2.  This was the reason for His coming into our world.

B.    It reveals His character.

1.  He is loving and compassionate especially to those who are lost.

2.  His thoughts are always of others, not fixated on Himself.

C.   His prayer provides an excellent example for others.

1. Jesus taught by prospect as well as by example.

2.  Thus His prayer should become the model prayer for ourselves, that we seek the Father's will of forgiveness for all for whom we might pray.

D.   This prayer is also a fulfillment of prophecy.

1.   Isaiah 53:12 tells us: "Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." 

2.   This is but one of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies and predictions, which Jesus fulfilled when He went to the cross.  In short this prayer and the circumstances surrounding the petition prove again that this Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

II. For whom is Jesus praying?

A.   He prays first for those who are at the scene; the immediate subjects.

1.   He prays for those who had just nailed Him to the cross - the soldiers; they were simply carrying out their orders. They were "doing their duty"

2.   He prays for those who had handed Him over to be crucified - they certainly did not know that Jesus was the Son of God!

3.   They did not know what they were doing!

B.    He prays for His countrymen, the Jewish people.

1.   His death was caused by the demand of national pride. Their leaders reasoned to themselves this way in John 11: " And one of them Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, You know nothing at all. Nor consider that it is better that one man die for the people and that the whole nation perish not And this he spoke not of himself but being high priest that yes, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation" {vv. 49-51}

2.   Thus Jesus died for all of Israel, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

C.   He also prayed for you and for me.

1.   The real sin of unbelief is taking place here. The Son of God is being put to death.

a. Notice what Jesus says about His death by crucifixion - "they know not what they are doing!"

b. This is the ultimate sin for it is the sin of rejection of the Son of God.

2.     This sin extends to every single person - to everyone.

a. Anyone who rejects Christ is guilty of the same sin Christ asks to have forgiven.

b. Had we been there, we would have done the same thing. No one at the scene realize who was being put to death.

III. Did God answer this prayer? In a word - YES!

A.   Physically.

1. The Soldiers and Jews were spared on that day.

2. Jerusalem and the Jewish nation were spared.

B.    Spiritually

1. While He was dying

a. All was forgiven in His glorious death on the cross.

b. This is made place that even those who were actually participating in His death were pardoned.

2. The Father has forgiven - period!

a. To all who accept by faith this wonderful work of mercy and salvation.

b. Yes, you to have been forgiven the sin of rejecting Christ. Rejoice in His mercy and dedicate yourself to His cause and work.

Conclusion:  "Father, forgive them…" is an expression of Jesus' heart. Receive His pardon this night for in Jesus Christ all sin is forgiven!

Thursday, April 12, 2001

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday   
April 12, 2001 
1 Corinthians 11:23-34

A Truly New Covenant

Introduction:  Something truly new and different is happening as Christ our Lord institutes His supper. We call it the Last Supper because it was the Last Supper, which Jesus ate before His arrest, trial, and death.  It can also be referred to as the Last Supper because at last, after this supper something new is taking place. In establishing this Holy Communion Jesus is presenting to us a new covenant in His body and blood. Holy Communion certainly is a truly new covenant.  What is this new thing?

I.     The blood of Christ replaces the blood of animals.

A.   Specific animals had to be offered for specific sacrifices.

1.   The list of tasks was endless. Regulations abounded. The requirements were tremendous. The law required for a strict enforcement of all of the regulations of the ceremonies. An animal had to be killed in a certain manner; certain sacrifices required certain animals.

2.   Men had to be therefore taught repeatedly concerning these sacrifices. Each generation had to pass down to the next one how the sacrifices were to be carried out. If they failed to teach their children how the sacrifice was to be performed the entire custom would be lost in one generation. The hope for forgiveness, restoration and peace would be lost forever.

B.    These sacrifices had to be frequent because people repeatedly sinned.

1.   As there were sacrifices named for specific sins, these sacrifices could only last but once. There was but one sacrifice for each offense. When a subsequent offense occurred, another sacrifice had to be offered if a person were to have their sin atoned and their conscience stilled.

2.   This made an interesting enterprise for some. There would have to be animals on hand, available to be sacrificed. These had to be kept, housed, fed, and cared for. Often abuses were found, as just a few days before His arrest Jesus took a whip and drove out the animals, and the money launders who had turned God's house into a dean of thieves.

Transition: Such was the old system of sacrifices. It was limited, cumbersome, full of regulations, and a system that was full of abuse. That is why Christ came to give us a more acceptable way. Consider Jesus' new covenant.

II.     The new covenant speaks of the work that was accomplished in Jesus Christ.

A.   The Old covenant ="this do and live"

1.   It was a covenant of regulations disciplines and rules. It was based on strict obedience. It was motivated by fear; fear of reprisals, fear of failure, fear of offending a just a holy God.

2.   It could not stand the test of every man for no one is capable of following the decrees and dictates of a holy God. For this reason our good and gracious Father sent forth a plan that a just the right time His Son, our Savior would break into time and space to offer up Himself a good and perfect sacrifice. This was accomplished with Christ instituted His Supper "which is give and shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins.

B.    The New covenant = "live and do this"

1.   The benefits of the new covenant, celebrated by Christians in this wonderful Sacrament are the fruits of Christ's righteousness. He gives to us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We are now free to live and the children of God.

2.   Because of this freedom, this new life that is offered by Christ, we are also strengthen to will and to do the will of our heavenly Father. Obedience no longer becomes a burden. It becomes a blessing and an opportunity to serve God in righteousness and purity.

Conclusion:  This meal is truly a celebration of the new things God is working in us. It is a new covenant, a covenant of His mercy and grace. It is a feast of victory of our God who has done all things well for His glory and our good. Come, for all things are now ready. Amen.

Sunday, April 8, 2001

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday
April 8, 2001 
Matthew 21:1-11

"The Beast of Burden Speaks"  

Introduction: Holy Week 2001 begins today with the celebration of Psalm Sunday. This week we walk with the Savior through the streets of Jerusalem to the upper room, through His arrest, trial, conviction and death. Then, one week from today we will stand at an open tomb and proclaim "Christ is arisen, He is risen indeed, hallelujah!"

But let us begin today with Psalm Sunday.  We know the story well, but today let us not overlook one of the small details of that day, the animal involved, the small colt upon which Jesus rode in triumph. This animal, a beat of burden, is not at all incidental to the story.

I.     The colt is a representation of Jesus' earthly ministry.

A.   Kings, great men, and warriors normally rode horses.

B.    A donkey, on the other hand, is humble, meek, unassuming and simple.

C.   The colt is a perfect likeness for Christ and His mission.

1.   When standing trial before Pilate Jesus would simply say: "My kingdom is not of this world"

2.   In describing Himself Jesus says in Matthew 11 "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" {vv.28-30}

II. The colt had never been ridden before.

A.     Matthew explains certain things for us.

1.   This probably explains why Matthew speaks of the donkey as well as the colt. This is a rather young animal, too young even to have had been ridden. It was still haltered to its mother.

2.   The Old Testament sacred services reserved for animals that had not been under the yoke. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures.

3.   This also proves the point that Christ rules over the natural world. All things are brought under the subjection of His command.

B.     To use a colt, who had never been ridden is only fitting as Jesus brings to us something completely new.

1.   Before, men had died for the gods. Never had God died for men. This is the new thing, which Jesus brought. He came into this world to suffer and die for you and for me and for all people that have ever inhabited the world.

2.   By suffering and dying on the cross Jesus completely fulfilled the Old Testament system to bring about a new covenant; a new covenant of His body and blood.

III. The colt was a beast of burden.

A.   Consider the donkey.

1.   The donkey was not a symbol of status but was used for service.

2.   The donkey was used not for battle but for burdens

B.    But the colt is a perfect reflection of Jesus' ministry

1.   Jesus came to bear the burden of people warn down from sin and strife.

2.   He came to bear the ultimate burden - the burden of sin.

IV. The colt was borrowed from its master.

A.   Everything He had on this earth was borrowed. {stable, boat, quarters, even His tomb}

1.   He owned all things but on earth possessed nothing

2.   You and I possess all things but own nothing

B.    Learn the lessons from that first Palm Sunday

1.   There are always those who are willing to help the work of the Savior.

2.   Even those most humble can serve the Savior.

3.   When He asks for our service, answer by saying "here am I sent me…"

Conclusion: The colt who became the animal of choice on that first Palm Sunday was but a small detail to the entire story, but it was a perfect choice, a perfect fit. Jesus, the burden-bearer has done all things well. He has established a new covenant with the Father in which He offers His very life for the life of the world. He borrowed that colt to complete His purposes. What is it that He wants from you?  As we begin holy week today may we readily surrender it to Him to be used to His glory. Amen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Don't Be Afraid to Do Right

Mid-Week Lenten 5
April 4, 2001 
1 Peter 3:10-12

"Don't Be Afraid To Do Right"
Seminarian Robert W. Armao

We have probably all thought at one time or another that our actions were being judged by others, observed, and evaluated, and focused in upon. We might be thinking at these times, "What will people say?"  Have you ever asked that question of yourself?  Have you ever been more concerned about the "proper thing to do" rather than making a decision based on Christian morals?  Has it ever come down to making a decision based on what you know is right verses doing something that you know full well is wrong?

Often times it is difficult for us to do the right thing.  We may place barriers and hurdles in front of our decisions, imagined criticism may get the best of us and damage our right intentions. In the end, instead of making what we believe to be a calculated move, we end up compromising our position to avoid the inevitable glare of discontent.  Certainly, we can say that not all matters are black and white, and we can convince ourselves that in time all things will work there way out. We are at a crossroads though, we know what we should do and simply don't follow through. We cut corners, and make decisions that seemingly are correct, but we know the truth. In our marriages, at school or on the job, these decisions are nothing more than our attempt at taking the more traveled road of ease than the less traveled one of commitment.

Pilate knew that road well, he was afraid to do right.  Thoughts of losing his job, or having a rebellion on his hand certainly must have come to mind when deciding the fate of Jesus.  He couldn't afford politically to have a riot on his hands, how would that look to his handlers back in Rome?  If word ever got back to Caesar that he couldn't maintain control and discipline within his province, then he would have certainly been removed.  And so, although he knew that Jesus was innocent, he gave him over to be crucified, to hang on the cross as a bloody example of how Pilate would rule, with fear.

Whatever it is that makes us afraid to do right, our text from Peter's first epistle, where Peter quotes from Psalm 34: 12-16, speaks encouragingly to us.  Peter is saying to us:  Don't be afraid to do right.

Peter would not leave us wondering what it meant to do the right thing.  He gave us principles to follow, guidelines that would assist us in our learning to do what is right.  The first principle Peter unfolds in v. 10b, where he mentions speaking truthfully.  I am sure we all know someone who we admire for their directness and honesty.  However, when we've been hurt, by words that we later learned are lies or are meant to deceive, we become suspicious and wonder, What is the truth?  Words should express what we really believe and feel to be found truthful.  We've all heard, don't speak out of both sides of your mouth, or you're speaking with a forked tongue.  No double talk for Christians should be the rule rather than the exception.

The second principle involves not words but actions. We need to put our words into deeds.  If we as adults are to be role models to our children or role models to others, then we have to place our actions in front of us.  Verse 11b indicates that we are expected to live in peace with not only ourselves but those around us as well.  To live at peace on the job, at home, in school means that we are suppose to make correct, moral decisions.  To forgive offenses, to offer up our time to assist those in need, and at all costs to constantly seek out peace within ourselves and within others.

Fear may still exist within us though.  The ideas of speaking the truth and following and creating a good example are all well and good on paper.  Yet, when it comes down to it, they may seem nothing more than idle words.

God has good things in store for us.  From the prophet Jeremiah (29:11) to Peter, in verse 10a we read that God has nothing but good intentions for our lives.  Our days can never be filled with joy when our consciences are burdened or weighed down by Satan's darts of guilt.  As v. 16 tells us, we are to keep our consciences clear.  There is a certain satisfaction one gets from doing what is right, in knowing that you have done the best job possible.  Verse 14 suggests that even if we live in suffering or are persecuted, we can delight in the fact that we have done what is right.

Ridicule, being made fun of at school is not an easy topic to broach, I am sure as adults we have all said to our children, that's just the way some kids are, try to ignore that, or move on with your life, show them you are stronger than what they think.  As much as we might try to shield the young from persecution or ridicule, these days act to develop a maturity. A mature Christian is one who recognizes and tries to live out these principles.

We may fear doing what is right, such behavior may not be the "in thing"  of our day and age, yet, the advantage of growth and spiritual learning far outshines the alternatives of making the wrong decision, one that might cost us more ridicule than we ever imagined.

God supports us, he looks favorably upon His creation, verse 12a brings this idea to us.  Regardless of what the world may think of us, we are righteous before God.  Because of Christ's death we were made righteous, we were placed into the heavenly family when we were welcomed by the waters of Holy Baptism, washed clean of our sin, and made righteous in God's sight.  For Christ's sake He sees our actions as righteous. 

Our efforts to pursue what is right, might appear weak and fragile, but to God, they are fearless attempts at being of service to Him.  Matthew 10: 42 speaks to this...the peace-making act that we might have thought little of is beautiful in God's eyes.

There is support out there. Yes, we may feel abandoned by our fellow man from time to time, but Christ promised never to leave us. The familiar hymn, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus," rings especially true today.  He shed His blood, so that we would not have to, he gave up His life for each of us, He suffered the ridicule that we all deserved.  How can we find this friend?  He is here with us this evening, open your scripture, read his comforting words, partake of His sacraments, and then you will be standing with your eternal friend.

God's favor is upon us and our response to it gives us the boldness to pursue what is right.

In a world where wrongdoing seems so often to be rewarded and praised, remember, do what is right!  We need not fear the consequences or the ridicule, God's son laid that to rest at Calvary. The resurrection has been granted to us, due to Christ's obedience of doing what was right. Our gracious God is here tonight, ready to support us, so that we might be moving in the right direction. As the hymn speaks to us, Onward then, ye Christian Soldiers.  AMEN!