Sunday, April 11, 2004

Easter Dawn

Easter Dawn
April 11, 2004
Matthew 28:6
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

INTRODUCTION:  The words are spoken every Easter "He is Risen! He Is risen indeed Alleluia! They define us as Christians. But what does it mean that Jesus is alive?  Let's consider the reality that Jesus is risen indeed.  Because Jesus lives…

I.        Life is really worth living.

A.      It has meaning. Because He lives you will live also.  Imagine

life without the resurrection. Would there really be any purpose or meaning to life without the hope of the resurrection? Life would only be confined to this life. All we could hope for would be brief detours along life’s journey. No wonder the philosophy of the time of St. Paul was one of simply for the moment. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:32: “If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised let us eat, drink, (and be merry) for tomorrow we die”

But life truly does have meaning because Jesus is alive. The life Jesus gives us is life in abundance. It is life in abundance with a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is life in all of its fullness. It is life with all of its possibilities. It is life with a promise because Jesus Christ is alive. John 10:10 says: “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly”
Transition: Not only do we have a life worth living we have a future.

I.        We have a future.

A.     God has a future for you. 

Ø      In Proverbs 23:18 God declares – “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Ø      In Proverbs 24:14 we read: “Know that wisdom is thus for your soul; if you find it, then there will be a future and your hope will not be cut off”

Ø      The Lord speaking in Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us “For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Notice in all three references future and hope are connected. “My hope is built on nothing less then Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean to Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand” [TLH # 370 stanza 1]

B.     He has promised to guide and direct you through His living Son Jesus. “I will never leave you and I will never forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) He has promised to be with us always – “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)

C.     His resurrection is a guarantee of this promise. The promises of Jesus are so simple and yet so profound. He promises us in John 14:19 “because I live you will live also”

Transition: We have a life worth living. We have a future and not even death can derail us.

III.   Even death can not harm us.

A.     It is life's most difficult subject.  Some would rather talk about anything then death. But for us death is so meaningless because it is powerless.

Death is so limited...

it has not crippled love,
it has not shattered hope,
it has not corroded faith,
it has not eaten away peace,
   nor destroyed confidence.

It has not killed friendship,
it has not shut out memories,
it has not silenced courage,
it has not invaded the soul,
    nor reduced eternal life.

It has not quenched the Spirit,
it cannot, has not,
    nor will not lesson the power of the resurrection.

B.     We can handle death only because Jesus handled it for us. Jesus handled it for us. Jesus in going to the cross to carry our sins defeated death in His own death. Matthew commenting on the scene at the moment of Jesus’ death tells us: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and coming out of their tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:51-52) 

When Jesus died death died! At the moment of Jesus’ death the table was cracked and death itself started working backwards!

IV.  Eternity is ours

A.     We can know this for certain. “I’m but a stranger here heaven is my home” is the way we sing the last hymn of our hymnal. That’s a reality we know as Christian believers!

B.     How can we be assured that eternity is ours? The Father will keep His promises – the Father will keep His Word. “(even) if we are faithless He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13)

CONCLUSION He is Risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia! That is your reality! A blessed Easter!

Easter Festival

Easter Festival Service
April 11, 2004
Luke 24:1-11
Life Now Has Meaning

INTRODUCTION: Have you ever felt that life has no meaning? We approach this Easter celebration with the words: “He is risen, He is risen indeed – Hallelujah!” Yet, for some the Hallelujahs ring hollow. Some, possibly a few within this very room today, have come to the conclusion that life has little meaning.

They may feel unimportant and small, frequently overlooked; others have slighted them. Rarely recognized they feel passed over. In this big world in which we life they are commonly referred to as “the little people” and that’s how they feel!

Then there are those, whose companion through this pilgrimage on this earth is calamity and misfortune. If there were a hole to fall into they would encounter it. Suffering and calamity accompany them. For them, life is a constant struggle. For them life too has lost its mean, purpose and joy.

On this Easter, let us consider one of the most pressing issues of our time. Does life have meaning? If life is to have meaning where do we find it? The message of Easter is simply this: Life has meaning only when it is centered in Jesus Christ risen from the dead.

I.        To be sure the meaninglessness of life is a problem of human nature.

A.     In this fallen world of ours many have no purpose that reaches beyond this life; hence either one of tow reactions are found in man. Man becomes either cynical or hopelessness settles in.

1.        Man can easily become the cynic. He doubts God because all he sees are apparent contradictions in life. There is no good deed, which goes unpunished. The righteous suffer while the wicked walk away unscathed, and so he questions whether life has any meaning or purpose.

2.        Then there are those who live within a spirit of hopelessness. Solomon of old reminds us in Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish...” Hopeless people have no vision and so they travel through life aimlessly. How could man fall to such depths?

B.     The Fall robbed human beings of their life, hope and future.  Man is now separated from God and at enmity with Him. The fall created a wedge to form between God and man – a wedge that prevents man from having any semblance of hope or joy.

C.     Because of our sin, our only future is death and damnation. “It is appointed for man once to die, and after that come judgment” the Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 Will this be the fate of every man?

Transition: Something radical has taken place to change the destiny of man. We celebrate that today – The resurrection of Jesus Christ – physically and bodily risen from the dead.

II.     Christ gives meaning to our life.

A.     His work gives meaning

1.      He suffered and died (v.7a) “the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men,”  (NAS)

2.      He rose again V.6 of our text reminds us: "He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,” (NAS)

3.      This work was necessary (v.7) for people to have forgiveness “the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men.” Later on that night Jesus, speaking to the Emmaus disciples will remind them in Luke 24:26-27: "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (NAS)

B.     This gives meaning to all history

1.      The previous ages looked forward to it.

a.       God’s saving acts in the Old Testament prefigured it (e.g. today’s Old Testament Reading Ex. 15:1-11)

b.      The Old Testament predictions foretold it.

Ø      Isaiah 52:13: “Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted.” (NAS)

c.       Christ Himself predicted it

Ø      Luke 9:22, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." (NAS)

Ø      Luke 9:44;  "Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." (NAS)

Ø      Luke 17:24-25; "For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (NAS)

Ø      Luke 18:31-33: “And He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. "For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again." (NAS)

2.      Due to His work, forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to all ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 –today’s Epistle)

C.     This gives meaning to each of us.

1.      Through the proclamation of Christ God offers the forgiveness of sins.

2.      With sin forgiven, we have life through the Living One

Ø      Luke 24:5-7: “and as {the women} were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, {the men} said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? "He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." (NAS)

Ø      1 Corinthians 15:20-21: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man {came} death, by a man also {came} the resurrection of the dead. “(NAS)

3.      We now have a future and a hope – eternal life with God.  Life does have meaning. It is not limited merely to this earthly existence. We have an eternal hope with Christ in heaven.

4.      We now have a purpose in life – to proclaim repentance and forgiveness. We walk out of this house today a renewed people to be salt and light in this world sharing the living Lord Jesus with all we meet.

CONCLUSION: Life is no longer meaningless, because “He is not here, He was raised!”

Friday, April 9, 2004

Good Friday

Good Friday
April 9, 2004
Luke 23:39-43
Three Crosses Speak

INTRODUCTION: When He was crucified on that Friday there were two others who were crucified along with Him. There was one man on the right and another on the left.  Each man was condemned, and yes, each man died. Let us examine each man on the cross to see what he would say to us this night.

I.        The first cross - v.39  “And one of the criminals who were hanged {there} was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" (NAS)

Who is hanging here?
1.      He’s none other then a common thief. The Romans have seen to it that he was brought to justice – He will die. Justice will be paid.

2.      As he hangs there he is punished for his crimes. - 41a  - "And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds” (NAS) The words of this condemned man explain to us the circumstances of this condemned man; convicted and suffering death for his crimes.

What are his words?
1.      He mocks the Lord of life – Possibly a man of crime – possibly one who was rejected by society – we know not of his history but his words are telling. He mocks Jesus not realizing, none the less, refusing to trust in Him.

2.      He curses God – He has lost hope – He has no regard for man or his Creator. Such an attitude has gotten him to this place; a sentence of death by cruel torture.

What does this reveal?
1.      He has an evil heart – Crucifixion is reserved only for felons. He has no regard for the rule of law or the things of God.

2.      Sadly, he cannot see that Jesus is the Son of God – To him Jesus is nothing more then another petty and common thief sentenced to die like the rest.

3.      Tragically, he will die in unbelief – as will any and all who fail to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. He comes so close. He is confronted by His sin but the hardness of his heart is a refusal to yield to Christ. He has sealed his fate for time and eternity!

II.     The second cross - vv.40-42 “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? "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!" (NAS)

Who is hanging here?
1.      Another criminal – another bad boy on the wrong side of the law – another lost soul – one who went his own way – refusing to listen to anyone.

2.      Like the first, he too is punished for his crimes – The evidence was gathered – testimony was presented and offered – a verdict was rendered – Guilty! – A death sentence was handed down – now he hangs.

What are his words? 40-41
1.      First he speaks to the other thief –

a.       He offers first a Rebuke - But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

b.      He offers also a Testimony for the world to hear - "And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." Jesus the innocent one suffers for the guilty – this is the message of the cross.

2.      He also speaks to Jesus -   "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"

a.       He offers a cry for mercy – this is our cry too for we are in the same circumstances as this one thief – Jesus remember me!

b.      At the same time he offers a cry of faith – He recognizes Jesus as more then simply an innocent man – He sees Jesus as the Son of God – the Savior of the world.

What do these words of a condemned man reveal?
1.      First, they reveal repentance – There has been a change in his life – a change brought about by the Holy Spirit.

2.      His words also convey faith, which is nothing more then trust in Christ – He takes Jesus at His Word and trusts in Him.

III.   A third cross - v.43  “And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (NAS)

Who is hanging here?
1.      The One who has committed no sin – He is completely and totally innocent.

2.      Most know Him that day as a carpenter, the mere son of a carpenter allegedly – You and I know Him as the one known as the Son of God – We know Him differently - for the Scriptures have revealed Him to be the one we know as the very Savior of the world.

What does He say?
1.      He offers hope “Today you will be with Me in paradise!”

2.      He grants more then the thief requests – The thief had only requested that Jesus remember him and possibly mention some sort of favor – But He will grant more then a mere favor – He offers forgiveness, salvation and life.

What does this reveal?
1.      The nature of His work – To receive sinners – to welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.

2.      This also reveals the destiny of all who come in faith – Jesus sinners doth receive

CONCLUSION: Jesus, because Thy promise I believe! O Lamb of God I come, I come!

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday
April 8, 2004
1 Corinthians 11:23-34
A Real Supper for Real People

INTRODUCTION:  Once again we have come to celebrate a simple meal. Yet, throughout the centuries this meal has turned to be the most meaningful meal of all. What is the meaning of the Lord's Supper? Why celebrate it over and over again. St. Paul tells us in clear and simple terms why this is a meal far and above all others. Why is this meal so special?

I.        There is a perpetual nature to the Sacrament

Jesus says: "This do in remembrance of Me” We recall what Jesus has done for us first at the cross when he suffered and died for the sins of the world. There He bore our sins in His body that we might receive forgiveness, life and salvation.  We also remember what He has done in our own lives. Those times we needed Him He was there those times we needed His strength and the assurance of His presence never has He let us down.

This meal is perpetual in nature by what we are doing when we gather: “Whenever we eat of the bread and drink of the cup we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.”  We proclaim the Lord’s death every time we gather for this meal. We proclaim salvation every time Communion is celebrated. We proclaim forgiveness, life and salvation every time we gather with Jesus as both host and guest.
Transition: We proclaim the Lord’s salvation when we share in this meal but we come individually to receive for ourselves from the Great Physician a cure.

II.     We "do this" because there is a great need.

God know we have need of Him
1.      We come because we are sinful. “Unworthy though I am 0 Savior, Because I have a sinful heart, Yet Thou Thy lamb wilt banish never. For Thou my faithful Shepherd art. Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood Be for my soul the highest good!” [TLH #315 stanza 3]

2.      We come because we need forgiveness. “Thy heart is filled with fervent yearning That sinners may salvation see Who, Lord, to thee in faith are turning; So I, a sinner, come to Thee. Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood Be for my soul the highest good!” [TLH #315 stanza 5]

3.      We come because we need strength. I come, O Savior, to thy Table, For weak and weary is my soul; Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able To satisfy and make me whole; Lord, may thy body and thy blood Be for my soul the highest good!” [TLH #315 stanza 1]

His benefits are given every time we come. He gives us what we truly need in this meal.
1.      The forgiveness of sin. This is why we have come this night. We are in need of His forgiveness. The forgiveness of sins has been won for us at the cross. Here we have a guarantee given to us that in this simple meal we receive what we have come to receive –absolution for all of our sins.

2.      Life – We also come to receive the promise of life. “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly,” Jesus has said. We receive the gift of life with God in this meal for it is a foretaste of the things to come.

3.      Salvation – Salvation is the satisfaction the Father demanded from a rebellious people. The Father is satisfied for the Son has paid the price for each and every sin. The Father is satisfied. His anger is stilled. God and man are now reconciled.

CONCLUSION:  As simple meal? Yes it is, with simple elements. But do not let the simplicity fool you. This is a real meal for real people. Come, receive the gifts of God given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of all of your sins.

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday 
April 4, 2004 
Philippians 2:5-11
The Christian & the cross
Obedient to the Death of the Cross

INTRODUCTION: Our lesson for this morning contains two opposite directions. Christ’s going down in humility and going up in exaltation.  The key is that no one can go up unless he first goes down. Today we begin Holy Week. This week is a period of Christ’s going down even to the depth of death. Because of this, we can anticipate His rising from the dead to the right hand of the Father. Paul urges his people to have this same mind of humility that God may exalt them.  This morning let’s see how we must go down to go up.

I.        The mind of humility leads to Good Friday.

A.     Self-emptying denial of self – v. 7 “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men.  Paul reminds us of two realities. First, Jesus emptied Himself. He had Himself poured out for the sake of a sinful world. But there’s more. He gave up all of the glory and security of heaven. He came down to our level. He was incarnate. John, in his Gospel puts it this way: “...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...” (John 1) 

        B.     In denying Himself Jesus became a servant –v. 7 A servant is one who places the needs of others before self. There is but one motto hanging over the entrance of police headquarters; “We Serve” Jesus put it in a way which  depicts ministry as He intended it: ...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a  ransom for many." Matthew 20:28  

        C.     Jesus was intent on obeying God even to death – v. 8    “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled  Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  The Catechism reminds us of Christ’s state of Humiliation – those steps Jesus deliberately took to win for us salvation. He became both God and man when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, under Pontius Pilate was crucified, died, and was buried. Mark them well for during this Holy Week we will walk with Jesus on His way to the cross to win for us salvation and life.

Transition: In His passion Jesus walks the way of the cross to offer us salvation. But this is only half of the equation. The cross leads to an empty tomb on Easter morning.

II.     The miracle of exaltation leads to Easter

We’re given a new name – v. 9 “Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name…” The Father has highly exalted Jesus. What does this mean for us? There are now two realities for us:

Ø      The Father has accepted Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross.

Ø      Through Jesus’ Passion the Father offers the forgiveness of sins to men.

A new name has been conferred to us in our Baptism. In our Baptism three specific realities happen to us.

Ø      We are marked with the sign of a cross in Baptism.

Ø      We are Baptized into His death.

Ø      We are raised again in His resurrection.

A new name leads to an attitude of gratitude in worship. A bent knee of worship – v.10 “…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,” We do more then come to a worship service. In service we worship God.  Why? Because the Father has bestowed on Him a name which is above every other name. “Jesus! Name of wondrous love, Name all other names above, Unto which must ev’ry knee Bow in deep humility” [ TLH #114 stanza 1]

Having worshipped in His presence with the tongue we no confess and tell His story.

A busy tongue of witnessing – “...and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” v. 10 What do we confess? Jesus Christ is Lord not one among many. Not one of a pantheon of other gods. He alone is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through Him.  This confession gives true glory and honor to the Father.

CONCLUSION: As we begin yet another Holy Week we walk with the Savior in humility and meekness which leads to the cross on Good Friday and to the miracle of His Exhalation culminating on Easter.