Living Easter (Romans 5:6-11)

[From the Easter prayer breakfast at the White House]
“We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country,” Biden said. “We live Easter — and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better.”

NO, NO, NO!!!

That is not living Easter; not even close.

This is living Easter:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. [Romans 5:6-11]

The hope of Easter is not about the notion of us doing better (don’t get me though, we should want to do better all the time), but rather living with the joy that we have been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus. Jesus did better and therefore we should rejoice and celebrate that. And because Jesus did better I strive to be more like him; striving to be more Holy. But the fact of the matter is I know I will fall short. I will takes steps forward but then take steps back. Living Easter is about God and the promise of the empty tomb.

Living our faith?

“We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country,”

What a vague statement. Living our faith is following Jesus and obeying him. If that is what Biden means then great but I have my doubts whether that is what he is getting at. Call it what it is. Living our faith, Easter faith, is living in joy that despite this messed up and fallen world (which will pass away), though faith in the crucified and risen Jesus, we will not pass away. Living our faith is about glorifying God.

That is Easter faith
That is Easter hope
That is Easter joy

If it is about you getting better in this life then you will be sorely disappointed. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and on his perfect obedience that lead him to the cross because we are not better.

Praise be to God that we can have this TRUE Easter faith and hope.

Holy God, thank You that Jesus came to save an imperfect and disobedient people. Help us become more like Your son that we may glorify You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Dwelling and Gazing

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This here is the Easter hope:

Dwelling in the house of the Lord
Gazing upon the beauty of Lord
Inquiring in his temple

I mean, really, this is the Good News and our hope. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave that we might dwell with him. He didn’t die and rise that we might have a good life now. It really bugs me and worries me when preachers try to sell this message of hope in this life. Scripture says that if in this life we have hope in Christ only then we are most to be pitied. Jesus didn’t die that we may have a temporary hope; a limited hope; a shortsighted hope. Jesus died that we may have eternal life; dwelling in his temple and worshiping him forever.

But something else to think about. Not only will you, through faith in Jesus, dwell in his temple, but you will gaze upon a beauty that is absolutely mind blowing. There is nothing in this universe that can compare. If someone tries to sell you a worldly hope you need to respond:

That’s not good enough. I want more.

And Jesus gives you more.

Praise be to God that our hope is more and better and wonderful and beautiful.

Holy Father, I praise you that death has been defeated and that I can live this life with hope of something more. And I look forward to that day when I am dwelling and gazing on your beauty and inquiring in your temple. All praise and worship be to you, oh God. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

JESUS HAS RISEN!!!

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Holy God, You are worthy to be praised. You are worthy of all worship and honor. You are worthy to be glorified. Send now Your Holy Spirit to speak to us as Your Holy Word is read and proclaimed. May the truth of the Gospel take up residence in our hearts and may the resurrection of Jesus give us hope each and everyday of our lives. Bless now our hearing that we may be sent out into the mission field around us to proclaim that Jesus Christ has risen, he has risen indeed. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

May your Easter be a blessing as you celebrate the hope of the resurrection.

The Pastor -|—

Holy Saturday ~ Limbo

I feel like I am in limbo today.

The past two days we traveled through the cross of Jesus and now today ~ Nothing. Jesus has been crucified and buried, but tomorrow, though, is the joyous celebration of his resurrection. But I’m still in today ~ so nothing, at least for now.

And so I am here in my office reflecting on the cross, my sin and Jesus’ willingly going to the cross for me. And as I reflect on this I am polishing off TWO Easter sermons.

That’s right, I am just crazy enough to do that 🙂

This is something I have never done before. You see, I have two Easter services here at Salem Lutheran Church and one out at Belmont Lutheran Church. Every year I have written one Easter sermon and preached it three times. But there are a couple “problems” that I have never addressed before:

(1) Some people that come to the Sonrise worship service at Salem will come back for the Festival worship service later (I lead the Sonrise service at Belmont in between). And so those people hear the sermon twice, not necessarily bad since I need to hear something more than once to really get it, but I have heard comments.

(2) The crowd at each service is generally different (with a few the same). And so with a different crowd, a different message is needed; a different focus, if I am going to be contextual.

And so I felt the Spirit move stronger than ever, this year, to write TWO sermons. Besides, there shouldn’t be a problem, since I have plenty of material 🙂

Praise be to God!

And so this “nothing” day is turning into something. I am reflecting on the cross and preaching to myself an Easter message in two ways (but yet the same) as I get ready to lead God’s people in worship tomorrow.

What a day
Nothing to something ~ yup, that sounds like God

Holy Saturday, a day of limbo, but also a day of great expectation and hope as we know what is coming, and I am not talking about tomorrow.

God bless you as you wait expectantly for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Come, Lord Jesus, with your glorious Kingdom and praise be to God!

Living God, what a roller coaster ride this week, and now we wait for the glorious return of our Lord Jesus. Bless our waiting, Oh God, and may we feel the passion to share this Good News every single day. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Bring On Holy Week

It’s Holy Week, so watch out and give the pastor some space.

I almost feel like that is what people are thinking around me. True, Holy Week is busy:
~ Five worship services to get ready for
~ First Communion students to prepare
~ Three sermons to write

And on top of that I have two children under two and a working wife.
And on top of that I have my regular weekly responsibilities.
And on top of that the potential for pastoral care emergencies.

So with everything going on in my life I sometimes feel that people are looking at me with pity or relief that they don’t have my schedule or hesitation on whether to call or ask me anything.

The fact of the matter is, YES I am busy this week, but NO, not too busy for ministry and people and the Gospel and whatever else is contained in the fine print of my letter of call. Holy Week can cause more grey hair to make an appearance on my head but according to Proverbs that is just a “crown of glory” (Proverbs 16:31) so I’ll take it.

The other thing about Holy Week for me is that it definitely brings me closer to God as I am carefully studying scripture and planning worship services in order to help people express their worship of God,

(as I do every week, but it just feels more intense this week; if that makes sense)

and it is a holy calling and a holy task that I take very seriously

(not better than anyone else, just different).

But the other thing about Holy Week for me, and especially Easter, is that I generally see people in worship that normally don’t attend worship. And so I have a “captive audience” to slap up across the head with the Gospel. And so I am extra aware as I want to see that gospel slap leave a mark on those CEOs (Christmas Easter Only).

Lot’s going on; lot’s of activity and a lot of opportunities. So don’t shy away from the pastor. Please don’t give me space. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of me. Don’t pity me because this week is busy. What I do ask is that you pray for me and for all pastors and church leaders as we prepare this week.
~ Pray for faithfulness as we prepare messages and worship.
~ Pray for faithfulness as we still have families to care for.
~ Pray for faithfulness as we still have temples (bodies) to care for.
~ Pray for faithfulness as we still have souls to nurture (namely our own).

Holy Week is an awesome and incredible week and I look forward to it every year and saddened when it is done. But I am eternally grateful that the message of Easter is something I get to preach week in and week out, but even more than that, the message of Easter is my hope and your hope all year long.

So come, Holy Spirit, and bring on Holy Week and anything that goes with it. And by the grace of God I will be ready 🙂

The Pastor -|—

Eerie quiet

Quiet
Almost an eerie quiet around here

No hustle and bustle
No scrambling to get the next to-do item done
No printer printing lesson plans or manuscripts
No ringing phone

Just quiet
Eerie quiet

And I almost feel guilty in a way
Shouldn’t I be more busy
Shouldn’t I be “accomplishing” more
I did spend a couple hours doing visits but that was easy
I almost feel relaxed now…sitting here in the…

Quiet
Eerie quiet

And now I realize that I am sitting here writing about nothing
But I have to be honest…it feels good to be writing about nothing
Nothing theologically deep…just some ramblings from a post-Easter pastor
Enjoying…

The quiet
The eerie quiet

But…

The eerie quiet will get old…as it always does
Soon I will need the hustle and bustle
Soon I will need to scramble over a to-do list
Soon I will need to hear the printer working overtime
Soon I will need to hear the ringing phone

But in the meantime I will enjoy…

The quiet
The eerie quiet

(from the post-Easter brain of ) The pastor -|—

Satan attacks but God wins

It’s Monday morning and I have been doing some reflecting on the events of yesterday (Easter).  I feel like a bus has run me over but God was faithful.  Satan did his best to stop the proclamation of the Word of God but God was victorious (in more ways than one). Satan took his best shot but it wasn’t good enough.

Allow me to explain to the glory of God

Attack #1:
I woke up Easter morning after only about a couple hours of sleep.  A head cold started attacking me the night before.  I thought I was holding it off (drugging myself up as much as I could) but it wasn’t enough…I was prevented from getting a good night’s sleep.  A bad night to have sleeping problems.   But when I woke up at 4:45 a.m. as planned I felt rested.  Score 1 for God 🙂

Attack #2:
As my morning progressed; getting ready for the 7  a.m. Sonrise worship service, I could feel the frog in my throat growing.  I knew that if things continued to progress like this I would have problems later in the morning.  You see…I had three worship services at two sites.  I had a long morning ahead of me and I needed my voice.  Everything went fine during the first service; but I started to feel my throat have issues at the second service (at Belmont) and a little at the third, but my throat held up…I made it . Score another point for God 🙂

Attack #3:
After my first Sonrise service (at Salem) I usually have very little time to get out to Belmont for Sonrise service #2.  Eight miles separates the two churches which usually involves me eating egg bake in the car while exceeding the speed limit…slightly…but not this year.  But in preparation for the unknown I have all my  Belmont materials ready by my office for a quick grab and go…including another copy of my sermon manuscript.  I made it to Belmont with 15 minutes to spare (not too bad…I think that is a record for me).  During worship my nose started to run some more and throat was filling with phloem (sorry for being so graphic).  And then batteries in my cordless microphone pack died but I was able to make a quick change during the offering without missing a beat (nice try Satan). But attack #3 came during the sermon.  About half way through I noticed a problem (besides my nose and throat)…the sermon manuscript I was using was an earlier, uncompleted copy of the sermon.  I am not sure how I managed to print the wrong copy.  Paragraphs were in the wrong order and I was missing 1 and 1/2 pages.  Slight panic set in…and then calm.  I proceed to preach and share the Gospel without a hitch.  Score a couple more points for God 🙂

Attack #4:
I made it back to Salem for worship service #3 with about 30 minutes to catch my breath.  During worship my throat was still being annoying, my nose was still having issues and my energy was starting to run low…but…as I started to preach and preside at the Lord’s table, I felt a second wind.  Score yet another point for God 🙂

All along the way Satan did his best to derail the proclamation of the Good News that Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! Alleluia! But God was going to have none of that.  Yesterday morning was yet another reminder that God is in control and not Satan.  I do not take any credit because on my own I would have crumbled under the weight of all that was attacking me.  Today…I feel like crap…but Easter happened.  The Word got preached.  And now I can have some Sabbath rest.

Satan can not stand the fact that the tomb was empty and that Jesus lives. And he will do everything in his power to stop that proclamation but God is faithful.  God wins and because of that we too win.  Praise be to God 🙂

Final score: God ~ ALL the points in the world. Satan ~ a big fat 0

JESUS LIVES! ALLELUIA!

The pastor -|—

EASTER!

CHRIST HAS RISEN!

HE HAS RISEN INDEED!

ALLELUIA!

Enough said 🙂

Have a great Easter day celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let us pray,
Loving God, through the resurrection of Jesus, you son, you destroyed death and gave hope to the world.  May the words, “He has risen”, speak life to those gathered for worship that they may go out and speak these same words.  Bless those who preach and lead worship.  Bless those who lead music.  Bless those who work behind the scenes.  May you be glorified, may faith be created and/or strengthened and may our worship be pleasing in your sight.  Thank you, O God, for your awesome grace and mercy.  Through Jesus Christ our RISEN Lord and Savior, Amen!

The pastor -|—

Sunday is coming

It’s Saturday.

It is the day between Good Friday and Easter.

A dark day.

A bitter-sweet day.

But for those first disciples this had to be a day of deep darkness and hopelessness.  Think about it:  Their teacher, Messiah, friend, hope had been killed and placed in a tomb.  All of their dreams of a new kingdom had been completely destroyed.  Now what?   Their fear of the Jews kept them locked inside but I can’t imagine they would even want to leave anyway.  I would want to stay curled up in bed…forever.

Jesus is dead.

But we are not living in those days.

We know something that they didn’t know then.

It is 2013 and we are living in the days after that first Easter morning.  We are living in the days when we know what happens next.  It is Saturday, but Sunday is coming.

EmptyTomb-50JESUS HAS RISEN!

Dark days come and go in our lives.  Hopelessness enters the scene from time to time.  There may be days when you feel like curling up in a ball and staying in bed.  But know this…

JESUS HAS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Ever since that day when Jesus defeated Satan and destroyed the grip of death, Satan has been trying to shoot arrows of hopelessness at God’s children.  But know this…remember this…boldly proclaim this…

JESUS HAS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Satan has been defeated.  His arrows are powerless.  His threats are empty.  Death still remains but death does not have the final word.  Why?  Because…

JESUS HAS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Have a blessed Saturday knowing that tomorrow is Sunday; that tomorrow is EASTER 🙂

The pastor -|—

Where’s the cross?

A few weeks ago my wife and I were chatting with some friends about Holy Week.  We were sharing what our respective congregations were planning.  Here…we share Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worships with Belmont Lutheran Church (the small county congregation I serve).  We each take one of those services and then flip the following year.  This year we worship at Belmont on Maundy Thursday and at Salem for Good Friday.

As I was sharing this I was talking about this old rugged cross that a couple Salem guys made a few years back.  It stands about 6 feet tall and made from two nice-sized tree branches.  They did a very nice job and it’s perfect for Good Friday worship.  As soon as I mentioned this I froze.  You see…on Ash Wednesday we put a larger cross in Salem’s narthex (we decorate this cross with palm branches and lilies for Easter Sunday).  There is a crown of thorns on top and it is draped with a purple cloth.  It greets people as they enter the narthex to remind then of Lent and of Jesus’ suffering and death.

Well…the cross was not there in the narthex.  I forgot to put it out 😦

How could I possibly forget the cross?  My wife was quick to remind me that our custodian always put it out…but here’s the thing…that person is no longer our custodian due to a stroke he suffered last June.  I always took for granted that Dave would have the cross out and ready to go for Ash Wednesday and Lent.  But that doesn’t absolve me for forgetting that cross.

I mean…think about it.  Lent is a time for us to remember why Jesus suffered and died on the cross.  We are to remember our mortality and sin.  We are to remember that from dust we came and to dust we shall return.  We are to remember that without the cross we are condemned to hell.  The cross is the focus…and I forgot that narthex cross.  But here’s another thing…no one else noticed either (or at least they didn’t say anything to me).  I am not sure what bothers me more:  Me forgetting or no one saying anything about it.

So the solution was  to put it up for Palm Sunday (which we did); marking the beginning of Holy Week.  The purple cloth on that cross will be replaced on Maundy Thursday with a black one.  The cross will then be put outside for Good Friday to REMIND people of what Jesus did for us.  And…the cross will be “decorated” with palm branches and lilies to remind us of the joy that comes through the cross.

Now…when I walk through the narthex I feel a little more complete…with the reality of the cross staring at me.  I hope that when Easter is done that I won’t need a large cross in the narthex to remind me of what Jesus did FOR YOU and FOR ME.

May you have a blessed Holy Week and a very happy Easter!

Praise be to God!

-edh-