I came across a new writing of Martin Luther yesterday. Well, not new, since he hasn’t written much in the last 500 years, but new to me. It’s “On the fruit and power of the resurrection of Christ.”
In the Gospel of John Christ tells Mary Magdalene of the benefit and use of his death and resurrection still more plainly, when he says: “But go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” Jn 20,17. This is one of the great and comforting passages upon which we can venture, and of which we dare boast. As if Christ had said: Go hence, Mary, and say to my disciples who have deserted me on the field of battle, and who have well merited punishment and eternal condemnation, that my resurrection has taken place for their benefit; that is, by my resurrection I have brought it to pass that my Father is their Father, and my God is their God. These are few words and very short; but they contain a great thought, namely, that we have as great a confidence and refuge in God as Christ his Son himself has.
A reading for Easter Tuesday is Daniel 3:8-28, The three men Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. The story reminds me of Robert Service’s poem The Cremation of Sam McGee. Sam, from Tennessee, joined the Alaskan the goldrush, but froze to death along the trail. His partner honored his last request to be cremated and not left in the frozen state,
“And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”
The connection between the three men and Sam McGee ends in my mind. But how are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego connected to Jesus’ resurrection? I think it has to do with loyalty to God and a willingness to through a horrible death rather than abandon God. There is an angel present in each account. The angel keeps the three men safe so they come through the ordeal unsinged. The angel at Jesus’ resurrection from death announces his resurrection to some amazed women when they come to the tomb. Nebuchadnezzar was also astonished when he looked in the furnace and blessed the God of the three Jews who were willing to offer up their bodies rather than serve anyone but their own God. So, it was with the Jew from Nazareth named Jesus. The three men may have come out unsinged, but Jesus did not. He was scarred. He bore his ordeal and carried his scars for the life, salvation and forgiveness of sins for all, even Nebuchadnezzar and Sam McGee from Tennessee
It’s Easter Monday and feels closer to winter than an Easter Lily Spring Day. A good day to just be an old lump. However, St. Paul won’t let me get away with that. In I Cor. 5:6b-8 he says “Don’t be an old lump.”
Leaven (yeast) was a metaphor for my old self, my old lumpy self. I can’t get away with being an old lump anymore, letting sin rise so that my old self governs my life. Christ has cleaned out the old lumpy self. He accomplished this through his sacrifice as the one and done Passover lamb.
As far as God is concerned, I am free of the yeast of sin which tries to expand into my whole life. I am a new lump as pure as the light of the sun. (My old self wants to grumble, “Yeah if I ever see it again.” Knock it off, don’t be an old lump.) Therefore, Paul calls me to live a life of festival. In the context of the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, every day is a day to sing: “Hail thee, festival day! Blest day to be hallowed forever.”
With that festival thought in mind this new lump goes off to walk at the Sunset Hills Community Center.
Exodus 12:1-2, “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron…This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year.”
Jews divide the year into lunar months, each beginning with the new moon. Passover begins on the evening of the 14th of Nissan, and thus at the full moon. in the second century in Asia Minor (Turkey) a party strove to set Easter according to the Jewish practice. However, in 198 Victor, bishop of Rome, decided that Easter should be celebrated everywhere on the Sunday which followed the spring full moon, according to the custom which was by then already predominant.
In the first century a Jewish theologian/philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, wrote that having Passover start when the moon is full shows that there is no darkness on this day, but that it is full of light, the sun shining from dawn to the evening, and the moon from the evening to the dawn.
The Christian theologian Gregory of Nyssa writing in Asia Minor in the fourth century agreed with Philo. (The moon) having welcomed the sun when he is setting, she herself does not set before she has mingled her own rays with those of the sun, so that only one light endures without any lack of continuity, through the whole cycle of day and night, with no interval of darkness. Let your whole life, then, be one sole feast and one great day.”
I find the above pleasant to think about on day with continual rain.
After my first two heart by-pass surgeries, I spent 24/7 in a recliner covered with what I called, a 7,000 lb. quilt. I could hardly push it off me and since I didn’t have strength to lower the foot rest I crawled in and out of the recliner. It was not a good look. St. Paul writes in, Romans 5:6-11. “For while we were still weak…Christ died for the ungodly.”
St. Paul is talking the weakness of being a sinner. I probably said some ungodly words while struggling with the 7,000 lb. quilt. Yet, St. Paul writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” “God shows” (present tense) his love for me while I was still failing to give thanks 24/7 for the wonders that God had done for me through the medical field. My baptized self still needed to kill off the old Ron every day so that a new Ron might wake up in that recliner in the morning. That’s been the daily cycle of my life, since my baptism now nearly 77 years ago. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
St. Paul adds that, while we were enemies, God befriended us in Christ. Having made us his friends again, we can rejoice through what Jesus did for us at the end of Holy Week and at the beginning of the new week.
The reading for Tuesday of Holy Week is I Corinthians 1:18-31.
Lord, what are you up to with this business of the cross? With a word You created the universe that operates by laws. If we jump up to catch a ball, we do so with the unthought certainty that we will come back down. With a word you created dark nights and days alight. With a word and some red clay, you made us in your image, your likeness. We live with the certainty that though we do not view the whole picture, you do, and will work out everything for good for those who trust in you.
Then what is this word of the cross that St. Paul admits is foolishness? Where is the wisdom in two crossbeams of wood, jammed into the ground from which we were formed? Then to allow your Son, your only Son, to be hung there bloodied and battered to die. Then to banish the light and leave it dark as night. How is this a sign of power and glory?
Perhaps, instead of Holy Week we should call this week Folly Week. Yet during this week of God’s foolishness, God in His wisdom recreated us as holy people, saints. Sunday, we start a new week alive in the image of His Son. God in his utter weakness gave us the power to live as sons and daughters of God. Thus, word of the cross is now our wisdom and sign of God’s power in our lives.
Pastor David Gruenwald provided a new sight to me regarding Jesus entry into Jerusalem. Jesus directed his disciples, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt timed, on which no one has ever sat.” (Mark 11: 2)
Riding a donkey was not an unusual sight. But this was no ordinary donkey. It was fresh, new, and, I would add, unbroken. When people brought their sacrifices to God, they were to be unblemished, fresh, and new. Only first grade offerings. The utensils used in the temple were designated for temple use alone. Jesus was buried in a new and unused tomb.
What does an unbroken and untamed donkey have to do with us? We too at one time were untamed. According to Isaiah, “We all…have gone astray.” St. Paul adds, “We all have sinned and come short of God’s glory.”
But now Jesus is alive in us. How so? In baptism God used ordinary water to wash us clean of our sin. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit God tames (breaks?) us. Ordinary people made fresh and new that Christ may go out into the world through our ordinary daily life and be refreshers and renewers of life in this broken world. Christ feeds us with ordinary bread and wine made new and fresh in to his body and blood.
As we read in Paul’s words, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…”
Is it coincidence or design that children are joining in the marches this day before Palm Sunday?
There was another crowd marching on that spring day long ago when Jesus led them up the arduous 15 miles climb from Jericho to Jerusalem. In Jericho he gave sight to blind men. One named Bartimaeus, cried, “Have pity on us, Son of David,” and though people urged them to shut up, they would not. Jesus touched their blind eyes and they saw. They joined the march. Jesus had also invited himself to eat in the home of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, one of the lost ones he came to seek out.
Reaching the crest of the climb up to Jerusalem, he rode a donkey down into the city. The crowds stripped the palm trees of branches and welcomed him as “Son of David.” “Hosanna,” that is, save us now.
This irritated some people, but Jesus responded that if these don’t shout, the stones themselves will cry out (there are a lot of stones in Israel).
If there weren’t children in the welcoming crowds, they were in the temple when Jesus kicked out the marketers and money changers. Children, whom Jesus always welcomed, joined in the cry, “Lord, save us now, Son of David.” And when told to keep the children quiet, Jesus responded, “(The Lord) has made little children and infants sing your praises.”
We do well to welcome the voice of children today, as Jesus welcomed it long ago.
In 1850 when Holy Cross, Collinsville called Pastor Strasen to replace founding pastor Fredric Lochner who had taken a call to Milwaukee the passage connected with Strasen’s call was Hebrews 5:4, “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God.”
Last Sunday Hebrews 5:1-10 was the epistle lesson, and guest pastor Dale Kuhn found five points to apply to pastors in the text. Incidentally, Resurrection installed a new senior pastor in the afternoon.
- 5:1, Every pastor is chosen from among people to act on behalf of people in relation to God offering gifts and sacrifices for sins.
- 5:2, The pastor can deal gently with people because the pastor is also beset with the weakness.
- 5: 3, Because the pastor is from among the people, the pastor also has sins which need forgiveness.
- 5:4, The pastor is also called by God and has a sense or conviction that this is the right way to spend his life.
- 5:5, The pastor does is not self-centered, but Christ centered.
My wife has been suggesting on almost a daily basis that’s it time to set a couple of chairs outside our west facing front door to allow us to sit in the warming sun. Well, I did it this morning setting them in the still shaded space while the temp measured 36 and a chilly wind blew off the snow in the north mitigating any warmth the bright sun might bring. I noticed while walking into the northly wind, that several cars parked in the cemetery were not for a burial, but for women who were working on the flower garden in the green triangle space where Denny intersects with Lindberg. They are heartier than me.
Speaking of hearty, several daffodils are blooming in the neighbor’s yard. Perhaps it is not too early to include a couple of verses from Robert Frost’ poem, “A Prayer in Spring.”
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid-air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.