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Archive for April 12th, 2020

Sermon Text, St. Matthew 28: But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

The Orthodox icons of the Resurrection, as the one above, portray the Lord grabbing people from the grave.  Jesus Christ takes no prisoners!  He frees the prisoners!  The prisoners are already dead in their sin!  Jesus makes alive!  He grabs them by His nail-imprinted hands and pulls their fat out of the fire!  He can change us with a breath!  When we hear that expression, we take no prisoners, that means the captors will kill them.  The Lord does kill.  Jesus slays sin and death, our Old Adam, and in repentance and faith frees us.  The Lord does kill and makes alive. The Lord of heaven and earth, had been manacled by the authorities, He had not kept His social distance from us! He is God deep in the flesh and He entered the grave, dead and now in Him there is no death. Lazarus made no decision for Christ, had no free will, the Lord’s free and perfect will pull him out as He will us in that Day.  Jesus carried a lot of baggage into the grave with Him:  the sin of the world.  

Culture cried out, after 9/11 and will after covid, everything has changed. Things will be the same with some variation. I think saying “everything has changed” is a pretense and cover up for the powers and principalities to impose their sinful wills, enforcing oppression. The world takes no prisoners and yet at the same time wants to imprison.  God’s own Son risen from the dead changes everything.  The prisoner is freed, the dead in sin are made alive, in Baptism into His death and resurrection we walk in the newness of life.   The world does not seem to know the meaning of “everything”.  The incarnate God changes everything and still He can change everyone. No one ever became good by bill passed in Congress, but by this act, God makes us good, that is, His death and resurrection. In the twinkling of His eye.  St. Matthew reports there was an earthquake when the Lord arose, yes, earth shattering.  Lives are shattered and Christ is alive.  In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were put into prison.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

The Roman prison guard and his family, after that earth shattering experience, were never the same again, at ease in the world’s old dispensations, clutching their gods.  The foundations of the prison were shaken. The foundations of their prison were shaken.  Our prison houses are shaken and the doors opened.  Their life begun in the Lord, the Roman prison guard and his family could learn Christ, grow in faith and love as they had been saved, following Christ and bearing their cross. Jesus would feed them Himself, His Body and Blood and every Word of God which proceeds from the mouth of God, the Scriptures, is food indeed. Who did they follow?  Yes, as the Baptized, they were set on the Way, the Truth and the Life by the Way, the Truth and the Life, as proclaimed and taught into their hearts, they were following Jesus.

Yet, who is Jesus?  St. Matthew tells: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is crucified and He is risen.

The New Testament was originally written in Greek. With any translation, it is difficult, even impossible to render a word.  “Jesus… who was crucified”, “was crucified”  perfect past participle which we don’t have in English. The basic thought of the perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on, in full effect. In other words, the progress of the action has reached its culmination and the finished results are now in existence.

“But the angel answered and said to the women, “You—stop being afraid, for I know that you are seeking Jesus, who is crucified.  He is not here, for he was raised. Just as He said.”

He was crucified, and still is, and He is risen!  Good Friday and Easter in His holy Body, risen from the dead, the same, yet in glory.  This is whom we follow as did the Roman jailer and Peter and Paul and Lydia and Lois and Luther and Mother Theresa and the whole company of heaven.  He was and is crucified to give us the gifts of heaven today. These are the hands that were nailed to the cross and as we shall hear in the Season of Easter, the disciples knew again and again it was the Lord as He showed them His hands and side. The very same hands that created Adam in the Garden, who had molded the dry land, baptized us. As St. Basil the Great wrote of our baptized life in the Lord and Baptism itself:

“This is what it means to be born again of water and Spirit: the water accomplishes our death, while the Spirit raises us to life. This great sign of baptism is fulfilled in three immersions, with three invocations, so that the image of death might be completely formed, and the newly baptized might have their souls enlightened with divine knowledge. If there is any grace in the water, it does not come from the nature of the water, but from the Spirit’s Presence, since baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience (1 Peter 3: 21)  The Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) resurrection: gentleness, endurance, freedom for the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to, acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of what resurrectional life should be like, seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned.” 

He came to save us hand and foot, as the disciples saw His hands and feet and the women grabbed His feet and worshipped Him.  The hands of man who slapped him, put a crown of thorns upon His Sacred Head, who with a hammer drove nails into His hands. Jesus risen did not come to wreak vengeance but salvation for God so loved the world. The hands that were bound, is the One who breaks our bonds in confession and absolution.  The hands that were pierced, took the bread and the cup and says in present tense, This is my Body, This is my Blood.  The hands that drank water when thirsty at Jacob’s Well and upon the cross, baptizes us in the Name of the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the One who at Lazarus’ tomb, wept.  We follow with concerns, and doubts and yet with faith active in love. Faith, weak or strong, is still faith. He will guide us and teach us as He is the pioneer and perfector of faith, Hebrews 12. Only the Lord perfects our faith, not us.   Like the Israelites freed from the house of bondage in Egypt, seeing the great salvation of the Lord were so willing to go back into bondage for cucumbers and leeks.  As a famous Virginian orated,

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

And even better, For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Worship is not essential, we’ve been told by the powers and principalities.  By His grace, we know different.  The worship of the risen Lord, the one true God  is of the essence of freedom. The Lord wanted Moses and the people of Israel to worship on the mountain and Pharoah refused. From Moses commanded to worship the Lord on the Mountain and telling Pharoah, no less, to the women grabbing His feet and worshiping the Lord: the gods of this world  are not essential to which we tend to hold on to, such as, the self, mammon, the state, the stars, the false omniscience of the experts, our electronic do-dads and gew-gaws.  Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery, for freedom Christ has set US free (Paul needed to be freed as well as well know!). The Lord  has grabbed us out of harm’s way and the devil’s path, out of grave of sin by the Holy Spirit within and we grab His feet.  Jesus Christ takes no prisoners!  He frees the prisoners!  The prisoners are already dead in their sin!  Jesus makes alive!  He grabs us by His nail-imprinted hands and pulls our fat out of the fire!  He can change us with a breath!  Again, how?  Why? 

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed, alleluia!

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If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.

Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, “Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.” It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!

It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!

“O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?”

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen, and life reigns!

Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.

To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

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