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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light. Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:  Acts 3:13-15, 17-19   Psalm 61  Colossians 3:1-7 or 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 St. John 21:1-14

Reflection on the Gospel Lesson, John 21: 1-14: 

I asked an adult Bible class:  How would you characterize Peter’s personality? “Impetuous” “Acts before thinking” “Trusts himself” The class nailed it which is reflected in this insight from Johann Gerhard in which he reflected the same:

“We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall (i.e. his denial), in order that we avoid the same. He was entirely too daring (presumptuous)–meaning that it all depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he noticed others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain. Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our own faith, or on our good intentions. God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.”

“I have my faith”, I have heard that many times over the years.  Those well-intentioned statements sound like faith in faith. Faith in faith even has a name:  fideism.  Now Lutherans believe we are saved by faith through grace in the overwhelming gift of Jesus Christ’s Incarnation, Sufferings, Crucifixion, Descent into Hell, Resurrection, Ascension and Presence in His Church.  Faith takes hold of the promise in the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.  Faith looks out to Christ and looks out for one another.  But faith in faith is once again being bent in upon one’s self. Even our “good heart and good intentions” won’t do it.  Peter said he was willing to die for Jesus. Peter’s good heart was like a rock and it sunk him.  He would one day die for Jesus but not that day because his faith was in his faith, in himself.  Americans are really good at fideism, good hearts and good intentions…but we always are hitting the brick wall of sin, death and the power of the devil:  that wall we cannot breach. Christ has!  He fed the disciples fish in His resurrection.  He alone allows the full catch of fish for Peter and the Church.  The Church, this fishing boat  seldom rides in the seas of tranquility. So today, we need to remind ourselves the Lord alone has , “… brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (1 Timothy 1:10b).  We do not. We do not preach faith, we preach Christ Jesus. He filled Peter’s boat. 

Peter had a whole lot more fishing to do.  So does the Lord’s Church!

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

READINGS:  Daniel 3:8-28  Psalm 2  Acts 13:26-33  St. Luke 24: 36-49

St. Luke 24:44-49: 44Then He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.

Comment:

      We can witness and teach others of what the Bible means, as we read above what Jesus instructed the Apostles before He would send them out:  “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.  This is also the core of what the Angels told Mary and Joanna and the women:  “…that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” St. Luke 24.   These words are catechism.  And they remembered his words…the faithful women remembered their catechism that Jesus taught them all. Only Luke reports this message from the messengers of the Lord.  Sounds like the beginning of a creed to me! From the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, 1: 4, literal translation:  the purpose of Luke in writing his Gospel, is so, “…that you come to recognize completely the reliability concerning the words by which you have been CATECHIZED”. Biblical and confessional catechism is sound doctrine…which so many do not want to hear as with itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3) people hear false doctrines from progressive pastors to prosperity gospel preachers to pablum preachers. Preaching without repentance is preaching Christ-less.

On February 21, 2015, 21 Coptic Christians, in Libya were killed by ISIS on the shores of the Mediterranean. The ISIS terrorists demanded they renounced the Christian faith. They did not and ISIS cut off their heads and  derided them as, “People of the cross”. May we be so accused. We cannot blaspheme our King who has saved us but ever preach, teach and proclaim Him as Lord. We too are people of the Cross.  And so many times, it’s not on the worldly “right side of history”. We are witnesses to Christ and His Cross as He is risen from the dead.  

Road to Emmaus. Source: Orthodox Christian Network: http://myocn.net

Introduction: The Eastern Orthodox Churches have a great custom by calling the first week of the Paschal (Easter) Season “Bright Week”.  A great way to begin the 50 Days of Pascha leading to Pentecost, as we look at what our risen Lord taught His Church for her life and mission into the world.   Easter, like Christmas, is not only a day each, but  a season each. In the Lutheran Church, we have midweek Lenten services but I think we should also have midweek Paschal services in this bright season.

Further, as Lent is time of preparation for seekers to be Baptized, then the Paschal Season is a time for the newly baptized, and the ‘oldly’ baptized as well, to be instructed in the Way of the Lord more fully.

Today’s Gospel lesson is The Road to Emmaus and so this quote is from Pr. Johann Gerhard’s Sermon on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24):

For just as fire is an effective, active thing and always climbs upward, so also will the fire of love and devotion be effective and active in us, lifting up our hearts towards God. Just as these disciples, when they felt the power of Christ’s Word in the heart, prayerfully reached out and begged Him (since it was evening) to remain with them and come in with them, so also when the fire of the divine Word has properly warmed our hearts and ignited the fire of love in us, we too will beg Christ with sincere, believing prayer that He would remain with us. We will say with Jeremiah, ch.14:8—O Lord, You are the Comfort of Israel and its Helper in need. Why do you portray Yourself as if You were guest in the land and a stranger who abides inside only for the night ? We are in need of the same kind of petition and invitation. For it is applicable:

 1) To the “evening of tribulation,” [for] as all kind of dark, threatening clouds of misfortune break forth here, hardly any star shines any more [and] everything is full of tragedy and misery. 

2) To the “evening of doctrine.” The divine doctrines are darkened through various errors; Christ, the Son of Righteousness, is almost totally covered over by the thick clouds of false doctrine.

 3) To the “evening of the world.” The world has come to its “evening” and to a dead decline.

Thus we do well to petition: O abide with us, Lord Jesus Christ, since it now is evening. But especially when the evening of life comes into play, when things decline into our life’s end and departure, we want to reach for Christ with sincere prayer, asking that He would abide with us, and ignite in us, amidst the darkness of death, the light of comfort and life. In keeping with His precious promises, He wants graciously to fulfill this in us, as we cling simply to Him. This is the kind of heart He wants to give us by His grace. Amen.

Anxiety and fear are what we know best in this fantastic century of ours. Wars and rumors of wars. From civilization itself to what seemed the most unalterable values of the past, everything is threatened or already in ruins. We have heard so much tragic news that when the news is good we cannot hear it. But the proclamation of Easter Day is that all is well. And as a Christian, I say this not with the easy optimism of one who has never known a time when all was not well but as one who has faced the cross in all its obscenity as well as in all its glory, who has known one way or another what it is like to live separated from God. In the end, his will, not ours, is done. Love is the victor. Death is not the end. The end is life. His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream. Christ our Lord has risen.” (From The Magnificent Defeat (1966) by Frederick Buechner

Quote by Pastor Hans Fiene

O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons: Jeremiah 31:31–34 Psalm 116:12–19 (v. 17) Hebrews 10:15–25 St. Luke 22:7–20

And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” St. Matthew 26:22

Above is a picture of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting of the Last Supper. He portrays the exact moment when the Lord has told the 12 that one of them would betray Him and they are painted as asking with consternation, surprise and fear, “Is it I?”

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Is it I, Lord?

While we enemies, Christ died for us. Is it I, Lord?

The Lord has made us alive in Him who were dead in our sin. Is it I, Lord?

Could we betray the Lord, or deny Him like Peter? It is I, Lord.

The Lord gives us His Body and Blood in the bread and wine of Holy Communion for us and our salvation. It is I, Lord!

The Lord took our frail flesh and died for us. It is I, Lord!

I need to be baptized by You. It is I, Lord!

We have a communion of saints, brothers and sisters, in His Church, His Body. It is us, Lord!

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. It is I, Lord! Help us always to pray because it is I, Lord! Amen.

Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 62:11–63:7 Psalm 70 Romans 5:6–11 St. Luke 22:1—23:56 or St. John 13:16–38

This is the eve of the Triduum meaning, “the Three Days”:  Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, or the Great Sabbath. It was on this day that Judas made his arrangements with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and at the last  Passover meal on Thursday Judas left the Passover meal in order  to complete the betrayal (John 13:25-27).  Today has been called “Spy Wednesday”. Jesus did not call Judas to be a spy, a traitor to the Kingdom of God. May we not be so! But we are traitors to His reign when we sin, do not commend the truth that set us free, and go our own ways. O Lord, we turn to You that we may confess Your holy Name and honor You in thought, word an deed and commend the hope that is in us through You alone. Amen.

Lord Jesus, think on me,
By anxious thoughts oppressed;
Let me Your loving servant be
And taste Your promised rest.
—Lord Jesus, Think on Me (LSB 610:2)

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 49:1–7 Psalm 71:1–14 (v. 12) 1 Corinthians 1:18–25 (26–31) St. John 12:1–23

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1: 25

King Herod Antipas dressed the Lord in “in splendid clothing” after he and his soldiers, “…treated him with contempt and mocked him.” (St. Luke 23: 11) Similar to the robe of many colors that Jacob gave to Joseph? The robe that the Father gave to his prodigal son? Maybe. This makes the contempt and mocking all the more sharp. Jesus said not a word in front of Antipas. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen commented on this narrative:

Our present moment is something like that in which the conscience of Our Lord stood impotent before Herod. We are being robed in the garment of a fool. We are mocked if we preach Christ’s condemnation of divorce. We are called fools if we ask for the restoration of religion to education; fools if insist that world unity is impossible without a recognition of a universal moral law; fools if we pray, if we fast, if we discipline ourselves.

But even more, as it is written, when we tell of Christ dying for sinners once and for all, we will be mocked. Since God’s foolishness is stronger than the wisdom of man, let’s be fools for Christ, both in Law (morals) and Gospel and we will be wise in the Lord. St. Paul was called a “babbler” by the philosophers at the Areopagus. He was insulted as were the other prophets. Yet, we are called as joyous fools in Christ for His grace, bearing the sin of the world upon the cross and the Lord getting the last laugh: He is risen! We are fools for love…God’s love in Jesus Christ, which fools no one…except the devil.

“By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.” (Pr. Johann Gerhard”

Monday in Holy Week

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Lessons: Isaiah 50: 5–10 Psalm 36:5–10 Hebrews 9:11–15 St. Matthew 26:1–27:66 or St. John 12:1–23

The glory that comes from  the Old Adam always praises the glory of man. As a pastor wrote after “the Oscars’ ceremony:  Idolaters worshiping their idols as their idols receive an idol. This is as old as Babel.  And all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart. (Francis Thompson). Those idols are cold and dead, but not Mary, who in the midst of her failures and weaknesses was restored and made alive by the Lord’s love and forgiveness of her. She responded to His love as best she could, taking care of the Lord’s Body. He takes care of us, so let us take care of His Body, the Church, each other and the neighbor who needs to hear, as Mary, of Christ’s overwhelming mercy.

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (St. Mark 14)

O Lord  Jesus Christ, You who were anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, give me grace so that I may sprinkle Your feet with penitent tears and may thus be enabled to anoint the members of Your spiritual body—especially the needy and suffering ones—with the oil of compassion and gentle kindness. Amen.  (prayer by Pr. Johann Gerhard)

Why do so many churches not have a Good Friday service?  Christmas has been morphed by the world into “Christmas is for kids”, Santa Claus and presents but only secondarily about Christ.  Easter is about bunnies and Easter eggs, and about Easter bonnets, and yes, Jesus rose from the dead.  Why do so many churches not have a Good Friday service?  I think you can’t so readily trivialize Good Friday and Holy Week into fun for the whole family.  Palms are about joy…joy that Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. That’s it and that’s enough and more than enough and this wasn’t performance art. When Jesus enters in, it’s Advent. He comes to claim His own in His death and resurrection in those two greatest events in human history, the Cross and His Tomb, thereby, He forgives the sins of the world. Holy Week culminates on Good Friday with the reading of the Passion narrative. Good Friday is sheer terror of our sin and sheer joy of His steadfast love for sinners.

 Holy Week, that is, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are stubborn…as Pentecost is stubborn.  Stubborn as they can only be about Jesus Christ, and straight forward.  A Savior, true man and true God, crucified, bleeding, mocked, and in agony is not where one would expect God to be. We want to make a religion of the kind of God we want.  The old Family Circus cartoon had it right:  Mom showing her daughter a crucifix, and the daughter responds:  “I liked seeing Jesus in the manger better”.  Well, till we’re taught that manger is feeding trough for barnyard animals”. Not too cozy.  Christmas and Easter are as well Sola Christus, Christ alone, but we haven’t let it alone and can use Christmas and Easter to sell junk. So many  Christians avoid Holy Week like the plague or covid, because we can’t buy anything neat with this week, as He tossed out those making a buck in the Temple on high exchange rates to buy sacrificial animals…instead, we are bought with a price,

you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Good Friday are stubborn, because the Lord is stubborn, won’t move, He did not come down the cross, but stubbornly stayed there. His triumphal entry, last supper, arrest, being beaten is so we are changed. Morphing the Christian church year into things we like, in other words is feeding our fleshly desires and lusts, our passions.

Let us mortify all passion
that would lead us into sin;
and the grave that shuts us in
shall but prove the gate of heaven.

See the Lord transforms us to be good, but it’s so much easier to feel good…virtual virtue, not our passions mortified, killed.

Maybe you have heard that exhortation to “follow your passion”.  CEO follow their passions.  Hollywood and media stars follow their lusts for our sake! I have heard exhortations to follow your passion in a hospice staff meeting workshop and a meeting of pastors.  We have seen in terror and horror many people following their passion like every ISIS/Islamic terrorist suicide bomber. This alone should make suspect the now run of the mill encouragement to “follow your passion”.  I will look at why it is not good to “follow your passion”.

1.  We are all natural born sinners (Psalm 51:5), yes we are even natural born killers (cf. St.Matthew 5:  21-23).  Original sin is not a popular doctrine, but it is true.  If we follow our sinful passions, then we are following our own sickness as goodness.  Why are movies that show a satisfying death of an evil man so satisfying?  Because I too have the bent inclination to so destroy and enjoy it.  This lust is also in matters of the breakaway from marriage:  we follow our passion on porn sites, adultery, the soft porn of man a TV show etc. etc.  Following that aspect of our ‘passion’ only leads finally to STDs, the break up of marriages and spiritual and physical death.  Follow your passion?  No.

2.  The objects of our passion are not all good, e.g. lust for someone or the lust to destroy someone.  And even if the object is good, the tendency is, for instance, “I will do anything to help someone”.   The problem is the use of “anything” which leaves the door open to even sinful actions to accomplish the goal under the deceit of “helping someone”.  Some people think the acquisition of political power is a good passion in order “to make a difference”;  or making millions of dollars to be secure.  But as the Lord said our treasure will be where our heart is and the sinful hearts is never satisfied with the power and money we have, or not having, despair.  The mere passionate pursuit overwhelms the soul.  How do we know if an object of our pursuits is good to begin with?  Answer:  is it in accord with the 10 commandments?  How do we know if our “passion” is good?  Answer:  if it in accord with the 10 commandments.  This is the third use of the Law.

Those discussions and presentations about following your  passion that I attended, were in the context of “professionalism”.  Following  your passion should not be the means or goal for professionalism but the actual objects and aims of the organization is the goal.  I think the implied encouragement is, “You have to be passionate, a lot of the time, in your role” is a problem because none of us can do that except with daily pep rallies.  

I have seen such as a high school student when I worked at a Tupperware Warehouse when the dealers (all women) had such a rally every Monday morning.  First, they prayed the Lord’s Prayer and that’s good. Then a scratchy record of the National Anthem. Next:  the Tupperware song based upon a spiritual which the 100 or more dealers would act out: “I got that Tupper feeling up in head, down in my feet (they all bent over), all over me!”, in order to get all excited to sell more plastic containers.  Those Tupperware ladies had passion! We cannot be excited all the time.  A professional does what he has to do most of the time out of the sheer sense of duty to get the job done.  A profession professes something that is good and helpful, to profess is akin to confess, our sin and confess our Lord. Yes, sometimes a vocation’s personal fulfillment will be great, but laying on a worker the exhortation, “follow your passions” is putting on an unnecessary burden which is the product of a narcissistic/ subjectivist culture.  It used to be, for instance, “duty, honor, country”, never “duty, honor, country, passion,”.  

And looking around I think we have far  too many passions and a soundbite world feeds this ravenous beast which is never satisfied.  Singing the sturdy Lutheran hymns of old, many times as we sing about “mortifying all passions”.  And the word origin of “passion” is literally “to suffer”, not emotional highs.  It is to suffer with and for someone, as Christ did in His passion. There is passion which is lust and emotional excitations.  There is the true passion, suffering with and for, perfectly by Jesus Christ.  Lent is not about following our passions, but the passion of the Lord.  The true story of Holy Week.  His love for us is passionate, as He suffered. His is our only passion. His whole life is His passion.  His passion is for us and for our salvation.  He felt first His passion, in the first drops of His blood in His circumcision.

  • His passion is not for material wealth, but the riches of His grace for us all. 
  • His passion is not to seek to be loved, but to love.
  • His passion is not for the kingdoms of this world, but His kingdom, His reign.
  • His passion is not to be served, but to serve. 
  • His passion is not to condemn, but to forgive.
  • His passion is not to be number 1 but to give His life as a ransom for many.
  • His passion is not for the eternal death of sinners but that sinners repent and come to Him, as He said:  His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 
  • His passion is not for sin but for sinners. 
  • His passion is not to fool people, but lead His People.
  • His passion is not to expel people and so lose them but to find the lost.

Lent is about putting to death sinful passions to see more clearly His Passion; and His  Passion makes us clean and clear. We are baptized into Christ Jesus’ baptism as He enters into Jerusalem, as He enters us, we follow His passion not to be served, but to serve; not first to be loved, but to love;  not in helping our selves to sin, but helping a fellow sinner, a fellow saint to Christ;  not to be lost but to be found in Him.  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.

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