The Resurrection of Our Lord (Sunrise)

Readings: Isaiah 25:6–9 | 1 Corinthians 15:12–25 | John 20:1–18

Text: John 20:1-18

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

The last we heard from St. John, he and St. Mary Magdalene were standing at the foot of the cross.  He testified truly that His Lord had died and the spear had truly pierced His side and released a flood of blood and water [John 19:31-35].  So how now are to go on, now that their Lord has died?  It wasn’t that He had died of something that can be rationalized, or even sympathized much with.  It was an ignoble death, a shameful one.  He was unjustly condemned after being betrayed by one of His own.  He was made sport of by the Gentiles and spit upon by the Jewish leaders.  It was more than physical agony, but the utmost shame.  And they had been witness to all of it, and even stood at the foot of His cross.  Then, they, together with Joseph of Arimathea, had laid His body in the earth.

Those who loved Jesus, who were loved by Him, besides suffering the loneliness of His passing, also suffered from the injustice and tragedy, which they now had to bear without their Lord and Teacher.  What were they to do?

It would have been easy to give up on the whole thing and bury the memory of Jesus.  But no matter how much anyone has tried to erase the past when it ends in tragic loss, none of us can go back in time.  We can’t undo what we’ve done or said, and none of us can bring the dead back to life.  We must endure it.

So how could they endure?  By what the death of Jesus had done: The curtain of the Temple had been torn in two from top to bottom.  The mercy seat was now accessible because the once-for-all sacrifice was complete, perfect…”It is finished.”  For us, He had borne the iniquity of us all, and from the Lord’s had we received double—double the mercy instead of all our sins [Isaiah 40:2].  In the depths of His sorrow, forsaken by God on our behalf, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”  But that is only the very beginning of the Psalm; it ends with, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you…Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation” (Psalm 22:22, 30).  Jesus had endured Good Friday with the Resurrection clearly in view.  This is an example to us, of how a Christian dies: in faith and confidence that the Lord will raise Him, though no thing and no one else could come to help.

This is how we in Christ face death.  But, that does not mean the pain is removed.  The forgiveness, the reconciliation of sinners to the Father in Jesus death does not take away the hurt.  But it does set a limit to it.  The pain is mitigated because, as intense as it is, it is temporary.  What we feel is not the sum total of our life, and as intense as it may seem, it is “not able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:38-39)  The death of Jesus was the very thing we needed to remove the eternal torment, the fear of being forsaken and rejected by God, the fear of death or annihilation being our end.

If Jesus had not died and risen, there would be no reason to go on—to love or to mourn.  Why mourn if all there is to look forward to is eternal destruction?  This is the hope of atheists who can only rejoice for this fleeting life and make the most of every passing moment.  We mourn death because we hope for paradise, and our heart aches in hope of entering it.  “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 6:3) We go on loving because this is how He first loved us.  Without His love, there would be nothing truly good in this world, nothing lost which mattered, and nothing to hope in after this veil of tears.  But as for our pain, our bitter tears, they will be wiped away as we go the way of Jesus: through death into life.

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

Your God wants you at all times to have a firm confidence in Him alone.  This is especially true in painful circumstances, but also when your life is full of joy.  No one in this life can fill this role—not your pastor, not your parents, not your spouse.  All of these are mortal.  In the midst of this mortal life, suffering together, our only hope or meaning we can find is in the mercy of the God who died and rose again for us, the God who receives sinners.

Our aching hearts are constantly tempted to turn away from God.  In death, the nagging thought is that God is wrathful toward us or a fickle friend.  Job said to God’s face, “You have turned cruel to me” (Job 30:21)  But Job was wrong, because he imagined a god who is more like those of human imagination who toys with mankind.  This is not the God who was there with St. Mary Magdalene.  He is not cruel, but His mercy endureth forever [Ps. 136:1].  He is the God of all comfort, who does not withhold any good thing from His children—even the life of His Son.

And the faith to believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead is an unfathomable gift.  The Holy Spirit works this faith to believe that even when God sends evil to us, He is ever gracious and merciful, and most certainly works all things together for good [Rom. 8:28].  It is the Holy Spirit in you who confesses this to be true even while our hearts are broken, conflicted, and uncertain.  When everything else breaks, Jesus lives and God is good.

This is the hope of the resurrection which nothing on earth can destroy.  Our eyes do not always see God’s goodness and mercy, but it is always there.  We ought not think that when the sun is hidden by clouds that it has left the world.  The sun keeps shining even when we are prevented by the clouds from seeing it.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

The Lord has called us each by name.  Though Mary could not cling to that moment with Jesus outside Jerusalem, we are invited to cling to Him now in the places where He has promised to be.  He is in the midst of His holy Church, where we hear His Word, we sing His Word, and praise His work and are comforted by the hymns.  Here is where we are born anew of water and the Holy Spirit, where we are assured of our forgiveness and peace with God, where He feeds us with His Body and Blood.

In every time of joy and in every time of our sorrow, our hope is in the Lord.  He comforts us with a salvation available nowhere else and in no one else.  We rejoice this Easter season—if even through tears—because Jesus is not dead, but living, and we live because of Him.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunrise of the Resurrection of Our Lord

Readings: Exodus 15:1-11 | 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8 | John 20:1-18

Text: John 20:1-18

Mary came early to the tomb of Jesus, similar to how we have gathered much earlier than normal for worship this morning.  She was intent to do for her Lord what they had not time for when He died.  She was prepared to show due reverence to her Lord’s body.  The Passover was over.  The Sabbath rest had passed.  And now what was she expecting to find?  The body of her dead Lord.  She had seen it happen, along with Mary and Salome. 

But it wasn’t as she expected.  The stone had been rolled away, so she runs without further investigation and tells Peter and John to report what she fears: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  The three of them all go back to the tomb, John and Peter even running to find out what had happened.  John reached it first, but only stooped to look in and see the linen cloths.  Perhaps he didn’t want to become ceremonially unclean and have to purify himself.  But then Peter comes up, and goes right in, and what he discovers is even more baffling: “He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.”  Mary had said they took the body of the Lord and laid it somewhere.  But what graverobber would bother to fold up the burial linens and fold the face cloth?  After this, John goes in and sees it too. 

All of these facts are recorded, and the disciples saw and believed this much: The Body of Jesus was indeed not there.  But they could not come up with a satisfactory reasonable explanation.  So, Peter and James just went home, believing only what their eyes could see and their minds could piece together. 

Mary stays on, and she too, is struggling to find a reasonable explanation to all these things.  She wept as she looked in at the tomb, which to her, looked all wrong because she was still assuming the Lord she saw die was still dead.  It makes me wonder where her formerly-dead brother, Lazarus was at this time, but in her grief, this did not cross her mind.

The three dear disciples, Mary, Peter, and John show us that reason will not come to the Lord.  Yes, reason is a gift from God which we use and treasure every day, but reason is limited.  Reason comes to conclusions which end in death and do not return.  Reason must submit to its master: the Word of God.   In all of this, John admits his own failing in retrospect, “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”  Totally unreasonable!  Yet without the Lord’s Word, all we can conclude is that His Body has been stolen because as far as we can tell, death is permanent.

In belief of only the facts, Mary still weeps.  She sees the angels and answers them “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  She even sees Jesus Himself with her eyes and supposes Him to be the gardener.

But everything changes when He speaks her name: “Mary.”  Like floodgates opening, she perceives what reason could not reveal: Her Lord is alive!  She sees Him now through faith in His Word and faith in what the Scriptures say! 

Faith comes to us when Jesus speaks our Name, too.  At the font, we hear His voice through the pastor.  _____, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  This is your Christian Name, wherein the Lord reveals Himself to you.  This is the name by which He will call you forth from your tomb on the Last Day [John 11:43], the name which is inscribed in the Book of Life [Rev. 3:5], as is said in Psalm 87:5-6:

And of Zion it shall be said,

“This one and that one were born in her”;

for the Most High himself will establish her.

    The Lord records as he registers the peoples,

“This one was born there.”

In that Word of Jesus, He reveals Himself to you, and gives you the Holy Spirit so that you believe not just the facts about Him.  You know the Scriptures, as they are fulfilled in your Lord Jesus.  So He is revealed first not in the flesh, but in His Word and in the holy waters of Baptism.

Then, He says to Mary, so overjoyed with seeing Him, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”  Do not cling to Him yet, because something far better follows His resurrection.  If He were to stay on earth, we would all have to flock to see Him in one place as crowds do with the pope visits.  But He ascends, yes to “my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  This is the blessed reality that is revealed by Him: He calls us His own by Name and then comes to dwell within us!  Ascended into heaven, filling all things, but especially making you a member of His own Body.

Your risen and ascended Lord lifts you up out of the alienation of sin and the darkness of reason and brings you into Himself where He nurtures and strengthens you.  You need not go to one place to cling to Him, because He is able now to give you His own Body and Blood to eat and drink.  It’s Communion with your Lord, who has called you by Name “to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb. 12:23)  Faith clings to Him where He is: In His Word, which is Spirit and Life [Jn. 6:63] and in the appointed signs which deliver His salvation to you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Easter Dawn (John 20:1-18)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Easter Dawn + April 21, 2019

Text: John 20:1-18



When you wake up, you usually come up with a plan of what to expect that day.   Mary was expecting to go to the tomb, numb to what had happened and finish giving her Lord a proper burial.  What she found was worse than her expectations could have told her: The tomb was open and his body was gone!

“So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’”

After they go home, Mary remains behind, weeping.  Weeping not only because Jesus has died, but now because there is something else that’s happened.  Something terrible!  Her mind goes to all the worst scenarios, like one of His enemies in a fury took His body and did some awful thing with it.  She is in the utter pit of despair.

There is a reason that Easter begins in a graveyard, in the deepest place of loss.  If you walk around a cemetery, the tombstones tell a story.  If you look at the date of birth and the date of death, a picture unfolds in your mind.  It may have happened in old age, it could have happened in middle age, or it could have happened to a child (even a miscarriage or a stillbirth).  No matter the cause or the time, it’s still the same because they’re gone, and they will never be back.  You will never hear them speak again, except perhaps in a recording.  You’ll never be able to share new memories with them or call them on the phone when you want to share something.  You’ll never be able to hold them again.  All that seems to be left is memories.

Imagine Mary’s anguish at the tomb.  That is where God came to her.  First, He sent two angels: “Woman, why are you weeping?”  But then God comes to her personally and says, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”  Still grasping for answers, she implores this man to tell her where Jesus is, until He calls her by name—remember that voice you never thought you would hear again?  Oh wonderful surprise!  She wanted Him to stay, to revel in this moment.  Can you blame her, after being spared from such excruciating emptiness?  But He says, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

Easter begins in a graveyard as a proof to who God is.  There, in the place of death, He doesn’t stand far off, or shy away from comforting us.  He is compassionate toward all of our loss and pain.  He’s no stranger to it, because Jesus, the Son of God, also shares our mortal life.  He is acquainted with us in the way only our Creator could be, but He also became our brother.  Don’t think God does not understand your pain.  He feels it in His own body.

Here in the place of death, He shows His great power to save.  We think of death as final because that’s what our heart and our experience tells us.  No scientist (mad or otherwise) has been able to reverse when someone dies.  But God the Father did by raising His Son from the grave.  He breathed into His nostrils His Holy Spirit and Jesus lives forevermore.  He is the God who raised Jesus from the dead, the God of the living.

Even standing amidst other tombs, this God is the one who proclaims and delivers hope.  Many can talk about hope and silver linings at the time of death, but so much of it is just platitudes—they’re in a better place; God needed another angel.  The Word of Jesus proclaims and delivers that hope, because it is the Word that formed the heaven and earth, and it is that Word which will bring a new heavens and earth.  Jesus did not rise for Himself, but for us, that by believing in Him we might have life. He rose so that you could laugh at death and say, “This person is not dead, but sleeping”[1] and it’s no euphemism; it is the truth because God Himself has made it true.

There, in the graveyard, at her lowest point, Mary learned what St. Paul later wrote for our benefit:

34 Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

                  “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But Jesus was not done with His work as He stood outside the tomb: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  He destroyed the power of sin and death, and He ascended to the Father, there to intercede on our behalf with His holy wounds.  There, He goes as a forerunner, so that as Jesus stands before God the Father, so we who are in Him will be able to stand in the presence of a holy God.  He goes there to rule over all creation, where by His almighty power, He indeed works all things for the good of those who are called by His Name.

The Almighty God, the Victor over Death comes to you today.  Amen!

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

[1] Mark 5:39

Easter Sunrise (John 20:1-18)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Easter Sunrise + April 1, 2018
Text: John 20:1-18
Sermon from Rev. David Juhl, adapted

With glad hearts raised to God, we say Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
It takes a special breed to be a morning person. Not everyone can get up before the crack of dawn and feel like they have six hours of activity under their belt. Most of us need a cup, or several cups, of coffee, or some other caffeinated beverage to jump start the day.
Saint Peter was a mo(u)rning person. Please spell it with a “u”. He’s up early and running to the tomb because Mary Magdalene has a strange report. The stone is rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. John is running with Peter and gets there first. But Peter goes into the tomb first. It’s a good thing he did.
Peter promised he would stand by our Lord’s side to the end. He didn’t. We all know he denied knowing the Lord three times, just as Jesus told him he would. The last time we heard about Peter, he was running away and weeping bitterly. He did the impossible. He lied about Jesus when he should have told the truth. Instead of preparing to pay the consequences for his allegiance to the teachings and person of Jesus of Nazareth, Peter wimps out, takes what he sees is the easy way out, and sins greatly.
We also take the easy way out every day. Opportunities abound to proclaim your allegiance to Jesus. But we won’t seize the day and speak up. There are times it’s ok to be a Christian, like around other Christians.  But then there are those awkward pauses when your faith comes up in conversation with a jaded atheist.  There are those silences after someone makes a statement about the value of life, or what they think God is like.  We act embarrassed about the whole situation and hope they doesn’t notice that we are a Christian.
Churches this day are packed of full and part-time Christians. Easter is one of those “can’t miss” holidays where everyone puts on their finest, gets up before dawn, and runs to church to hear the familiar account of an empty tomb, a weeping woman, and a case of mistaken identity. The sorrow of Friday turns to joy today.
But when you walk out those doors, it will be business as usual. You won’t remember why Jesus rises from dead, let alone dies for your sins. Easter is just another Sunday among other Sundays of the year. Why this forgetfulness?  There’s just too much sorrow and sadness in your life for the Resurrection to matter. Knowing that your Redeemer lives gives comfort, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage. Hearts waking with gladness to see what the Savior has done won’t fix a broken marriage. Good Christian friends rejoicing and singing will go on fighting and not speaking to each other once they leave this building.
All of us are mo(u)rning persons, or should be. Jesus Christ gives up His life so you may not die. Jesus rests in the tomb on the Passover Sabbath so you may rest in His Word and Sacrament every Lord’s Day. Beloved, count the cost of the Resurrection and what might have been, had our Savior not been born according to the flesh. Today would be just another Sunday. Tomorrow would leave us all, according to Tennessee Ernie Ford, “another day older/ and deeper in debt”.
Today Jesus removes the “u”. Today Jesus makes us morning persons. Spell it now without the “u”. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Ps. 30:5)  Sorrow is gone with the night. Morning has broken. So has the seal on our Lord’s tomb. So has the power of sin, death, and hell. Satan cannot stand the sight of the sun rising over Jerusalem, much less every place that Christians gather this Resurrection morn. He knows it’s another day closer to the ultimate sentence of residence in the lake of fire.
Today Jesus Christ ensures you, who trust in Him as your Redeemer, will miss the lake of fire. Today death is a thing of the past. Jesus is alive. So are you. Even if you can’t see it, believe the Word of the Lord:
3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:3–11)
You are baptized into Christ. You are washed clean from the stain of sin.  The Word of God does not lie.  Appearances may deceive, Satan tempts us, people disappoint us.  But the Word of the Lord endures forever.
What can death do to you now that our Lord has conquered it? Death is nothing. Life is everything. Satan is nothing. Jesus is everything. Sin is nothing. Grace is everything. 9Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9)
Rejoice in your God. Today Jesus makes you are a morning person. Because He lives, you also shall live and reign with Him to all eternity.
Allelulia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia) Amen.

The Resurrection of Our Lord (Sunrise) (John 20:1-18)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
The Resurrection of Our Lord (Sunrise) + April 16, 2017
Text: John 20:1-18

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
No doubt you’ve seen it for a few weeks now.  Easter sales, Easter dresses, Easter candy, Easter lilies.  If you didn’t know better, you might think Easter is just another holiday with its traditions, no different from the 4th of July.  It’s just an excuse to get together and have fun with family and friends.
But with all of these traditions, it might be hard to get down to the reason for celebrating.  If we don’t know what Easter is about, then we’re just left with pastel colors, bunnies, and ham.  The name “Easter” doesn’t tell the story.[1]  The reason we celebrate today is because this is the Resurrection of Our Lord.  Jesus who was dead now lives!
It’s popular this time of year to try and debunk the Resurrection as old-fashioned myth, or just a peculiarity of Christian religious tradition.  If it is, then get up and go home.  Religion is just an opiate for the masses, and I’m peddling nothing more than therapeutic lies.
But it is not just myth, it is truth.  Jesus actually was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.  He actually suffered under the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  And yes, He did rise from the dead on the Third Day.  All of this is true, and that’s what makes Easter such a reason to celebrate.
The resurrection of Jesus is a fundamental change to our existence.  Sin is forgiven and death’s grasp is broken!  Without Jesus and His resurrection, life on earth is depressing. All you can hope to do is live for the moment and spend time with all the other people who no more than a flash in the pan of time.  But Jesus is risen, and that means human life has a hope and a future—the hope and future God truly intends for all people.
The resurrection of Jesus gives comfort in sickness and death.  He gives the hope of a joyous eternity.  His resurrection puts the greatest joys and most painful sorrows of this life into eternal perspective.  As we grow weary of this life, that’s where Easter makes all the difference.
The true meaning of Easter—the death and resurrection of Jesus—is not something to be put on the shelf and brought out just once a year.  The devil would love it if you believe that lie, because then he can get you to do whatever he wants, scaring you with the threat of the grave.  If you believe that, you may as well eat all the ham and candy you can get your hands on, because you too will die.  But if you want more, believe in Jesus whose death and resurrection changes everything.
That’s why Easter is such a big celebration.  Jesus gives joy to our lives!  He gives us more joy than can be found in fleeting things.  He lifts up our hearts from the depths of sorrow and gives us new hope and strength.  When it looks to us like everything is a lost cause, our Lord and Savior is there with His Word—“Do not be afraid.”  Amen.
[1] The name Easter comes to us from the Old English name for the month of April.