Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

The Stone is Blown Away!

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

Easter Sunday B, March 25, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

INTRODUCTION: Christ is Risen! He is risen INDEED!
The tomb where Jesus was laid on “Good Friday” is now a completely different tomb… it requires a different type of watchman. It does not need a cemetery caretaker or a company of Roman soldiers assign to protect the dead but an angel from the realms of light and life. The servant-angel appears first; then his Master will soon be seen. This is the signal that a new time has come; an era where heaven and earth are now joined, because Jesus Christ, our Savior, has risen! CHRIST HAS RISEN! The wall of separation has fallen; God has reconciled Himself to sinful men; the sacrifice of the Son has been accepted by the Father. This is the supreme Easter truth…CHRIST HAS RISEN!

I. St. Mark tells us that it was very early in the morning after the Sabbath was over, while it was still dark, when the women went out on an errand of love; they would finish anointing the body of their Lord.

A. The work of anointing His dead body wasn’t completed on Friday Afternoon because of the Sabbath, and now it must be completed. Some of them witnessed Jesus death…they witnessed His passion for them, and now it was time for them to give to Him, even if in death, their own passion… their own service of love. As they arrived at the tomb the sun had just risen, and they were faced with a problem, one that they had not thought of before they set out: Who would roll the great stone away from the entrance of the tomb? (They did not know that there was a Roman guard assigned to protect the grave from tampering). They probably blamed themselves for not having thought of the huge stone before. “How could we have been so stupid?! We should have insisted that Peter, John, or one of the other men come with us!”

B. The other gospel accounts tell us that before they arrived at the tomb, angels appeared with the power of heaven and hurled the stone from its groove and that it landed flat upon the ground. We also learn from these other accounts that the Roman guard witnessed this and trembled with fear, latter running for their own lives. As the women arrived, they discovered the stone resting in front of the tomb and they were afraid that grave robbers has disturbed the resting place and the body of their Lord! Suddenly and angel appeared to them, sitting quite comfortably upon the stone, and he had a miraculous story to tell and an even greater mission: “Don’t be alarmed. You’re looking for Jesus, right? Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified and died, well He’s not here! He has risen! Go inside the tomb and see the place where they laid Him.” And that’s just what they did; when they went in, they noticed that the grave clothes were exactly as they would be if the body were still laying inside, but there was no body! The angel continued, “Go tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just like He told you.” Now they remembered. How could they be so ignorant? After all, the Lord had told them about this so many times. He said that He would rise from the dead, and indeed He has risen!

II. Why didn’t the women know that Christ would be resurrected?

A. Jesus continually explained that He would suffer, die, and be resurrected in many different ways to them. Why was the resurrection a surprise? Why did it take an angel with the power of heaven moving the stone away to get them to remember and believe? Jesus must rise from the dead because His own Word promised that this would happen. Jesus could not be contained by a tomb because He was the very Son of God. True to His Word, on the third day He did rise from the dead, and with His glorified body He immediately left the sealed tomb in order to prove to our dying, sinful world that God did love us, and that through His passion, His very life, death, and resurrection He reconciled all sinful men to His Father. Now through His love we can all experience the love of God.

B. Dear friends, the stone was not rolled away so that Jesus could leave the tomb; but rather it was blown away so that the women and everyone else could see that He had been resurrected and was no longer confined to a grave! The stone was blown away because Jesus knew that the sinful flesh of His disciples still could not fathom the power of God that was His and now theirs simply because He was God’s only begotten Son!

C. The stone has been blown away for us as well. What are some stones that prevent us from seeing the resurrection power of God in our lives? For some, maybe it’s our sinful life that we feel prevents God from loving us or accepting us. “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified for you! See the place where they laid him. He has risen!” For others, perhaps it is time. There is only so much time in a day and so many days in a week. You work so hard, and you just can’t seem to find time to rest. Sunday is the only day you can do that. To this God’s Word reminds you of what Jesus said: “Come unto me you who are weary and I will give you rest!” Friends, Jesus wants us to learn to rest in the Word of God and then the company of others who have learned to do the same. This morning, God is asking you to hear the words of the angel and let it be your truth, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified for you! See the place where they laid him. He has risen!”

D. Or maybe, you are more like Peter. Something in your past is making you feel like God no longer wants you as part of His family…part of His mission team. If so, then remember the angel who told the women to go and tell His disciples even Peter that He still loves you and that you are still part of the team. Dear friends, Peter denied Him three times, but it could have been 3,000 x 3,000 times and it would not have mattered in the least. Jesus died for Peter and He died for you! Return to your first love. Return to Him who first loved you! He still wants you in the family and He still wants you as part of His church!

ILLUS: The story is told about a minister of music named Steve. He was an outstanding musician, but he did something no minister of music should ever do, he overslept on Easter morning and missed the sunrise service. He was so embarrassed. Of course, the pastor and the church forgave him. They teased him about it a little, but it was done lovingly and in good fun. However, the next Easter, his phone rang at 5:00 in the morning. Jolted awake by the loud ringing, Steve scrambled to answer it. It was the pastor, and he said, “Steve, it’s Easter morning! The Lord is risen! … And I suggest you do the same!”

TRANSITION: The message is clear: We too can be resurrected. If your spiritual life has lost its passion, and you don’t feel close to God like you once did, then God’s Word makes it clear to us this morning, Jesus Christ is sharing his resurrection with us right now. He rises, and so can we. We too can have new life. We too can make a new start. We too can rise out of those tombs that try to imprison us!

III. There is one last lesson to be learned in our time together this morning and it can be introduced with this question:

Why were the women the first to learn of Jesus’ resurrection and why were they the first to see Him alive? Another way to ask this is why weren’t the remaining 11 apostles the first to experience Jesus’ resurrection? A learned Biblical scholar long ago offered some reasons. He said: God chooses those who are weak and overwhelmed most by their sorrow, they should be first in Christ’s joy; the presence of the women at the tomb silenced the Jewish lie that the disciples stole the body; as death came by woman, so salvation and life should be announced by her; and finally God wanted to reward the women’s active love. But why is our learned scholar ignoring the obvious?

It was the women alone who went to the tomb on Sunday morning, the women, and none of the men, not even John. They weren’t detained by fear or grief. They weren’t allowing their busy schedule to stop them from serving God. They made time because God was worthy of their time. They continued to love their Lord because He first loved them. This is why they were honored by being made the first messengers of the Gospel. If the Eleven men had also gone out early that morning, the story would have been different, but the love of these women receives its fitting reward.

CONCLUSION: Are there any men here this morning who might learn a thing or two from the experience of 11 other Christian brothers who lived more than 2000 year ago. If so, let them mentor you. Let them speak to you and teach you about how life changing a real relationship of service to Jesus Christ can be. You can meet with them any time you like. They are always waiting to teach and guide you. Their words and experiences inspired and guided by Jesus Himself have all been recorded for you in the New Testament. Let God teach you through those who went before you. Let this be the day that you live a life that celebrates the fact that the stone has been rolled away. Let this be the day that you meet your risen Lord and say with sincerity and excitement: CHRIST HAS RISEN… HE HAS RISEN FOR ME INDEED!

In Jesus name… AMEN!

Come to be Faith-filled!

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Easter Sunday B, April 8, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Why are you here?  I mean really, what was your reason for coming?  That’s a fair question, and it really doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. For those of you who are here faithfully every week, I know why you have come.  You’ve come to hear God’s Word and experience the forgiving love of your resurrected Lord.  That’s why you come every week.  But others may have come for other reasons; valid and important reasons.  Here are some of those reasons I’ve heard over he years: I’ve come to be with family;  It is our tradition to go to church on the important days like Christmas and Easter; or, I’m here because I was invited to come.

While I don’t know your personal reason for being here, I do know why God wants you here; He wants you here to hear His Word and to receive His gift of faith… He wants you to believe in the Easter miracle.  God wants you to know that “Christ is Risen!”  And once you know this truth, then He wants you to keep coming back to His house of worship often and be filled with faith; in other words, He wants you to be faith-filled!

This morning, Christians around the world gather together to hear about a miracle that has saved the world.  We gather to receive the gift of  Easter hope.  We gather together around the very same proclaimed Word of God and the same Sacraments that the ancient Christian church has received since the very first Easter celebration.  These are Christ’s gifts to His church and to you, gifts which bring you free and complete salvation centered entirely upon Christ’s death and resurrection.

As part of Christ’s church, each of us have one thing in common, we are sinners; sinners gathered around a new covenant; a new promise of forgiveness from God, as were Mary, the apostles and all of the disciples who were there with Jesus that first Easter morning.  Each of them, as us today were confronted with the good news.  The good news of course is that Christ not only suffered and died to pay for the sins of the world, but He also rose from the dead!  Christ is risen!

Let’s look again at the hymn we just sang, “Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain” (LSB 487).  This hymn is a wonderful example of how our powerful Christian faith has been nourished since that first Easter Sunday.  It’s a Faith that comes to us through God’s Word about the risen Christ.  Let’s hear this good news proclaimed again in the 4th verse: “For today among His own Christ appeared, bestowing His deep peace, which ever-more passes human knowing.  Neither could the gates of death nor the tombs dark portal, nor the watchers, nor the seal hold Him as a mortal.”

This is the message of Easter.  Christ our King, our brother and Savior came to us as our champion and through the cross and the empty tomb defeated sin, your sin.  But that’s not all, He also defeated death, and your greatest enemy of all, the devil.  He set you free from bondage just as He set the Hebrews free from their bondage of slavery in Egypt long ago.

Jesus’ death and resurrection has freed the entire world from sin and death.  Jesus death upon the cross and His resurrection gives hope to people, be they yellow, black, white, rich, poor, straight, gay, single, married, old, and young.  But in order for Jesus’ gift of eternal life to become your gift,  it must become personal; it must become your good news!  And God does this very thing through His Word and the waters of your baptism.

In your baptism, God draws you into the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic faith.  In your baptism, God allows you to glimpse by faith, the deliverance of your soul from bondage to sin and deliverance into a promised land of eternity where all of your sins are forgiven.  If you will simply agree with God that you have sinned against Him, and then turn to Him for forgiveness; if you will confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus alone is your Lord you will be saved from this bondage.

Through the miracle of God’s mighty Word attached to the water each of us by faith, can see our Old Testament lesson come alive in our own lives.  Through the triumphant victory won by Jesus our Lord we have been delivered from the oppression of our old masters, sin, death, and Satan.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our salvation is secure and our future is certain if we will just rest and trust in Jesus alone!

We heard in our Old Testament Reading (Exodus 15:1-11), about the people of Israel being delivered from Pharaoh’s army through the waters of the Red Sea.  God, through His might parted that sea so that His people could pass through the water, from one side of bondage and death , to the other side where freedom and a new life waited for them.  And as God’s children of faith passed through the waters, their enemies pursued them.  But the same mighty power of God that saved with water also destroyed his people’s enemies with water, by allowing it to fall back upon them.  This is like what happened to you in the waters of your own baptism.  God called you through the water by His Word and brought you out of your bondage to sin, death, and the devil, and with that same water, He put to death those enemies, and then brought you into eternal life with Him.

So together with all of God’s saints we can proclaim our faith as individuals and as part of a large whole, the church of Jesus Christ.  Listen to this truth as its proclaimed in the first and second verses of our sermon hymn: “Come, you faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness!  God has brought His Israel into joy from sadness.  Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters; led them with un-moistened foot through the Red Sea waters.  Tis the spring of souls today: Christ has burst His prison and from three days sleep in death as a sun has risen; All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying from His light, to whom is given laud and praise undying.” [LSB 487:1-2]

This is the Easter hope, the very truth that God wants you to be filled with not just this Easter day, but every day for the rest of your lives.  He wants you to see that your salvation, your eternal life and happiness is all His work through the life and death of His Son Jesus Christ, and the power of His saving Word.

And yet when we leave this place, we’ll be tempted by a sinful society to see ourselves as more enlightened than those ancient people that made up the first church.  Our society will tell us that their science and technology is far superior to our antiquated Christian faith.  They will tell us that we are not in a position to judge anyone, but instead we must accept and empower all people and celebrate our great differences.

This morning, God wants you to see that there are only two differences that He cares about, and they are life and death!  There are only two kinds of people, forgiven and unforgiven!  In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 5:6-8), St. Paul warns us about looking down on God’s Word and truth and approving of what He calls sin.  He says, “Your boasting is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.  For (Jesus) Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the (Easter) festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

In your baptism, God separated you from the sin that will condemn the unbelieving world.  This morning He is telling each of us to continue living out that baptismal gift and turn away from that sin.  He is not asking you to judge others; that is His job and not ours.  Instead He is asking you to examine yourself; He’s warning each of us to quit boasting in the philosophy of enlightened minds and trust in His truth for us.

In your baptism you were made clean and sinless, so now he’s telling you to live that kind of life and quit embracing and celebrating sin; your own sin and other people’s sin.  He simply wants you to confess your sin, receive His forgiveness, and then celebrate as one who is truly saved and loved by God!  This is the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth… Christ crucified and risen for you!

In our gospel lesson this morning, we encounter dear and faithful Mary, who physically walked and talked with Jesus on a day to day basis.  She witnessed so many miracles performed by Jesus.  But even her “enlightened” status was not enough for her to see and believe in her risen Lord.  You see, her own sinful nature prevented her from seeing Jesus that morning at the tomb.  It was only when her risen Lord spoke to her and called her by name that her doubts and fears were replaced with faith and joy!

Remember this hymn from your youth?  “I am Jesus little lamb, ever glad at heart I am.  For my Shepherd gently guides me, knows my need and well provides me.  Loves me every day the same, even calls me by my name.” {LSB 740]  Mary’s faith was rekindled when she heard the voice of her Lord.  She became faith-filled and excited about the resurrection of Jesus.  Mary was made alive again by the Word of her Savior God.  You too were made alive in your baptism.  It was there in those waters that Jesus called your name.  You are being made alive also this morning, because your resurrected Lord is calling you by name again; He’s calling you out from a society enlightened by sin and He is asking you to once again take your Christian faith seriously.  He calls you out of a faithless existence and He calls you back into His grace; His forgiving love.

And as His children called by faith, we gather together as one body and partake of the Easter feast of victory in His Holy Supper.  Just as it takes many individual kernels of wheat to be crushed into flour to make one loaf of bread, so we too this morning gather as one loaf in our proclamation of faith and our need of forgiveness.  We need to receive Christ body for the forgiveness of our sins.  And in this eating of His body, He gives us faith to see that He is mysteriously and really present in the bread.  And just as it took many grapes to lose their individual importance and become one drink of wine, so too are we all gathered this morning to receive the precious blood of our Lord and Savior in, with, and under the wine.  “Here (is) the true Paschal Lamb we see, whom God so freely gave us.  He died on the accursed tree—so strong His love—to save us.  See, His blood now marks our door; faith points to it; death passes o’er and Satan cannot harm us.  Alleluia!  Then let us feast this Easter day on Christ, the bread of heaven.  The Word of grace has purged away the old and evil leaven.  Christ alone our souls will feed; He is our meat and drink indeed.  Faith lives upon no other!  Alleluia!” [LSB 487:3,5]

We all know, truthfully how small and insignificant we are without Jesus; without the Easter truth. We know how faithless we can be without God’s work in our lives.  For those of us who are still being moved to walk with and trust in Jesus real presence in our lives, we can truly say that we find our strength and our meaning in Him and His Word.  It’s His Word that’s our shield and our strength.  It’s His Word that gives our lives purpose and meaning.  As we live our lives here among people who we love but who are dying without faith in Jesus, we can only wait and trust that God will do the same work within them that He is doing within us.  And as we wait, we remember that we are the Lord’s little lambs and His servants.  We hear Him call out to us and we follow.  He faithfully leads us and feeds us with His Word as we repeat only what He speaks to us.  We hear His voice and we trust in none other.  And that voice faithfully gathers us to this place so that we can come to be faith-filled.  Thanks be to God!  Christ is risen, He is risen indeed… Alleluia!!

He is Risen!

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010
Click here for audio of this message

“He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” [Luke 24:6-7]

 He is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  It’s funny, but that phrase is probably the key to most of my meaningful Easter memories!  Oh I remember other things as well.  Things like watching the Easter Parade with my parents, and afterward enjoying a delicious Sunday dinner with many of my family members.  But without at doubt that phrase, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed” stands out in my mind.  What Easter memories come to mind for you?  For some, maybe your clearest memories aren’t necessarily centered on Christ.  Maybe, you even have unhappy memories?  This morning, our Heavenly Father tells us that through Christ, He has created a new heaven and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind, because “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!”  [Is. 65:17]

 Over two thousand years ago, on the first day of the week, at early dawn, some of the disciples of Jesus went to His tomb to finish preparing His body for its eternal rest, and they were women!  Even then, women were the practical ones of the church.  They didn’t sit around talking about what must be done… they got up and did it!  So there they were at the tomb and they discovered that the stone had been removed from the opening, and even more surprising was the fact that the body of their Lord was gone!  “Thieves and grave robbers have taken Him” they must have thought! 

 And then in perfect time, God’s time… Jesus sends His Holy messengers with a challenging announcement and a question that puts all things into their proper prospective: “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?  He isn’t here, but He is risen!”  “Wait” they must have thought.  “Did you say He’s risen?  As in risen from the dead?”  “Yes” the angels must have been smiling.  “(Don’t you) remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that (He) must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise?” [Lk. 24:5-6] And then, they remembered!  They remembered that God was indeed faithful, merciful, and abounding in steadfast love.  They remembered that God did promise them that He would never leave nor forsake them! [Josh. 1:5]

 Up until that point their hearts were centered on death.  They were lost within their own grief!  And this is the exact thing that happens to us when we forget the gospel.  When we are so focused on life and it’s pain and suffering, we forget that in Christ we don’t just have a friend and a master we also have a Savior.  When we are focused on death, we forget His promises of life!

Dear friends, when we forget the Easter message, we end up looking for God in all of the wrong places.  While God is certainly there with us in tragedy, pain and suffering, He is also leading us out of these things; away from fear and trembling and into faith and hope.  In the middle of life’s challenges, He challenges us by asking, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?”

 Many of you know what I’m talking about don’t you?  I’m talking about that perfect peace that comes to you when you know that even in the middle of a tragedy, Jesus… Emmanuel… God is with you!  You can’t explain it, it just is!  Well this morning, God doesn’t want you to be perplexed, He wants you to be amazed.  He doesn’t want you to be frightened with your head down low; He wants you to know that the peace you feel when others are terrified is because you have the living Word of God within you!  You have the very presence of Christ strengthening and leading you!  So get up and go on.  Don’t hang around with the dead!  You’ve got some living to do; you need to live in the victory of the resurrection, not the defeat of the grave!

 But I hear some of you now, “But pastor, it’s hard to live the life of a believer when there are so many doubters out there.  It’s hard to live the resurrection victory when so many of my family members and neighbors think that I’m crazy.”  Friends, I know how it is when people close to you are telling you not to take your Christian faith so seriously.  They say, “Sure Christianity is a good model to follow to help you live a good life, but don’t go overboard.  Live a little; enjoy your life.”  I know what it’s like to share the resurrection story with them, and they ask, “Do you believe in the Easter Bunny too?”  But most importantly, our Lord knows about the doubters, and He talks about it this morning in our gospel reading.  Listen: “Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” [vs. 10-11]  How could the apostles forget all of the promises that Jesus made to them?  How could they forget the joy that being with and listening to Him brought them?  Because friends, they had drifted away from the living Word of God; because they were not walking in the joy of the gospel, but instead they were engulfed by the fears of death!  But when God’s Word becomes central in your life, His miraculous presence takes over and you can’t help but rejoice at the Words, “He is not here, but has risen.”  He is risen.  He is risen indeed!

When we remember these wonderful Easter Words we also remember that Jesus is both the Son of Man and the Son of God.  We remember and we know that the resurrection of Jesus Christ marks a new era. Heaven and earth have been joined, because Christ, our Savior, is risen! Our sins, our doubts and our fears that were once like a mighty wall of separation between us and God have been torn down; God is reconciled to men; the sacrifice of the Son has been accepted by the Father. This is the supreme Easter reality. 

This Easter truth loudly proclaims that Jesus is not the “Great I WAS” but instead He is the “Great I AM!” He is not only a historical figure but also a present-day, living reality. Our wonderful faith rests upon the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the grave and is now seated at the Father’s right hand as our personal advocate.  He is now a God who is for us and not against us!

The thrilling news from the empty tomb is that life has triumphed over death! This is a message that dispels our fears and gives us the sure hope that because Christ lives, we shall live also (John 14:19). Alleluia! He is risen.  He is risen indeed!

 Dear friends, the truth is that our lives can’t help but be changed once we return from the reality of the empty tomb!  Once you see and know that the tomb is empty through God’s most Holy Word, faith begins to change you completely.  Because once “you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” [Rom. 10:9]

 That unconditional word of grace transforms us. It swoops us into Christ’s death, and then it gives us new life with Jesus within His resurrection. Within this relationship of love with God, His re-creating word justifies us and completely destroys our sinful past before God the Father. It sets us completely right and innocent before Him.  Our names have been recorded in the indelible ink of Christ’s blood within God’s book of life’ [Phil. 4:3]  But just like the woman who went so early to the tomb, we who now hear the Word, also remember and we are changed in the here and now; just as they were given heaven on earth, and exchanged their sorrow for joy, our lives also are changed as well.  Through the Word of life God daily leads us to live out our baptismal hope.  We are not among the dead but among the living.  Through Christ, God calls us every day to put to death our old sinful nature and the habits of sin, and work with the Holy Spirit, cultivating the new resurrected nature… a heavenly minded nature.  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 What a wonderful message we have been given.  But this message isn’t just for us; it has been given to us so that we will share it with everyone.  You see, neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe in him and receive him as Lord, unless this Easter message was first offered to us and made real within our hearts through the preaching of the gospel and the witness of others through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Oh it’s true that all of the work for our salvation is finished and complete; Christ has acquired and won the treasure of salvation for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection. But if this wonderful work of God had remained hidden, then none of us would have ever known about it; Christ would have died in vain and all would be lost for us. But to ensure that God’s greatest gift to this world would not remain buried and hidden, He has commanded that the Gospel Word be published, proclaimed, and witnessed to!  So always remember the truth of this Easter message and share it with everyone who will hear.  HE IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!