I Have Seen The Lord!

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

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. ~John 20:18~

 

You wont lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
But, sadly, its true
That Bang-ups
And Hang-ups
Can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with and unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a slump.

And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place where you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should turn left or right…
Or right and three quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple its not, I’m afraid you will find,
For a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race
Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
And grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
Headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

… For people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go, or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for a fish to bite or waiting to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a Better Break, or string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or another chance. Everyone is just waiting.

~Excerpt from  Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss~

Maybe the good ole doctor knew what he was talking about. Dr. Seuss that is. Because this is what it feels like isn’t it? Even on a day such as this… and some may even say, especially on a day like this, it feels like the Christian faith can be described as a life of waiting. From the moment we are baptized, we are so often told that we are waiting. Right? Waiting to get confirmed. Waiting to get married. Waiting to graduate. Waiting for college acceptance letters. Waiting to get done with school. Waiting for marriage. Waiting for children. Waiting for promotions. Waiting for retirement. Waiting for heaven. It seems as though we are always waiting for something.

It was no different for the disciples during the events of Holy Week. They were waiting for the Passover. They were waiting for Jesus to finally enact His plan to save God’s people… whether that come in the form of kicking the Romans out or something comparable to that. Then they found themselves waiting for the verdict. Then they found themselves waiting the beatings to be over. Then they found themselves waiting for Jesus to die. Then they waited for Him to be placed in the tomb. Then they waited for the dawn to come after the Sabbath so they could go prepare Jesus’ body properly. They walked and waited until they reached the tomb. They waited.

I assume that we know the rest of the story because you are here this morning. When they were done waiting… when they arrived at the tomb, things were not at all what they expected. There was no stone to roll away. There was no stench of death. There was no body. There was no Jesus. The very body they had laid in the tomb three days prior was not there! Waiting soon turned to stunned sorrow and wonderment. Where had the body gone? Who took it? What are they going to do now? The questions must have been many. The confusion must have clouded conscious thinking. For Mary Magdalene, the Jesus had been the source of any hope that she had comforted herself with over the past years. She was the one who healed her. He was the one who taught her. He was the on whose feet she had poured expensive perfume. Not only was He now dead. But she couldn’t even perform the last respects to her ridiculed Rabbi. What was there to wait for now? So she turned and saw the gardener. So she ever so desperately inquired about the whereabouts of Jesus. But the gardener only answered one word.

“Mary.” Then it all came rushing back to her! It was Jesus. The same eyes that looked with pity on her when she was freed of the demons. The same voice that had patiently instructed. The same body that had hung on the cross and was laid in the tomb. It was Jesus! This was big. This was huge. What was Mary to do now? There was no more waiting. There was no more passively waiting for life to happen. Life had happened! Life had happened to Jesus! There were so many people to tell. So many things that needed to get done! So Mary ran to where the disciples were waiting. Waiting for the Jews to come and arrest them and put them to death also. She ran to where the disciples were waiting, busted through the door and told them the only thing that mattered. Telling them the only words she could think to say. “I have seen the Lord!” Wow. What a day! No more waiting for Mary! There would be no more waiting for the disciples. They had seen the Lord!

This IS the most amazing account ever told! And that is all well-and-good, but what about us? We are still waiting. We are still waiting on bills that have to paid. Waiting for children to grow up. Waiting for that perfect someone to complete me. Waiting, waiting, waiting and waiting! I am glad Jesus appeared to Mary and to the disciples, but what about us! Aren’t we still waiting? Waiting for Jesus? Waiting to get to go to heaven? And just like so many things in life, the answer is “Yes… and No.”

You see, we are waiting. We are waiting for the resurrection of all flesh. We are waiting for the hope that we are given from the empty tomb of Jesus to be realized in our own resurrection. We are waiting on the new heaven and the new earth. We are waiting for Jesus to return in glory and splendor. We are waiting for the time when the whole world will see the hope that we have spent our entire lives living in and for and in anticipation of. Aren’t we still waiting? In many very important regards, yes… we are.

However, we are not only waiting. Jesus does not call us to merely sit on our hands, in the spiritual sense or the physical sense. He doesn’t call us to merely pine away for the time that He comes back. Our waiting… the waiting of the Christian is a waiting that involves hopeful action. It involves much more than the worlds sees. It involves looking at that big old cemetery on Old 40 and, indeed every cemetery, in eager anticipation knowing that when Christ returns those graves will be open and we will once again be in the perfect presence of our loved ones. It involves eagerly hearing God’s Word so that the hope that we have might continue to grow. It involves feasting at the Lord’s table on the Lord of Life, Himself, so that we might be strengthened for the waiting that have this side of eternity. It means binding ourselves to the tomb of Christ because in His death and resurrection, Christ has bound Himself to us. Paul writes the following in Romans 6,

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We 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. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

There is nothing better than knowing that we have been united with Christ in His resurrection. There is nothing sweeter than knowing that we do not merely wait, but that Christ is acting through us in our vocations to be living testimonies of His resurrection. We can with our words and actions, continue to proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!” to all whom we come in contact. In Christ’s death, we see that this world is temporary. But in Christ’s resurrection, we see that our life with Him is forever!

Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed! Alleluia!

It Is Finished!

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Adam was a good kid. He never got into a lot of trouble. He was given grief in grade school because he was a little different. He was artsy and calm. Confident in who he was, he did not really care about what others thought. He was musically gifted, and loved the underground music scene. He dressed a little different than the others in his small private school. He kept to himself, and he seemed happy enough to do so. However, when he got to high school, he found something that he never thought possible. Other kids… his age that dressed like him. They listened to the same music. They attended the same concerts. They bound together around the things that united them.

Music

Unfortunately, not all of the things that bound them together were good things. Concerts turned into after-parties. After-parties turned into truancy. Truancy turned into problems at school. By the time Adam was 16, he had a full-out heroine addiction. Track lines and sunken eyes replaced the confidence and youthful exuberance that used to characterize Adam. Adam’s life had hit rock-bottom and would have caused him to fade off into oblivion if it had not been for one chance encounter. At a party after a concert one night, Adam met Ben. Ben was a young man who was just a couple years older than Adam but flirted with the same music scene and had similar friends. But Ben’s story was quite a bit different. Ben had hope. In a series of party encounters and trips to the local Denny’s, Adam began to see and know the source of Ben’s hope. Ben’s identity did not rest in music or friends or underground scenes. His identity was not bound to the clothes he wore or the color of his hair. His identity was found in One who made all the difference in the world. To make a long story short, with the help of Ben and a couple other of Ben’s friends, Adam got clean. He began to attend the church that Ben went attended. He stayed clean and graduated high school on time. When asked about what changed in his life, Adam gives credit to God working through Ben and Ben’s friends to get him clean and share Christ with Him. But he also is quick to mention Jesus. He is quick to mention that there are times in his life when the guilt haunts him. The people that he hurt in his life. The people he used. The damage to relationships that occurred because of a drug addiction. But when that guilt comes around, he has some very sure words to return to. He returns to Jesus words, “It is finished!” Jesus died for those sins. Jesus died for Adam. The guilt and shame is not there for Adam to bear anymore because Jesus took it upon Himself. Jesus said, “It is finished!” And Adam believes him.

Every one of us has a story. They may not all be as theatrical and after-school special-esque like Adam’s story. Our stories are much the same. There is one thing that unites all of us together. We are united in our sinfulness. There is not a single one of us that is better than the next. We all harbor sin in our hearts, and we all fall victim to the taunts and accusations of the devil. This Holy Week in the church year is no different than any other week of our lives. While we might go to church a few more times, the devil does his level best to cause us to see the cross as an instrument of death and torture. He does his best in causing us to see the cross as a mechanism by which we can revisit the guilt that Jesus bore on that cross. He, once again, flashes in front of our faces the each of those sins of ours that held Jesus to that cross. “Your sins did this,” he says. “Those adulterous thoughts drove that nail right there! The covetous desires that caused you to cheat someone or to steal what wasn’t yours are that thorn that pierces his brow! That spear in his side? That was that one sin that only you know about.” “Look at what you did!” the devil exclaims. “Look at what your sins did to the most perfect and wonderful person that ever walked the earth!” And we are tempted to believe him. It is easier to believe that way isn’t it? It is easy to listen to the devil’s accusations. It is easy for us to wallow in the hopelessness of our situation. It is so easy for us to succumb to the gauntlet of guilt and write-off that cross as something that we try to suppress as another shame inducing memory of how horrible we are.

It-is-finished

But as we look upon the cross on this Good Friday… as we, once again, place ourselves in the crowds of observers… the words of Jesus beckon us away from the ghastly consequences of our sins. The words of Jesus break our concentration upon our own actions and ourselves. The words of Jesus beckon us to hear Him. His Words tells us the reason that He is on the cross. Jesus tells us that He is there because He is saving us. He calls out from the cross, “It is finished!” because He has indeed finished our salvation. There is nothing more that needs to be done. The cross is not like a note from a bank demanding a payment of guilt as interest like our forgiveness is only on loan to us. Christ completed everything necessary. He bore all of the guilt and shame necessary for us to freed from our sins and their punishment. Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” to break our attention to the devils words of “You’re still guilty!” Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” and He doesn’t lie. His Word is the truth that sanctifies us in His death. The cross is transformed from an instrument of pain and death to reminder of hope and life.

it_is_finishedWhen I was growing up, my home congregation ended almost every midweek Advent service with the singing of the hymn “Abide with Me”, but the hymnal we had, did not contain all of the original verses. Because of this I was robbed of two of the verses that I want to share with you this evening. This masterful hymn puts the cross in perspective like few that we have… in my humble opinion. In the hymn, we sing the following:

Come not in terror, as the King of kings,
 But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
 Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea. 
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

Thou on my head in every youth didst smile,
 And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile, 
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
 On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
 What but Thy grace can foil the Tempter’s power? 
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
 Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me!

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
 I triumph still if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.
 Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
 In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!

When we take Jesus at His Word… when we see that Jesus came willingly to take our sins upon Himself… when we see Jesus died on the cross to free us from what deserved, we begin to see the cross in a new light. We begin to see why we call it Good Friday. We begin to actually believe that we are people who have been freed from the accusations of the devil and our guilty consciences. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he cried out, ‘It is finished!’” And, indeed it is. It is finished for you! Thanks be to God! Amen.

Poured Out For Many

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Fast Food

Though many in America today often lament the breakdown of the American family unit, there is one area of business that still thrives. Fast food businesses make their money by promising you a fast meal so that you can get back to work or to a sporting event or a dance recital or a meeting. Dining out has become common-place in our society. Many meals are no longer consumed in the privacy of our homes with our family or closest of friends. Dining has become a public event. We eat in massive rooms with countless strangers. While we might enjoy the company of family or friends in the immediate vicinity, eating is still far less of an intimate experience than it was 30, 40 , or 50 years ago. Dining with someone was an even bigger deal in Jesus’ day. You did not recline at table with just anyone. This was saved for your family… your closest of friends. To share a meal with someone was to share a trust. I won’t poison or trick you. You won’t poison or trick me. This is lost in our society today, and I think it impacts what we do with tonight… Maundy Thursday… The Last Supper.

When Jesus sat at the Passover table on that Thursday of His Passion, He found Himself surrounded by His most devout disciples. These are the ones that He had specifically chosen. These are not the meddlesome masses that found him on the mountain as He tried to rest, or in the Garden as He tried to pray, or on the beach as He tried to get away for a few minutes. These are His guys… His entourage… His peeps, if you will. They had spent the previous 3 years following Jesus hither and yon from city to city. They had seen the miracles. They had heard the teachings. They had left their lives behind to sit at the feet of the Son of God for three years. They were predictable, even if you were not the Son of God. You knew that James and John were going to spend the night arguing about who was the best. You could count on Thomas being skeptical about everything. You knew Judas would seek to amend the budget about 5 times. And you could bet your last denarii that Peter would talk way too much. This makes Jesus’ words and actions emotionally compelling for us that are tuning in to the Passion drama this evening.

Passover

The words of Jesus are not pithy parables to people gathered on the shoreline. These words are intentionally intimate from the Savior’s lips to the precious ears of His closest of acquaintances. The supper they share is not the mere dinner that they would woof down as they get a few minutes reprieve from those that are tagging along. This is the Passover. This is THE celebration of Jewish families. The glasses of wine, the bitter herbs, the roasted lamb, the unleavened bread that all pointed to THE event of their shared history. The salvation of their God as He led their forefathers out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land… the land promised to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Passover celebrated every year looking back at the salvation of their God, and looking forward to the salvation of their God in the coming Messiah – the one that would free them from oppression and lead them into the future. Just by being there in that room each person was making a statement because you only celebrated the Passover with your family. Just by being in that upper room, Jesus was binding Himself to His disciples, and His disciples were binding themselves to Him.

So the words of Jesus at that table resonated with those that heard. As they went through the liturgy of the Passover, they bound themselves together in, both, the tortured past and the hopeful future of the people of God. But that was not enough. Jesus, as the Son of God, took it one step further. He was done speaking in riddles. He was done cloaking His teaching in parables. Here in this place, Jesus lays it all on the line. Jesus breaks from the script with something new. He picks up the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and says, “Take eat; this is My body.” Then, He picks up the glass of wine, blesses it, and says, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” It is impossible for us to fully know what the disciples thought when they heard these words. But Jesus knew what He meant. With these words, Christ instituted and ushered in the very fulfillment of the Passover meal. Here, Jesus stands in the place of the lamb that was killed whose blood was spread on the doorposts on that very first Passover. With these words, Jesus puts in motion the series of events that we will follow the rest of this week. With these words, He sealed Himself to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus not only bound Himself to His disciples as a fellow Jew or family member, but He bound Himself to His disciples as their Savior.

If that wasn’t amazing enough, as the Son of God, Jesus knew things that were not public knowledge at this time. You see, He was binding Himself to suffer, die, and be poured out for the sins of His disciples, and He would go through with it. The disciples bound themselves to Jesus by eating the Passover with Him, but they would not go through it. You see Jesus knew these men. He knew everything about these men. He knew that the minute the swords and torches came, they would scatter. He knew that one that sat at this table had already betrayed Jesus to His death. He knew that Peter would deny even knowing Jesus three times in the next 12 hours. He knew that the disciples were lazy and would fall asleep while He was in the Garden praying. Jesus knew they would all… every one of them would stand at a safe distance and observe His torture and death. He knew they would hide in fear afterward. These twelve wouldn’t even take care of His burial. Jesus knew everything. He knew that He was giving everything and would get nothing in return. He knew that the very people who would drink from that cup would need the forgiveness it offered before the wine had even gone through their system. And, yet, He still said those words. “Take eat; this is my body. Drink of it, all of you, this is my blood of the covenant poured out for many… poured out for you… for the forgiveness of sins.” That was why Jesus came. He came for the purpose of dying for their forgiveness.

Mind blown

If you want to blow your mind even more with the magnitude of what happened in that room 2000 years ago, think about this. Jesus was not just sitting in that room with His 12 disciples. He was not just binding Himself to those twelve disciples. He was sitting in that room with us. He was binding Himself to us. And He knows us JUST as intimately as He knew those twelve. Jesus knows which of us tend to put their feet in their mouths. He knows which ones of us are always concerned about the budget. He knows which ones of us are always jockeying for positions of power or prestige even if it means stepping on a few others to grab it. But He also knows those things about us that no one else knows. He knows the images on the computer screen late at night. He knows what happened in that car that was parked in the shadows that one night. He knows words that you say out loud and in your head. He knows the grudges that you hold. He knows the guilt that you feel. He knows about the addictions, the lies, the fears, the struggles. He knows everything. He knows that you are in need of the forgiveness that flows from His side to you by way of the chalice. He bound Himself to you knowing that if you were in the same situation as those original 12, you would fail just as epically. But Jesus still uttered those words for you. You will here them again tonight. “Take eat; this is my body. Drink of it, all of you, this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.“ Here is your forgiveness and life. Here is Jesus fulfilling all righteousness for you. Here He comes to bring you life and peace.

When I was growing up, I never used the Lutheran Hymnal. I used a different blue hymnal. I used Lutheran Worship, and in my home congregation, at the end of what felt like just about every midweek Lent service, we would sing the hymn, “Abide with Me”. However, since we didn’t use the Lutheran Hymnal, I missed out on what has come to be one of my favorite verses of the hymn. Thankfully, they put it back into Lutheran Service Book. In this masterful hymn, we ask that Jesus, “Come not in terrors as the King of Kings, but kind and good with healing in Thy wings. Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea. Come, Friend of Sinners, thus, abide with me.”

Come, Friend of Sinners, thus, abide with me. That night in the upper room, this is precisely what Jesus did. He did not come in righteous indignation and terror to judge sin. He came to bear the judgment for our sins. He came to be poured out for us for the forgiveness of sins. Tonight, The Friend of Sinners is, once again, here. He binds Himself to us. He makes us whole with His broken body and shed blood. He comes tonight to free us from all of the things that try to separate us from Him. He comes tonight with forgiveness for the liar, the adulterer, the thief, the scoundrel, the gossip, and the naysayer. He comes to restore the fallen, the lonely, the spurned, and the shameful. He comes tonight for you… given, shed and poured out for you… His people… His treasured possession.

And as Christ comes tonight with forgiveness or each one of us… as He binds us to Himself and His death for our sins… He also binds us together as His people. We all come as beggars. We all leave as saints. Tonight, in front of us, we have the Great Exchange – All He is for all that we are not. As we proceed through this Holy Week, let us approach with reverence and awe of the magnitude of that which Christ did for us. Let us be somber as we walk from upper room to garden to trial to Golgotha. But let us not lose sight of what happened on mournful Calvary. Let us not forget what happened with every betrayal and denial… with every mocking sneer and wounding whiplash. Let us not forget the power… the healing… the balm for woe that is the cross of Christ… the body and blood of Jesus. May our heavenly Father unite us in the renewing power of forgiveness as we continue this weekend.

Host and Chalice

I AM the Light of the World

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Anyone that has children can probably attest to the fact that as your children get older, the house becomes more and more dangerous. You don’t just have to put gates up around stairways, door knob safety devices that even keep adults out, and electrical outlet covers on ALL of the unused outlets. You have to keep all of your unsafe chemicals in locked cabinets because your children will find them. You have to keep put locks on all of the drawers in the kitchen so that they cannot be opened and used as a ladder. We won’t even begin to talk about all of the things that go into keeping your children safe outside and out of the streets. The house can be dangerous. However, as your children get older the house gets more and more dangerous for parents as well. It doesn’t help that all of your relatives and friends decide to buy your children ever manner of weapon imaginable. Sure, they call them toys… but lets all be honest… they’re weapons to inflict bodily harm and damage… especially if the house or room is dark. Here are the toys in our house that have most often inflicted injury on me.

plastic sharks

 

They look like harmless plastic sharks. But noooooo. They are plastic knives of pain that are useful for maiming feet and getting blood on your carpet. Their small size and dark colorations make them especially dangerous at night… in the dark. Something that looks so innocent and harmless, can cause great pain when hidden in the cover of darkness.

Darkness has a way of doing that. It hides and covers. The darkness can cause shadows and uncertainty that allow your imagination to run wild. Even if it is not hiding or covering something dangerous, the darkness makes you uncertain because there could always be something there that you cannot see… lurking in the shadows. This is why we often do not fault children, in fact, we expect them to be afraid of the dark. Even some adults are still afraid of the dark. But menacing dark places can often become less threatening when the light is turned on. Obstacles can be seen. The corners that once held uncertainty now are shown to be harmless and empty. Even if there was a crazy two-headed boogey-man or a hungry lion, at least we would be able to see it. Stay away. We would know to run. So often in our lives darkness is haunting and frightening, but light is comforting and encouraging.

platoscaveunravelingtheriddleof

There is a quote that is often attributed to the philosopher Plato but, in reality, no one knows where it comes from. It goes like this: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” It might be easy to attribute this idea to Plato because one of his most well-known ideas in one of his most well-known works deals with this idea. In Plato’s work, The Republic, he uses the imagery of a man who is in a cave. The cave is dark. The man is seated in a chair facing a wall of the cave. Somewhere behind him, there must be a fire of some sort because He can see long and threatening shadows being cast upon the wall in front of him. The shadows terrify the man so much that he doesn’t want to turn around to see what monstrosity might await him. Imagine the man’s surprise when and if he does finally get up and off of the chair to see that there is a nice warm fire behind him and the shadows are not monsters from the underworld but fellow people dancing and having a good old time. While it takes time for the man’s eyes to grow accustom to the light of the fire, when they do he finds companionship, welcome, and warmth. As he sits at the fire, he sees a light off in the distance. More intense. Brighter. As he approaches the light he finds that it is the entrance to the cave. The light pouring through from the sunshine hurts the man’s eyes, and he wants to retreat back into the cave. But imagine the man’s surprise, if and when he decides to get used to the light and he ventures out of the cave. The world of greens and blues, purples and oranges flood his eyes with beauty and wonder. The songs of the birds play sweetly in his ears. The wisps of cool wind calmly pour upon his face that was used to the stale air of a cave. A world of beauty waits. Now imagine the type of man that would want to go back into that cave.

Jesus puts forward a similar situation in our reading for today (this evening). Jesus tells us that He is the light of the world. Anyone who follows Christ will never walk in darkness because He will have the light of life. In order for this to really settle in and for us to understand what Jesus is saying it might help us to bring in some context from other places in Scripture. The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5,

…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you

In order to understand where Christ has brought us, it is imperative to understand where we began. We were far worse off than the man in the cave, for he was able to see shadows and a remnant of light. When we were dead in our trespasses, we were in absolute darkness. Think the blackest darkness you can imagine… in the grave kind of darkness. We were wandering around in darkness without any help or hope. Hope is gone when there is no sight, no knowledge of where to go, no cognoscente understanding of what is around us. When we are lost in our sin, all we see is the darkness of the world. The darkness of the world that leaves us cold, lonely, and feeling lost. Then when it seemed like all was lost… when it seemed like darkness was all we would know, Christ banished the darkness of our sinfulness bringing cascades of light pouring forth into the corners of our minds and hearts. He banished the cold loneliness brought about by a guilty conscience through the floods of the baptismal waters. He left in its wake the mercy, forgiveness and life that come from knowing the Light of the World. And as we encounter the Light of the World in His Word and at His Supper, the darkness and hopelessness are banished. For where the Light of Christ dwells, darkness cannot abide. This is why Paul tells us to think on things that are good, right, praiseworthy, excellent and true. We are to think on the things of God, namely His Word and Sacrament. These are bright lights that shine into our cave of darkness and beckon us to come out into the warmth of the forgiveness of Christ. These lights show us the cross and our Savior. These lights show us the life that Christ has given to us.

This side of eternity, though, we still live, move, and have our being in a world of darkness. At times, this darkness still creeps into our lives. Sometimes, we even willingly leave the light behind so that we can visit the nostalgia of our old friend, darkness. Just like the man who was afraid to get up from the chair and leave the cave, there are times when we allow the darkness to creep back into our life. At times, we gladly forsake the light of Christ in Word and Sacrament for the darkness of worldly pleasures. A few extra hours of sleep, ball games, personal grudges, guilt of long term sins, financial pressures, marital struggles, fear of future unknowns… these can all be catalysts that the devil uses to call us away from Christ and back into our cave of sin and darkness. The longer we remain in that cave, the more we forget the warmth of the light of grace. The longer we remain in that cave, the more our eyes adjust to the darkness… fooling us into thinking that we are ok. Gradually making us blind in darkness while convincing us that the light isn’t worth it. The light hurts our eyes. We sit in the chair… scared of what those shadows might be… convinced that forgiveness is not for us… convinced that God is coming to judge… convinced that the light is actually the problem.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Even though we retreat into the darkness… even though we might think that we find comfort in the darkness, the light continues to shine. The fire of faith illuminates the darkness continually beckoning us back to the font to drown our guilt, our fear, our shame, our bitterness in the promises of our Baptism. The light still shines calling us to find the comfort, community, and warmth in His Word. The Light of the World still eagerly invites us to dine at His altar feeding on the forgiveness that He offers. The light still shines through us out into the dark world as a beacon of truth and hope for those in our lives who have retreated into their own caves: a loved one who is dealing with a long-term illness, a friend who is disillusioned with the church, a family member struggling with addiction, a child whose parents are going through a divorce, a teen who lost a boyfriend or girlfriend – these are people who have the ability to see the light of Christ through our actions… through His Words that work through our words. Where Christ’s light dwells, darkness cannot abide.

May the Light of the World continue to shine for us and through us until the day that we see Him face to face. Amen.

they say, You say

Millenials

The experts call me a millennial.
Lack of attention span, ADHD,
Technology addiction is real,
Doomed to live and be selfish and lazy.

The experts call me an active Christian.
Behind the times, ignorant, and blind
To the art of science, truth’s last bastion.
How can I live with such chains on my mind?

jesus-on-the-cross1

When You look on me, You see what You made -
The talents, the loves, the skills, the faith, Your child.
Your Word renews me when I start to fade.
You care for me – not the labels run wild.

It takes a lot of work for me to learn
To see what you’ve made and not what I’ve earned.

~JPN 2014~