salvation

Life, Death, and the Illusion of Autonomy

We are fast approaching the date of November 1st. While it is celebrated in the Christian Church as All Saints’ Day, the day will have a darker event this year for which the world wants to celebrate. It is the day that 29-year-old Brittany Maynard has chosen to end her life as opposed to suffer the effects of terminal cancer. While the news cycle has died and other stories have taken precedence in our minds, I would like to bring the story back to the forefront of our minds. If you need refreshing, here is the article.

Between when this story broke and now, I have read numerous articles that speak to the subject of suicide, physician-assisted suicide, Christian responses to suicide, etc. While many of the articles have good information, many of them miss the point. They miss the point because they start from the wrong point. Many of the articles debate whether or not her choice is the right choice. However, the distinct teaching of Christianity is that this decision does not belong to Brittany. At the risk of sounding like a raving jerk-face, let me state that again: Biblical Christianity does not give Brittany the choice to end her life in a God-pleasing way. Therefore, Christians should consider this topic with extreme care. As Christians, there are basically two responses to this story, and they both have to do with the subject of autonomy.

autonomy3

For those that are unclear:

Autonomy*

1.  the quality or state of being self-governing; especially the right of self-government

2. self-directing freedom and especially moral independence

3. a self-governing state

So, in response to this story, the Christian has two proper responses to this subject. The first response is to ask if Brittany Maynard is a Christian. If she is not a Christian and can appeal to no higher code of morality, her morality becomes subjective or, at the very most, collective. Subjective morality dictates that the idea of specific morals falls within the autonomous decision of each individual. In this case, one must tip their hat to Brittany and wish her “Bon voyage!” A collective morality would dictate that specific morals fall within the concept of “greater good” for humanity as a collective. In this case, once again, we must tip our hat to Brittany. What good is there to watching a loved-one suffer from a devastating disease? How does this benefit morality as a whole? One could very easily defend Mrs. Maynard’s position from collective morality.

However, what if Brittany Maynard is a Christian? It would follow that she believes in a deity that created her, loves her, and cares for her. She would also believe in a God who is always good. Always right. Always in control. The Bible (i.e. God’s revelation to us and the source and norm for the faith and doctrine of the historic Christian Church) is very clear that only One has the right to be in control of life and death. The One who made us. Even in the midst of this sinful world and the evils therein (i.e. cancer), God is still in control and working for His people. It may not seem fair. It may not seem right. But (here comes raving jerk-face again) that is inconsequential. What we think is fair or right does not matter. WE ARE NOT AUTONOMOUS!!!! God is. We are His creation. We do not get to pick and choose the parts of God that we like or understand. That is not how Christianity works!

And before you ask it, the question is NOT how could a good God allow this? The proper Biblical question, answer, and hope is: What is God doing through this? The answer is that God has not changed. God is working through the exact same means that He has always worked. He works through His Word to bring comfort, hope and direction to our lives. He comes to kill us with His Law and resurrect us with the Gospel. He comes in Holy Communion to cleanse of us of our sins, and strengthen us in our lives of faith. He uses His people of every time and place to provide the healing salve of comfort, the bright ray of perseverance, and the everlasting hope of a new heaven and a new earth where there is no more cancer or illness or death. The comfort of faith does not come through the hope that God will heal someone who is terminally ill. The comfort of faith comes through the promise that God will endure with us through every challenge with the same Means of His Grace that have functioned our entire lives. Life and death are not ours to control. That is not the fruit we should eat, if you will. Autonomy is only an illusion on which we, as American Christians, have gorged ourselves. God is in control. He is good. He loves us so much that there is life that awaits us beyond cancer, hospital, and grave.

All Saints' DayAs you gather with the saints of God in worship this Sunday and as you celebrate All Saints’ Day, remember the life and reunion that awaits. Partake of the means by which God gives you the strength to endure. Put your trust in Him who has the whole world in His hands.

*Definition taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Advertisements

O God, Forsake Me Not!

During my morning study the other day, I came across this gem. It is hymn # 730 in Lutheran Service Book.

O God, forsake me not! Your gracious presence lend me;
Lord, lead Your helpless child; Your Holy Spirit send me
That I my course may run. O be my light, my lot,
My staff, my rock, my shield – O God, forsake me not!

O God, forsake me not! Take not Your Spirit from me;
Do not permit the might Of sin to overcome me.
Increase my feeble faith, Which You alone have wrought.
O be my strength, my power – O God, forsake me not!

O God, forsake me not! Lord, hear my supplication!
In every evil hour Help me resist temptation;
And when the prince of hell My good conscience seeks to blot,
Be then not far from me – O God, forsake me not!

O God, forsake me not! Lord, I am Yours forever.
O keep me strong in faith That I may leave You never.
Grant me a blessed end When my good fight is fought;
Help me in life and death – O God, forsake me not!

It occurred to me that we often pray this prayer corporately in worship and individually in private. It might come in different forms with different words, but our prayer remains the same. For the Christian, a life without God in your corner is a life that is full of fear and trepidation. So our prayer is often, “God, help me”, or “God, don’t forget about me”, or “God, be with me”, or simply, “GOD!!!!” Many times, our prayers are simply one-word exclamations because we do not know what to say.

I have, often, preached that God holds true to His promises to never leave or forsake His people. I have, often, pointed to the date of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as places where we see the presence of God in our lives. His washing us. His feeding us. However, it occurred to me that the Word is a vital weapon of the Christian that oft goes overlooked. We know about the Scriptures. We know the accounts of the Scriptures. But there are many times when we fail to see the Scriptures containing the wisdom and the power of God. For this is precisely what the Gospel message contains (Romans 1:16). It is the confidence that God has not forsaken us. He is here for us in time and eternity with His Holy Word. It is a Word that, at its center, conveys the salvation of God’s people through Jesus. It is a Word that saves. It is a Word that encourages. It is a Word that teaches. It is a Word that endures.

May the Word of God always be the power of God’s salvation in your life. May you read it. May you cherish it. Always.

Find Rest for Your Souls

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light

ox-yoke

Jesus had just exploded the minds of the disciples and His hearers all across that Galilean countryside by the time that we arrive at our Gospel reading for this morning. From the time of the great Sermon on the Mount of Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus had healed a leper, a centurion’s servant, a paralytic, some woman who touched the edge of the cloak He was wearing, two blind men, two men with demons, one man who couldn’t speak, Peter’s mother-in-law, along with the countless droves that descended upon the house afterwards, and He raised a girl from the dead. Just for fun, in the middle of it all, He calmed a storm out on the Sea of Galilee.

The most recent spectacle had been centered around Jesus’ teachings. He began taking on the Pharisees and Scribes at every turn. He talked about the persecution that His disciples, His little ones, would have to endure. The very teachings and life of Jesus would act like sword that would sever relationships even those who were family members. He encouraged His followers to not fear though because there was One who was mightier behind it all. And like we heard in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus was pulling back the curtain to reveal the God who was behind all that was transpiring… for everyone who receives Christ, receives the Father. Ultimately, the life of a disciple of Jesus isn’t about who is greatest. It isn’t about rewards. It is always and only about Jesus.

The disciples weren’t the only ones losing their minds either. John, who was imprisoned and, unbeknownst to him, was awaiting his execution, hears about all of the things Jesus is doing. He hears about all of the things Jesus is saying. While it is not clear if John is doubting, he is certainly confused at the least. So John sends his disciples to ask Jesus a simple, straightforward question: “Are you the One that is supposed to come? Or should we look for another?” In other words, “Yo! Jesus! Please tell me that you know what you’re doing!” Jesus responds back using the language of the prophecies of Isaiah, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” And just in case anyone had their doubts about John, Jesus puts those down also – “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

While those with ears were listening, Jesus had a few more things to say, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were the regions that had seen first-hand the works of Jesus. The healings. The raising to life. The demons cast out. The blind seeing. The deaf hearing. The mute speaking. The works foretold by Isaiah. These all happened in their midst. And, yet, they are skeptical. Shame on them.

Then, in a somewhat surprising twist, Jesus turns His focus from the world to His disciples… those that had also seen and heard everything to this point… and gives a prayer of thanks to the Father. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” The wisdom of God and the plan of salvation is hidden from the wise and given to the little children… the disciples of Jesus. Earthly wisdom and worldly stature cannot reveal the plan of God. Yet, the simplest of minds can understand it when the Spirit reveals it to them. This is truly the working of God. [Head explodes]

Then Jesus turns to His disciples, in the midst of their confusion and bewilderment, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Jesus knew the road that He had to follow to Calvary. He knew the road that most of the twelve would follow. Crucifixions, torturous imprisonments, vile executions, beatings, tears over the lost, never-ending endeavors to gather God’s lost sheep, the toil of managing a growing church in the midst of persecution. Jesus knew it all. And He speaks these words to them. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the Old and New Testaments, there are really two separate ideas used when it comes to the metaphor of a yoke. In the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament, the metaphor of a yoke bears the idea of an animal yoke. It is something that weighs you down, and something of which you struggle with all of your might to rid yourself. It is something to which two animals might be yoked together so that the work might be more bearable, in and of itself it is a burden. However, in the rest of the places in the New Human yokeTestament, the metaphor of a yoke is used to talk about the yoke that a human might wear in order to make the work that he has to do easier. Yes, the person will yearn to rid himself of the yoke when the work is done, but it is, nonetheless, something that allows you to accomplish a task that is before you with more ease than if you had to bear it on your own. Notice the tenor of Jesus’ statement now. He knows that there is labor and toil ahead of those believers that will weigh them down. It will discourage them. It will be impossible to do by themselves. So Jesus, extends His yoke. This life will not be easy but when we find ourselves wearing Jesus’ yoke, we find the peace and rest our souls need… even in the midst of the worst turmoil and grief.

This is no metaphorical peace and rest because our grief and pain… our turmoil and temptations are real. The calamities and sin in our lives and the lives of others bring about real delusions, real devastation, real weariness and trepidation. A metaphorical relief to these things would be of no solution to you. It would amount to nothing more than a pat on the shoulder from your old buddy, Jesus, telling you to buck up because things are going to get better. Don’t worry! There’s always tomorrow! However, when tomorrow arrives with the same problems as today, the shortcomings of our weak hope will only darken the hallways of life. We would be left with the same question as John the Baptist. “Is Jesus the One, or should we look for another?”

Jesus knows our grief and pain. He knows what it is like to lose a loved one expectedly after a longsuffering disease, or unexpectedly… so fast that it turns your life upside down. Jesus knows the proverbial monkey of addiction that you carry around. He knows the hidden prayers you mutter as lies and deceit burn another bridge. He knows the empty promises and the hopelessness out of which they are made. He knows that worry about the future that plagues every moment that you are awake. He knows the worry doesn’t go away but only intensifies when you go to sleep. He knows that the income and the bills aren’t zeroing out. He knows the hurt that is left by an unfaithful spouse. He knows the guilt you carry when you are the unfaithful one. He knows when you that you stole one extra pen from the bank. He knows that you told one little white lie that only you and Him will ever know. He knows when you’ve faltered. He knows how hard you try to keep on going. He knows that your yoke is heavy. He knows that the weight you carry is crushing you. So He gives you real comfort and real rest in the midst of your real pain.

He gives you your baptism. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life- giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St Paul says in Titus, chapter three:“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” The real salvation that Jesus won for you on the cross is actually given to you in Your Baptism. You are given the yoke of Christ in those wonderful waters combined with the all-creating Word of God. The Word that creates faith… that creates life… even and especially amongst dead sinners.

He gives you His Words of forgiveness in the words spoken by your pastor. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”What do you believe according to these Ordinatinowords?I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself. There is a reason that this congregation has called three fellow sinners to stand in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus… so that you would know for certain that all of your sins are forgiven… those forgiven corporately or privately. In forgiveness, Christ, again, reminds you that His yoke is the one you wear.

He gives you the Supper. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.” Brothers and sisters, do not deny yourself the very gifts that Christ brings! For what do we receive at this table than the very real body and blood of Christ for our very real lives of sin, death, and trials? Here is where we receive the very yoke of Christ. Every promise is fulfilled to us in these Means of Grace… these yokes of Christ… which allow us to persevere until that day when we need no yoke and we bask in the blessings of our Savior for eternity with the innumerable saints of heaven. May God bring this to completion in the day of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

Punishment, Providence, and Pentecost

And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Throughout the course of your life, have you ever had those things – events – happenstances that you are warned about over and over again but, for one reason or another, you never heeded the warnings? Have you ever had those diabolical situations that you have to learn for yourself? You have to explain the broken window because you were using the real baseball that is never supposed to be used in the back yard. The black eye that you have to live with because you smarted off to a guy who was bigger than you.

Our lives are full of the repercussions of our actions. The child who sneaks a cigarette from his uncle’s pack and gets sick after smoking it. The one who imbibes too much alcohol and pays the awful consequences the next day. The one who crosses to the other side for greener grass only to find that the grass is greener but only because the manure is deeper. We have stories that could fill embarrassing volume after embarrassing volume of “America’s Funniest Fails”. When we are honest with ourselves, however, these things are often not funny. These repercussions… these punishments often wound our pride, affect our attitude, and can even leave us angry and bitter that no one stepped in to bail us out. What hurts even more is that, if we really take a look at the events that fill the volumes of the library of our life, the fateful pages hurt us because the pain and anguish suffered therein are much our own doing. We have been warned. We have been shown the consequences of sin.

In our Old Testament lesson for today, we have a sobering example of the arrogance and stiff-neckedness of God’s people. God had done so much for the people of Israel already and yet they complained. They wanted out of Egypt so God led them out with His mighty arm. They had to get away from Pharaoh so God parted the Red Sea for them. They were thirsty so God gave them water from a rock. They were hungry so God gave them manna to eat. And still in the section before our passage for today, we read that they complained.

“Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

The people wanted meat. They got meat, and God gave them something more. They also received the Word of God for the betterment of their souls. Instead of giving thanks and treasuring this benevolent act of God, they wanted it stopped. “Moses, stop them!” Joshua cries. “Its not their job! We shouldn’t have to listen to them! We don’t even like listening to you!” The gift of the Spirit is a great gift for God’s people. It is the Spirit that allows them to see God’s providence even in the midst of sin and punishment. It is the Spirit that allows them to understand the will of God and heed His Word, and, yet, they reject it. Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them! This was the wish of Moses. That all would understand. In short, Moses is wishing that the Spirit’s work would happen in everyone’s life… that all would be called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified. But they turned it away. They denied the Word and ate their quail and the Lord’s anger was kindled. They rejected their Lord. Israel had ceased to live as His people, and just like He promised on Sinai, God stopped treating them as His people. A plague wiped out a good many of them, as Numbers 11:33 states, “while the meat was still in-between their teeth”. I wonder if Joshua would recall that day in the near future when He would take over for Moses and address the people of Israel.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

The people of Israel, even though they saw mighty acts of God after mighty acts of God, still had to be reminded not to reject the same life-giving acts of God. It seems that even the people of God are slow learners.

The same kind of response is given in our reading from Acts for this morning. The Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples with the sound of a rushing wind. The gathered travelers making their pilgrimages to Jerusalem began to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in their own language. People believed, but many were skeptical. The most cynical of the responses doubted the disciples’ sobriety. However, Peter responds that there was no drunkenness at fault here. This is the work of the Spirit. People believed and were saved. The church began to grow throughout the world from that point forward. Yet there were still people who doubted. There were those who didn’t want to hear the words of the Spirit. They didn’t want to know the Word of the Lord. I guess it seems that the people of God have always been slow learners.

The Lord constantly puts the same thing before us each and every day. The same Spirit that fell upon the Moses, the seventy elders, Eldad, and Medad is the same Spirit that is given us in our Baptisms. The same Word of God that caused the manna to appear, the quail to come, and the providential care of God for His people is the same Word of God that comes to us in Scriptures, in worship, in preaching… it is the same Word of God that is taught in Bible classes, Sunday school, and in our grade school. The same life, forgiveness, and faith-sustaining care is given to us in the safety of our homes in books that are barely opened. It is given to us through the mouths of faithful preachers, teachers, patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith that are ignored, silenced, or pushed to the periphery of our lives. It is given to us in the words of the liturgy, hymns, font, and table as we gather united by the Spirit in this place but only when it is convenient, when it doesn’t cramp our schedule too much, or as long as we have nothing else at all to do because then, I guess, we might as well show up and get some Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, I regret to inform you that this beautiful house of God often reeks of the stench of the death that we often choose instead of choosing life. Our sinful nature distracts us, deceives us, and disillusions us. It decries the Word of God in our midst. It hates the words of the Spirit. Our sinful nature hates the words of the Spirit because they mean death for our sinful nature. The daily drowning of our Old Adam that happens through God’s Word and Spirit. Our sinful nature tries to convince us that this place is not worth our time and effort, because this is the very place where our sinful nature is drowned time and time again this side of eternity. Martin Luther speaks this way in the Small Catechism. When speaking about the baptized life of God’s people, he says,

What does such baptising with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?

St Paul writes in Romans chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

We have been raised to new life in Christ. The gift of the Spirit in our lives through Baptism, God’s Word, the Lord’s Supper, the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of our faith in Christ. These are real gifts. They have real power, and no matter how many times we have forsaken them in the past, Christ is here with them for you again today. All of the forgiveness you need… all of the faith you desire… all of the hope that you long for is here as your God, once again, visits you with life and salvation. Through the wondrous acts of our loving God… every week… every day, the stench of death is taken away. The Holy Spirit continues to make Himself present for us. That is the beauty of God’s providence and care for you. He does not only take care of your physical needs, but He takes care of your soul also. That’s the beauty of Pentecost. God does not just restrict the Spirit to 70 elders or just the disciples. In Pentecost and in every day since, we witness the wish of Moses realized. The people of God are called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified through the work of the same Holy Spirit. You are God’s people called by the Gospel, enlightened with His gifts, sanctified and kept in the true faith. We do not treat God’s Word with the disdain or indifference as the world because God’s Word, spoken, read, and received, is the very gift that gets us past this life to life everlasting. May God who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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!