Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Sunday

The Risen Christ, by Norma Boeckler

Easter Day, The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

Mid-Week Lenten Services are Thursdays at 6 PM.

The Hymn #192 Gerhardt: Awake My Soul 1.22
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual 1 Cor 5:6-8
The Gospel Mark 16:1-8
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #199 Jesus Christ is Risen Today 1.83

Good Leaven and Bad Leaven

The Hymn #192 I Know That My Redeemer 1.80
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #207 Kingo: Like the Golden Sun 4.76

KJV 1 Corinthians 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

KJV Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst deliver Thy Son for our offenses, and didst raise Him again for our justification: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that He may rule and govern us according to Thy will; graciously keep us in the true faith; defend us from all sins, and after this life raise us unto eternal life, through the same, Thy beloved Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV Romans 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

Good Leaven and Bad Leaven
KJV 1 Corinthians 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I used to think this epistle selection for Easter Sunday was especially puzzling.

But I was reading the novels of Isaac B. Singer, who won the Nobel Prize for literature. He concentrated on tales about Judaism from his Polish homeland. Cleaning up the old leaven was a tradition in Judaism in celebration of the Passover.

In 2009 Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday April 8 and ends at nightfall on Thursday April 16 in the Diaspora (Wednesday April 15 in Israel).

“The rule against leaven applies not only to its consumption but also to enjoying any benefit thereof and even to its possession. Therefore, before the arrival of Passover, all leaven must be removed from one’s premises. Nor should one have leaven in his legal possession. In a simple economy, not having any leaven in one’s legal possession was easily accomplished. If by chance a bit of leaven was left, it could be disposed of with relative ease. When the economy became more complex, a new solution had to be found--selling one’s hametz to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover.”

“The night before Passover, immediately after sundown, one begins the search for leaven (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chayyim 431:1). The aim of the search is to be sure that no leaven has been left behind after the cleaning of the house.
The procedure includes these items: a candle; a feather, which acts as a broom; and a wooden spoon into which the pieces of bread will be scooped. First, a candle is lit, and the following benediction is recited:”
Removing the old leaven and starting anew is considered a cleansing and rebirth in rabbinic Judaism.

Paul continued in the Jewish liturgical traditions he learned as a rabbi and Pharisee. For Paul, leaven was especially powerful as a symbol of the old and the new.

In the Scriptures, leaven can be both good and bad.

In this brief parable, often overlooked, the power of the Gospel is compared to leaven, which is alive and continues to work in a batch of dough, constantly growing and influencing the dough. A tiny bit of yeast can grow in bread dough and raise the entire loaf, in the first rise and second rise, finally one more time in the oven.

KJV Matthew 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Bad leaven has a corrupting influence:
KJV Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

In my father’s bakery, we used one pound bricks of yeast for bread dough and bread doughnuts. If the yeast was old and bad, nothing would make that batch of dough good, no matter what ingredients were used. If the yeast was fresh and alive, the large bowl of dough grew faster than a Hollywood monster. The final product was light, fluffy, and delicious. In my hands a new brick of yeast would literally explode in different directions, leaving particles here and there. An old brick would crumble like dry, rotten wood.

The leaven in the Bible was sourdough, which could spoil, probably worse than the refrigerated and cultured yeast of our day. Bad leaven would spread its corruption throughout a batch just as much as good leaven would improve it.

A Day of Contrasts – Old and New
The morning of Easter was a divide in history, first for the women and the disciples, then for the entire world. The women were walking to the tomb carved in rock. The door of the tomb was rock that rolled in a groove. If anyone has moved larger stones, it is unlikely that it was a large round boulder. More likely it was flatter and perhaps shaped to be more like a lid. Moving it would be a chore for a man, impossible for three women.

Their first concern was, “Who will roll the stone for us?” They were still thinking of the old – sorrow, death, grief, and preparation of a corpse.

When they came to the tomb, the entrance was open. Non-Lutheran Protestants think the angels released Jesus from the tomb, but they are stuck in John Calvin’s confusion about the Two Natures of Christ. The divine nature of Christ was not and is not limited by His human nature. This is well stated in “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth,” by Paul Gerhardt.

“O Love, how strong Thou art to save, Thou beddest Him within the grave,
Whose Word the mountains rendeth.”

Could the Son of God, who turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled the storm, and raised the dead be imprisoned by a stone door? Previously in the Gospels Jesus displayed His divine ability to move at will, even when surrounded by angry mobs ready to kill Him.

Yet some artwork shows Jesus emerging from the tomb when the angels rolled the stone away.

In fact, the doorway was opened for everyone to see that the grave was already empty.

God provided an angel to tell the women not to fear grave robbers, but to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ, the Son of God.

NKJV Mark 16: 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, 6 "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 "But go, tell His disciples -- and Peter -- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you."

This is a three-fold statement about Jesus:
1. He was crucified.
2. He is risen.
3. He is not here – see the place where they laid Him.

Mourning turned to joy in an instant. This changed everything for the women and soon for the disciples.

Instead of grieving for a lost, condemned Teacher, they were following the risen Lord, the Redeemer of the world. This was a unique turn in history, repeated many times over for various converts in the future.

Paul was first a zealous Jew, persecuting the Christians. On the road to Damascus, he saw the risen Christ, who made him an apostle. The chief distinction of the apostles was their actual experience of the risen Christ. An apostolic witness could preach the Gospel and accompany it with his own experience of being with the crucified and risen Christ.

Paul had to feel this experience of old and new leaven especially since his life changed so dramatically on the road to Damascus.

Likewise, Augustine was the hero of the Silver Age in Ancient Rome, the greatest orator of his day, but not a Christian. His mother prayed for his conversion, and that happened with children singing a non-religious song, which led him to pick up the Scriptures (“Take and read,” they sang). The Word converted him. Augustine became a bishop and the greatest theologian of the Christian Church, until God raised up Martin Luther.

Many people have had that experience of old and new yeast, death and resurrection, when all the influences of the Word came together and created an instant conversion prepared carefully by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Word, coming from various directions.

Others have come to a better and clearer understanding of the Word because they saw people trying to trample it down, steal it, corrupt it, and replace it with something toxic but appealing in a superficial way.

For every Christian, the Gospel is eternal-life giving. Wherever the Gospel is spoken, eternal life springs up as people are justified by faith. God declares their innocent verdict on behalf of His Son’s innocent death and glorious resurrection, the Word of grace opening their hearts to the Gospel.

The resurrection of Christ is the constant reminder of His role as Lord of Creation. As the creating Word, the Son of God instilled in the universe all those laws that scientists continue to discover. One is the absolute certainty of death. All living things die. Some live for a short time. Others for more than a century. Before the flood, some lived for many centuries, but all died.

Jesus, human in all respects, also died. But God raised Him up from the dead. The laws of the universe do not bind the Lord of Creation. What is true for most is not true for those who follow Him. Not by their own merit, but through His merit, all believers inherit eternal life through forgiveness of sin.

Grief is still painful because of the love we feel for those we outlive. Our comfort in mourning comes from knowing that Christ conquered death with the cross and the empty grave.

Knowing about eternal life and believing in Christ can give us a better understanding of the material world. We love the blessings we receive from the Creator, but we also know that one thing must outlast us.

Strangely, people write up trusts to make sure their money lasts for a long time after death. Trusts often ruin the lives of those who benefit from them. Other people put their likenesses and names on bronze plates, because bronze plates last a long time. I like to read the names of people who were on the city council when a bridge was built. The granite or bronze plate is impressive – and all the names are forgotten. On TV some people say they live to pass on their special homes to the next generation: “My role is to preserve this home for those after me.” That is very touching, for someone who thinks a house lasts forever.

Some people worry about a particular church institution, a synod or a school or a church. One man created an enormous trust to benefit different three synods, and all of them face enormous financial difficulties today. Visible church institutions do not last. The Melanchthon Synod and Olive Branch Synods no longer exist in America. Dozens have faded away.

One thing must outlast us – that is the truth of the Gospel. Preserving the truth is God’s role. But He gives us one special task: to guard the Word. The truth revealed in the Scriptures and confessed in the Book of Concord, but many do not guard the Word.

If we continue to study the Word and abide in the Means of Grace, we play a small but significant role in preserving the truth of the Gospel. God will always maintain a faithful remnant, but that does not allow us to be passive and let the revealed Word be traded for a bowl of lentil soup.
Facing issues of life and death make us more aware of the importance of the eternal Word. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my Word will never pass away.” Far better to cling to the eternal Word than to passing attractions.

KJV John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Not long after she said, that Jesus went to her brother’s grave…

KJV John 11:43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

Lazarus emerged in his grave clothes, foreshadowing the resurrection of Christ, and the Last Day.

KJV John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

The Gospel calls us out of the old and into the new. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the new leaven. All the old leaven of corruption must be swept away in favor of the new leaven of Gospel forgiveness and eternal life.

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