Tag Archives: the cross

Resurrection Sunday: Principal Service, Year B

For Whom Are You Looking?

A pall or shroud has been cast over all people. That covering weighs us down. Job of the Old Testament asked:

If mortals die, will they live again?
    All the days of my service I would wait
    until my release should come.  (Job 14:14)

We can imagine infinite life. It is something most people would want. But we cannot achieve it on this earth. We eventually die. Science is always looking for a way round death. Some are saying that our consciousness could morph into a computer somehow. Is there a way to become immortal? What is standing in our way?

God had told Adam and Eve that they could eat fruit from any tree in Garden of Eden except one tree. If they ate of that tree they would die. We remember that Satan tricked us:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”   (Genesis 3:4-5)

Satan lied when he said we would not die, because sin is what causes death. Science looks for wisdom around death. Satan promised we would have the wisdom of God. But our so-called wisdom falls short.

Only God can solve our predicament. He revealed his plan through the Prophet Isaiah:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
    the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
    the sheet that is spread over all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
    and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
    This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  (Isaiah 25:6-9)

Salvation was coming by God’s plan. In the fullness of time, God would send his Son into the world that death and the fear of death would be eradicated, along with all sin. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord would be saved.

The Apostle Peter, by revelation from God, gained an understanding of the universality of God’s plan. When God revealed to him that even Gentiles could be saved, he proclaimed:

They put Jesus to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”   (Acts 10:39-43)

On the morning of his resurrection Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. It was his first resurrection appearance. We have the account in the Gospel of John. Mary is distraught because she believed that someone has stolen the body of Jesus from the tomb. Then she has an encounter with Jesus, whom she thought might be a gardener. Jesus asked Mary Magdalene: “Whom are you looking for?”

When Mary discovers that Jesus has risen from the dead her whole life changed. As prophesied by Isaiah: “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” Jesus then told Mary:

“Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”   (John 20:17)

Jesus is not the only one who is resurrected. He has gone before so that we may follow him. We, too, have been raised up with him if we receive this message by faith.

Whom are we looking for today? Does science offer us hope of immortality? Can we discover the miracle cure that extends our lives indefinitely? Many people are looking in the wrong place. Such wishful thinking is really a denial of sin.

No one can solve the problem of death who does not first solve the problem of sin. Only Jesus has solved them both:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (Romans 6:23)

Jesus has removed the disgrace of our sins. He has fulfilled the promise of Isaiah.

Thanks be to God, the Lord Jesus Christ is risen! The Lord has risen indeed! Are we ready to tell others this good news? It is the message which

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Filed under Easter, Feast Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Resurrection Sunday, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B

Good Friday

Behold the Lamb of God

Long before the cross was even an instrument of torture and death there was prophecy concerning a certain death by crucifixion. Long before anyone had experienced this torturous death we have a perfect description of the crucifixion of Jesus:

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.

My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.

For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.

They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.  (Psalm 22:14-18)

What was the purpose for such an agonizing death? The Prophet Isaiah tells us:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6)

In the face of so great a sacrifice on our behalf what are we to do?

Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  (Hebrews 10:19-23)

The cross always brings us to the point of decision. We cannot look away from it. We must look upon the Lamb of God in His agony. If we are to participate in the victory of Jesus on the cross, we must first taste of His passion. It is a defeat of our flesh. It is a defeat of our will. It is a defeat of our pride. Down through the ages the cross has spoken to humankind. What is the cross saying to us today?

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Tuesday in Holy Week

1128_044219510_p_348Children of the Light

Holy Week reminds us of the contrast between darkness and light. Darkness was all around Jesus but He continued to radiate the love of God. The message that He wanted to convey to His disciples was that they should choose the light over darkness:

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”  (John 12:35-36)

We have been called  by Jesus to walk as children of the light. Young children to be open and trusting, particularly if they are raised in a loving environment. When we get older we become more aware of our shortcomings and we want to hide them. We don’t want others to see through us because we know that we are not altogether pure. The Pharisees made it a practice of diverting the gaze of others from them by compounding rules that others would not be able to keep. They created darkness to obscure that fact that they were not walking in the light themselves.

While we have Jesus we should walk in Him. He extends His hand to us but we must grasp it. Though He warned the Pharisees they would not listen. There might be a time when we do not have Jesus. All anyone can attempt to do without Him is to coverup. Yet darkness is only a temporary solution. Ultimately, it is no solution at all. Why should we depend upon deception when we can depend upon God?

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

God’s light does not come through our good deeds. Our light is a gift and a promise which God made through the Prophet Isaiah:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”   (Isaiah 49:6)

Jesus is the light of the world. He is our salvation. Are we open to Him as a little child would be, or are we hiding in the darkness of our own making? Let our prayer be the one of today’s psalms:

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
    incline your ear to me and save me.   (Psalm 71:1-2)

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