Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Proper 12 of Series B (Mark 6:45-56)

“But immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Mark. Dear friends in Christ, the disciples were in trouble. Just hours before, they had witnessed one of Jesus’ greatest miracles, the feeding of the five thousand. In fact, He had used them as the instruments of that miracle, as they distributed the bread and fish, then picked up the pieces. But they could not remain on that wonderful hill forever. “Immediately [Jesus] made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd.” They were alone on the sea as Jesus found some much needed rest. “And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land.” But the sea is not a safe place, in fact it is a place of danger, it is no mistake that many Old Testament passages use the sea as a metaphor for death. The disciples were soon in big trouble. “And He saw that they were making headway painfully.” This verse is translated too softly. Mark tells us that disciples were being tormented, literally tortured by the wind and the waves as they rowed.

This is the same word used in Revelation to describe the torment and torture of hell. Yes, hell. That is not a word that we like to hear, or even think about. Heaven, yes that’s a place we can imagine, but hell? Even many Christians have a hard time believing that such a place even exists. It’s the subject of jokes and cartoon strips, the devil and his dwelling have become a part of pop culture. And like many things in pop culture, the terrible reality behind these images has been lost. Hear what God has to say about this place in His Holy Word: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.” This is no joke, this is a real place, and it is reserved for those who rebel against God, those who have followed Satan in His rebellion. Torment defines it, torment that was only slightly experienced by the disciples in our text. We cannot understand this terrible place rightly until we understand that unless someone acts to deliver us, it is our destination. This torment is the punishment that we deserve for our sin. We are like the disciples on the sea, alone and in need, surrounded by death and tormented by the threat of hell.

But behold, on the horizon a figure is approaching. “And about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them.” Someone is coming, and even though the disciples don’t recognize who it is, Mark tells us. This is God Himself, the second person of the Trinity walking upon the water, walking toward the disciples. Just as God passed by Moses in the cleft of the mountain, showing to Israel’s leader His glory, so Jesus wants to pass by the disciples, showing them His glory, showing them that He is true God. This is not necessarily a good thing. Throughout the Scriptures, God comes near to His people to give His holy Law, to show them and us how far we have fallen from His standards of holiness, to show us our sin. An appearance of the living and just God is not a good thing for sinful people, for those who with their thoughts, words, and actions reject Him and His love for us. In fact, this is a very bad thing, for the justice of God demands that He remove from His presence anything that is unholy. And we know that we are unholy, just as the disciples knew that about themselves.

“When they saw Him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they saw Him and were terrified.” No one who has a body could possibly be walking on the water, so it must be a ghost. Superstitions kick in for the disciples- they are in the middle of the sea, this old enemy and symbol of death. Moreover, they are being tormented by the wind and the waves, which seem to have the very character of hell itself. And now there is a ghost coming!? What response is there other than fear? But they would truly fear the fear of God’s Old Testament people if they realized what they were seeing. A disembodied spirit is terrifying enough, but a disembodied God brings His just judgment for our sin, He brings the Law, His glory is a terrible and terrifying thing for unclean sinners, His rebellious creation.

But this figure, coming to them through the storm, is not God in His naked glory and wrath, instead it has a real, physical, body. For this mysterious figure is God incarnate, God in the flesh, God come to this earth in bodily form. This is no ghost, this is Jesus Christ Himself, the one born of the virgin Mary as a true man, born to dwell among us bodily. This Jesus, true God and yet true man, ate and drank, He slept and went to the bathroom, He laughed and wept. He felt pain and joy, touched and was touched by others. This was no ghost, as the disciples feared, but a physical person, bearing human flesh just like us, for that was essential to what He had come to do. Jesus Christ took on human flesh to deliver us from the wind and waves of death, from the torment of hell. He came to live a perfect life, to dwell in the flesh just like us, yet without sin, as the Father intended for us. And He did this in our place, He did this for us, on our behalf. He lived the perfect life that we could not. And then He died the death we deserved.
He was true God and true man, and so He wept over those who condemned Him to death. He was true God and true man, and so He felt the excruciating pain as the nails pierced His wrists and feet, as He struggled to pull Himself up to breathe. He was true God and true man, and so He endured the tremendous hunger and thirst of crucifixion, His final fast. He was true God and true man, and so He felt the loneliness of God’s abandonment, the very pain and punishment of Hell itself. Hell is not about fire and brimstone, it is about separation from God, and on the cross, Jesus Christ endured in His body the pain and punishment we deserved for our sin. He did this in your place, because He loves you.

He suffered all of this in His body, the body He took on for our salvation. And in that body, that real, physical, human body, He was raised from the dead. “And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.” The fourth watch of the night is the final watch, the one during which you see the sun’s light drive the darkness away. In the fourth watch of the night, at the dawn of the first day of the week, Jesus Christ rose victorious over death, the stone was rolled away and the burial cloths were discarded. For Jesus had crossed the waters of death triumphantly, He had tread death underfoot just as He walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. And He did this bodily. The resurrected Jesus was no ghost, but instead He was raised up just as He walked this earth: real, physical, whole.

This resurrected, incarnate, bodily Jesus then speaks words of comfort to all people, to you and me, much as He did in our text. “They all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.’” My friends, these are the most beautiful words that Jesus could speak to anybody. All people, along with you and me, had reason to fear the just judgment of God, we had reason to fear hell. But Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection, speaks these words to you: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus has taken all fear away, for He has defeated death, He has trampled it under with the power of His resurrection, and He has removed the torment of hell from us. The disciples were in the midst of the sea of death, in torment from terrible forces, and Jesus bodily crossed over those dangerous waters to deliver them with words of absolution. We too were in the midst of death, in danger of spending eternity in torment for our sin, but Jesus bodily crossed over death itself to deliver us with words of absolution. When you read the declaration of the forgiveness of your sins in Holy Scripture, or hear it proclaimed by others, or when the pastor declares absolution in the stead of Christ, Jesus is saying to you: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”

But Jesus does not only operate with words. Remember, He is no ghost, but instead has been raised real, physical and whole, and so He comes to us in ways that are physical and bodily. He delivers to us the salvation He won, His victory over sin, death, and hell, in ways that are tangible, that we can see and feel. “And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe off His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” Jesus heals, He forgives, He saves, through a touch. On this very day, our incarnate, bodily risen Lord comes to us in this place in an amazing way. Mark tells us that the disciples “were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” They did not understand the great lesson of the feeding of the five thousand, that God in the flesh was on the scene to provide for His people. But there was an even greater lesson that they would miss until the night of Jesus’ betrayal. For that night Jesus took bread which He declared to be His Body, and a cup that He said now contained His Blood, and gave them to the disciples. What they could not understand about the loaves after Jesus walked on water now became clear. Jesus would be bodily present with His people through the Supper He has established. That would be the means of His physical, tangible presence with the Church until He came again.

Later in this service you will receive Christ’s very Body and Blood with the bread and the wine, the same Blood shed on the cross, the same Body risen from the grave. You will receive it for the forgiveness of sins, in intimate fellowship with your Incarnate, crucified and risen Redeemer and Savior. Through this feast, Jesus says to you: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” Come to the table, take eat, take drink, for our Lord is here, real, physical, bodily, for your salvation. May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ grant to you the assurance that you have been delivered from sin, death, and hell through His death and resurrection, this day and every day, until that day when you follow Christ’s bodily resurrection with your own, Amen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Proper 11 of Series B (Jeremiah 23:1-6)

“In His days Judea will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon today is from the Old Testament lesson read a few moments ago from the twenty-third chapter of the prophet Jeremiah. Dear friends in Christ, the eyes of Jesus see much more than mere human eyes. He had been teaching and performing miracles at a heavy pace for days on end, moreover, He had just received word that His cousin, forerunner, and friend, John the Baptist, had been beheaded. All He wanted was a little rest, some time to mourn and commune with His Father. But the crowds would not let Him. “Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.” When Jesus lifted His eyes, He saw a crowd, five thousand men, as many as 25,000 people, all hungering and thirsting for His words. They were dirty and hungry, poor and rich, the scum of the earth and those high in the estimation of others. But the eyes of Jesus Christ, true God in human flesh, saw much more than that. “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

These are some of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture. But there is little reason to be compassionate to these people. These ‘sheep without a shepherd’ are receiving exactly what they deserve for their sin. Why should rebellious people, why should you and I have faithful shepherds? What have we done to deserve such a gift from God? The entire Old Testament is filled with God’s dealings with His rebellious people. Over and over again they abandon Him and go after other gods, they chase after lust, they are greedy for money. Does that sound familiar? Human nature has hardly changed throughout the centuries. In response to their rebellion, to our rebellion, God declares in Jeremiah chapter nine: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts… I will scatter them among the nations whom neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.” God promises that His wandering people will receive what they deserve- He will use the follies of wicked shepherds to scatter His own people.

God does not make our shepherds wicked and unfaithful, but He instead their sinfulness becomes an instrument of His judgment. Before and after our Old Testament lesson, God condemns the unfaithful shepherds in the secular and spiritual realms, the kings of Judah and the lying prophets. Once again, human nature has hardly changed- we find unfaithful shepherds in both realms still today. But we who are sinful have often caused these problems through our own sin, and in many cases we ourselves are the unfaithful shepherds. We have all been entrusted with the care of others in some capacity, we all have people in our lives who look up to us in some way, and how often have we failed to shepherd them in the way that they should go? How often have we failed to call them to repentance when they sin? How often have we failed to point them to Jesus? How often have we fallen down in the more everyday tasks of providing for their bodily needs? Think through your life- many of you are fathers, mothers, grandparents, or teachers. Those are the obvious ones, but each and every one of us have others entrusted to us by our Lord, even if we don’t realize it. And all of us, from the ones who lead our country to the ones who shepherd God’s Church, to you and me, have fallen in our calling as shepherds.

God’s flock, you and I, might have deserved scattering, but God still declares His anger at those unfaithful shepherds. “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: ‘You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds,’ declares the Lord.” Things don’t sound good for the people of Israel or for you and me. Whether we are sheep or shepherds, God has thundered forth judgment. Israel herself is like a ruined tree, chopped down to a stump by God’s wrath, by the mismanagement of her shepherds.

But from that dead stump life will sprout. Isaiah declares in chapter eleven of his prophecy: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” God is more descriptive in our text for today: “Behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” From a nation that seemed to be dead, that was carted into exile and dispersed, God would send forth a green shoot, a shoot that would bring salvation to all people, to rebellious sheep and shepherds, to you and me. Jesus Christ was that Branch, He came forth from the line of David, from the house of rebellious Israel, from the dead stump that to our human eyes could bring forth no living thing. But yet Christ came, and He came born of a virgin, born as a man, yet also true God, the only begotten Son of the Father from all eternity.

He stepped into our world and looked around at all of us, rebellious sheep and unfaithful shepherds, those afflicted with the disease and curse of sin, and what did He see? “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” It was precisely this compassion that led Him to take on human flesh in the first place. For God’s love for you and me was so great that even in the midst of words of judgment, He would declare the promise that He would act, that He would bring forth salvation. “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.”

God’s shepherd, the promised Branch, would be characterized by one word: righteousness. “And this is the name by which He will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.” Jesus is our righteousness. He is our righteousness because He lived a perfect life in our place. He fulfilled the Law where we could not, He was completely and totally without sin. He was the perfect shepherd, the perfect king, the perfect lamb, He was perfectly obedient to the Father. Jesus Christ did not do this simply to show us some grand example of what we can be if we just try hard enough, no, He did this in our place, He did this because we could not. His life is our life, it is given to us because His righteousness extended all the way to a hill outside Jerusalem. On that Good Friday, the only person who ever lived a perfect life, the only person who was truly innocent, God Himself in human flesh, was nailed to a cross. And He was nailed there to fulfill the name that God declared He would bear: “The Lord is our righteousness.” The blood of the Good Shepherd poured forth that day for the sake of wandering sheep and unfaithful shepherds. When Jesus Christ cried out “It is finished!” His righteousness was now ours, for He had died the death and faced the punishment we deserved. He lived and died in our place, to deliver us, to save us, to grant us life. Through His sacrifice Jesus Christ is now your righteousness. Through Baptism His righteousness now covers you like a robe, so that when God looks at you, He sees His Son’s perfect obedience in life and death.

He also sees Christ’s triumph over death, the victory that He won on Easter Sunday. Through His death and resurrection, God is reconciled to us, peace is declared between God and man. We now have forgiveness for when we wander into sin, for when we fail as shepherds, because Jesus Christ took those sins to the cross and there paid the price for them, there He triumphed over them. Therefore our relationship with God is now characterized by peace. Saint Paul boldly declares in our Epistle lesson: “He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

Christ now goes out into the world through His Word proclaimed by His Church to bring that reconciliation near to people, to gather in the lost sheep. The same compassion that led Him to become man, that led Him to face the very punishment of hell on the cross leads Him to claim wandering sheep as His own through the declaration of the forgiveness of sins. “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.” The word used here for ‘fold,’ in the Hebrew, has the sense of the destination of a journey. A shepherd is constantly leading His flock toward green pastures and quiet waters. Despite the dangers and challenges along the way, the shepherd brings his flock to their destination.

The destination of Christ’s flock, the wandering sheep He has gathered in and purchased with His blood, is the heavenly pastures. That is your destination, because Jesus is your righteousness. “In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely.” The Hebrew word translated as ‘dwell securely’ has the root meaning of ‘trust.’ Because we trust in a Savior who gave His very life for us, we know that nothing can harm us for all eternity, we have the confidence that we are in His loving arms, that we have forgiveness of all our sins. Isaiah ties together all these themes so beautifully in chapter thirty-two of His prophecy: “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Because Christ is our righteousness, because we have peace with the Father through Him, we can pray in trusting faith with the Psalmist: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” May the Lord strengthen our faith through His Word and Holy Sacraments so that we may trust in His gracious protection and dwell securely in the heavenly pastures for all eternity, Amen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Historic Liturgy- A Tool for Missions? (Newsletter article for July)

From the Vicar,
Too often in our church body we have this mindset, spoken or unspoken, that we worship the way we do simply because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ We have this picture of ourselves that we are stodgy old Lutherans who don’t want to change, and therefore that is the only reason why our new hymnal has liturgies much the same as the old. My friends, if that is the reason we worship the way we do, then we are missing something. Furthermore, if we follow that line of reasoning, there is no reason why we should continue to worship in that way. I would even go so far as to say that this thought is the first step toward loosing the liturgy. We do not use the historic liturgy simply because it is historic, but because it preaches Christ.
To be sure, antiquity is one of the reasons we have kept the liturgy around, but not in a way you might expect. The service you find in our hymnals (what I will simply call ‘the liturgy’ in this article) has deep roots, roots which reach into the Old Testament. Its foundations are in the worship of the synagogue and the Passover liturgy. This was how Jesus worshipped, and it is how the early Christians worshipped. They took their Old Testament roots and brought in the gifts of Christ. This was very natural, for the gifts that Christ gives have Old Testament roots as well. The Service of the Word has its roots in the worship of the synagogue, while the Service of the Sacrament is rooted in the Passover liturgy. Each and every generation since has focused the liturgy around the two centers of Word and Sacrament. Some have added elements, and some have trimmed away unneeded additions, but throughout the focus has remained on the giving of Christ’s gifts in Word and Sacrament. Each generation has passed on to the next a liturgy that clearly proclaimed Christ and affirmed that He truly is present in our worship. The liturgy we have been given is truly a gift, a legacy that connects us with all who have gone before.
The liturgy has not become obsolete in the past forty years, after having served faithfully as a vehicle for Christ for nearly two thousand. It remains relevant because it proclaims Christ clearly, and Christ is always relevant. The proclamation of sin and salvation, man’s greatest need and God’s even greater Savior, needs to be heard by every person in every place, in every age. This message transforms people, it gives life to those who are dying and forgiveness to those under condemnation for their sin. Therefore, the liturgy, as it proclaims this message, transforms culture, not the other way around. A liturgy that is subject to the whims of culture cannot proclaim the life-changing Gospel clearly, for it has allowed itself to be changed by the world. Our worship is not bound by culture or subject to it, it is not ‘German’ or ‘American,’ it is biblical, transcending culture and time. It in fact creates its own culture, a way of life centered on the reality of Jesus Christ.
The liturgy is relevant because it acknowledges the fact that God incarnate, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is truly present in Word and Sacrament. The very same Body and Blood that was given and shed on the cross is given to us in the Sacrament of the Altar. The liturgy is relevant because it turns our focus away from ourselves, from the individualism that is so rampart today. Instead we receive God’s gifts in community, using a liturgy that connects us with Christians around the world and Christians throughout the centuries. The liturgy is not our unique possession, to do with it what we please, but instead it belongs to the entire Church. Therefore (and this is the greatest asset of what we have been given), the liturgy takes the focus off of ourselves and what we are doing for God, placing it squarely on Christ and what He is giving to us. That is the gift we have been given, a gift that proclaims Christ for us clearly.
Thinking of the liturgy in this way will involve a change of thinking, a change of mindset. Seeing the liturgy as an asset is most definitely thinking ‘outside the box,’ and it is a lonely road, because very few are looking at it in this way. But I would maintain that this is the first step toward becoming a ‘missional’ congregation. Once we see our liturgy as an asset to our proclamation of Christ, as a great gift that has been lovingly bestowed on us by the entire Christian Church, will we be motivated to bring others into contact with Christ’s gifts. Then our worship will be filled with reverence and beauty, joy and enthusiasm. I encourage you to learn more about why we worship the way we do (this article has barely scratched the surface). When we realize what a gift we have, how can we help but share it with others?
In Christ,
Vicar Maronde

Proper 8 of Series B (Mark 5:21-43)

“But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning is from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Mark. Dear friends in Christ, a week ago was Father’s Day. On that Sunday we celebrated all those men who cared for us, nurtured us, and provided for us. As you heard the Gospel lesson read this morning, some of you probably thought that this would’ve been a perfect text for that day. If that was the case, then your preacher would’ve been tempted to spend the entire sermon talking about the example of Jairus as a caring and loving father. That’s all true and good to talk about, but this text has much more to teach us than simply the example of Jairus. He is important, but he is by no means the focus, as we will soon find out.

“And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing Him, he fell at his feet.” Jairus was a leader of the Jewish community, and unlike most of the other leaders, he recognized Jesus as one from God, as one who just might be the Messiah. This ruler of the synagogue came to Jesus with a critical request. “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” The urgency of His situation is apparent to all who hear these words. She is in the throes of death, the very last hours of her life. He loves his daughter, as a father he wants to protect her and care for her. He wants to find her help. It is at this moment that the penalty for sin becomes all the more apparent. Jairus is a ruler of the synagogue, a student of the Scriptures. He knows how death came into the world, and now it is extending its cold fingers toward his child. At the deathbed or at a funeral, we need no one to tell us the penalty for sin, we do not need any object lessons. All of humanity is “at the point of death,” facing the penalty for our sin, for the corruption that fills us. The daughter of Jairus is simply another victim of our greatest enemy. But Jairus will not accept defeat, and so he goes to the only one that he believes can help her, the one who has helped so many others, Jesus of Nazareth.

He cries out to this wandering rabbi in words that echo the cries of all of fallen humanity: “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” This father and ruler of the synagogue comes to Jesus with the confidence that He can defeat death and disease. Jairus knows how Jesus operates. All He has to do is lay His hands on her, and she will be made well and delivered from the hands of death back to life again. Only Jesus can reverse the disease and grant her health. In the same way, all of fallen humanity, you and me, cry out to God with these same words- ‘We are at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on us, so that we may be made well and live.’

But even if we know that we need salvation, even if we know the only place to turn for our salvation, deliverance does not come on our schedule. Jairus made the urgency of his situation very clear to Jesus: “My little daughter is at the point of death.” He needs Jesus at her side right now, but other events intervene. A woman touches Jesus’ garments, and His stops to find out who and why. We can only imagine the depth of Jairus’ anguish as he watches Jesus pause on the way to heal his daughter. So often our God seems to be distracted by interruptions. He promised salvation immediately after the first sin, and Eve thought that her son would be the Messiah, but still God waited. We look around us at a world that is getting worse and worse, and we wonder what God is waiting for, what could possibly be holding Him up? Every generation of Christians has asked that question, they have cried out to God, ‘O Lord, how long?’ When we see our loved ones in the grip of death, or we ourselves are afflicted by disease, we want deliverance and healing right now, we don’t want to wait. Impatience can lead us to become angry with God, or to pay no attention to our spiritual life, falling into apathy. When we no longer care about heavenly deliverance, but instead wish to wallow in the filth of this sinful world, we have let impatience for the deliverance of God consume us.

Instead we are to cry out to God for deliverance and salvation, and then wait patiently for Him to deliver on His promises. Just like Jairus, we are right to want rescue from this world of sin, from this body of death, but this desire for deliverance should bring patience and faith, not impatience and unbelief. Jairus, despite the turmoil within him, despite his love for his daughter, does not complain, he does not try to prevent the healing of this woman, but instead having brought his urgent request before Christ, he waits for the promised deliverance. He trusts Jesus to save his daughter at just the right time, even if to his human eyes it seemed like the timing was completely wrong. As our Old Testament lesson for today puts it: “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”

As Jairus waits, the woman is healed and sent on her way. Finally, Jesus can now go to heal his daughter. But messengers arrive, and the message they carry is the one he has feared. “While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’” Can you imagine what Jairus felt as he heard these words? Death had won, it had triumphed over his daughter, all of his patience now counted for nothing, and in fact it seemed that only impatience would’ve saved his daughter. The hope he had, the confidence he held in Jesus’ ability to heal and deliver was apparently misplaced. Now there was little left to do but send Jesus away and mourn.

And on a cross only a couple years later, all humanity would think the same thing. The disciples and hundreds of others placed their trust in this wandering rabbi, this one who claimed to be the very Son of God. They believed that He was the promised Messiah, the one sent to restore fallen creation, to release all people from the iron grip of death, the one to answer our urgent request- ‘We are at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on us, so that we may be made well and live.’ But instead, on a Friday afternoon, this man who claimed to be God hung on a cross, dead. The Jewish leaders had accused Him, the Romans had crucified Him, the angry crowds had cried out for His blood. He had been scourged and beaten, forced to carry the instrument of death up to Golgotha. There, as the women wept, He endured the pain of death and the mocking of His enemies. And now He hung there, limp and lifeless, death had apparently triumphed, the hope that Jesus had brought was crushed. What had the patience of centuries of waiting brought? A corpse on a cross.

But if Jairus and all humanity believed that death had won, they were about to be surprised. “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, "Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.” The messengers did not want Jairus to bother Jesus any longer, but apparently He wanted to be bothered. He wanted to see the corpse, perhaps simply to mourn with a devastated father. “Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Talitha cumi," which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.” Jesus of Nazareth, who up to now had simply been a miracle-worker, here shows Himself as the Lord of life, as the One with the power over death. Amazement does not begin to describe how the family felt. Their daughter, who was dead, is now alive!

Jesus Christ slept in a tomb for three days as His followers despaired and wondered what came next. But on Easter Sunday the stone at its entrance was rolled away, and the Lord of life walked out, triumphant over death. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rose just as He said to Jairus’ daughter: “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” His death was not some grand mistake, not some interruption to God’s plan, but instead absolutely necessary to it. Jesus Christ was crucified and died for the sins of all people, He shed His blood for you and for me. He died the death we deserved, He took all of our sin to the cross and there He paid the price for them. And now on Easter Sunday, He follows the raising of Jairus’ daughter, with one important difference. That little girl would die again, but Jesus Christ goes forth triumphant over the grave never to enter the grave again, as the Lord of life triumphant over death. He paid for our sins, crushed Satan’s head, and defeated death through His death and resurrection, through the cross and empty tomb. And He did this all for you and your salvation.

And so, while we follow the example of the patience of Jairus, that is not where we see ourselves in this account. We instead will follow the pattern of his daughter. We were all caught in the grip of death, doomed to temporal and eternal death and punishment. But God sent to us Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to take our sin to the cross and pay the price we owed, then rise from the grave triumphant over all that held us captive. Death is a defeated enemy, and so Jesus says to us, ‘Child of God, I say to you, arise!’ With the power of His Word we are raised from the dust of death by the Lord of life, by the one who defeated death for us. He proclaims to us this Word that makes alive through the Holy Scriptures, through the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins. He touches you with salvation just as He touched the little girl’s hand when He pours on you water, or gives to your very lips bread and wine which are His Body and Blood. Christ makes you alive through the gift of His forgiveness, giving to you what He won in your place.

And so we pray, we cry out to God with the confidence that death is a defeated enemy, that Christ triumphed over it on Easter Sunday. We live as children of the resurrection, as those incorporated into the death of Christ through Baptism. And because we are now participants in His death, we will participate in His life- forever, a life without end, a life lived in the glory of Jesus Christ, our risen Savior. Death has lost its sting, it has now simply become the gateway to life. On that Last Day Jesus will say to each and every person redeemed by the blood of Christ, to you and me- ‘Child of God, I say to you, arise!’ And we will arise, delivered from sin and death to live with Him forever. May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ help us to wait patiently for that day, Amen.