Monday, April 26, 2010

Sermon for 25 April 2010, Easter 4C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Acts 20:17-35

The Shepherd’s Word of Grace

The Fourth Sunday of Easter

25 April 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Paul has been busy doing the Lord’s work. That’s what a shepherd does. He has been calling to the Lord’s sheep, both Jew and Gentile to gather around the Lord’s Word and Gifts. Last week’s reading from Acts 9 told the story of Paul’s conversion and first preaching in the synagogues. Back then he was called Saul. By Acts 13, Saul is called Paul. Cyprus, Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Syria. Then, the First Church Council in Jerusalem, Acts Chapter 15. (It sounds quite different from the upcoming LCMS Convention in Houston this July.) Paul resumes his missionary journeys: Macedonia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Antioch, Ephesus. Remember Ephesus.

We are tempted to be bored by names, by history. Who cares about dusty old names? Who cares about dead white guys? What does any of this have to do with anything?

Think about these names instead: Sheridan, Big Horn, Dayton, Story, Ranchester, Banner, Clearmont, and Buffalo. We care more about those, don’t we? We know those towns. We live in those communities. We care about people there. We recognize “Montana” and “Wyoming,” but have a lot more trouble with “Macedonia” and “Syria.” We should care about the places mentioned in our text because the Gospel was preached there. We care about them because these are our spiritual fathers and mothers in the faith, our Christian ancestors. We are joined to them because we confess the same God, believe in the same resurrected Christ, and receive the same forgiveness of sins the same way they did: Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Gospel, Holy Communion. We’re reading about our Christian family!

Who cares about dead white guys? Isn’t that the post-modern critique? No matter what our mental picture has been about these events, a light-skinned northern European is nowhere to be found. Paul is preaching to Jews, Greeks, and Romans. Acts 8 tells the story of Phillip catechizing an Ethiopian. Those who believed may have died, yet they live. You will meet these believers in heaven. There, language and skin color don’t mean anything. Besides, if it wasn’t for Christians like them telling others about Jesus—if it wasn’t for them and their pastors, missionaries, and laypeople sharing the Gospel and spreading the Christian faith, there wouldn’t be Christians like you.

What does any of this have to do with anything? Quite a bit, actually. Jesus told the disciples in Acts chapter one that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. Today, the Gospel reaches around the world. The sun never sets on the Christian church. Yet, there are many in this world who have never heard of the Bible, Jesus, or the gift of the forgiveness of sins. And, among those who have heard, many do not know God rightly because of false teachers. That is why our pastors receive extensive training in the Bible in its original languages. That is why we study pure doctrine in such detail. That is why faithful practice matters in a congregation or church body. That is why we have a passion for the lost and send missionaries around the world and why we all look around our own communities for people to invite to Immanuel. We care because all the baptized are also Jesus’ witnesses to the end of the earth. There are sheep in need of our Good Shepherd, especially this Good Shepherd Sunday. They have need to hear The Shepherd’s Word of Grace. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Paul has resumed his missionary journeys: Macedonia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Antioch, Ephesus. He’s been at Ephesus off and on since Acts 18. It’s now near the end of chapter 20. You’ve read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. That letter is yet to be written years from now from Rome. Today’s reading from Acts is Paul’s farewell—in person—to those same Christians.

17Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

How many times had Paul been run out of town? He has been imprisoned and stoned nearly to death. He has served with humility, with tears, and with trials, bearing patiently with the people, longsuffering for the sake of the Gospel that some would hear and believe. He has faced persecution countless times and yet has remained faithful. His message did not change no matter what kind of pressure he faced. He preached Law and Gospel: repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. He has preached Christ crucified and has his own cross to bear. Paul knows this.

22And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

Paul knew his Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament. He paraphrases the Lord’s Word in Ezekiel chapters two and three. He has been faithful. He has warned sinners about the consequences of their sin. Had he not, he would not be innocent of their blood.

Paul cares about himself and his physical needs for one purpose: the ministry of the Gospel. He does not account to his life any value of itself, even in his own eyes. He sees his value as an instrument of the Lord, God’s mouthpiece. He has been given to finish his course and the ministry that he received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. He had to trust in the Lord to provide for His needs. That is why, to this day that a congregation provides for its pastor—so that the pastor can care for the congregation. Paul reminds the pastors in Ephesus of this.

28Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

False teachers will arise. Where will they come from? Inside the church. We’re shocked by this, but shouldn’t be. All Christians are still sinners. That includes pastors and people alike. The difference between pastor and people is not one of holiness or exalted position, but one of service. Each serves the other for the good of the whole church. Together the Church is immersed in the Word of God so that true Biblical teaching and faithful Christian practice is preserved and maintained. Our sainted LCMS President, A. L. Barry always told us, “Keep the message straight,” and “Get the message out.” False teachers are a serious danger to the sheep.

31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Those words of Jesus quoted by Paul are unique. They are not recorded elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul heard them from the Lord Himself. Luke recorded them here for our benefit. The Law of God shows us that we do not live up to the Lord’s standards by what we do, and, very often, by what we fail to do. At the same time, the Law reminds us to do the right thing, even when we don’t want to.

'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' Jesus said it. Therefore, this is most certainly true. Our congregational newsletter, budget, and weekly bulletin lay before you the need of this congregation, our Wyoming District, our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The Lord has provided for us in the past. We trust that He will provide for His own work now and in the future.

In our offerings, we Christians do not just give to a congregation, a district, a national church body. We give to the Lord. The gifts we share include those of time, abilities, possessions, and money, but especially the Gospel. And we can never ever run out of the Gospel. We don’t merely give to the Lord as if we are the source of the gifts we bring. We give from what God has already given to us. God is gracious in that He gives us blessings we do not deserve. You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ and with daily bread to support this body and life and also this congregation. 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'

Lest we forget, when we give from what God has given us, we are motivated by the Gospel, not the Law. 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' should remind us of when Jesus said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve.” Jesus serves you in a way you could never serve one another. Your Lord gives in a way we could never give. You are the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. That is Gift. That is Gospel. That is for you. That is The Shepherd’s Word of Grace. In this life you will have trouble. Don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. And don’t count sheep—Talk to the Shepherd. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sermon for 18 April 2010, Easter 3 C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. John 21:1-14 (15-19)


Third Sunday of Easter, 18 April 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text is the first part of the appointed Holy Gospel for the Third Sunday of Easter, John 21:1-14.

We pick up right where we left off last week. During the Easter season this year, the appointed Gospel lessons come from St. John. We heard from the latter part of chapter 20 last Sunday. It recorded Jesus’ visit to His disciples on Easter evening and a week later.

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Seven preachers went fishing. Saying it that way makes it sound like a joke. Well, look at the results! It was! They caught nothing. Why did they go out to fish? Hadn’t the Lord risen from the dead? Did they forget His two miraculous appearances to them, entering a locked room? Why were they going back to their previous profession of fishing for fish if the Lord had made them fishers of men?

The Lord cares about details. Things in Scripture aren’t just mentioned for no reason. Since we know God cares about details, you can know that He cares about you!

CPR: Since his call into ministry back in chapter one, this is the first time that Nathaniel is mentioned by name. At his call Jesus said that he would “see greater things.” This certainly points in that direction. The account sounds somewhat like Luke 5, but they are not the same experience. Although the resurrection has taken place, the fishermen still fish. Life goes on. However, after a night of fishing, these experienced fishermen have caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.

Jesus stood on the shore; yet they did not know that it was Jesus. Luke records that the disciples on the road to Emmaus on Easter evening did not immediately recognize Jesus, either. John records in chapter 20 that Mary Magdalene mistook Him for a gardener.

Perhaps it would be helpful to reexamine the first verse of the text: After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.

We’ve heard this word before. The water to wine miracle concludes with this verse: (2:1) This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested [revealed] His glory. Also with the healing of the man born blind: (9:3) Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed [revealed] in him.” In Luke 24, Jesus was recognized in the breaking of bread. In order to show He was more than a gardener, in fact the very Creator, risen from the dead, Jesus said, “Mary.” And she recognized Him. How does Jesus reveal Himself in this text? The great catch of fish!

…Now they were not able to haul [the net] in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

Jesus’ miracles were not done just for show. Miracles have a purpose. Jesus, and apostles later, do miracles that are connected to faith. If someone doesn’t believe Jesus could heal them in the New Testament, does the healing take place? Childlike trust in Jesus is faith. Looking to Jesus for full forgiveness and all good things to support body and life is faith. Believing in that which you have not seen is blessed faith.

John saw the miraculous catch of fish and realized that only one person could be responsible. Peter dove into the water to see the Lord, probably remembering his threefold denial in the back of his mind. Jesus forgives Peter in this chapter.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.

Speaking of fish, take a look at your bulletin insert on the triangle side.

Why did the Holy Spirit inspire John to record carefully the number of fish caught in the second great catch (John 21:1-14)? Edwyn Hoskyns has written, “Now 153 is the sum of the first 17 of the natural numbers: 1 + 2 + 3 + … + 17 equals 153, and therefore 153 dots can be arranged in the form of an equilateral triangle with 17 dots on the base line. [Granted, the illustration provided isn’t exactly equilateral.] [153] is therefore a triangular number. Enough of mathematics. How about biology?

Greek zoologists of the day held that there were 153 different kinds of fish… The disciples, therefore, make the perfect catch of fish, one of every kind, and fulfill concretely both the prophecy of Ezekiel and the parable recorded in Matthew 13. It is interesting how the Lord used this mathematical and biological detail as prophecy.

Ezekiel 47:10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to En-eglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. Matthew 13:47-48

The fish are to remind us of converts to Christianity. A perfect catch for fishers of men! And that is what disciples today are to be: fishers of men.

“Thank the Lord and sing His praise,” we sing. “Tell everyone what He has done. Let all who seek the Lord rejoice and proudly bear His name. He recalls His promises and leads His people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia, alleluia.”

The songs of Easter continue. And it’s rather easy to sing them and confess our Resurrected Lord gathered together with other Christians. Out there, beyond these walls, it’s much tougher. We don’t always rejoice. Do you always proudly bear His name? If you’re honest with yourself, you would have to admit that it is sometimes embarrassing to be a Christian, or when other people learn that you’re a Christian? And all too often we’d rather remain silent, even when no one else makes the good confession of Christ. Do you tell everyone what He has done?

New Christians are pretty forthcoming about what it was like to be an unbeliever. One of the things they are most surprised by and upset by was the silence of some Christians around them. Of course, not every Christian had been silent because they eventually heard the Gospel, believed in Jesus, and affiliated with a Christian congregation. But many Christians in their families, neighborhoods, schools or workplaces remained silent.

“Tell everyone what He has done.” That’s exactly what many of us are afraid to do. We’re afraid of rejection. Aren’t you at least a little afraid of ridicule? Shouldn’t we be more afraid that our coworkers, classmates, neighbors, friends and family won’t end up in heaven?

Such silence bothered one new believer. “I guess I wasn’t too Christian acting for a new Christian,” he said, “But I went to four [people] that I knew were Christians. They went to church and everything. But they didn’t have much to do with me. So I confronted all of them at one time. I kind of got mad when I asked them why they never tried to get to know me better when they knew I was lost. Not one of them said a word. So I walked away mad and got a parting word, ‘Why didn’t all of you tell me to go to hell? That’s what your actions said to me.’” His real quote was a little more colorful.

I’m pretty sure that’s not what most Christians intend by their actions. Yet, this is how one former unbeliever perceived the actions, or rather, inactions, of Christians who keep Jesus to themselves. Many Americans would come to church if invited. Don’t let one “no” discourage you from inviting someone else, or even the same people again and again.

Was this the most helpful way this new Christian could have encouraged his acquaintances to tell others about Jesus? Perhaps not. Does he have a point? He sure does. Is it often hard to witness? Sure. Sometimes we are the ones who need to steer a conversation with a non-Christian in order to speak about spiritual things. Other times, they’ll ask you questions.

Asking questions at a public lecture may not be the best venue to change people’s minds, but it is an opportunity to for at least a few to make and hear the good confession.

Look again at the sermon insert.  You don’t have to prepare a canned speech.  Use the Word. Be yourself. Be honest. Be loving.  Tell them the good news about Jesus.  Tell them what you believe by confessing the creed you learned even before Confirmation class, the APOSTLES’ CREED.  Speak of Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Communion.  Tell the story of Jesus and His forgiveness.  Keep it simple—law and Gospel, sin and forgiveness.  Invite them to Sunday School, Bible Class, or Divine Service. 

Are we the first Christians who have kept silent? Not hardly. Look at Peter, typical impulsive Peter. He missed the boat! He swam to shore while everyone else took the boat. He denied Jesus three times on the very night when he said he’d rather die than fall away. He gave in to peer pressure. He knew Jesus was in trouble after the arrest in the garden. Later, in our appointed Gospel lesson for today, Jesus forgives him three times. Our Lord’s forgiveness even covers the sin of silence. Then He says to us, “Go and sin no more.”

Forgiven, we sing, “Thank the Lord and sing His praise; Tell everyone what He has done. Let all who seek the Lord rejoice and proudly bear His name. He recalls His promises and leads His people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Our Lord’s forgiveness even covers the sin of silence. Then He says to us, “Go and sin no more.” He lays before the Church and her pastors the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

That day Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus continues to reveal Himself to us. In His table fellowship, the meal and teaching were accompanied by His physical presence. Our menu today is not the breakfast of bread and fish eaten by the Sea of Tiberias, but the Lord’s very Body and Blood according to His words along with the bread and wine of the Sacrament for the forgiveness of your sins, even sins of omission and silence.

Why did the Holy Spirit inspire John to so carefully record the number of fish caught in the second great catch (John 21:1-14)? Why 153? Why? God cares about the important details. We aren’t told in sacred scripture how tall Jesus was, or what color His eyes were, or how He wore His facial hair. The Lord has revealed to us the most important things. He has made known to you the gift of salvation. He wants you to be with Him forever and have life in His name. He wants to assure you of His forgiveness.

Remember this portion of the Holy Gospel from last week? Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Jesus used the miracle of the 153 fish so that the disciples would recognize Him by faith and once again be who Jesus had called them to be—fishers of men. They were called to make disciples of all nations—all kinds of human fish—by means of baptizing and teaching that by believing, you, and all who hear and believe the Easter message of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, may have life in His name.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sermon for 11 April 2010, Second Sunday of Easter C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Acts 5:12, 17-32

God Rather than Men

Second Sunday of Easter, 11 April 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

For a lay reader

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Acts chapter 5 is the sermon text this day, the appointed First Reading for the Second Sunday of Easter.

On this Second Sunday of Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus from death is fresh in our minds. We continue to rejoice and sing and give thanks to God for His unconditional love through the supreme sacrifice of His Son for our sins. The sermon text shows us that the Easter season is about setting priorities, holding on to that which is of first importance, according to last week’s Epistle, 1 Corinthians 15.

Acts 5:29 says it this way: "We must obey God rather than men.” Peter and the other apostles expressed their faith even under threatening circumstances as they appeared before the [San HEE Drihn] Sanhedrin, the same body that condemned Jesus, the full assembly of the elders of Israel. The apostles witnessed to these high officials that Christ died so that we could live eternally with Him.

As witnesses to the truth, we also are entrusted with the Gospel message. The proclamation of that message is the work of the church and her people. Through good stewardship of the gifts the Lord gives, personally and to the church, the Gospel message is proclaimed: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico.

The book of Acts is wonderful reading for the Easter season. Read the whole book for yourself at home as a short story. The Lord’s work doesn’t end with His crucifixion, death, Resurrection, or even Ascension! These uneducated fishermen, etc. have undergone a remarkable change. They were hiding behind closed doors no longer. They were in and near the temple preaching Jesus and healing in His name.

But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.

Arrested! It wasn’t the first time. After Peter and John healed a lame beggar in chapter 3, they faced the Sanhedrin for the first time in chapter 4. Peter preached Christ to them: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Jesus’ Resurrection made all the difference! No longer did they fear the Jewish leaders. They were unafraid of arrest. They were warned not to preach in Jesus’ name. They answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.” Later our text from chapter 5 continues this very conversation. They continued preaching. That led to the second arrest you already heard about.

But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But. You knew the “but” was coming! But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life." And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Nothing can hinder the proclamation of the word of God, not human law, persecution, or threatened execution. Persecution to the point of death still exists today.

Aberra Wata worked with Christian youth in the southern part of Ethiopia during the time of Communist rule (1974-1991). He reported the following story [a] to fellow missionary (John Cumbers):

Word came from the commandant that the Party leaders had studied my report about the work among the Christian young people. The authorities decided I had to be executed because of my "treasonous" words.

"The only way you can overturn this sentence," said the commandant, "is for you to deny that you are one of the believers."

What could I say? I told the commandant, "If they execute me, I will be immediately with the Lord."

The commandant replied, "That's what I expected you to say."

As I awaited execution in prison, my Savior gave me songs to sing I had never heard before. He turned me into a composer. [My fellow prisoners and I] reveled in the joys of praise to our God. The guards kept trying to silence us, but with the threat of execution hanging over us, why should we keep quiet? Seven men [believed] Christ in that prison, and we all sang together.

One particular guard took delight in mocking us, yelling at us, and insulting us. He would put filthy words to the tunes we sang. One night he patted his revolver and promised, "Tomorrow morning at this time you won't be in the land of the living."

Just after midnight that evening a tremendous storm burst on the town and the prison. Huge hailstones fell, wrecking several roofs, including the one where the insulting guard was sleeping. He became terrified, pulled out his revolver, and shot at random into the darkness, using up all the bullets he had promised would finish us off the next day.

One by one the roofs were taken off the commandant's house and the offices of the chief judge, the administrator, and his deputy. The prisoners in cells three, four, and five got a soaking from the rain too. We were in cell one and were kept dry. There were a lot of wet and unhappy people in Yavello that night.

At nine o'clock the next morning, while expecting the cruel guard to fulfill his promise to shoot us, we observed a remarkable sight. That same guard was pushed into our cell, without his uniform, by the commandant, who was whipping him with his belt. Other people in the background were yelling, "We told this man to leave the believers alone, but he refused, and so God has sent this terrible punishment on the town and prison. He deserves to be given some of his own medicine."

After some time the guard was released and given back his uniform. He told us, "I know that the Lord was with you. I know the way I should have treated you, but Satan persuaded me otherwise. Please forgive me." We did, and several more men [believed] in Christ in the prison.

When we left the apostles, they had been released from prison by an angel of the Lord so that they may teach again at the temple.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council and all the senate of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, "We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside." Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, "Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

“The people.” “The chief priests.” Have you noticed a difference here? Both are Jews. Both had very different reactions to Jesus. The people greeted the Lord on Palm Sunday. They were thrilled at the cleansing of the temple-lower prices for them. The chief priests, the leadership of the Jews, sought to get rid of Jesus, but didn’t want to do it during the Passover celebration because of His popularity. Because of Judas and the dark of night, they had motive, means, and opportunity.

The illegal night trial and early morning “official” judgment allowed them to bring Jesus before Pilate at 6 a.m. The people that called to Jesus, “Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” wouldn’t have known about the late night arrest, trial, and execution sentence. It was the leaders, not the whole people who called for Jesus’ blood to be on them and on their children. The people were unaware. When they did learn what was going on, it was too late. They could only line the street of Jesus journey to the cross and weep.

The people were receptive to the message of Jesus. Who else could be part of the 3,000 baptized on Pentecost? The leaders still feared the people. Peter and the apostles were popular. The leaders feared that the people would stone them if they took action against the apostles. . Explaining this simple contrast between the leaders and the people among the Jews would do much to end the cries of “anti-Semitism” that have recently been in the news.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

We also must obey God rather than men. The catechesis of the day listed in the bulletin is the first four commandments.

You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. A god is that to which we look for all good things. With that Lutheran definition, we can see many today with gods of sex, money, power, fame, and possessions, and some with literal false gods like the world religions of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. and American born cults, too. You shall have no other gods before my face—in my face. No mixing. No buffet-style religion with a little from this and a little from that. Don’t fold, roll, spindle, or otherwise mutilate how the Lord has revealed Himself in His word.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. Yes, people curse and misuse the Lord’s name. That’s the easy sin to identify. What about when people, especially Christians, sin by not calling upon God’s name in every trouble? What about when we do not pray, praise, or give thanks?

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. “Gladly?” That’s pretty tough when you feel like you have no choice but to come, or when you’re tired. Sure, you could view Church as some torture you have to endure, but if you see it that way, you haven’t really understood Christianity! The Lord won forgiveness, life, and salvation on the cross. He delivers those gifts here. Salvation is not something you earn or deserve. It’s all gift! Stop thinking about Church according to the Law and hear the Gospel!

Honor your father and your mother. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them. Romans 13 speaks about the divinely ordained duties of governments and citizens. We are to render unto Caesar except when we are commanded to break God’s law. When is that? Well, Christians need to be in the Word and keep up with current events to know that! Christian citizenship carries responsibility. Ultimately, we return to Acts 5:29: We must obey God rather than men!

By faith, you confess the Resurrection of Christ. The Holy Spirit within your hearts has called, gathered, and enlightened you, and as you continue to be in the Word and receive His gifts, He keeps you in the holy Christian faith. You may not face persecution and arrest here, but you have many opportunities to witness to Christ, killed by hanging on a tree, raised from the dead, and exalted to God’s right hand so that He might give you repentance and forgiveness of sins!

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon for 04 April 2010, Easter Day

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

1 Corinthians 15:19-26


The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day

08 April 2007

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Morrill, Nebraska

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Christopher Idle (LSB 486) writes: If Christ had not been raised from death Our faith would be in vain. Our preaching but a waste of breath, Our sin and guilt remain. But now the Lord is ris’n indeed; He rules in earth and heav’n: His Gospel meets a world of need—In Christ we are forgiv’n.

If Christ still lay within the tomb Then death would be the end, And we should face our final doom With neither guide nor friend. But now the Savior is raised up, So when a Christian dies We mourn, yet look to God in hope—in Christ the saints arise!

If Christ had not been truly raised His Church would live a lie; His name should nevermore be praised, His words deserve to die. But now our great Redeemer lives; Through Him we are restored; His Word endures, His Church revives In Christ, our risen Lord.

Each stanza of the hymn 486 proclaims the “If” and the “But” of the 1 Corinthians 15. The “If” is discussed for the sake of argument. And then we hear the truth. Each stanza ends with the facts of Scripture and faith: Jesus physically rose from the dead, leaving nothing but an empty shroud behind. We are comforted with forgiveness, the fact of our own future resurrection, and the forever-enduring Word of the Lord.

Using “If” can like building a house of cards. Once you get the first couple of cards to stand on their own, you gain confidence. Then comes the challenge of the second level. By the third story, one begins to wonder if the table is steady enough. If you make it to the fourth, your hands are likely shaking because of the excitement. And then…one false move and the whole house comes tumbling down and the cards are as flat as when you began. “If” can also provide suspenseful, exciting, and controversial television. We must remember the house of cards as we consider the annual attacks on Jesus, both who He is and what He has done for us.

In recent years we heard about the so-called “Jesus Family Tomb,” “The Da Vinci Code” and the so-called “Gospel of Judas.” I wonder what our old evil foe will come up with in the future to create doubt in the Biblical reality of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for you.

This morning, we have one more “If” to consider: 19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

This is the “If” of no hope, the “If” of no life after death, the “If” of “let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” But we know differently, because St. Paul informs us of the Lord’s promise: 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

We know about Adam and Eve and how they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. Their sin had a consequence: the wages of sin is death. All of their children inherit “original sin.” The curse of death spreads. Death is a physical and spiritual problem, needing both physical and spiritual solutions.

Christ, the solution to physical death and spiritual death, was promised all the way back in Genesis 3:15. The Lord promised hope even as He gave out the wages of sin. Your Lord cares for you body and soul until life everlasting. If God only cared about the soul, why would He provide daily bread? Why would he give you everything you need to support this body and life? Why would he care about your body, your hurts, pain, and diseases? If God only cared about saving souls, why would Jesus need to be born, suffer, die, or rise physically from the dead? If God only cared about souls, why would He promise that you would rise?

Of course the Lord cares for you soul and body! He created you, He sustains you, and He will raise you on the Last Day. Those who believe in Christ will be raised to Life Everlasting. Those who did not confess Jesus in this life will be raised, but will spend eternity with body and soul in hell. That is not a pleasant thought, but it is true. The Church therefore cares about more than just winning souls. We care about more than numbers. We preach Christ crucified and risen. We are gathered by the Lord around His Gifts where He gives us the forgiveness, life, and salvation Christ won by His sacrifice on Good Friday. The empty tomb on Easter proves God accepted that once for all sacrifice. In addition, the Church has been responsible for human care needs throughout history. Christians founded hospitals, universities, and homes for orphans. Christians have provided food, clothing, and have visited the sick and imprisoned. Christians have cherished life and supported adoption. Luther himself encouraged his government leaders to provide universal free Christian education. We are given to care for body and soul. We gladly tell the Good News about Jesus. We invite others to church, Bible Class, Sunday School, and VBS. And as we have been given to by the Lord, we generously give firstfruits from what the Lord has given.

As Christians, we may fear dying, but we need not fear death. In baptism, we got death over with! 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.” (Romans 6:4)

Death came through Adam. Life comes through Jesus Christ, the firstfruits. Because Jesus is the firstfruits, we know there will be other fruits in this harvest: us. On the Last Day He will raise you and all the dead, and give eternal life to all believers in Christ. Holy Baptism [means] 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.

After a visit to the Holy Land, pastor wrote the following about his trip: ….We visited three important tombs in a single day. The first tomb was that of King David. The area was crowded with Jewish pilgrims. Many were weeping and wailing over what supposedly are the remains of the one they consider the most important king of Israel. This tomb is occupied. [David is there.]

Next we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This is believed to be the place where Jesus’ lifeless body was laid. Of course, this tomb is empty. Instead of weeping and wailing, the Christians at this site sang joyful hymns of praise.

The professor continues: The third tomb we visited was the first tomb of Lazarus. This tomb was also empty because Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead.

Our visits to these tombs left a deep impression on me, [he says]. In visiting the tomb of David, I observed the Jewish people grieving over [a] great leader of their religion. But his tomb remains occupied. My thoughts went to other founders of different religions, such as Muhammad. Their tombs remain occupied. They remain dead.

However, Jesus Christ has an empty tomb! Of all the leaders of the world’s religions, Christ alone has risen from the grave. More than that, he has the power to raise others from death as well. That’s why Lazarus’ tomb is empty. Christ alone has conquered death. And He has done this not only for Himself, but also for [you]! What difference does Jesus’ empty tomb make? Slow: [No more “If”!] Our tombs will one day be empty too! (CPR, David Peter)

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


In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sermon for 04 April 2010, Easter Dawn

The Rev. Paul J Cain

John 20:1-18

Why Are You Weeping?

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Sunrise, 04 April 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

Why are you Weeping? That’s what “they” asked Mary Magdalene. At times I wonder if we weep enough. Our modern eyes sometimes glaze over when we see pain and suffering shown on the evening news. In too many ways we’ve become desensitized to it. Do we really care? Can we really care? And then there’s us men. We’re guarded about our feelings and afraid to appear vulnerable, without our armor. Men really don’t want to use the words “cry” or “weep.” At other times I wonder if we weep too much. We cry out in the agony of heartache and disappointment. We may scream in response to unseen physical pain. Some may even cry themselves to sleep for fear of the future or even for fear of the consequences of the past. We cry because we have lost loved ones. At times we even weep over truly important things.

Why are you weeping? That’s a question we can relate to. But can we relate to those who ask it? Do you remember who “they” were?

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Mary Magdalene was surprised by what she saw. The tomb was open. She didn’t look inside it during her first trip, St. John tells us. She ran and got the guys just in case those who had been there before were still lurking around. They were. But “they” were not the people Mary or Peter or John expected.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Think back to the last time you lost something. You looked everywhere. Every pocket. Every shelf. Both vehicles. At home. At work. Between home and work. The last place you ate out. And then, right before your eyes in the most obvious place in the world, there it is.

Mary was frantic. “They” were angels. They asked her why she was weeping. She even had a decent answer. Her Lord’s body was missing and she didn’t know where it had been taken. And there, right before her eyes in the most obvious place in the world, there He was. He was no gardener. He was Jesus, the Resurrected Lord.

And He is before your eyes again this morning. Like Mary Magdalene you have seen the Lord. She saw Him with her eyes, but didn’t see Him at first. Then she saw with the eyes of faith. You have seen the Lord with the eyes of faith as well.

We have been gathered by the Lord around His gifts to celebrate the empty tomb because Christ has been raised from the dead. We thank the Lord for the new birth He has given us in Holy Baptism, and especially for those baptized this morning.

While a Sunrise Easter Service, even one at 8 a.m. may be relatively familiar, a more ancient tradition is to gather as early as possible to celebrate the Resurrection, even Saturday night just after dark. Perhaps we could also hold an Easter Vigil next year on “Easter Eve.”

We do not know the exact hour that Jesus rose. Scripture doesn’t tell us. Even so, we could rejoice in the wonder of Easter a little earlier than you may be used to. The Easter Vigil on Saturday just after dark is a really, really early Sunrise service. We would celebrate Easter and go to the tomb with Mary. The Jewish people (then and now) recognized that a new day began at sundown, not Midnight like the Romans. As the sun set last evening, we thank the Lord for the S. O. N. rise now that is Sunday, Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead for you.

The parts of the Easter Vigil proclaim Jesus. The Service of Light confesses Jesus Christ who is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. The Service of Readings recounts salvation history. At times the Angel of the Lord actually proves to be no mere angel at all, but the pre-incarnate Christ merely looking like an angel before He took upon human flesh at Christmas, and in His Resurrection was brought back to life in the flesh, the wondrous fulfillment of salvation history. The Service of Baptism provides an opportunity for candidates to be baptized or for the baptized to be confirmed, but always gives us an opportunity to thank the Lord for the gifts Christ gave us at our own baptisms. While the Vigil may be celebrated with Holy Communion, we could observe the “page 5” version without the Sacrament. Again, something to consider adding for next year.

There is more to the Easter story. That is yet to come this morning after breakfast. Divine Service for the Resurrection of Our Lord has three different readings, another sermon, additional hymns and special music. Such is the way of our Lord. He gives and gives and gives His gifts to you, and yet there is always more. Matins. Breakfast. Divine Service. And next Sunday. And the Sunday after that. The Lord has good gifts for you in Christ because of His Resurrection from the dead. You, too will rise!

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Maundy Thursday Divine Service, 7 pm
Good Friday, 7 pm

Easter Matins, 8 am


Easter Divine Service, 10:30 am