Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Midweek Lenten Sermon for 20 March 2013 before Compline

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Drawn from the Four Gospels (LSB/ESV)
Wednesday of Lent V, 20 March 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Drawn from the Four Gospels

The soldiers now had charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out of the city to a place called Skull Hill, in Hebrew, Golgotha. As they led him away, they laid hold of Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country. On him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. Following him was a great company of people and of women who bewailed and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said,
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. The days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things with a green tree, what will happen with a dry one?”
There were also two others, criminals whom they led along to be put to death with him. When they came to the place called Golgotha, they gave him wine mingled with gall to drink, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.
It was the third hour, and there they crucified him. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The two criminals they also crucified with him—one on his right, the other on his left, with Jesus in the middle. The Scripture was then fulfilled which says, “And he was numbered with the transgressors.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they cast lots to divide his clothes and decide what each should take. They made four parts, one for each soldier. There remained his tunic, which was without seam, woven in one piece from the top to the bottom. They said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to decide who shall have it.” The Scripture was thus fulfilled which says, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” These things the soldiers did and, sitting down, they kept watch over him there.
Over his head was put the charge against him. Pilate wrote the notice to be put on the cross. It read, JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS. This title was read by many of the Jews, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city, and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “You should not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but ‘This man said, I am the King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
People stood by, watching. Those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself. If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him to one another saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross that we may see and believe. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ “
The soldiers also mocked him, coming to him and offering him wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” The thieves who were crucified with him also reviled him. And one of the criminals who hung there with him railed at him: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are getting what we deserve for what we have done; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Near to the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of them that were standing there heard it, they said, “He is calling for Elijah.”
After this, Jesus knew that all things were accomplished. Fulfilling the Scripture he said, “I thirst.” There was a jar of wine standing there. One of them ran immediately to get a sponge. He filled it with wine, put it on a reed, held it up to his mouth, and gave it to him to drink. Others said, “Wait and see if Elijah will come and save him.”
When Jesus had received the wine, he cried with a loud voice, “It is finished!” Then he said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he died, he said, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”
All the people who had gathered to see the sight, when they saw what had happened, turned away beating their breasts. Those who had known him stood at a distance, as also the women who had followed him from Galilee. Among them was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
It was the day of Preparation before the Sabbath, and this was Passover Sabbath. Therefore, so that the bodies should not remain on the crosses during the Sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies removed. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. One who saw it is our witness, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth that you also may believe. These things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of his bones shall be broken.” And again, another Scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they pierced.”
By this time evening had come. A respected member of the council, Joseph of Arimathea, was one who was looking for the kingdom of God, a good and righteous man who had not consented to their purpose and deed. He was a disciple of Jesus secretly, for he feared the Jews. Now he took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Pilate was astonished that he could be dead already. He called for the centurion and asked him whether Jesus was already dead. When he was assured by the centurion that it was so, Pilate granted Joseph the corpse and commanded that it be given over to him.
Joseph bought fine linen and came and took the body of Jesus. Nicodemus came also, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. It was he who had first come to Jesus by night. They then took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, where no one had ever been buried. Joseph laid the body in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock, and rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were sitting there opposite the sepulcher and saw where he was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath day they rested according to the commandment.
On the next day, the day after the Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees went together to Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that imposter said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command that the sepulcher be made secure until the third day to stop his disciples from coming and stealing him and saying to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ making the final deception worse than the first.”
Here ends the Reading.

Compline, or Prayer at the Close of the Day, has much in common with this text. Both deal with death. Both are concerned with the creed: I believe in Jesus Christ, who was crucified, died and was buried. The text is the source of this statement of faith. The service is how a Christian lives it out.
For five weeks now we have sung the Nunc Dimittis at the end of Compline. This is where Luther learned it. Lutherans then added it to the end of the Divine Service. The music sounds medieval because it is—Gregorian chant to be more precise.
The psalm-like sentence at the beginning and end is called an antiphon—another contribution from the Middle Ages. “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.” We have seen the Lord’s salvation in Christ and we are comforted. We echo the words of Simeon holding the infant Christ in His arms.
Where does death fit into all of this? Compline helps us see going to sleep as a little death, so that when our death comes, we will see it as no more frightening than a good night’s sleep. This is the lullaby of the Church.
As human beings, we are often reminded of the 100% mortality rate of being human. We are not alone. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. We are wrong to think of death as the end. We will die, yes, but Jesus died, too. And what happened to Him after that? He rose again. And because He rose, you will rise. Death’s power has been put to death by Jesus’ death. Now it is merely a portal to life eternal. And then comes the resurrection, judgment, and for you, the new heaven and new earth. That is the eternal significance of Jesus’ cross.
Next week, join me for chapel at 8:05 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. We will observe the Holy Three Days with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services at 7 on those evenings. And then, the golden Resurrection of Our Lord. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.