Good Shepherd Sunday.
Matins is a regular morning prayer service held every Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. The public is welcome. Our Savior Lutheran Church is located at 2611 Lucas Street in Muscatine, Iowa.
Second Sunday of Easter
Text: John 20:19-31
Grace and Mercy to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are clean cut off – so say the dead, dry, bones of Israel in Ezekiel's valley: and surely St. Thomas' soul was just as dry and hard. Thomas had seen Jesus die. He knew that was real. And with Jesus had died all of Thomas' hope and strength which had been once so vigorous. It was Thomas who boldly said to the disciples that they should go with Jesus down to Lazarus' house and die with him there if need be. It was Thomas who boldly questioned the Lord about the way to eternal life. Bright-eyed, eager, brave, intelligent: this is the picture of Thomas that we see in John's Gospel.
But then Jesus is betrayed, and Thomas flees. Then Jesus is beaten and crucified, and Thomas loses hope. Then Jesus is buried, and Thomas' faith goes six feet under.
Thomas is living in a valley of death and decay: a waterless place where all is dry and lifeless. And beloved, have you not walked in Thomas shoes? For faith, trust in God, is a difficult road. To look at a loved one taken by vicious disease and then stand by a hole in the ground and say, “O grave where is thy victory?” - that is faith. To encounter every kind of hardship, betrayal, sadness, and cruelty in this world and then believe that God is your loving Father and not an almighty sadist – that is faith. Faith is trusting that what the Lord says to be true is true even though your eyes tell you differently. Faith is seeing with your ears and shutting your eyes to the lies of the devil. And have you never wavered, beloved? Have you never doubted? Have you never accused God of evil? Have you never given up hope and doubted that there was even a god at all? Peter denied his Lord, Thomas disbelieved, the women at the tomb despaired: and you know that their story is yours.
So repent. Dry bones tell no tales – but the Lord calls them to life. Thomas could not pick himself up by his bootstraps and just will that faith well up in his heart. You cannot just decide one day to rise from the death of unbelief and make a decision that from now on your will never again doubt. It doesn't work that way. Bones don't get up and dance. Dry souls can't water themselves.
And so the Word of the Lord comes to a valley of dry bones. The Lord enlivens them with his Spirit: and behold, first the rattle of bone on bone, then sinews and flesh, then the Breath and there is life again and an exceeding great army for the Lord. The Word and the Spirit of God are sent by the Father to bring life to a valley of dry bones.
And then the miracle is repeated – or rather, the prophecy is fulfilled. For behold Thomas and the disciples: dry, dead souls without an ounce of faith. But the Word of God, that is the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, stands before them, and breathes on them the Breath of Life, the Holy Spirit of God. And behold, a rattling sound as their dry souls are revived, and they breathe again, and there is an exceedingly small army for the Lord, only 11 to start with.
But clothed with power from on high, they will go forth, these apostles, these sent ones, and they will again and again repeat the ministry of the Holy Trinity. For it was not enough that the Father sent the Son to be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit so that he might suffer and die for the world; it was not enough that the Father raised the Son by the power of the Spirit; it was not enough that at the Father's behest, the Word made flesh breathes his Spirit into his 11 apostles. More must be done: the miracle must be replicated: the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve must be raised from the valley of dry bones: the breath of life must spread until there is an exceeding great army of every tribe and nation and people.
And so Jesus breathes the breath of life into these weak vessels, these doubting disciples, these dry bones. He breathes his own Holy Spirit into them and says, “As the Father has sent me so I am sending you” - and out the apostles go with the authority to preach, to baptize, to forgive and retain sin, to give out the true body and blood of Jesus. For there are three that testify, beloved: the water, and the blood, and the Spirit. And these three agree: you are forgiven and lifted up to life. For the Lord will not allow your soul to be a valley of dry bones. The Lord wills that you be filled with life forever.
So he has washed you clean in the heavenly bath of water and Spirit, the washing of rebirth and renewal. He has moistened your dry bones with Holy Baptism and made them live. To clothe these bones in flesh he has given his own Flesh and Blood: for your are meant to live forever, so you must be outfitted with glorified and risen flesh as you come to the Lord's Table. And he has breathed into you the Breath of Life as his apostled ministers have breathed over you the Word of Absolution, the Word of Forgiveness, the Breath of God.
This is your life. So live, you dry bones and doubting Thomas'. Be forgiven you denying Peters and despairing women. Do not disbelieve but believe: for the Lord is good. The Lord does want life and salvation for you. The Lord is risen from the dead: and he is risen to life that he might give you life.
And especially you; this life is for you. You have been baptized. Your dry bones too have been given life. You have had the Spirit of God's forgiveness breathed into you in Holy Absolution: it is time and past time that you get some flesh on your bones. Your Lord bids you to come therefore to his Table and receive his flesh for yours. You need new flesh and blood: and the Lord will supply it. You are forgiven. You are loved. You are risen to new life in the Spirit. Come now and receive the same Body Thomas touched. Come now and receive the very Blood of the covenant. See with your ears and trust the Word of the Lord: “This is my body; This is my blood: given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
For the promises of God have no expiration date. Be renewed. Be young in the Faith again. Be raised from the dead. O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. For thus says the Lord GOD to you: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Order of Matins
A Hymn of invocation may be sung
P – O Lord, open Thou my lips.
C – And my mouth shall show forth Thy praise
P – Makes haste O God, to deliver me.
C – Make haste to help me, O God.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
And to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning, is now,
And every shall be; world without end.
P – O come, let us worship the Lord;
C – For he is our Maker
O come let us sing unto the Lord
Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
And make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The strength of the hills is His also
The sea is His, and He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
Oh, come let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker
For He is our God
And we are the people of His pasture
And the sheep of His hand.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
And to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning, is now,
And ever shall be; world without end. Amen.
P – But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C – Thanks be to Thee, O Lord.
The Te Deum Laudamus
We praise Thee O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father Everlasting.
To Thee all the angels cry aloud, the heavens and all the powers therein;
To Thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry;
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles praise Thee
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise Thee;
The noble army of martyrs praise Thee;
The holy Church though all the world doth acknowledge Thee;
The Father of an infinite majesty; Thine adorable true and only Son,
Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou are the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest upon Thee to deleiver man;
Thou didst humble Thyself to be born of a virgin.
When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God
In the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come
To be our judge.
We therefore pray Thee to help Thy servants,
Whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with Thy saints
In glory everlasting.
O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up forever.
Day by day we magnify Thee,
And we worship Thy name ever, world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin,
O Lord have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us,
O Lord, let Thy mercy be upon us, as our trust is in Thee.
O Lord, in Thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded.
Lord have mercy upon us,
Christ have mercy upon us,
Lord have mercy upon us.
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
Give us this day our daily bread and
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory;
Forever and ever. Amen.
P – The Lord be with you.
C – And with thy spirit
P – O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God,
Who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day,
Defend us in the same with Thy mighty power
And grant that all our doings, being ordered by Thy governance
May be righteous in Thy sight;
Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord,
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost
Ever one God, world without end.
C – Amen
P – Bless we the Lord
C – Thanks be to God
P – The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
The love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost
Be with you all.
C – Amen
KJV Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
The women went to the tomb to honor the body of Jesus, assuming He was dead even though He predicted many times that He would be killed and rise from the dead. They doubtless felt dead themselves on their way to the tomb, heavy with grief and sorrow. Still, they wanted to finish what would have been done normally.
All this could have been changed, if God had willed it to be simpler and more obvious to everyone. But God permits us to feel the sorrow before we experience the peace that comes with His Gospel.
The followers, except for Jesus, still had faith, but they were shaken by events and scared of the overwhelming power of the Roman Empire, not to mention Jewish hostility. Before they entered the area, Doubting Thomas predicted they might all die there together (Gospel of John).
Lacking faith, the women would have run away. Lacking faith, the disciples would have scattered instead of staying together. But their faith was limited because they had yet to see the prophecies fulfilled. At this point they were so blinded by grief that they no longer knew the Passion predictions and acted as if Rome had won. At this point Rome would have seemed all-powerful and God...not so much.
Needless to say, we often trudge along as if the tomb were still sealed, Jesus lifeless inside. What is our excuse? We listen to the unbelieving world and commune with its spirit. One writer said, wisely, "We are all influenced, whether we admit it or not."
So the women and the disciples are not only the key figures in this great drama but also our examples, both bad and good, examples to teach us how we are with a faltering faith and also how we are with Resurrection certainty.
2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
Here we have an exact moment. The sun was just starting to rise on Sunday, the first day of the week. My Adventist relatives thought we had to worship on Saturday, but the Christian Church changed the day of worship to Sunday, to honor Jesus' resurrection. In fact, they treated each Sunday as Easter and sang hymns as the sun rose.
The Church of Wishful Thinking always wants to make Christian observances pagan because our culture borrows from various languages and traditions. They yammer about Easter being the name of a pagan god, which is true, but we do not worship Oster. We use Easter as short-hand for The Resurrection of Our Lord.
Easter eggs borrow from the Oster myth, and there is a substitute Christian legend about eggs turning rainbow colored. All that is harmless. What hurts the true Christian Church is having pastors and district presidents who lure kids to church with "live rabbits you can pet," as if Easter itself lacks no power to draw people.
The more we make the Christian faith appealing to the masses, the less appeal it has, because the malls and pizza parlors can do this better than we can. By participating in their style of promotion we demean and water down the Gospel until it is only a happy-chappy philosophy.
Today we act as if Sunday is just another day, and Easter is just another Sunday.
3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
This lid to the tomb was a very big problem. It was not a boulder, as some artists paint it, since no one would have been able to move a boulder large enough to seal a tomb. The custom was to use a flat round rock that fit in a groove, to be rolled aside when needed. However, that still required a lot more upper body strength than all the women had.
Nevertheless, they had set out with the right materials for their duties without stopping to question that weighty problem. They were so anxious to honor Jesus in death that they did not consider that their task was going to be impossible at that hour. No one was going to be at the tomb of a criminal executed for crimes against the Roman government (the cross) accused of blasphemy (the religious point of view). Jesus was doubly accursed in the eyes of the public, and no one wanted to be associated with Him.
4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
This rationalistic assumption is made by non-Lutherans - He was allowed to leave when the angels rolled the stone away. Some paintings show angels moving the stone and Jesus leaving at that time.
The human nature of Jesus did not limit His divine nature. We do not think of God as being locked up inside a church building when the doors are closed. Nor was Jesus ever confined by the limitations of His body. When crowds surrounded Him twice, He passed through them. When the tomb was sealed, He left. When the doors were locked shut "for fear of the Jews" He twice entered the chamber where the disciples were hiding.
This is the mystery revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in the Word. He who fashioned the universe was lying in a manger. The Son of God, who created the mountain ranges, could not be sealed in by the very stone which He made as the Creating Word.
Thus we have Holy Communion, even with the doors locked and the windows shut. Yet Jesus is present in His human and divine natures, promising and giving us forgiveness of sin in the Sacrament.
So the stone was rolled away - not for Jesus - but for the women and later the disciples and everyone else. Roman soldiers guarded the tomb, to make sure no one disturbed the grave or caused some kind of fraud. When the angels rolled the stone away, they saw emptiness and ran in terror.
The Roman Empire could not eliminate the Son of God. They could not defeat the Holy One with death. Instead, using death, Jesus defeated sin, death, and Satan. The only responses are stark terror and faith.
5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
We should give the women some credit here. They came to the tomb in one frame of mind. They could have been frightened away, but they stayed to look inside. For that reason they were blessed with the message of the angel. They were scared but did not take to their heels.
It takes so little to frighten us that we should think of these women as quite stout-hearted to look inside the tomb.
We can be afraid and still have faith. Faith in God informs our fears and helps us with self-control.
6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
The angelic message is even more astonishing than the empty tomb. Perhaps the faithful would like the angel to say, "You are looking for the Son of God, the Savior." But instead, the ordinary name of Jesus - Jesus of Nazareth - is used. That gives the account precision. They are not looking for a title, but a person. There was great love and faith among the followers, but complete knowledge about that was slowly building. We look at these backwards in time. They developed their understanding.
But our understanding also develops as we continue in faith. We have moments of fear and sorrow, dashing our hopes. But God builds us up again. Through study of the Word and experience we realize what the Gospel really means as we pass through life.
These first phrases to describe their teacher are remarkable:
1. He was crucified.
2. He is not here.
3. He is risen from the dead.
Jesus was killed by the authorities - He was crucified. But He is no longer here, in a tomb. He is absent from the world of the dead.
He is risen from the dead. Once again - great precision is in this message, preventing people from having false assumptions. One is that Jesus never really died. Yes He died. He was crucified.
He is not here - counters the notion that unscrupulous followers stole His body. If that had happened, we would have something like - His body is no longer here. "He" means a living person.
He is, he was - those are verbal clues to police detectives. When they look for a missing person and someone says "He was..." that is a clue that the individual knows that person is no longer alive.
The clarifying statement says it all - He is risen from the dead. I added "from the dead" but that is the only possible meaning.
If Jesus of Nazareth is risen from the dead, the same one who called Lazarus from death, then He is the Lord over all.
8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
The women were having an information and experience overload, passing from sorrow and poor understanding to joy and revelation. Who can take so much at once. They did not stop along the way to talk to anyone but ran back to where the disciples were, to tell them about this great news.
This calls for the rest of the story, so we have the ending of Mark, plus Luke and Matthew and John for post-resurrection stories. We celebrate Easter for a season and the rest of the year because it is central to the Christian message.