Monday, April 1, 2013

Sermon for Easter Vigil: "Salvation Days"

+ Easter Vigil – March 30th, 2013 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What a difference a day makes.
Yesterday the cross and darkness. Tonight the light of Christ’s resurrection consumes the void of darkness. Yesterday the earth mourned and quaked with injustice. Tonight the earth trembles with joyful anticipation. Yesterday the devil laughed. Tonight we dance on his grave. Yesterday the tomb was sealed. Tonight the seal of Jesus’ grave is broken. Yesterday: death. Tonight: eternal life. Yesterday: the end. Today: the beginning.
 “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth.”

And God ordered days and seasons…why? So that Adam’s life – and the life of his descendants – would be ordered around the Lord’s gifts and filled with praise. But this Sabbath rest wasn’t only meant for God to rest from His labors, but for man to rest in the holiness of God’s labor for him.
But Adam’s peace was short lived. Rest turned to restlessness. Peace turned to rebellion. Sabbath turned to sin. Life turned to death. Paradise turned to exile. Days of holiness turned to days of suffering, guilt and death.
Now our days are filled with trials and illness, suffering and shame, guilt and death. Our days are spent not in Sabbath rest but in sinful chaos.
But we are not alone. Jesus lived – every day of His life – for you. From His birth to His death and resurrection, Jesus spent his living and dying day to save us from ours. The Creator, whose arms stretched out and painted the heavens, stretches his arms upon the cross between the heavens and the earth. But he who overcame by the tree of the garden is overcome by the tree of Christ Crucified.  And God saw that it was good.
            And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
 “And the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the heart was continually evil.”
Then the fountains of the deep were opened. Fain fell 40 days. The Lord flooded the earth. Creation undone by her Creator. Such was the wickedness of man. But the Lord remembered Noah. Through the water. In the ark. 8 souls saved in all. And the Lord remembers you, wicked in heart though you were. You too are saved, through the water and Spirit, into the Holy Ark of the Church. A new and saving flood has drowned your only-evil-ways and you are preserved in Christ’s death and resurrection. He is your true man of rest. The Captain of your Salvation. And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

 “And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord…’Are there no graves in Egypt so that you brought us out here in the wilderness to die?’”
They utter a hopeless cry. A shout of despair, doubt, and unbelief. We’ve all asked similar questions before: Have you abandoned us, Lord? Will you keep your promises? Will you deliver me from certain death?
But all questions are silenced by Moses’ words: “Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord which he will work for you this day.” The Lord was with His people in the pillar of cloud and fire. In the water parting. In the Red Sea rescue. Once again God’s people are delivered through water. And so are you. Our doubt and despair are silenced as the Son of God camps between us and death. He leads us from slavery to freedom, from death to life in His death and resurrection. The same death and resurrection into which you are baptized. You pass through the liquid veil into paradise. The Pharaoh of hell lies drowned and your sin is washed away. Christ leads His people on a new and greater exodus over the dry ground of His open tomb. And God saw that it was good.
            And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

 “And the Lord said to Ezekiel, ‘Son of Man, can these bones live?’”
Ezekiel needed to know the answer; and so do we. The briskness of those opening words of Lent still haunt us: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Those words began Lent. The ashes marked our death. But they also traced the Baptismal cross upon our forehead. You are marked by Christ the Crucified. Now at the end of Lent the Lord proclaims a new beginning for Ezekiel and for you. “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.” Jesus rises from the dead and shakes the dust of your tomb from his resurrected feet. “You shall live forever…I have spoken and I will do it, says the Lord.”  And God saw that it was good.
           And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

 “And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God…”
Job suffered. Job questioned. Job prayed. And then Job suffered some more. But Job was not forsaken. Job confessed.
I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,

For you who question and pray – wondering like Job, where is God in the midst of my pain and death? – for you Jesus prays: “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” And Jesus questions: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” See how Jesus prays and questions for Job, for you. All so that you are not forsaken in your sin or abandoned to die alone forever.
With iron Roman pens your salvation is engraved, not in wood or stone, but in the flesh of Christ. Wounds that forever inscribe your redemption in the Lamb’s book of life. Your Redeemer lives. Jesus suffered more and He suffered it all willingly for Job, for you and for the world. He prays on your behalf. He was forsaken so that you are welcomed. He dies and rises so that you can confess with Job, I know that my Redeemer lives…and in my flesh I shall see God. And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening and there was morning the 5th day.
            “And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
The Ninevites’ repentance condemned Jonah’s pride, and later the Pharisees (Matthew 12). But instead of joining in their repentant cry, we echo Jonah’s lament and begrudge the Lord’s mercy. But our chief sin of self-righteousness – along with all your sins – is paid for on the cross and covered in Christ’s righteousness. Your sin is dead and buried in the tomb. Whereas the fish swallowed the prophet, Jesus swallowed your death. But unlike the fish, Christ’s tomb is not empty; it is full. Full of your sin, full of your death, but empty of its power over you. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. And behold, one greater than Jonah is here. And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening and there was morning the 6th day.
Thus the Lord’s salvation of the heavens and the earth was revealed. Mark them well. For these are the days of your salvation foretold in Scripture. These are the days fulfilled in this most holy of weeks, the Great Week.
 On Palm Sunday your beggar King rides to his bloody coronation on the cross. On Maundy Thursday Jesus mark a new day of salvation by taking bread, the food of the fall, and making it the food of redemption in His body. The winepress of God’s judgment yields a cup of blessing in Jesus' blood.
On Good Friday the serpent strikes again. Another tree adorned with fruit, but a whole new Adam. Christ’s hands and feet and side are pierced. But the serpent’s head is crushed. As in Adam all die so in Christ all are made alive.

It is finished. Jesus’ body was buried. The tomb sealed. The guard set. The women wept. The disciples hid. And the earth was formless and void and darkness covered the face of the earth and the abyss of the grave. And his Father saw everything that he had done, and behold, it was very good. And on the seventh day the Lord of the Sabbath rested in the earth from all his work that he had done. But not for long.

 “And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here.’”
Yesterday was Good Friday. Tonight is the dawn of Jesus’ Resurrection – the 8th day of the week. This is the endless, everlasting day in Christ’s resurrection. No more evening and morning, just as God had intended in the first garden. No more sorrow and sickness. No more sin and death. The former things have passed away. And on the 8th day, Christ rested from all the work that He had done for you. So Christ blessed the 8th day and made it holy, an eternal Sabbath rest for you. And behold, it is very good.
“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”. Rejoice! The devil is defeated. Your death is destroyed. Your sin is paid for. Rejoice! The cherubim have sheathed their flaming swords. Paradise is open to you once again. For Christ is risen.
What a difference a day makes.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



No comments:

Post a Comment