The Festival

of the Resurrection

of our Lord

 

Festival Worship

April 12, 2020

 

Welcome

 Opening Sentences
P:   In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

C:   Amen.

 P:   He is risen!

C:   He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 P:   The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever!

C:   Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ.

 P:   Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.  He is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

C:   If Christ has been raised, then surely we too will rise from the dead to live and reign with Him forever.

 P:   For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

C:   After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.

P:   What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

C:   By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

P:   If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.

C:   Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.

 P:   For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no

longer has mastery over Him.  The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He

lives, He lives to God.

C:    In the same way we count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  We were

 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.

 P:   Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?

C:   The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us

 the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

 P:   He is risen!

C:   He is risen indeed!

All:   Alleluia!

 

First Lesson               Jonah 2:2-9

As Jonah came out of the fish, so Jesus remained in the grave for three days and then rose to new life.

 

He said:  “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.  From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.  You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.  I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’  The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.  To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.  But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.  When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.  Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation comes from the LORD.”  (NIV1984)

Psalm 118

The LORD is my strength and my song;

He has become my salvation.

The LORD’s right hand is lifted high;

the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!

I will not die but live,

and will proclaim what the LORD has done.

I will give You thanks, for You answered me;

You have become my Salvation.

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;

the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

            and to the Holy Spirit,

        as it was in the beginning,

            is now, and will be forever.  Amen.

Second Lesson                       Colossians 3:1-4

As Christ has been raised and is seated at the right hand of God, so believers ought to “set [their] hearts on things above,” for there is where their true life is.

 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.   (NIV1984)

 Confession of faith:   Second article, Apostles’ Creed

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.

He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.

All this He did that I should be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He has risen from death and lives and rules eternally.

This is most certainly true.          

 

Easter Sermon                                From Tragedy to Triumph!

John 20:1-9

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”  So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.  Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.  Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb.  He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.  The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.  Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside.  He saw and believed.  (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)   (NIV1984)

 

Dear fellow worshipers of our Living Lord and Savior,

 

The celebration of Easter 2020 is unlike any other Easter any of us has ever celebrated in our lives.  Granted, some of us have celebrated Easter during a time of war— whether it was WWII, the Korean War or the Vietnam War.  Granted, some of you may have even celebrated Easter while you were on the battlefield.  But never before have we celebrated an Easter when we are not allowed to gather together in God’s house with our brothers and sisters in the faith to celebrate this Feast of Victory for our God.

 

Some people might say that Easter 2020 is just “different”— and to a certain extent that is correct.  For example, Brenda and I enjoy inviting people over to our house to enjoy a traditional Easter dinner of ham and potatoes, corn and pie.  But not this year.  This year will be different.  This year we will still have our traditional Easter dinner— but only with the people who normally gather around our dinner table.

 

Some people might say that Easter 2020 is at least clouded if not shrouded by the tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic— and to some extent that is also true.  According to the most recent numbers I could find:  On a global level 1,733,792 people have been infected and 106,469 people have died.  On a national level 506,188 people have been infected and 19,701 people have died.  In California 21,482 people have been infected and 599 people have died.  From a purely human perspective that is indeed tragic.

 

But let’s go back about 2,000, years shall we.  On that first Easter Sunday so many years ago the believers who had gathered together in a locked room in Jerusalem were also overwhelmed by tragedy, weren’t they.  Their Friend, their Lord, their Teacher was dead.  He was betrayed by one of their own.  He was falsely accused and unfairly convicted of blasphemy by their own religious leaders.  He was unjustly condemned to die by one of the most inhumane forms of execution ever devised— death by crucifixion.  For Jesus’ disciples it seemed that their entire world had come crashing down around them and there was nothing that anyone could do to change that tragedy.  So the disciples gathered together in a locked room— their hearts filled with fear and confusion, their lives clouded if not shrouded in tragedy.  Sound familiar?

 

When we look back to that first Easter Sunday and when we stay focused on the true message of Easter then we are able to see that our celebration of Easter 2020 is just like every other Easter we have ever celebrated!  Then we are able to echo that ancient Easter greeting:  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  With that ancient Easter greeting echoing in our hearts let’s see how this familiar portion of John’s Gospel reveals to us the power of Easter.  Yes, my friends, Easter has the power to take us:  From Tragedy to Triumph!

 

Tragedy.  The apostle John very clearly emphasizes here in our text how that first Easter Sunday started out with a tragic situation being compounded by even more tragedy.  The disciples undoubtedly thought that the death of their friend Jesus on the cross of Calvary’s hill was the most tragic thing that could ever possibly happen in their lives.  The One whom they had hoped was the Promised Messiah, the One whom they had hoped would “restore the kingdom to Israel” (See Acts 1:6), the One upon whom they had placed all their hopes and all their dreams was now dead.  Some of the disciples watched in horror as the Roman soldiers pounded the nails through Jesus’ hands and feet.  They stood in disbelief as their Friend agonized on the cross for hours.  By the time Pilate granted permission to take Jesus’ lifeless body down from the cross and place it into a burial cave the minds and hearts of Jesus’ disciples were probably numb.  The horrific death of their friend Jesus was the most tragic event they could possibly imagine— that is, until the early hours of that first Easter Sunday!

 

For Jesus’ disciples the tragedy of Good Friday was compounded to the nth degree as we see from the opening verses of our text.  John writes, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’”

 

Early on that first Easter morning Mary Magdalene came to the only conclusion that made logical sense:  Jesus’ enemies had stolen His dead body right out of His grave!  The depth of that tragic discovery shook Mary Magdalene right down to the very core of her being.  The only thing she could think of was to run to Peter and John and tell them what had happened.  Naturally, Peter and John were also shaken by this tragic news.  So both of them ran as fast as they could to Jesus’ tomb.  Our text doesn’t tell us what went through Peter’s mind when he saw Jesus’ empty tomb.  Perhaps like Mary Magdalene Peter was simply overwhelmed by the tragic scene before him.  Our text does tell us, however, what went through the heart and mind of the apostle John as he stood silently inside Jesus’ now empty tomb.  We are told, “Finally the other disciple (John), who had reached the tomb first, also went inside.  He saw and believed.”

 

“He saw and believed.”  Those sweet simple words reveal to us that purely by God’s grace John had been brought from tragedy to triumph!  Those sweet simple words reveal to us that by the power of God the flicker of a triumphant Easter faith had now been created in John’s heart.  While we are very specifically told in our text, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead,” that is, while John was not yet able to go back to the sacred writings of the prophets and see that all of this has always been part of God’s Plan of Salvation for sinful mankind— in his heart John knew! In his heart John believed!  In his heart John saw that God Himself had transformed the “tragedy” of Good Friday into the “triumph” of Easter Sunday!  In his heart John now knew that Jesus’ lifeless body had not been stolen!  He had risen from the dead— just as He promised He would!

 

“He saw and believed.” Those sweet simple words are why you and I have gathered together for worship, my friends.  Purely by the grace of God we know.  Purely by the grace of God we believe.  Purely by the grace of God we are able to confidently celebrate the triumph of Easter Sunday!  The triumph of Easter is what guarantees to us that any and every tragedy that we experience in our lives is but temporary.  Most importantly, the triumph of Easter is what guarantees to us that “It is finished!”— our sins are forgiven! When we realize how much we have sinned against the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, the triumph of Easter enables us to hear the very same words that Jesus spoke to His disciples on that first Easter Sunday— “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:19)  When we realize that we have sinned against each other the triumph of Easter enables us to put into practice the words of our Lord recorded in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

 

The triumph of Easter is also what enables us to endure tragedies such as the loss of a job or the loss of our health, broken hearts or broken dreams.  The triumph of Easter is what enables us to endure tragedies such as the current pandemic that this world is experiencing.  The triumph of Easter is what reminds us that the  risen Lord who has promised us, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) is also the same Lord who encourages us by saying, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah43:1b-3).  When the devil attacks us with his flaming arrows, when the unbelieving world assails us with ridicule and rejection, when destructive power of sin reveals itself in a tiny little virus, the triumph of Easter recalls to our hearts the words of our living Lord and Savior, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

 

But, of course, my friends, nowhere is the triumph of Easter more important than when we are faced with the tragedy of a loved one’s death.  The grief, the loss, the pain, the sorrow, the confusion, the emptiness, the loneliness that comes with the death of someone we love would be tragically overwhelming— if it weren’t for the Lord’s triumphant resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday!

 

The fact that Jesus triumphantly rose from the dead on Easter Sunday validates Jesus’ promise to us, “Because I live you also will live” (John 14:19).  The fact that Jesus triumphantly rose from the dead on Easter Sunday dries our tear-filled eyes with these words of comfort, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).  The fact that Jesus triumphantly rose from the dead on Easter Sunday takes the death of a Christian— no matter how they die— it takes the death of Christian out of the realm of a tragedy and graciously ushers it into the arena of triumph!  Yes, my friends, even while we grieve over the loss of our loved ones we rejoice in the eternal triumph guaranteed in the familiar words of our living Lord, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

 

I can not and I will not stand up here today and tell you that you will never again experience any tragedies in your life.  In fact, as long as we are still sojourning here in this sinful world we can expect to encounter even more tragedies along the way.  What I can do and what I will do is promise to you that the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead guarantees that your living Lord and Savior will take all those tragedies and transform them into the ultimate triumph— the triumph guaranteed to us by the cross of our living Lord and Savior.  (Pointing to the cross)

 

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen

 

Offering  During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our crucified and risen Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

Easter Prayer

Precious Savior Jesus Christ, we thank and praise you that by your suffering on the cross you endured the very agony of hell for us, and that by your death you have reconciled us to God.  But on this joyous day we especially thank and praise you for your physical resurrection from the dead.  Easter Sunday proves that you are God’s Son and seals your sacrifice as the full payment for our sins.  O Jesus, may we never cease to praise you with our hearts and lips for all that you have so graciously done for our salvation!

O, ever-living Lord, as you were raised up and glorified in your body, raise us up from spiritual deadness by the power of your Holy Spirit and give us a living faith, a faith that trusts in you with all of our hearts, a faith that joyfully serves you in godliness all of our days.  Fill our hearts with joy as we look with longing to the day of your glorious reappearing when you will raise all the dead from their graves.  Comfort us with the knowledge that on that day our lowly bodies shall arise in the likeness of your own glorious resurrection body and we will live with you in glory forevermore.

Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, Who art 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.

Benediction    Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the

Lord with gladness.

 

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be

gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

 

C:        Amen.