When I first saw these texts for this plague week I felt “wow, lets change them.” But I’ve only changed the assigned texts of a Sunday less than 5 times. And I am glad I didn’t. In the midst of death, or at least the fear of death, these lessons tell us our hope. That is what the sermon does. Hopefully gives the saints God’s word to live in these times.
Service note: We are splitting our services to say under 10 people locally (everyone has their own pew), 9 AM and 11 AM with roughly the same number online. So, we don’t have music. We are using responsive prayer 2 in LSB. It is also wired up to produce the best sound for those online. I’ve put the entire service out. The back half after the sermon is collective prayer.
The text contains a couple of staple funeral texts. They are more than that, but it is that connection that is part of this meditation. The greatest of the “I AM” statements is the first text – “I am the Resurrection and the Life”. The shortest verse in the bible, “Jesus wept”, is the second. Both of these are part of the larger story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And the repeated line is theirs. “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.”
This sermon is a personal reflection on those words. I hope that it carries the gospel.
Worship Note: Two points. First, we got our new organ this week. I believe you might he a much clearer sound. Second, today was a good day to sing some of the great Lenten hymns. The one I left in the recording is LSB 435, Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain. I believe it carries the themes of resurrection and the life, a God who keeps his promises.
Two of the traditional attributes of God are His Sovereignty and His Goodness. This sermon reflects on the conflict those appear to produce today. I can’t help but look at our culture and see a people who are, against what they actually say, aware of God’s sovereignty but don’t believe or trust in His Goodness. Take Christopher Hitchens for a second, his biggest applause line was always, “God’s a bloody tyrant”. His logic doesn’t work. Just because someone is a tyrant doesn’t mean they don’t exist. (Don’t even try, it’s an applause line appealing to felt emotion and not logic.) But, in almost every level of culture the same idea is expressed. Keanu Reeves calls God “a kid with an ant farm” in the B-movie Constantine. A little more heady, the Walking Dead, about a resurrection of sorts, keeps returning to themes of tyranny and tribalism. Only the tribes with a strong leader survive. The mantra of a generation appears to be “don’t judge me” and the noticing of something is taken as akin to tyranny. Nietzsche called Christianity a religion of slaves for a couple of reasons: a) the first reasons was the God used his power on the side of the slaves against the “supermen” but that leads to b) God is the only “superman” or the only tyrant allowed to stand. What these all share is an attribution of power to God, but not goodness. Hence my final line “zombie apocalypse of tyranny”. A God who was only powerful, who was just the resurrection, would do something like that. And that is our cultural bug-a-boo, we still have an idea or a feeling of the power of God, but we have lost faith in the Goodness. And we have lost faith with the Goodness because we have severed ourselves from Christ and the body of Christ.
It is only in the incarnation of Jesus that we can fully observe and take in the goodness of God. Unlike our power, God uses his power for good. And that includes the bestowing of life on all who believe. Jesus is the resurrection (power) and the life (goodness). And that life is not tyranny but “full of grace and truth”. But the only place you find both the resurrection and the life is connected to the body of Christ which is the church. Connected through Word and Sacrament, proclamation of forgiveness and incorporation in water, bread/body and wine/blood. Rejecting the church is rejecting Jesus. Rejecting Jesus is rejecting the goodness of God. The power is still naturally know by looking out the window. But the power alone isn’t enough. We need law and gospel. We need power and goodness. We need the resurrection and the life.