Mar 27, 2016 (Easter) – Remembered No More
There’s a church in Germany that has the image of a lamb carved in the stone over the entrance. It’s there because of an incident that happened during the building of the church. The workers were putting up the steeple of the church when one of them lost his footing and fell to the churchyard below. But he wasn’t seriously hurt. He fell on a lamb that was grazing on the grass in the churchyard.
In thankfulness, the image of a lamb was carved into the stone above the door as a constant reminder that not only was that workman saved by a lamb, but also that all of us are saved by the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
That carving is a good device to remind the churchgoers of this truth about Christ. But there are other things that work as reminders about Christ’s truth as well. We all use reminders every day for things that are important for us.
Having a plan to remember things is useful isn’t it? But sometimes there are things we wish we could forget; or that we wish others could forget about us. That reminds me of a story about a woman visiting a church. For weeks she would come to church but not sign a guest book or give her name. Finally she called the pastor and asked to see him. This is what she said:
“When I was 15 I got a strange illness. No one knows what it was. The doctors said I would die. An elder from my church came to pray for me. He told me to promise God that if I lived through the illness I would never sin again. I prayed that way and I got well. So… I never went back to church. For years I didn’t pray. I didn’t want God to be reminded that I existed. I was afraid He would remember the promise that I broke. But now I know my prayer was wrong. I know Christ has forgiven me. It’s a joy to go to church again and to pray again.”
She realized that she had wrongly thought that making herself a better person was the price she had to pay. She’d thought she owed God the cost of being a person without sin; and if you want to be a better person that’s all fine, well and good. But being a better person won’t restore your broken relationship with God. Our sin is not something we can deal with on our own. You can’t accomplish a restored relationship with God no matter how good you are, how self-empowered you become or how far you’ve raised your consciousness! You can do nothing to restore your broken relationship to God. Only because, Christ is risen… He is risen indeed is that restoration accomplished.
Yes, a person can reject the gift of His victory if they wish. But doing that leaves a person still dead in their own sin, which is another way of saying, leaving them in their broken relationship with God. Like the woman in the story, her relationship with God had been broken because she thought she needed to make herself a better person. It is only by grace through faith in Jesus’ victory that His offer of a new life in Him became her new life. And that same victory is what gives all of us new life and gives us freedom from sin and a restored and a true relationship with God the Father in heaven.
She learned that while she had hoped that God had forgotten about her He hadn’t. He had only forgotten / about / her / sin. That’s what the cross of Christ does; it lets God forget our sins. The Old Testament lesson from Isaiah today refers to that. Read verse 17 with me, it says, Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.
The former things not remembered those are our sins. In the new thing that God has done in Jesus Christ He’s made it possible for Him to remember us, without remembering our sins. (X2)
For us humans however, remembering often times requires some help, like we talked about. Let me ask you something, Why are you here today? Why did you come? What did you come here to remember?
I think one of the main things about coming to church on Easter and every Sunday for that matter, is to be reminded of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. You came today because / Christ is risen… He is risen indeed.
It’s important to be reminded of the Lord’s word and work. Like we said, God will not remember the former things; He will not remember our sin. But what we’re to remember is the Lord’s word to us. We are to remember His words. They are to be remembered and to be lived in by us. It’s the word of Christ and believing that word that gives us new life.
It’s important to be reminded of Christ’s words, that’s why we gather together. And in hearing His words we’re reminded we have new life in Christ, and a restored relationship with the holy God, who is our Father in heaven.
It’s like the reminder in the gospel lesson today; the women came to the tomb and found it open. They went inside and instead of finding the body of Jesus as they had expected to, instead there were two angels. I love the question they ask the women, … Why do you seek the living among the dead?
That’s a great question! It’s as though the angels don’t expect the women to be in the place where the dead reside. But these women had seen Jesus die and be put in this very tomb. The angel’s question has the feel of something my dad would say to me. I can still hear his voice, ‘don’t you remember what I said?’ And when he’d ask that, I was stuck. I was stuck because if I answered, that I didn’t remember, then I was informed that was because I wasn’t paying attention. So, I goofed up that way. But then, if I did remember I was in trouble because I didn’t act on what I had remembered I’d been told. Either way I was stuck.
Well, this question from the angels to these women has that same kind of feel doesn’t it? Being stuck. But in the gospel lesson the angels ask the question and then mercifully tell them the only logical answer; He is not here, because Christ has risen… He has risen indeed.
And then the angels remind the women of both Jesus’ words and where He said them. In Galilee before heading to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus made it clear that He would come to Jerusalem, be persecuted and killed and then rise again after three days. Jesus had said this and when the angels reminded the women of it, then, then they too remembered.
It was after / being / reminded that they remembered Jesus words. In the midst of their grief and loneliness at being separated from Jesus, they’d forgotten what Jesus had told them. After all, He’d just died three days before, on Friday, and here it was Sunday, the first day of the week and they’d begun to settle into the reality that – Jesus / was / dead. They’d put out of mind what Jesus had said. Which, since He was dead, would only be a natural thing to do.
And that is the point to remember today; what Jesus did was not merely natural. He’d been careful to tell them what was coming. But not having any experience with someone bringing themselves to life again after death, they simply missed the reality of what Jesus meant when He told them all this in Galilee. As St. Paul said in the epistle lesson, For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. They’d only had the experience of Adam, which is all people die. But Christ brings the new thing, new life.
Jesus really meant exactly what His words said; He would rise again after being persecuted and dying. And He’d even made it clear that His death would be in such a manner that His body would be lifted up for all to see, and that’s what happened on the cross. Jesus meant what He said about His death / and He meant what He said about rising to life again.
And that’s why we have the question from the angels – why do you seek the living among the dead; don’t you remember what He said? I think one of the things to take away from this is – that being reminded of the truth of Jesus Christ is a good thing. Like that lamb over the door of the church in Germany, coming together for worship is a reminder of the truth that is ours in Christ Jesus, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Today, coming here helps us to be reminded of the reality of what Christ has done for us in dying and rising to life again.
So given that we are together on this glorious day, be reminded of this; Christ is risen! … He is risen indeed! And, be reminded of what’s true in our own lives because of Easter. Be reminded of what of Jesus’ Easter triumph frees us from. Jesus frees me so that I’m no longer bound to my sinful ways. Easter means that I will never be all alone in this world.
Jesus victory over sin, death and the devil means that those things / sin / death and / the devil, can never, can never again cut me off from God. Like St. Paul said in the last line of the epistle lesson, the last enemy to be destroyed is death. In Christ and His Easter victory over death I am never alone again. Like the woman in our earlier story, she finally came to understand that she wasn’t alone, because she knew Christ had indeed forgiven her of all her sins even as He remembered her!
Let me close by giving you a suggestion from Martin Luther that might be helpful in remembering that. Luther once suggested that on the wall at the foot of the believer’s bed should hang, side by side, a cross and a person’s baptismal certificate. As the Christian goes to bed at night the last thing they see is the cross of their savior and the baptismal certificate by which they’ve been made a part of the body of Christ.
And, as they awake in the morning, they are again reminded that they have all they need in Christ’s Easter victory to go and live before God in the righteousness and purity that is theirs, that is yours, by Jesus’ gift of faith to you.
Remember you are never again alone and your sins are remembered no more. But you, you are remembered before God’s throne of grace because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Go now and live in that remembrance because / Christ is risen… He is risen indeed, alleluia!
Sermon #820 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Reading portions from Isaiah 65:17-25 17 “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. …
21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. …
24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.
Epistle 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Holy Gospel Luke 24:1-12
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.