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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Apr 2, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 5th Sunday in Lent, John 11:1-45. There we read these words:

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." After saying these things, he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,

We will be emphasizing verses 25-26: "I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die."

This is the Word of the Lord.

In the middle of winter, even a well-managed cemetery is a terribly bleak place to visit. It isn’t designed to be this way: trees and shrubs and flowers are carefully planted to give color and beauty to the resting place of loved ones, to a site of mourning and grief.

But winter comes with its cold winds and freezing temperatures, with snow and ice. Life retreats: green disappears, the lawns turn brown, leaves fall, and branches look like deadened sticks while the gravestones stand sentry and time goes on. For those weeks of winter, it is a place where all seems dead.

But it is not so. Though sometimes it seems like it will never happen, the sun will rise higher with warmth and light, and the cemetery will be more a like a garden again. Throughout the winter, those trees and shrubs and lawns are not dead forever; they are merely dormant, waiting for the sun to bring them back to life.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

The Son of God arrived at Bethany late. His friend Lazarus had been ill for a while, but Jesus had delayed. Now Lazarus was dead, buried in the tomb for four long days. The number may have some serious significance: ancient rabbis are known to have taught that the soul of the dead hovered over their bodies for three days, then departed for good. Lazarus isn’t just dead: he’s gone. It would take more than the usual miracle (whatever that might be!) to bring him back now.

Lazarus had two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha went out to meet Jesus; and she gave a curious confession of faith. She said, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."

She was absolutely right: she knew that Jesus had the power to heal, and that He could have saved Lazarus while he was still alive.

At the same time, though, it appeared that she saw Jesus’ power as weaker than death: she thought that while Jesus could heal people who still had life, He could not give life where there was none left. She went on to say, "But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You;" but her words throughout this text indicate she had put limits on the "whatever." She didn’t believe that Jesus could bring Lazarus back to life.

Jesus told her otherwise. He said, "Your brother will rise again."

Martha thought she knew what He meant, so she said, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Here is an error to keep in mind, dear friends: the Last Day will raise nobody from the dead. The Last Day is simply the last day. It is Jesus who raises from the dead, because Jesus is the Conqueror of death. The dead will rise on the Last Day because He raises them then. And if Jesus chooses to raise the dead on another day, He can do that too. His power is not chained to the Last Day: wherever He is, whenever He is, He is the Lord of life.

This is what He proclaimed to Martha: "I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

She responded, "Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." She didn’t know what all that meant. But she trusted that Jesus was the Savior.

Jesus then went to the tomb, deeply moved and weeping. Behold your Savior, who empathizes with His people.

Even though He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He hurt with Mary and Martha because they hurt, and they were His beloved children—as are you. He arrived at the tomb and commanded that the stone be taken away. Martha objected, Lazarus was dead, and his body had become corrupted in the past four days. Why make that any more evident?

Hear Jesus’ answer: "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" The glory of God was about to be displayed at the tomb of Lazarus. And so Jesus prayed aloud that people might know that the Father was in on the miracle, too, that He had sent His Son to do His work and will. Having made that clear, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." And Lazarus came out of the tomb. Just like that. Because Jesus had spoken and had told him to.

That’s the glory of God on display: Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Where He is, life is, because He gives life; and He gives life by His Word. He spoke and told Lazarus to live, and Lazarus lived again.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Many of you mourn right now. In the past year, we’ve said goodbye to several of our brothers and sisters in Christ who were part of our family here; and that does not include your friends and loved ones whom you know, but who were not part of our fellowship in this place.

I pray that this text gives you comfort. Christ Jesus died and Christ is risen. He is the Conqueror of death. He is not the Resurrection and the Life only in the past, as if He retired from that after raising Lazarus from the dead. He is not the Resurrection and the Life only in the future, on the Last Day. He is the Resurrection and the Life now. Now, and forevermore.

Where Jesus is, life is. That’s what Jesus is about: and whenever He is present forgiving sins, He is also present giving life. By His forgiveness, He already declares that eternal life is yours, for He has done all to accomplish it by His death and resurrection.

At your baptism, Jesus declared, "Come out! Come out of the bondage of sin, for I make you My beloved child this day! Come out of the darkness of sin, for I am the Light of the world! Come out of death, for I am the Resurrection and the Life—and I make you alive forever by water and the Word."

Dear friends, your resurrection at the font was a far greater miracle than the one of Lazarus at the tomb: Jesus gave physical life back to Lazarus’ body, and that life would be lost again—Lazarus’ body would die again.

Jesus has given eternal life to you: you already have it. Yes, unless the Lord returns, your body will eventually die. But your soul will not: you are alive forever, and the Lord will raise your body up, too, on the Last Day. Where Jesus is, life is.

And whenever He is present forgiving sins, He is also present giving life. His Word gives life. He spoke to bring Lazarus back from death. He put His words in Ezekiel’s mouth, and those words made dry bones alive. This day, He speaks His forgiveness to you. These are not empty words: they give you life, renew that eternal life in you once again. Where Jesus is, life is.

And whenever He is present forgiving sins, He is also present giving life. It is likewise true at His Supper. He is present, for He gives you His very body and blood—and He gives it for the forgiveness of sins. He gives it to keep you alive—for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. This is true for you.

It is also true for those you mourn who died in the faith. Those who died in the faith are not dead, because the Lord is not the Lord of the dead but of the living. Their bodies rest in the grave for now, but they live even now with Christ in heaven. You have His promise: "I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die." It is true for the saints who have gone before us, and it is true for you.

Where Jesus is, life is. Do not despair, repentant people of God. Whatever sins you have clung to in the past, He died for them all; and He promises "everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die." This promise is for you. It is for all the penitent people of God who have died in the faith.

You know, in the springtime, a well-managed cemetery is a pretty place. The lawns turn green, the trees leaf and the flowers bloom as the sun restores life with light and warmth. It can be a lovely garden. But the renewed foliage is only a hint, only a shadow.

Martin Luther once said that, for the Christian, a cemetery is not the final resting place of the dead, a place of dry bones. It is a place of planted kernels, sown seeds. Those who died in the faith are alive with Christ even as they await the resurrection of their bodies; and on the Last Day, the Lord will bring forth those bodies in the ultimate restoration of life as He calls His people from the grave.

For Christ will return in glory; and where Jesus is, life is. That is your hope for you and for all who die in Christ. He is the Resurrection and the Life, and He has given that life to you.

Christ is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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