LWML Sunday 10-2-11

LWML Sunday 10-2-11

Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed! This is the day we give thanks to the Divine Son of God who has died, for the Redeemer who has risen so our

souls might be saved. To every cynic, every skeptic, every sinner, the Triune God extends this invitation to repent, believe, and be saved. Dear Lord, create

such a new heart within us all. Amen.

In June, at the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League convention held in Peoria, Dr. Ken Klaus, Lutheran Hour Speaker Emeritus, shared the

following experience about his preparation for the ministry. My years studying to be a minister had been good ones. How could they not be? I had been blessed to have a gaggle of great-minded professors enthusiastically making sure I was equipped in German, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. With each of them assigning homework as if theirs were the only class I was taking, I knew I was prepared for every eventuality. If someone had a question on the Confessions, I was their man. If they wanted to know why the Augsburg Confession was altered and why it shouldn’t have been, well … I knew. In my third year at the seminary, I was assigned a vicarage congregation where I could apply all this newly given knowledge, where I could razzledazzle the Lutheran laity with the wisdom for which they had been longing. With eagerness, enthusiasm, and excitement, I entered the presence of my vicarage supervisor. Through a series of commandments, commandments not found in any translation or paraphrase of the Bible, he filled in the empty spots of my Seminary education. He shared that my education might not be as complete as I had thought. It was simple, the wise vicar doesn’t mess with his vicarage pastor.

The second commandment was like unto the first: the wise pastor doesn’t mess with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. The look in his eye, the

tone of his voice told me: he was not joking. Over the decades since that meeting, I have learned many things. None has been more important than the truth I received that day: the wise pastor doesn’t mess with the LWML. The years have taught me that if the president of my congregation’s LWML shows up in my office and makes the prophetic pronouncement “We’re going to raise $50,000 to paint the church,” then I can go to the hardware store and pick out colors. If the LWML tells me, “We’re going to increase attendance at Sunday’s Bible study,” then I need to order more chairs. And, if they say they’re “going to live on the edge”, I’m not going to sneer, smirk, snicker, or smile. True, when I first heard the theme, Being with Jesus – Living on the Edge, for a second I did imagine the LWML President bungee jumping off a mile-high bridge, but then I realized, if that act would promote the cause of Christ and help save lost souls, she would say, “Sign me up.” She wouldn’t be the first Lutheran woman to live on the edge. As a parish pastor, I resonate to Dr. Klaus’ experience. The wise pastor doesn’t mess with the LWML, but rejoices in the partnership of spreading the Gospel.

During the Civil War, as General Lee’s Confederate soldiers were coming up the Chambersburg Road towards Gettysburg, one German Lutheran lady — Hannah was her name — felt she had to do something. Having nothing else to use as a weapon, she grabbed the broom from her door and started walking down the road to meet the enemy. When the Confederates were confronted by Hannah, to their credit, they gently brushed her, and her broom, to the side. Some years later, at a quilting party, the Gettysburg ladies were reminiscing about the fight, and they had some good fun at Hannah’s expense. One of them, a Mrs. Bomberger, asked, “Hannah, what in the world did you expect to do with your old broom against the great Southern army?” “Vell,” (well) said Hannah, with her Pennsylvania German accent, “I din’t tink I vuld schlow dem down, but I vanted to dem ta know vut site I vas on.” (I didn’t think I would low them down, but I wanted them to know what side I was on.)

Hannah was a woman who lived on the edge … but she is hardly the first individual to do so. If you wish to meet those individuals, you will have to rise before dawn on a Judean Sunday morning almost 2,000 years ago. If you do, you will meet four women. They are Mary, the mother of James and Joses; Joanna, wife of Chusa, the steward of Herod; Mary Magdalene whom Jesus freed from seven devils; and Salome, the mother of James and John. These four women got up early because they were going to finish the burial of someone they loved. You would agree that such a task is always unpleasant work, but in this case, the deceased had been gone for three days. The work would have been unbearable.

Follow them as they make the heartbreaking trip to Jesus’ grave. For the most part Scripture is silent concerning their conversation, but it doesn’t take much imagination to reconstruct what they might have said. Each might have spoken of what they had personally seen. Salome, living in Capernaum, would have remembered the day her boys spoke of Jesus’ miraculous catch of fish, how Jesus had cast out a demon, healed a paralytic, or raised the dead daughter of Jairus.

Mary Magdalene, whom history has maligned and misinterpreted, might have spoken of how Jesus had cast out the seven demons that had

possessed and plagued her. Joanna, with her husband’s contacts in Herod’s court, might have shared how Jesus had fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (53:7) and refused to defend Himself at His trials. It had been so unfair. They might have reminisced: “Had it been only last Thursday when Judas had betrayed Jesus with a kiss? Things had moved so quickly after that. Jesus had been taken to trial. Yes, a nighttime trial was illegal, but it had happened, hadn’t it? Bribed witnesses, charges which were changed, nobody had been with Jesus then; nobody had risked speaking on His behalf … nobody except for the Procurator’s wife who revealed the ominous contents of a dream. As they walked they would have remembered how their hearts had been torn when the Governor had put a whipped-and-crowned-withthorns Jesus on public display. The next hours would not change their pain. These women had lived on the edge as they stood at the foot of the cross. If those whom Jesus had healed, those whom He had fed, those whom He had raised from the dead, and most of His disciples were not there, these women would stay. They would keep Jesus’ mother company. They would stay and hear what He had to say. Others might pass by mocking and maligning Him, but they would stand fast. If Jesus were able to look through the blood red veil of His pain, they wanted to make sure that He saw at least a few friendly faces. They knew their standing might not amount to much, but they did what they could, they gave their widow’s mite of faithfulness and loyalty. Surrounded by hatred, they showed love. They were living on the edge. Keeping watch the women would have noted the moment of Jesus’ death. As long as He lived His body would have writhed, would have gasped for air, would have struggled, strained. But when death came, His body would have grown still and silent. When one of the Roman guards thrust a spear into His heart, it was an unnecessary anticlimax.

Thousands of years later it would be fashionable for critics to say Jesus had fainted, become comatose, been buried, and then had revived. These women knew differently. Jesus was dead and, like many women before them and many millions more since, these women gave thanks the suffering of their loved One had ended.

Courageously they watched as His corpse was taken down from the cross; bravely they watched to see where He was buried; sadly they noted the preparation of His body was richly, but incompletely done. That was when they pledged: “After the Sabbath we will set this right.” If a person had reminded them of the stone in front of the grave’s entrance, or had informed them of the guard … well, that person would have learned: “You don’t mess with the LWML.” With single-minded dedication they gathered the spices necessary to finish Jesus’ burial and, on Sunday morning, set out toward His tomb. There they intended to offer their final respects to someone whom they had loved.

As they approached the tomb they would have been astonished to find Jesus’ grave was open. Surprised, shocked, stunned? Their minds must have been racing as they asked, “Was it possible the tomb’s owner had had second thoughts about giving Jesus his grave? Had somebody moved Jesus’ body? If so, where had it been placed? Had someone stolen the Christ’s corpse? Should they report the loss to the authorities? If they did, would these leaders who planned His death help find His remains? Who knows, maybe these very leaders had desecrated and destroyed His body?” That Jesus had risen from the dead was the one thing which did not occur to them. That was because the simple, unassailable truth is this: people who are dead for three days don’t come back to life. Dead is dead. You know it; I know it; these women knew it.

Fearing the worst, the women gathered their courage and respectfully, slowly, tentatively entered Jesus’ grave. The Gospel of Mark says what happened

next. It tells us, “They saw a young man sitting on the right side of the walk-in tomb. He was dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.”

I can understand why. Mark continues, “And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen.’ ”

Christ has risen!

May I try to tell you, in small part, what those three words mean? For the women it meant their Friend, their Rabbi, their Master, their Teacher, was also their Savior.

According to prophecy, completing His own prediction, Jesus had kept His promise. Before He had been arrested He had said, “I lay down my life

that I may take it up again” (John 10:17). It was an outrageous statement, one that no man could keep. But, as these women found out in the next few

minutes, Jesus was no mere man.

A living Lord appeared to them and entrusted these women with a mission: tell the disciples Christ is risen. (He is risen, indeed!) That truth meant they would always be living with Jesus. It meant they would always live on the edge.

Today, 2,000 years later their mission is yours — their message is yours. The Savior lives and that means you who live with Him will also live on the

edge. I say that because you, dear friends in Christ, live in a land where the U.S. Supreme Court begins every session with an invocation. It’s true, every

session starts: “God save the United States and this Honorable Court!” But that same court who prays God’s blessings upon their work, refused to hear the case of Marcus Borden, a New Jersey football coach. Coach Borden had wanted to kneel in prayer with his team. Understand he didn’t want to organize or lead the prayers; he just wanted to bow his head.

You live in an age where living with Jesus means you live on the edge. Yours is a time when the President of the United States can ask for God’s blessing when he is installed; and after terrorists bring down the World Trade Center, Congress can stand on the Capital steps and sing, “God Bless America.” But Erica Corder, a valedictorian in Monument, Colorado, can’t speak about Jesus. Indeed, Erica was told she wouldn’t get her diploma until she apologized for having said: “If you don’t already know (Jesus Christ) personally I encourage you to find out more about the sacrifice He made.”

You live in an age where living with Jesus means you live on the edge. This past Resurrection day a church in California spent thousands to make a movie advertising the Savior’s rising and invite people to worship. Even though they had a signed contract, the movie houses rejected that pre-movie ad. The reason? Saying the name “Jesus” as in “Jesus is the Savior” is too controversial. Patrons to those movie houses can hear the Lord’s name taken in vain. They can hear it in cursing, but they can’t hear He is the Christ.

You live in an age where living in Christ means you live on the edge. Talk to your sisters in Iraq whose leaders told them: ‘Stay home from church on Christmas and Easter because terrorists are going to attack us.” The terrorists did and many died living on the edge. Talk to almost any student at any state-run institution of higher education; ask them what will happen if they profess their faith in Christ.

Take a look at the media. If you do, it won’t take too long before you realize almost every pastor or priest shown in movies or on TV is a platitude-spouting prude or a pathetic pervert; most Christian parents are portrayed as undeniably dense and church people are intolerant, ignorant idiots. On the news the scandals of Christians are publicly paraded, repeatedly rehashed, criticized, and condemned.

Unnoticed and unshared are the multitudes of faithful undershepherds of the Savior who have dedicated their lives to a proper preaching of the Word. Unrecognized and unapplauded are the millions of Christians who are good neighbors, good citizens, good parents, and good witnesses to Jesus Christ who has saved them by His birth, sinless suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead.

It hasn’t been so many years since a very skilled and talented lecturer came to a town, a town not so unlike this one. He had achieved some degree of

fame with his presentation which elevated humanity by demoting the Deity of Christianity. After his lecture he gave his listeners a chance to respond. One night the lecturer finished and an elderly lady stood up and said, “I paid good money to hear you tell me about something better than Jesus. You didn’t do that. I’ve been a widow for 30 years. When my husband died, he left me with six children. I trusted the Lord and He helped me. Each day He gave me enough to raise them. When a daughter died, He comforted me with the idea of a reunion in heaven.” The lady continued, “From what you’ve said tonight, you’re thinking that’s nonsense, it’s the imaginings of an old woman. Some here might believe that. I don’t. The Redeemer is real. Now, you can give me something better than what God has given or you can give me back my money.”

With derision dripping from his voice, the lecturer responded: “Ma’am, you’re so content living in your delusion, I wouldn’t try to convince you otherwise.” Hearing that, she stopped him cold. “No, no, no, that won’t do. Truth is truth and your laughing at me doesn’t change things. Young man, your lecture shows me this: you have too high of an estimation of yourself and too low an idea of God. I will not let you take away my Savior who died to forgive me. Sir, I’ve met Jesus, seen Him, talked to Him; I’ve been saved by Him. Let me ask, sir, in place of Jesus, you would give me what?” That was a Christian who was living in the Lord and at that moment was living on the edge. This room is filled with her sisters and brothers.

Many of you have met Jesus, talked to Him, been forgiven, and saved by Him. He has comforted you in life’s tragedies and given you a sure and certain knowledge of forgiveness. You know that when unbelief has done its withering work in the hearts of humankind, when the world has tried to shove the Savior back into His grave, when it has tried to dethrone Him from His seat in heaven, when it has slammed shut the door of salvation, the questions of life remain and all the world can offer to take his place is a darkening despair and a future filled with fear of an open grave.

You who live in the Lord, today I encourage you to live on the edge. It is time to stand up and say to the world, “What do you have to offer which is better than Jesus? You have laughed at the Savior, His suffering, His crucifixion, His death, and His resurrection. Yet, the living Lord has comforted countless Christians as they stood by the bedside of a sick child or at the graveside of a departed loved one.”

It is time for us to live on the edge and say, “You laugh at Christian families, but what do you have to offer which is better than having Jesus sit at the supper table with you and invoke His presence by praying: ‘Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest’?”

It is time for us to live on the edge and say to the so-called smarties of the world, “Your way creates families which are filled with bitterness and strife, children who want and are never satisfied, teens who feel neglected and ignored, and women who find no man to trust, honor, or respect. You offer a land where Jesus is banished from official proceedings and offer nothing to stem the tide of disobedience which fills prisons to overflowing, which brings down one elected official after another, which makes one appointed person after another remove his name from consideration for office because his life cannot stand the scrutiny.”

It is time to ask, “What do you have to offer which is better than Jesus?

What can provide a better foundation than the Christ?”

And to the silence which must come after that question is asked, we will extend the invitation, “Then come join us. Join this throng of the redeemed who are committed to the cause of Christ. Join us, the forgiven, the saved, who live in the Lord Jesus. Join us as we live on the edge.”

And if we do this, as the Savior has asked us to, the devil will learn, as every Lutheran pastor has learned, “You don’t mess with the LWML.” Even more, he will know “vut site ve are on.” (“What side we are on.”)

He will know we are Christian comrades committed to the cause of Christ. He will know Christians are people willing to live on the edge. We are God’s witnesses telling any and all who would listen, the wonderful blood-bought truth which saves: Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed.

Amen.

 

Leave a Comment