Note: This homily was preached by Pastor William Weedon, International Center Chaplain, on April 10, 2015, the Friday of the Week of the Resurrection of Our Lord. We bring it to you as a joyful proclamation of the fullness of the resurrection Gospel. + Herbert Mueller
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Today we mark yet another step in the unfathomable love of God for the human race. It was not enough for Him to have created us in His image and place us into the paradise of plenty. It was not enough for Him, when we fell into sin, to promise us a Savior. It was not enough for Him, to give us the Law to teach us our need of His mercy. It was not enough for Him, to send us prophets who called us again and again to trust in Him and to turn from all that was death and vanity. It was not enough for Him even to send His Son into our flesh. It was not enough for Him to walk among us, a man among men, the man among all others who are really only failures at being men. It was not enough for Him to stand in the waters of the Jordan in solidarity with sinners. It was not enough for Him to reach out and touch and heal. It was not enough for Him to teach us the counsels of salvation. It was not enough for Him to offer up His life a ransom for us upon Gologotha’s stony slope. It was not enough for Him to share our graves and taste our death. It was not enough for Him.
He would love us even more. And so the joys of Easter. For make no mistake about what Easter celebrates. Not merely that a man was raised from the dead. THIS Man had raised others from the dead before — Jairus’ little girl, the widow of Nain’s son, Lazarus. But they were all brought back from death into life with still corruptible flesh. That is, they each finally grew sick and died yet again. I don’t imagine that any of them faced death in the same way as before — for they had encountered Him who was stronger than death. But their coming back to life was not like His.
This week we celebrate that human flesh, like unto our own, of a piece with us, has been raised from death in incorruption. He will never die again. He is forever beyond all that. As we like to sing: “Gone the nailing, gone the railing, gone the pleading, gone the cry, gone the sighing, gone the dying, what was loss lifted high.”
This is the news that the Angel brought to the Marys and Salome at the tomb: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here. He is risen. Come, see the place where they laid Him, but go and tell His disciples and Peter that He is risen and goes before you into Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you.”
As He told you. His words of promise never fail. You can count on them when everything else around you is shaking, when your world crumbles, when your heart breaks, when your body fails. He will not fail you. It wasn’t enough for Him to merely share our flesh and blood. Oh, no. He would have that flesh and blood glorified, raised in incorruption, shining with the light of deity, the very source of our eternal hope. And He will take that glorified flesh and blood and raise it to the right hand of the Father, bringing humanity to that place where God had intended humanity to live from the beginning.
And do you see what His incorruption means to you? He, who is forever beyond death, beyond sin, beyond the accusations of the law, beyond hell — He has joined you to Him. In your Baptism you went into that grave with Him and you came out with Him. Alive. One with Him. His life was given you there in the water to be your life — His INCORRUPTIBLE life. But with Him, that’s never enough. There’s always more.
And so He sends His servants out to proclaim His promises — promises that cannot fail, that are as sure and certain as His rising from that grave on this day in incorruption–incorruptible promises to make you partakers of His divine nature. This is how St. Peter put it: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3,4) The promises of the Incorruptible One impart to you incorruption and make you a sharer in His divine nature — so that all that He is by nature you become by grace. He, a child of God; You, a child of God; He, the Heir of the Father; You, the heir of the Father.
But with Him there is always more. It was not enough for Him to baptize you into His own indestructible life; not enough for Him to arrange for His promises to be spoken to you to impart to you incorruption. He goes further; He has more; His love knows no limit. He has a meal for you. He wants to put into you, into your corruptible, dying, sinful bodies His incorruptible, undying, sinless Body and Blood for your forgiveness and for you life. He wants to unite YOU to Himself; to strengthen the bonds of your faith; to comfort you; to hold and still you in all your anxieties and fears. He wants you to know that just as death was not the end of Him, so it will NEVER be the end of you. He wants you to rejoice that YOU have a life that is stronger than all the death in this world.
Old Job could go to his grave in the confidence that his Redeemer lived, and that on the other side of the corruption — yes, though his body be destroyed — yet he would live again in this flesh and his eyes and none other would behold God. And as he thought of it, his heart burned within him.
You see more than Job. For you have known the Redeemer for whom he hoped, and you know His triumph over death and the grave. You know that not a single word of His ever proves false.
So, beloved, since Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, let us keep the feast. Away with the leavened bread of malice! Away with the leavened bread of evil! Let us welcome the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth: the sincerity that is God’s earnest promise and the truth that with our God and His love for us, nothing was good enough until He had made our nature incorruptible in His Son and united us to Him that we might live in Him forevermore. This is God’s sincerity. This is God’s truth. This is the Bread on which we feast — the incorruptible bread that is Christ our Passover Lamb to whom be glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit — the only and blessed Triune God who has loved us with a love unimaginable and deep.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ!
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.” (Ps. 107:1)
We are blessed with the gift of faith through Holy Baptism and the preaching of God’s Word in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions. We give thanks to our Lord for so many blessings, including the opportunity to carry out our Lord’s mission in our respective vocations and with the talents God entrusts to us.
In July 2013, the Synod in convention set before the Office of International Mission (OIM) a challenge to double the number of career LCMS missionaries (Resolution 1-11, “To Recruit and Place More Career Missionaries”). By the Lord’s grace, we project that by September of this year, we will have met and exceeded that bold challenge!
In Jesus’ name, we give thanks for those who have accepted a call or solemn appointment to serve as an LCMS missionary. We give thanks to each person reading this who is committed to supporting our missionaries through personal prayer, words of spiritual encouragement and through each sacrificial donation offered up for this purpose.
The Lord of the harvest is indeed gracious and merciful, overcoming every doubt with the certainty of His constant and enduring love and providing everything that is truly needed to accomplish His will. He continues to call each of us through His Word to labor for His harvest.
As our international career missionary team grows, He continues to open doors of opportunity and possibility. Lutheran church bodies, including our 36 official partner churches around the world, plead for us to send teachers, pastors, theologians, church planters, medical teams and other skilled lay workers into their midst.
Now is the moment for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to stand boldly and to vigorously make known the love of the Lord Jesus Christ in word and deed, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through Him alone to the entire world!
God is positioning the LCMS to serve our Lutheran partner churches to help them enhance their own witness and mercy efforts, plant new communities of faith and nurture new partnerships so that every tongue confesses Jesus Christ as Lord.
By grace, God has strengthened the internal capacity of the OIM for effectively responding to these exciting opportunities, and to do so with even greater efficiency. Twelve full-time employees at the International Center in St. Louis, coupled with the regional administration teams, are responding to the 2013 convention’s challenge. Not only is this committed team recruiting more qualified missionaries and sending them into ripe harvest fields, the OIM is ensuring pastoral (spiritual and emotional) care for each missionary by deploying them in teams, under a strategic plan developed around the Synod’s six mission priorities adopted in convention (Res. 3-06A).
On the LCMS Mission Advancement side, four full-time specialists in St. Louis and eight staff members deployed around the county, including Gary Thies at Mission Central in Iowa, are working directly with (and caring for) faithful stewards in the Synod whom God empowers to financially support our missionaries. This team also provides professional assistance to our missionaries as they grow personal networks of financial partners. God has even blessed the Synod with dozens of lay volunteers who invest their precious energy in this effort!
Now is the most exciting time for LCMS international mission work in several decades! The current potential for a faithful Lutheran witness about Jesus all over the world is unprecedented. A seismic change is compelling many church bodies to seek out the LCMS because of the very treasure we steward, the Gospel, which they desire to teach in its truth and purity in their seminaries, their congregations and in the streets of their communities.
In East Africa alone, the countries of Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania are home to almost 20 million Lutherans. These joyful Christians heard the Gospel proclaimed by missionaries sent from Europe and America. They are now journeying to speak God’s truth in the lands of those first missionaries, including the very birthplace of Lutheranism, Germany. We are being invited to partner with them. In the West African nation of Nigeria, opportunities to work alongside our partner church are opening up. Nigeria is home to more Muslims than those who live in Iraq.
The future strength of faithful Lutheranism is shifting to lands south of the equator and toward Asia. The call and challenge we have been handed is to share the theological treasures we steward with these partners so they are fully equipped to carry the biblical Gospel, as it is taught in the inerrant Scriptures, to all of the world.
Western Europe faces many of the same challenges of secularization we in North America are experiencing, perhaps in an even more intense way. Our partner churches are learning how to confess Christ as a minority in cultures and communities that do not have direct experience with or are indifferent and perhaps even hostile to the Christian church. People have forgotten even the most basic Christian narrative, and biblical literacy cannot be assumed. In some respects, a new Dark Age is descending on Europe.
Despite these daunting challenges, the Gospel is being proclaimed in what is a huge mission field! Our partners in Europe look to the LCMS for encouragement and help as they discover new opportunities to speak boldly and lovingly to their neighbors, especially to immigrant groups. Our mission strategy is intentionally designed to support their outreach efforts, and in some cases the LCMS provides workers to help plant new churches among those whose ears and hearts are open to the truth.
H. Mayer, the mission secretary of the Synod in 1956, noted a strange paradox about Christian mission work:
“And what shall we say when we look at the heathen world? During the past 40 years about 14 million heathen were baptized. But during that same span of time the heathen population increased by more than twenty times that number. Each year there are more Christians, but each year there are still more heathen. We face the strange paradox: The church grows, and yet it becomes relatively smaller.”
If this was true almost 60 years ago, it is true also today. It is precisely why the LCMS is active in mission in the 21st century — reaching out and proclaiming the Gospel to those who have not yet heard that Jesus died for their sins. It is why we purposefully nurture the faith of new Christians who hear and believe by gathering them around the Word and Sacraments so they may regularly receive God’s good and perfect gifts, a foretaste of the feast to come. It is why we establish Lutheran churches which shall exist into the future as faithful communities sharing the Gospel and themselves prepared to send missionaries.
Each generation of Christians is challenged by the devil, this broken world and our sinful flesh in ways that can hinder the spread of the Gospel. Yet in the midst of obvious challenges, the Lord of the harvest brings to light new, exciting opportunities. He promises hope and a future, and He delivers on every promise. In grace and love, He grants hope to carry on, courage to share the Gospel and an understanding that not even the gates of hell will prevail against His Church.
Thank you in the name of Jesus. Our earnest prayer is that you will continue this journey with us, joyfully carrying His Gospel to the four corners of the earth!
Rev. Tony Booker, Eurasia Regional Director
Rev. Dr. David Erber, West Africa Area Director
Rev. Theodore Krey, Latin America Regional Director
Mr. Darin Storkson, Asia Senior Regional Director
Rev. Shauen Trump, East Africa Area Director
Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations
Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, Associate Executive Director of the Office of International Mission
Mr. Mark Hofman, Executive Director of LCMS Mission Advancement
From Christopher C. Barnekov, PhD
Ph. (260) 399-6565
[April 8, 2015]
The Swedish-Language Finnish paper, HBL, reports today that the Church of Finland has defrocked five CoF pastors who have been serving congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. CoF bishops had threatened such action in 2013, and CoF did defrock three leaders of ELMDF, including Bishops Matti Väisänen and Risto Soramies and Dean Juhana Pohjola. This is the first time CoF has defrocked pastors simply for serving ELMDF congregations.
ELMDF was formed in March 2013 by Confessional Lutherans distressed by the CoF’s abandonment of Confessional Lutheran teachings and practice.
The five pastors targeted are Sakari Korpinen, Miika Nieminen (pastor of the congregation in Pori), Anssi Simojoki (pastor of the congregation in Laitila), Markku Sumiala and Martti Vaahtoranta (pastor of the congregation in Rauma). The action was taken by the Consistory of Turku (Åbo) Diocese.
Report in HBL.fi (in Swedish):
Previous report of CoF threats against Confessional pastors:
English-language webpage of ELMDF:
The April 2015 issue of the Journal of Lutheran Mission is a special edition published outside of the regularly scheduled editions. The April 2015 edition features an introduction by President Harrison and a classic piece of Lutheran missiology titled, “The Lutheran Church Plants Lutheran Mission,” by Friedrich Wilhelm Hopf translated by Deaconess Rachel Mumme and Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.
Hopf presents three basic missiological sentences:
1. The Lutheran Church can only do Lutheran mission.
2. Lutheran mission can only be done by the Lutheran church.
3. Lutheran mission must lead to a Lutheran church.
The essay presents the idea that seems self-evident but isn’t always present in practice that the goal of Lutheran mission is to lead to Lutheran churches. Although a variety of mission strategies can be used to reach people, some of which might have intermediate goals such as human care, English as a second language, education, as long as the ultimate goal is to plant a Lutheran church, or to strengthen an existing Lutheran church (in the case of a partner church).
This piece is a thoughtful piece worth the read.
You can see the article below or download it from the following link:
A Sermon for Good Friday 2015
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t yet, you will be. I’m speaking, of course, of the deathbed of a loved one.
A few weeks ago, I was visiting a dear friend in the hospital with some brother pastors. We were there to sing hymns for our beloved professor, and it was great visit. But as we were leaving his room, a woman about my age came up and quietly asked whether we might be able to come to her mother’s room and sing there as well. So we did. Her mother was ninety-two. She was frail and unconscious, clearly nearing the end. And there at her deathbed, she was surrounded by her many children and grandchildren. The family was all there. And so was Jesus. You see, Jesus takes care of his family.
St. John is the only writer to record this intimate account of Jesus caring for his mother. The only other place where Mary is mentioned in John’s Gospel is at the very beginning, at the wedding at Cana, where she is alerted to the impending shortage of wine and tells Jesus, who replies: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” And yet Mary tells the wine stewards in faith: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:4). You see, Mary knew that Jesus takes care of his family.
Mary knew that from the very beginning, when the angel spoke into her ears the incredible news of a child to be conceived in her womb by the power of the Most High, a child who would be called “holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). And Mary’s faith received those words from the Lord, and the Son of God was thereby conceived in her womb. As we confess of Jesus,
“. . . conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died and was buried . . .” (Apostles’ Creed)
You see, Mary also knew of the pain that would come to her infant son. For at Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple at forty days old, Old Man Simeon had prophesied: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel . . . and a sword will pierce through your own soul also . . .” (Luke 2:34–35).
Here, at Calvary, when Jesus’ hour had finally come, that “dagger to the heart” came to Mary also, as she beheld the son she once cradled in her arms—now beaten, mocked, and crucified as a common criminal, bleeding, and dying in agony. Yet, in the midst of all of that, Jesus took care of his family.
And Jesus takes care of you, too. For Mary and the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” are a picture of you and me, a picture of Christ’s holy church, his family. “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus promised his disciples (John 14:18). And he has not left you abandoned and alone in your sin. He has not left you alone to face death. He will not leave you alone at the deathbed of your loved one. And he will not leave you alone at own deathbed. For Jesus has already passed through death, for you. By his death and resurrection, Jesus has swallowed up death forever in victory (Is. 25:8; 1 Cor. 15:54). And through your Baptism, you have been buried with him into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, you too might walk in newness of life. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:4–5).
Jesus takes care of his family. As he took care of Mary and John at the foot of the cross, so also takes care of you and me, His Church. For “that same heart which began to beat in Mary’s womb and had been silenced on the cross, once again began to beat in that cold dark tomb, and it still beats to this very day. It still beats for you and me” (O.P. Kretzmann).