O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB  
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Beautiful Savior Lutheran School

Lutheran Church Canada - What do you believe?

LCC - Lutheran Church Canada

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, Canada


Based on 1 Corinthians 15:3-6

Preached on April 5, 2015

In the Name of Jesus, dear friends! What matters to you in your personal life? Is it a loving marriage or closeness in your family relationships? Those things are important. But they are not of first importance. What really matters in terms of provisions you think you must have? Is it a well-paying job; or a comfortable house in a stable neighbourhood? Those blessings, too, are certainly important. But they are not of first importance. In your opinion, what really counts about Christianity and the life of faith? Is it having a pastor who preaches well and puts you personally at ease? Is it belonging to a church family where you find caring people? I don't think anyone would argue that those joys are not important. But they are not of first importance. You are here on Easter, the highest festival of the Christian year, to rivet your attention not only to important things, but to what is of first importance. By the words I've read the apostle St. Paul is also here in our Easter service to tell you just what that is. I. He starts in: WHAT I RECEIVED I PASSED ON TO YOU AS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE: THAT CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, THAT HE WAS BURIED, THAT HE WAS RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, AND THAT HE APPEARED TO PETER, AND THEN TO THE TWELVE. AFTER THAT, HE APPEARED TO MORE THAN FIVE HUNDRED OF THE BROTHERS AT THE SAME TIME... What's of first importance? "This is it," said Paul. "It's what I received," and "it's what I passed on to you. Stop and think what the guy is saying. Paul had skills and experiences to brag about that you can hardly imagine. He took rabbi-training and knew how religious teachers think. He grew up in a seaport city and saw up close some of the rough things people do in a place like that were folks are traveling in and out; he knew what made people tick. He was a Roman citizen and could argue cases in court. He spoke four languages at least, and could switch from one to another in the middle of a sentence and never bat an eyelash. He had traveled on land, made sea voyages, addressed governors and kings, got robbed by bandits, tells us that God even allowed him a little peek of mysteries going on in heaven. Put it all together, and the whole thing makes for quite an obituary. But Paul did not shine the spotlight on any of it, neither on his sharp mind nor all the wonders he had seen which most other people never see. The stress goes here, he says: WHAT I RECEIVED ... I PASSED ON TO YOU AS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE. It's what I got from God Himself. It's what I gave you. It's what matters more than all other things. Here it is: CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES ... and ... HE WAS BURIED. Let's focus on that part for starters: Christ died and was buried. The death and burial of Jesus are facts of history. Gospel readings we heard two days ago on Good Friday may use different words. They all proclaim the same truth: WHEN JESUS (on the cross) HAD CRIED OUT IN A LOUD VOICE, HE GAVE UP HIS SPIRIT, one says. WITH A LOUD CRY, JESUS BREATHED HIS LAST ... and SAID, "IT IS FINISHED," writes another. WITH THAT HE BOWED HIS HEAD AND GAVE UP HIS SPIRIT, a third one says. Maybe you don't think the burial part matters much, but the fact that they buried Jesus reinforces the truth that He was really dead. You don't bury people if you think they're in a deep sleep and might wake up again, just as you don't bury someone who still gives off weak vital signs, even if he is otherwise unresponsive. You bury dead people. That's what they did with Jesus. They knew where His dead body was. It was in a new tomb furnished by a kind man who knew Jesus did not have cemetery property of His own. It's the tomb where the Roman governor posted military guards to keep troublemakers from breaking in and stealing the body. That was really the only worry, as far as they were concerned, someone breaking in from the outside. They did not worry much about the guy inside, because He was dead. As we all know, dead people stay where you put them. So Jesus Christ died. That in itself is not so remarkable. Thousands of people do it each day all over the world. You can read some of their death notices in the newspaper. But Jesus' death took place in a very special way. CHRIST DIED ... ON BEHALF OF OUR SINS. He did not die the way we do. He did not die because He got really old, and His body wore out and quit working. He didn't die because He had bad eating habits, never exercised, and exposed Himself to toxic chemicals, causing heart disease, diabetes or cancer. He did not die because He was always gabbing on a cell-phone while driving, so He didn't see that big truck before it slammed into His car, killing Him instantly. No, CHRIST DIED ... ON BEHALF OF OUR SINS. He died on behalf of our sins, not His. He did not die because He had failed and was now getting what He deserved. He died, taking what you deserved, and what I deserved. He died in your place. He died bearing your penalty. The Bible says this in many places: WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US... GOD MADE HIM WHO HAD NO SIN TO BE SIN FOR US, SO THAT IN HIM WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD... HE HIMSELF BORE OUR SINS IN HIS BODY ON THE TREE. All those words from God make it sound like there is a direct link between Jesus' death and your sins. That's because there is. Your sins sent Him to the cross. The bodily sorrows God could have dumped on you for all the times you abused Him and hurt other people, the Father unloaded on His Son. THE LORD HAS LAID ON HIM THE PUNISHMENT OF US ALL, wrote Isaiah. The rejection and jeering of cruel people on Good Friday which God could have turned loose on you, He hurled onto Jesus instead. Then, when God in the worst abandonment of all turned His back and made Jesus scream from His cross, MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME? That's a horror you'll never have to endure, because in bottomless love the innocent One took it for you. There's a direct link between Jesus' death and your sins, all right. His death means your sins and failures are dealt with. They're wiped away, all of them, washed clean. They're cancelled from the record. The Lord doesn't hold a single one against you anymore. The Bible asks, IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US? Even your own guilty feelings and your doubts sometimes about whether God could possibly still love and want you cannot stand up to the shed blood of Christ, which has washed you clean from every sin. When this life is over, when you've left family, job, house and every other conceivable blessing behind, this will be the mighty saving treasure that opens wide the front door of everlasting life to you. That's why Paul says it's of first importance. II. WHAT I RECEIVED I PASSED ON TO YOU AS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE: THAT CHRIST DIED ON BEHALF OF OUR SINS, THAT HE WAS BURIED, THAT HE WAS RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, AND THAT HE WAS SEEN BY PETER, THEN BY THE TWELVE. AFTER THAT HE APPEARED TO MORE THAN FIVE HUNDRED OF THE BROTHERS AT THE SAME TIME... That's the other part of this "first importance" business the apostle has for you this Easter Day. Christ was raised ... and was seen. What difference does Easter make? I recall years ago hearing CBC Toronto during Holy Week broadcast commentaries from sophisticated academic theologians asserting that it doesn't matter all that much whether Jesus in fact came back from the dead. They can say what they like! The sacred Scriptures tell you it makes all the difference in the world. CHRIST JESUS ... WAS DECLARED WITH POWER TO BE THE SON OF GOD BY HIS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD, you read in Romans 1. The coming alive of Christ on Easter, when He cracked the tomb open and walked out of the cemetery, alive and well, was the Father's way of certifying Him as God's own Son and the promised Saviour of the world. The same letter adds, HE WAS DELIVERED OVER TO DEATH FOR OUR SINS AND WAS RAISED TO LIFE TO BRING US A "NOT GUILTY" VERDICT FROM GOD. This means Jesus' resurrection victory on Easter was God's unmistakable way of stamping "Approved!" on the payment Christ made for your sins when He suffered, bled and died. If He had stayed in His tomb, decomposing away, you'd have to wonder: Did it really register? Did His death do me any good? Now in resurrection power, the Jesus Who came to His disciples on Easter Sunday night and greeted them with the liberating word, PEACE BE WITH YOU - even though they sinned and abandoned Him when He was put on trial - brings you the same peace you can take heart in despite your failures, because it comes from the One Whose resurrection shows He has the authority to say it! The early Christians were totally convinced that this Easter message is of first importance. That's why the apostles preached it everywhere they went. GOD HAS RAISED THIS JESUS TO LIFE, AND WE ARE ALL WITNESSES OF THE FACT, said Peter on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. Jesus, THE ONE WHOM GOD RAISED FROM THE DEAD, DID NOT SEE DECAY, announced missionary Paul in a synagogue in central Turkey years later. CHRIST SUFFERED AND, AS THE FIRST TO RISE FROM THE DEAD, PROCLAIMED LIGHT TO HIS OWN PEOPLE AND TO THE GENTILES, the same Paul testified before King Agrippa. The resurrection of Jesus is such a foundational teaching that it was included in clear words in all three ancient creeds - Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian - as you've got them recorded in your hymnal today. It's also why Easter is the oldest and most crucial festival of the entire Christian year. Long before the customs developed of marking Lent and Advent and Christmas and many other holy days, Christians began observing Easter. To start with, they celebrated it every Sunday, since Jesus had come to back to life on a Sunday. I guess they realized, the sweet Baby in the manger and all the other milestones we remember wouldn't have amounted to much if the One Who lived and died for us had not been raised from the dead. Christ was raised ... and seen. He did not simply appear in some fuzzy way, in His followers' imagination, in dreams or visions, something that seemed genuine but wasn't real. LOOK AT MY HANDS AND FEET, the Risen Jesus told His men. IT IS I MYSELF! TOUCH ME AND SEE; A GHOST DOES NOT HAVE FLESH AND BONES, AS YOU SEE I HAVE. That's why the original New Testament is not satisfied to use the word "appear" at this point. It says, "Christ was seen by Peter, the Twelve," and so on. In the ancient world if you had to certify something as truly having taken place, you got it confirmed by two or three witnesses. Here Paul reports that, during the forty days of Easter, Jesus was seen by all the remaining apostles, and even by hundreds of other people. That's how God confirmed the fact that His Son was raised. He made sure the Risen One got seen. There is so much wrapped up in the Easter gift God holds out to you people this day! He's reassures you that you are pardoned, forgiven and accepted by Him. He's giving you a Lord Who does not simply live in your thoughts because you chose to recall Him, but Who is really alive and pumps His life into you as a vine pumps life and sap into its branches. By Christ's Easter God gives you solid comfort about what has become of your departed loved ones who died trusting in Him; they are full of joy, and they are safe. God by Christ's Easter tells you of the victory that will be yours after death has done the worst it can do, so that you and I begin to see our own death for what it is: It's the doorway the Lord uses to get us through to our true and final home, so we can actually embrace it when it comes. It makes me so happy to hear the vows of people who today have joined the family at our beloved Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church. I don't know if you realize it, but the early Christians loved the custom of welcoming new people into the church on Easter every year. They understood, as you now do, too, that what the Lord gives you in the Risen Christ is not just a little important, or even just very important. It is OF FIRST IMPORTANCE. It's why we sang a few moments ago So let us keep the festival To which the Lord invites us; Christ is Himself the joy of all, The sun that warms and lights us. Now His grace to us imparts Eternal sunshine to our hearts; The night of sin is ended. Alleluia! (LSB 458:6)

Robert Bugbee Pastor