Devotional Thought for the Saturday between the cross and the resurrection.
23 In accordance with his own plan God had already decided that Jesus would be handed over to you; and you killed him by letting sinful men crucify him. 24 But God raised him from death, setting him free from its power, because it was impossible that death should hold him prisoner. Acts 2:23-24 (TEV)
14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead. 1 Corinthians 6:14 (NLT)
Thus Christ the Lord became our פּוֹדֶה (redemption) and גֹּאֵל (redeemer). For He not only redeemed us but also freed us rightfully for Himself, so that the devil and hell were compelled in strict justice to let Him go, because they had killed the innocent Son of God. Therefore the Law burned its fingers, and death dirtied its pants. The devil, death, and sin overreached themselves. There they all became guilty and debtors to God, to this Son Jesus Christ, who now has the right over against His enemies. For why did you crucify the Son of God, O Law? Why did you kill Him who was innocent, O devil, death, and hell? (1)
I suppose some might find the italicized words above offensive, this idea that death filled its pants, that it couldn’t control its bowels or bladder.
But I find death offensive, brutally so. To be honest, after the last couple of weeks, and even over the last couple of years, I am pretty ticked off at death, at the damage and grief it causes, at the pain, as it separates what God has brought together as couples, as families, as communities. So when I read this quote by Martin Luther, I knew I had to use it, and soon.
I almost wish I knew German, to see if the translators “prettied up” this quote. SOmeohow I think Luther, who was no stranger to death or the anxiety it can cause, said something like this, “when seeing Christ’s resurrection, death crapped…” (not that I would actually use that phrase in public, though it is tempting!!!)
This horrible enemy that is death, whose presence can so hurt, will, in the end, be terminated. Then, St Paul tells us, there will be no more its horrible sting, it will have no impact. Like Satan and sin, it will be an object of ridicule, absolutely powerless.
What a joyous moment, the moment after death thinks it had gathered to itself God, as it wrapped its cold slimy hands around Jesus, as it thought it had at last one, that this God who kept raising people from its power, now was subject to itself.
And the Lamb of God, the sacrifice which redeemed us from sin, this incredible Redeemer begins to breathe, and life pours back into the body of the one who is the Resurrection, who is the Life, our Life. Death who thought to parade its victory around in Hades finds itself bound, and those who it held prisoner rejoicing as Jesus claims His own, the people He redeems because He was the sacrifice.
This scene is repeated, over and over, every time a saint enters into his Father’s glory, as sin and Satan and death are found powerless, (they can’t even control their bowels!)
For scripture tells us, the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us. The Holy Spirit – the gift to all who believe, the gift God has given that brings us the gifts repentance, faith and hope, is ours.
We have been raised with Christ! Live in that peace my friends!
Praise be to God our Father, for by the cross of Christ joy has truly entered the world! AMEN
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s Works, vol. 8: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 45-50. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 8, p. 162). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Devotional/discussion thought of the day….
One of my favorite spiritual books – which we soon be re-opened – was written not by a famous pastor or priest – or by a saint, or by a powerful bishop or pope, but by a baker in a monastery. It tells of finding service to God in serving where one is put…. and that it is more important to serve well, than where one serves. (that is but one of the lessons) I know some people like that.
I know a lady who has volunteered at her church for 30 years – maybe 40. She is presently working in the sanctuary, filling the oil candles. Other times, she sits in the office, waiting for the phone to ring, or cutting out things for the pre-school teachers, or talking to those who drop by the office, lifting their spirits. She would turn bright red if she knew I was writing this blog about her and others. But if the church she serves runs smoothly – if we get things done – if things are in order… it is because of her service.
I know as well a number of teachers – but this morning I think of five – who are quite gifted – incredibly so. When their school closed, one stayed and has done a marvelous job with the preschool there, another went to another preschool and teaches the littlest – caring for them with incredible grace., two others are back teaching in elementary schools – teaching those who’ve others have given up on – the most challenging of kids to teach… and one serves the church as a office manager. What amazes me is that all of them are incredibly qualified and gifted – and yet they choose to serve where they do. All have chosen to serve those… who others would not, dare not. They do it – because God has placed them there – and though they may struggle with it – they serve those around them.
One of my favorite writes said this,
In God’s service there are no unimportant posts: all are of great importance. The importance of the post depends on the spiritual level reached by the person filling it. (1)
Luther – another of my favorite authors comments similarly
Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool—though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith—my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling—not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools. (2)
It is not what we do – as the six ladies above demonstrate – it is that we do it in faith, trusting God to use what we do, trusting Him to turn our simple works into something which blesses those around us.
As I go to write my final manuscript this morning, as I find myself distracted by a number of things – this too comes out – I have to depend on the Lord who put me here – I have to go to Him first, I have to see His work, in those around me, and find the assurance that He will work through my hands, through my voice as well.
For that is what makes the difference. Many won’t recognize the work and devotion others have… yet without their work…without their example to me…without seeing what God does in their life…and with their selfless work… my serving would be weakened.
Thank God for those who serve around you – especially those whose work is not easily seen.
And as you consider the effect of their work, of God’s work through them, may you find yourself being used where you are at as well!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2285-2287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 45: Luther’s works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (40–41). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.