The Monday after Easter sees us back to business as usual. Our  jobs summon us to prove our value, family obligations do not let up, all the various pressures, possibilities, and uncertainties of life continue.  Life moves on, as it always does, but where is it going?  This is where the Resurrection perspective enters in.

 Churches tend to be full on Easter Sunday. Not like the old days, to be sure, but more people manage to find a church door on Easter than at any other time of the church year, including Christmas. Why? Some criticize those who find the church door only at Easter for their casual treatment of worship. But I think hope has a lot to do with it. In fact, I think it has everything to do with it. And why shouldn’t it? If there is one commodity in short supply in our bald, techno-mad, secular age it is any reason to have authentic hope.  

 Thinking God’s thoughts after Him has become the cornerstone of modern life. In fact, the voices of cold reason proclaim that this is all there is.  Nothing is higher than man’s reason. We are the masters of our own future. Hope is in us.

 The voices of cold reason have also given rise to an agressive atheism which continually attempts to debunk religious faith, and instead wants to tie the human future to, well, who knows? Scientific progress? Evolution? Medical advances?  Interplanetary colonizatrion? Don’t worry about it though. By the time the evolutionary, utopian future finally gets here you and I will be dead and will have no share in it. Now, there’s a hopeful thought!

 Reason and curiosity about life has given humanity something to do from the very beginning. I suspect  this is what God had in mind for us all along. Other creatures pretty much follow their unerring instincts. God gave us the capacity to do more. We uncover, explore, examine, investigate, test and theorize. The benefits – and risks –  are enormous. The human gift of reason with all it’s marvelous capabilities, untethered from the awareness that such reason is a gift of God, however, becomes a mechanism for evil with all the terrible consequences. But none are more terrible than to strip the human heart of it’s trust in God.

 So, I for one am not going to cast criticism at those who managed to find a church door on Easter Sunday, even against these relentless pressures of arrogance and godlessness that are all around – and within us. For in the hearing of the message of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus authentic hope is released and may take hold of the heart. God is not impressed with the exertions of human reason. He is not going to play that game. He owes us no explanation. This foolish wisdom of  God, as St. Paul termed it,  gives real to hope to you and to me. The resurrection of Jesus has opened a real future. Life is going somewhere, and that somewhere is to God Himself.  


 “May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”






Psalm 13

Saturday of Holy Week


How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.







Good Friday

                                    “Come, ye Daughters, Help Me Lament”,
                                  From the St. Matthew’s Passion by J.S. Bach.
                                               Double Chorus with Chorale


Come, ye daughters, help me lament,

Behold! Whom? The Bridegroom.

Behold him! How? Like a lamb.

Behold! What? Behold his patience.

Behold! Where? Behold our guilt.

Behold Him, out of love and graciousness,

Himself carrying the wood of the cross.


Chorus of the Daughters of Zion

O guiltless Lamb of God

 slaughtered on the stem of the cross,

always found patient, 

how despised You were.
You have born all sin, 

else we must have despaired.
Have mercy upon us, O Jesus! 


Kommt, ihr Töchter, helft mir klagen!

Sehet !Wen? Den Bräutigam.

Seht ihn! Wie? Als wie ein Lamm!

Sehet! Was? Seht die Geduld.

Seht! Wohin? Auf unsre Schuld.

Sehet ihn aus Lieb und Huld

Holz zum Kreuze selber tragen!


 O Lamm Gottes unschuldig,

Am Stamm des Kreuzes geschlachtet,
Allzeit erfunden geduldig,

Wiewohl du warest verachtet.
All Sünd hast du getragen,

Sonst müßten wir verzagen.
Erbarm dich unser, o Jesu.

The Thomanerchor, or St. Thomas Boy’s Choir and the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, Germany, and  Gewandhaus Kinder-und Jugendchor ; The performance was given at St.Thomas Lutheran Church, Leipzig, where J. S. Bach worked as cantor.  Georg Christoph Biller, the current cantor of St. Thomas Church, and the 16th since Bach, is the director.

                                  All glory to Him who for our need His life did give!

Luke 22:19

“This is my body,…this is my blood, given for you.”


April 5, 2012

Thursday of Holy Week

On this day Christ Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. In this meal He has bequeathed to His Church the new testament of His body and blood. And like baptism, the gifts given here are not generalized expressions of faith or goodwill. They are, in the Lord’s own words “for you”.  Something is given here. Everything depends on this.

 Martin Luther once wrote, “The Lord is, indeed, everywhere; but is He there for you?” 

 Years ago,while on a road trip with my boys, we came upon a horrific accident in the mountains of Colorado. A tour bus which had been zipping along on a beautiful summer day was suddenly ripped into a bloody wreck by a huge boulder that had dislodged from the hillside just above the roadway.  Given the realities of life in this world, whenever I hear someone talking of communing with God in nature because God is everywhere I shudder.

 So, our Lord Jesus, who is, indeed everywhere, has given us something in which we may receive, in confidence, a gracious God. Like the water of baptism, the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are material substances from the natural world. Apart  from God’s promise that is all they are. But because Christ Jesus has attached Himself to these earthly elements, commanding that they be given, they become means by which His grace is given – “for you”.

 We may attend to these gifts in confidence, knowing that to receive the bread and the wine is to receive all the gifts that Christ’s death and resurrecton have won for us; forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

 God is, indeed, everywhere. If we leave it at that, however, we might as well say God is nowhere.  But in the Supper Christ Jesus Himself says he is there “for you”. It’s a promise. You can count on it.






Lamentations 1:12

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?”


 April 4, 2012

 Wednesday of Holy Week

The Gospels are silent on what Jesus may have done on this day of Holy Week. After the turmoil at the beginning of the week He may have retired to a quiet place for solitude and reflection. Such a place, perhaps, as the Garden of Gethsemane pictured above, with it’s view of the Temple Mount in the distance.

 When Linda and I stood there among the olive trees a few years ago, we were struck by how little the scene had changed in twenty centuries. We recalled the account of our Lord’s bitter tears in this place as He looked ahead to the suffering that awaited Him. Another story also came to mind, when Jesus sat on this hillside looking across at the great temple, reflecting on the faithlessness of the people. The Bible tells us all he could do was weep.

 I am old enough to remember a day when God’s people made time for Holy Week. Most businesses closed between noon and 3PM on Good Friday ( the traditional time of Jesus crucifixion) so people could attend worship, and many churches were full. During the week, sanctuaries were open for prayer and meditation. People stopped in at all times of the day to pray, to think, to reflect, to be with Jesus, to contemplate His passion, to give thanks, to bear witness to their faith.

 Our sanctuary is open during Holy Week from 7AM to 7PM. Candles are lit and organ music, reflecting the solemnity of the week, plays quietly. The large wooden cross stands in mute testimony to the love that was poured out for sinners.  Over the years I have routinely seen one or two people make their way into the church during the week. A few more may make the pilgrimage that I do not see, but you get the idea. Today, this is a common story often told across our land.

 It would be easy to complain about this but all I can do is feel saddened; saddened to see Christian people whose hearts and minds are so conformed to the works and ways of the world that their response to the Great and Holy Week of our faith is studied indifference. This observation does not need to be defended. It simply needs to be said. Perhaps you, Christian, need to hear it.

 Seen in the light of such casual neglect, the wonder of God’s grace seems even more amazing. But has it not always been so?  We do not deserve the blessed Jesus. We do not belong in the same world with Him. But deserving has no place in the equation of grace.

 So, our dear Lord Jesus struggled through His tears on that hillside outside Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, got to His feet and shouldered the terrible cross for the faithless, undeserving  ones –  for you and me.   Amazing.






Matthew 21:23

“And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 

 April 3, 2012

Tuesday of Holy Week

One of the slogans I recall from the late1960’s was ‘Question Authority’. Young people were encouraged to be skeptical of all forms of governance, all forms of authority. How much of this was sheer wilfulness or genuine concern for the public welfare is a matter that can be debated. But there can be no doubt that authority matters because those in whom authority is invested have power. In fact, much of the story of human history is the story of the struggle to establish authority and therefore the right to wield power, for good or for ill.

 According to the gospel accounts, Jesus spent this day of Holy Week teaching in the Jerusalem temple. The issue became one of authority. His triumphal entry into the city together with His driving the moneychangers out of the temple created a tense atmosphere. The religous leaders, who had been aware of Jesus for some time, were running out of patience.  As Jesus is teaching they confront Him, questioning the basis of His words and actions. 

 At the end of the day the question of Jesus authority to do what he did and say what he said is of the utmost importance. If Jesus was just another religious figure, teaching principles and godly wisdom, then He simply becomes one more subject for the school of religion; equivalent to the Buddah, Mohammed or any number of religious practitioners. 

 But if the authority of Jesus is rooted uniquely in the Living God, then what He said and did have ultimate authority, in the cosmos and in your life, whether you acknowledge it or not. This is what the Scriptures proclaim and this is what Christians have believed and confessed about Him from the very beginning.

 As the events of Holy Week continue to unfold, this One who could have exploited His equality with God, humbled Himelf even unto death on the cross (see Philippans 2). And this gives us ample reason to confess His name to be above every name. Why? Because the divine, ultimate power Jesus holds in His hands is not used to dominate, intimidate or control; it is employed, in love, on your behalf. By His authority, the Holy Sprit works through Word and sacrament, to keep you in the grip of His grace and forgiveness and align you continualy toward the eternal future He has prepared for His people. We may need, from time to time, to question earthly authority. We never need question His.






Matthew 21:12-13

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13He said to them, ‘It is written,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”;
   but you are making it a den of robbers.’ 


April 2, 2012 ~ Monday of Holy Week

Matthew recalls this dramatic scene as occurring the day after the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In the Gospel of John, once they have gathered their wits in the wake of this event, the disciples recalled the words of the psalmist, “Zeal for Your house consumes me.” The tensions are rising in Jerusalem and the Lord’s days are numbered. 

 Nowadays we look askance at people who demonstrate this kind of reckless passion in the name of God. ‘After all’, we say,’ it’s just religion and nothing to get excited about.’  If the Lord tried something like this today we’d call 911 and have him locked up. Surely there must be something wrong with him. With him , or with us?

Could the psalmists words be yours or mine? When was the last time zeal (read, ‘passion’) for the things of God consumed you? Do you, indeed, live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, or are you generally content with living by  ‘bread alone ‘.  The “house of prayer” during Holy Week will be sparsely attended at best. So much for “Zeal for Your house consumes me.”

 If the money changers in the temple were a den of robbers, then so are the rest of us. For “the earth is the Lord’s” and we have stolen our existence from Him. I rest my case. 

 Once again, therefore, our dear Lord Jesus is on His own. If anyone is going to bring spiritual sobriety to the human race it will have to be God Himself. We are too busy staying drunk on the things of this world, inebriated by the myriad seductions of evil. So Jesus presses on toward His fate. The reason for His unwavering determination is simple: love. Jesus’ willingness to undure suffering and death was not the misguided endurance contest of a religious madman. He endured it because of love, God’s love – for you.  And when this love overtakes you and you are grasped by the vastness of such mercy and grace, the words of the old Lenten hymn just might become yours;

                  ‘Upon the cross of Jesus my eyes at times can see,

                 the very dying form of one who suffered there for me.

               And from my contrite heart with tears, two wonders I confess,

                  the wonder of His glorious love and my unworthiness.’




Matthew 21:9

“The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”


Holy Week can be hard to handle. Why? Because it’s not about us. Whether we are caught up in the private distractions of pursuing wealth, health and love, or the broader concerns of city, nation and world, we are unendingly trapped in the subjectivity of our own lives. In point of fact, much of what passes itself off as Christianity these days – from the progressive social reformers on the one hand to the moral rearrmament warriors on the other – is little more than religion for self-seekers, bent on the fulfillment of life on their terms.

So, let’s be clear about one thing; Holy Week is about Jesus. Period. End of story. The events that occurred in and around Jerusalem twenty centuries ago were the defining events in human history and that means your little personal history. Everything before or since sounded either the prelude or postlude to the coming of Jesus.

In this last week of His earthly life – prior to the Resurrection – we find Him among the commonplace actions of embittered and disloyal friends, the fickle adoration and then denial of the crowd, the petty cowardice of politicians, the bullying of soldiers until, in the end, He hangs alone, battered and bloody the life wrenched out of Him by self-seekers like us.

If you can get outside yourself just far enough this week to find a church door on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, you just might discover that these things took place for you. And that all life’s pains and pleasures, preoccupations and distractions are nothing, nothing, in comparison to knowing and being known by Jesus. Then the glory of Easter will not be vacuous, empty barking about new life but the message of God’s love and grace that is stronger and more enduring than all our efforts to deny, diminish, trivialize or do away with Him. Then, by God’s grace, out of your mouth may come the ancient words of praise that even now ring in the halls of eternity: