St John's Ev LC, Victor, IA
It's black hole day.
Recall the story I told on Sunday about the September 11th airplane pilot, who saw where He was supposed to die, / but didn't. [*See Sermon below titled "Sermon-Palm Sunday.2013]
The crucifix above the altar kind of looks like a black hole tonight. You know what's behind there. You've seen it many times. You see it up close when you come and receive the Sacramental gifts in it's shadow. The image of the crucifix / represents the reality that you take into your own body.
So, in a way, you come up here to die. And that's really the whole point of Good Friday. The reason Good Friday remains so hard for us (though we know Jesus is already raised from the dead); the reason it is so hard for us sinners, is because we see in that crucifix / our own death.
Or to put it another way: “We go to Holy Week services as if we are going to our own death, / so that when we go to our own death, it is as if we are going to Holy Week services.”
And what a blessed perspective this is. For if you go to your death as if you are going to Holy Week, then there is really only one thing that's going to be on your mind when you die: the death of Jesus.
That's hard. But that's why we spend the 40 days of Lent, plus the 3 Sundays of Pre-Lent before that, preparing for this night.
The world is full of distractions. And your sinful mind and body loves those distractions, sometimes your mind and body even get addicted to those distractions. The Lenten preparations (such as fasting, prayer, and alms-giving) clear you out; they detoxify you. Not that spiritual and bodily detox is something good and holy in itself, / it's not. But they clear the path so that your mind and body and soul can focus one thing, and one thing only, the only thing needful: Jesus.
Well done. Well done, you faithful soldiers of the cross, there are myriad of distractions that could pull you away tonight: work, family, school, sports, tv programs, internet surfing, and so many others. The distractions are innumerable. But they have not overcome you. It is a true blessing, it is by grace alone that you have made it here. Some of our members would be here if they could, but they honestly cannot. Though not in body, they are worshiping with us in spirit and truth. In other words, it is not the distractions that keep them away. They are keeping the faith and looking to Jesus just as we are. We miss them, but know that our Lord's will be done.
And our Lord's will is done. That was Jesus' prayer, if you remember (in the Garden of Gethsemane): that the will of the Father would be done, no matter what pain it brought to Him personally. The Father's will / personally killed Jesus.
That was His death. Tonight, we ponder His death. We look into that black hole and recognize our punishment, the place where we should have died. But not any more. On Easter morning, you will come back here / and your fears will all be banished. You will look back up at that black hole, and see Jesus again. And instead of being reminded of death, you will be overwhelmed with the greater reality of life, not just Jesus' resurrected life, but your own resurrected life.
So come to the Resurrection of our Lord (on Easter) as if you were coming to your own resurrection, so that, when you go to your own resurrection, it will be as if you are going to the Lord's Resurrection.
Black hole day will soon pass. Open tomb day is right on the horizon.
In the name of +Jesus. Amen.