Worn Out

* a sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 *

Since sermons are primarily intended to be heard, you can listen along here.

Texts for the Festival of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday:
Acts 10:34-43 + Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 + Colossians 3:1-4 + Matthew 28:1-10

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Please pray with me:

Holy Crucified and Risen One,
We live in the tension of this morning,
When our Alleluias are bursting out of us,
And some of us are so weighed down we can barely stand.
Call us, again, to live.
Help us be resurrected, again, today.
Amen.

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It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right, church?

The worship services of Holy Week can feel like a whole lot of worship, but I assure you, they are packed full of meaning. And if you made the commitment, and it is a commitment, to come to all the worship services of Holy Week, even if it was somewhat coerced (thanks, Choir…), I guarantee that you experienced this sacred story of salvation, of betrayal, of torture, of death, and of resurrection in a way that was both completely familiar and terrifyingly new.
Thank you—all of you—for helping me tell this story in our time and place…here at New Hope Lutheran Church in 2017.

I’m somewhat of a superstitious person, at least when it comes to some pastory things.
I’m just going to tell you…I have lucky shoes. I call them, My Preachin’ Shoes.
I’ve had them for almost 5 years now, and these shoes and I have been through a lot. I preached my first sermon to a congregation in these shoes. I graduated seminary in these shoes. I won a preaching award in these shoes. I was ordained in these shoes. I baptized little Elwood, my first baptism, in these shoes.
I wore these shoes last night at my first Easter Vigil here at New Hope.
And I’m wearing them this morning, my first Easter Sunday here at New Hope.

And I’ll be wearing them at my second and third baptisms this morning, when we baptize Noble and Nirmal.

These shoes and I have been through a lot together, and I hope that we’ll continue to go through a lot more, but I worry about, and truthfully I’m afraid of, the day that will inevitably come when my shoes are just too worn out.
They’ve got holes, or stains, or begin to separate at the sole…shoe

Because that’s what happens when you commit to something for any worthwhile amount of time or spend any worthwhile amount of energy on something, you get worn out.
The disciples most certainly felt worn out after following their teacher, their Rabbi, around ancient Palestine for three years. I’m sure they had blisters on their feet, holes in their hearts, and an emptiness in their souls when the one they walked around with, the one they thought would surely be the savior of the world was hoisted up on a cross and met the same gruesome death as a common criminal.

And it wears on us too…
We feel worn out after committing to all the services of Holy Week.
We feel worn out after making the long 40-day Lenten trek from Ash Wednesday to now.
Beginning by hearing the truth about ourselves, about how we’re nothing more than the dust from which we were formed…
Journeying through Lent and examining the patterns of our lives that keep us from living fully and completely as God calls us to live, lives of compassion and mercy with arms and hands made for embracing and serving…
Traveling to the cross where God takes all of those things in our lives that keep us separated from God and from one another, Christ takes all of those things unto himself, and they die…with Christ.

And for what? Why wear yourself out, why wear holes in your shoes and in your hearts, if the story just ends like that…?

These women that arrived at the tomb early that morning, their hearts and feet worn out, carrying spices and oils to care for the body of their teacher, were there to turn the page on that chapter of their journey. This part of the story was done, time to go back to what they were doing three years ago, or maybe start something new.
But where they came to turn the page, God picks up again and keeps writing.
Because this is not the end of this story.

The tomb is empty. Christ has been raised.
And these brave women, the first witnesses to the glorious resurrection of Christ, fall down at Jesus’ feet and they bless those worn out, blistered, scarred, and nailed-through feet because it means that their blisters and scars…our scars and bruises and the holes in our lives and the emptiness in our hearts, have all been redeemed.

Because this story is our story too, church. Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection.
And I think we could all use a little resurrection from these things that wear us out.

Because the promise of the resurrection isn’t that there won’t be death.
It isn’t that there won’t be things that wear us out, or weigh heavy on us, or that we struggle with, or that there won’t be illness or sickness or disease.
The promise of the resurrection is that even in the things that wear us out, that weigh heavy, that we struggle with…even in the midst of illness and disease…even in death…
God is there. With us.
Because God has been there.

Resurrection isn’t ignorant of death. Resurrection promises life in the midst of death.
Resurrection promises life in spite of death.

Because to hear the words of the Resurrection is to hear the good news that death is not the final word. It’s to hear the good news that the death-dealing powers of this world that seek to exert control over us and that try to prevent us from living lives of goodness, grace, mercy, compassion, and love toward God and toward one another have been crushed under Christ’s foot, and by God, church, we are free!
We are called out from our graves, called out of our tombs like Lazarus, released from the darkness and stench that tries to kill us and keep us locked away in our tombs, and we are told that we are unbound! We are freed to live the lives that God has called us to in our baptism.

Noble and Nirmal will hear that call on their lives through their baptism in just a little bit, and these rafters will shake with glorious shouts of “Alleluia!” because your sin has been drowned in those waters, and you are free to live lives that reflect the light of Christ, a light that overcomes darkness and warms even the most frigid places in our world.
Lace up your shoes, church, because we’ve got a lot more living to do.
Living of lives that are created for…that are made…for showing and giving mercy and grace and peace and love.

Come to this meal, people of God.
This is what resurrection tastes like.
Christ’s very body and blood are given and poured out for you, so that you might receive just a foretaste of that glorious day when we will all join together in God’s great reconciliation and resurrection of all things.
Hold out your hands and receive nourishment to sustain you when you are worn out and to strengthen you to live the life that you are called to, that you were created to live.

Thanks be to God!
Alleluia!

 

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Holy Week 2017 at New Hope Lutheran Church

As we move ever closer to Easter, you may have heard an announcement in church or overheard one of your friends talking about Holy Week.

But what is Holy Week? Why do Christians celebrate it?
And what the heck is a Triduum?!?

In the earliest years of the church, devout Christians would travel to Jerusalem during Passover to reenact—and in some ways, relive—the events of the week leading up to the Resurrection.
This profound act of remembering Christ’s ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection served as a way for the earliest Christian believers to grow in their own faith by recalling the formative and foundational events of their faith.

By retelling the story year after year,
we remember the
why behind the what of our faith.

Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday and goes all the way through Easter Sunday. This is the most important week in the life of a Christian.
And the pinnacle of Holy Week is the Great Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Rather than three distinct worship services, these separate liturgies are best seen as one large complete worship service over the course of three days. Collectively known as the Triduum (trid-doo-um)—which is Latin for “three days”—these three worship services are the most important worship events in the midst of the most important week in the life of a Christian.

Taken all together, the worship services of Holy Week give us the most complete picture of the fundamental people, places, events, and beliefs of the Christian faith.

You are invited to join us as we journey this holiest of weeks together.
All services are held at New Hope Lutheran Church.

 

Palm Sunday – Sunday, April 9, 2017 at 8:00am and 10:30ampalm crown

We’ll hear from the Gospel of Matthew and recount Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We’ll begin outside, waving our palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” as we celebrate the king who rode a donkey rather than a valiant horse, who wore a dusty cloak rather than fine linens, and who would later ascend a cross rather than a throne.
Also known as the Sunday of the Passion, we’ll also hear Matthew’s account of the crucifixion.

 

Maundy Thursday – Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 7:00pm

Taken from the Latin word for “commandment,” we’ll retell the story of Jesus with his disciples when he washed their feet and gave them a mandatum novum—a new commandment—that we should love one another as Jesus loved us.
We mark the official end of Lent by receiving individual absolution, or forgiveness—the oil marking the cross on our forehead just as the ashes did on Ash Wednesday. We’ll remember the new commandment by having our own feet washed, and we’ll share in the meal that Jesus shared with his friends.
We’ll conclude by stripping the altar, as Jesus would be stripped of his clothes before being handed over to be crucified.

 

Good Friday – Friday, April 14, 2017 at 7:00pm

Jesus Christ crown of thorns and nailIn this solemn service of fading light, we’ll hear John’s account of Christ’s Passion and ponder the mystery and majesty of the cross. The Passion will also be performed in mime and the service will end with an opportunity to venerate the Cross, showing reverence to this instrument of death that God used to redeem all of humanity and give life to all.

 

The Great Vigil of Easter – Saturday, April 15, 2017 at 7:00pm

candle vigilIn the early Christian church, they would gather together on the night before major festivals and keep vigil until the morning. While we won’t stay up all night, we will gather together to celebrate this most ancient of Christian festivals. In the early church, the Easter Vigil was the most important worship service of the year.
We’ll gather down at our lakeside chapel where the new fire will be lit and our new Paschal candle will be blessed. We’ll then process into the sanctuary to retell some of our salvation stories, remembering God’s promises throughout the ages to save and redeem us. This will be the first reading of the Resurrection narrative from the Gospel of John, and we’ll shout “Alleluia!” and give thanks for our new life in the risen Christ by sharing in Holy Communion.

 

Easter Sunday – Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 8:00am and 10:30am

On this glorious day of resurrection, death has been defeated, the grave is empty, and life eternal is promised to all. Our rafters will ring with glorious music and we’ll gather around the table to celebrate the new life given to us through Christ’s Resurrection. We’ll also have breakfast being served in the Community Center to help our youth raise money to attend the National Youth Gathering.