Note: This pastoral letter is from the April, 2008 issue of Tidings, the Newsletter of Immanuel.
St. Augustine allegedly said, "We are an Easter people, and 'Alleluia!' is our song." I'm not certain that he really said it, but I am certain that we should. This year the month of April is entirely given over to Easter. While we are tempted to think of Easter as a single day, the church appoints fifty days for the observance. This "week of weeks" (seven weeks) exhorts us to a life where "Alleluia!" is indeed our song.
So what does it mean to be "Easter people"? The Christian life is lived in a "Good Friday" world - a world of sorrow and betrayal, lies and mockery, quests for power and fear of other powers. It is a life that can only end in death. However, because we are baptized into Christ, we are "Easter people," people who know that because of His work on Good Friday, our Lord Jesus has brought us to Easter, giving us the hope of the resurrection. Being an Easter people means we do not have a life that can only end in death. We have a death that can only end in life.
We still live in the Good Friday world. We will still know sorrow, we will still be betrayed - perhaps even those who call themselves Christians. We will still be lied to and mocked. We will still experience the lust for power, both against us and within us. But on account of Christ's victory, we know these things have no power over us. "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" said the angel to the women on Easter morning. The Living One is not found among dead things - the perishable things of the marketplace, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the world, the pride of life.
We are Easter People, so that we live in the same forgiveness Jesus showed to those who crucified Him, and to His disciples who abandoned Him. "Alleluia!" (Hebrew for "Praise the Lord!") is restored to the liturgy; and hopefully, in the journey through Lent, we have learned more about what it means. How life is empty and meaningless without that word!
Now that Lent is over, and Easter has come, what will it mean for us? The fast being over, should we return to gluttony? The emphasis on prayer being ended, should we abandon prayer now, for the more important things? Being Easter People should mean what St. Paul says in Rom. 6: "We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." What will that "newness of life" look like in how you live with your family? In how you do your work? In how you deal with your habitual, secret sins?
As we tried during Lent to be people of genuine repentance, this April let us build on that and ask the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to renew in us the work of the Holy Spirit, making us Easter People, with "Alleluia!" as our song, until the final Easter comes.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Note: This pastoral letter is from the April, 2008 issue of Tidings, the Newsletter of Immanuel.
Posted by Christopher Esget at Monday, March 31, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
1 Peter 2:21-25
Confession: What is the Office of the Keys?
The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.
“[Jesus] breathed on [His disciples] and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20:22-23)
Saturday, March 22, 2008
1 John 5:4–10
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism:
Which is that word of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
“Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
Friday, March 21, 2008
Perhaps you have said, “I hate my life. I wish I were dead.”
Or perhaps you have said, “I hate this person,” or, “that person.”
Instead, maybe you have said, “I love myself,” and meant it so much that you measured everything by how it pleased you. And in loving yourself so much, you made yourself god; which, in the end, is a form of saying, “I hate God, and His Word.”
In the account of the crucifixion of Jesus, we see a story filled with hate:
· Judas, hating his life, hangs himself;
· The Chief Priests and Pharisees hate Jesus, and cause the crowd to clamor for His execution;
· The disciples of Jesus, loving their own lives more than Jesus, run away, abandoning Jesus and leaving Him to face the hatred alone.
Truly, the event is filled with hate. It is also filled with God’s hatred.
Do you know what God hates?
And sin, which leads to death.
But God doesn’t just hate death in the abstract. No – He hates your death.
Which is another way of saying He loves you; He loves your life.
God loves you so much, that He sent His only Son, the Lord Jesus, into the world, for this very day, this Friday we call Good. For while it is sad—a profound sadness at the death of Jesus—it is also the cause of all our gladness. Nothing for us does more good than this death, for from this death comes our life. From this death comes the end of death, the defeat of death, the triumph of life, the triumph of God’s love.
God is love, and He loves you even when you are filled with hate.
When you hate yourself, God loves you, and desires to save you.
When you hate your neighbor, God loves you both, and desires to save you from your hate.
When you hate God, God still loves you, and wants to give you His gifts.
God does not stop loving you; for as we heard yesterday, in John 13, Jesus loves His disciples “to the end.”
The love of God is demonstrated on the cross.
Paradoxically, there on the cross is also shown the wrath of God, wrath against sin and hatred of sin.
And that is why this horrible, wonderful, terrible, awesome and awful death of the Son of God occurs. So that God could punish sin and at the same time save the sinner.
On the cross we see God’s wrath for sin, and God’s love for us sinners.
So the words we heard Jesus speak are for you:
· Jesus prays for those who are nailing Him to the cross, “Father, forgive them.” Put yourself in those words. Jesus is praying for your forgiveness, too.
· The dying thief says to Jesus, “Lord, remember me in Your kingdom,” and Jesus replies, “Today, you will be with Me in
So when next you are tempted by hate, remember this Friday. When next you are filled with anger, remember this Friday. When next you are saddened to despair, remember this Friday, remember what your God has done for you. He loves you. He gave His Son for you. He forgives you. He opens heaven for you. He defeated death for you.
Now, we wait for Easter. It is coming. This Sunday, and at the end of this world. Rejoice and be glad, for though your sins caused this Friday to be bad, God’s love has turned it into Friday filled with Good.
Posted by Christopher Esget at Friday, March 21, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Dear Members of Immanuel,
On Palm Sunday, the faithful gathered to remember our Lord Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem; hailed as King on Sunday, by Friday He was crucified. The services of this week are devoted to the central articles of our faith—Baptism, Lord's Supper, Justification—accomplished by the words and mighty acts of Jesus. I know that your work must be done, your family attended to, and the spring weather beckons a return to the outdoors. Yet in the midst of all that, I urge you to experience this week as something greater – the fountain and source of your life.
- Holy Wednesday: 3/19/08, 6-7pm – Open time for Individual Confession and Absolution
- Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday): 3/20/08, 7:30pm – Divine Service (Setting Three), with confessional address and stripping of the altar; sermon by Rev. Jonathan Shaw.
- Good Friday: 3/21/08, 12pm – Vespers, with reading of St. Luke's Passion; 7:30pm – Solemn Divine Service, with reading of St. John's Passion, the Reproaches, and a simplified order of communion; sermon by Rev. John Wohlrabe
- Holy Saturday: 3/22/08, 8pm – The Great Vigil of Easter, with the kindling of the new flame, reading of the history of salvation, "Benedicite, Omnia Opera," remembrance of Baptism, and first Gospel of the resurrection
- The Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord: 3/23/08, 8am – Matins; 9am – Scripture Study; 10am – Festival Divine Service
Some of you reading this may have wandered away from the Lord and the hearing of His Word this year. Please know this and take it to hear: you are always welcomed back, with open arms. Come home, dear children of God!
God bless you as we pass through this holy time together, renewed and growing as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every good wish in Christ,
Posted by Christopher Esget at Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
2 Corinthians 5:14–21
1 Corinthians 5:6–8
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism: What is Baptism?
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Lord’s Prayer: The Conclusion
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
What does this mean? This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us. Amen, amen means “yes, yes, it shall be so.”