Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:15-16)
July 22 is the date the Church has set aside to give thanks to God for the witness of Mary Magdalene. Today’s sermon may have focused on Mary or this text from John 20. Mary was a devoted disciple of Jesus and followed Him all the way to the cross. She was there as a witness at His crucifixion (John 19:25).
After Jesus rose from the dead, the first person He appeared to was Mary Magdalene. On Easter Sunday, He also appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and then the ten disciples in the upper room. This scene with Jesus and Mary in the garden is especially poignant. When Jesus appears to her, it is not in His power and glory and might, but gently and lovingly. He simply speaks her name and she recognizes her Lord.
Jesus continues to come to us in the same way. He does not come with power, glory and might, but humbly and gently. He comes to us in the means of grace: Holy Baptism, Holy Gospel and Holy Supper. Here Jesus speaks your name. In Holy Baptism, Jesus says, “You are mine. You belong to Me as a member of My family.” With His Holy Gospel, Jesus says, “I died for you. Your sins are forgiven.” In the Holy Supper, Jesus says, “This is My Body, this is My Blood given and shed for you for your forgiveness and life.” What a tremendous blessing! Jesus knows your name and speaks it lovingly and caringly to you.
After Jesus left her, Mary went to tell the other disciples that she had seen Jesus. This is a wonderful example for all of us. You have seen and heard Jesus, why would you not want to tell other people all about Him? They may not believe you. They may think that you are crazy, if you tell them that someone who died has come back to life. And yet Jesus used the witness of Mary and the rest of the disciples to spread the word and create faith in many more believers.
As we remember and give thanks for Mary, we first thank Jesus for His resurrection and for coming to us in kind, loving ways. We also remember Mary’s example of witness and pray that we, too, would have courage and faith to spread the good news of the resurrection.
We sing Your praise for Mary. who came at Easter dawn, To look for Jesus’ body and found her Lord was gone. But, as with joy she saw Him in resurrection light, May we by faith behold Him, the Day who ends our night. Amen.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 121:5-8
After Cain killed Abel, the Lord asked him, ‘Where is your brother?’ Cain responded with a question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The correct answer Cain’s question is, “Yes.” We are to keep, to protect, and to guard our brothers and sisters from all harm. We are to put their needs first. Yet we often fail to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. Instead of protecting and guarding them, instead of putting their needs first, we put ourselves first. We put our needs before theirs.
Sometimes we go so far as to harm our brothers and sisters. We may not go so far as to murder them, but we find other ways to harm them. We may hurt their reputation by saying unkind things. We may think inappropriate, angry thoughts about them. We may find ways to insult and abuse them. We are not very good at being keepers for our brothers and sisters.
Thankfully, the Lord is your keeper. In this psalm, the author tells you that the Lord is your keeper, and He will protect you. The Lord is a much better keeper than anyone else. The Lord keeps you even from the rays of the sun. You will not even have to worry about the slightest sunburn, with the Lord as your keeper.
This will all come to fulfillment in heaven. When St. John sees his vision of heaven in Revelation 7:16-17 he writes: ‘They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ In heaven, God will take care of all our needs, and protect us from all things that could harm us.
Why would do such a thing? From where does this love come? The verses of Psalm 121 are prayed at almost every baptism. In your baptism, you put on Jesus. You are clothed with Him. Jesus trades places with you. You become the perfect, holy child of God, and He becomes the condemned sinner. God now sees you as His perfect, holy child. He loves you with the same love that He has for His own Son, and He punishes Jesus with the punishment that you deserve.
In this life your keepers will fail. The people who are supposed to love and care for you will fall short. They may not protect you as they should. But you have a Keeper, a heavenly Father, who promises to take you to a place where you are kept perfectly safe, guarded and protected from all harm, even heaven itself.
O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1
Repetition, so they say, is the mother of learning. This is why from the time we learn to read and write we practice our letters, commit to memory the sound each one makes and spend endless hours memorizing spelling words. It is the same with mathematics and multiplication. Through the sheer force of repetition we commit the multiplication table to the deepest recesses of our brain. The idea is that through repetition whatever it is that we are learning becomes so ingrained that we never forget it.
The Bible does this too and in particular with the psalms. Take Psalm 136, for example. While I only printed the first verse, the refrain, “His love endures forever,” is repeated twenty-six times in twenty-six verses. “Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever,” (v. 2), “who by his understanding made the heavens. His love endures forever,” (v. 5), “to the One who remembered us in our low estate. His love endures forever,” (v. 23), “Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever,” (v. 26). Get the point? His love endures forever.
That the love of the Lord for us endures forever and that we should ingrain this into our thinking is the point the psalmist is trying to make. Through repetition he wants this to become our “knee-jerk” thought about God. Just like when we state (almost without thinking) that 5 x 5 is 25, so God wants us to remember that when we think of Him, His love for us endures forever.
Why is that important? Well, let us face it, quite often we feel less than loveable. At one time or another we have all done something. We have all sinned in some shameful way and when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we wonder how anyone could ever love us much less God. These words stated over and over again are to stand in contrast to our feelings. Sure, I may not feel very loveable, but God’s Word says repeatedly that His love is everlasting. It endures. To be honest, what either you or I feel about the matter is inconsequential. All that matters is what God says time after time.
God’s love for us does endure forever. It does so because of another message the Scriptures repeats: Christ Jesus died for us sinners. Jesus death removed any and all strife that stood between us and the love of God. His death removed the shame of our sin so that now all God has for us is his enduring love. This is why we repeat the message of Jesus and Him crucified over and over again. This is why you hear it every Sunday. Our Lord wants us to be steeped in that message so that it permeates our entire being so that if ever asked, “Why do you believe God loves you?” you can respond instantaneously, “Because Jesus died for me!”
As you read through the Scriptures take special note of what is repeated. These are the things God wants you to know about Him. These are the things He wants you to read, mark and inwardly digest.
O Most High, what You have done for me is wonderful beyond all telling. Assist me to give You thanks and to praise Your name in this life until I worship You in glory hereafter; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.
“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God (Isaiah 50:10).” As Americans, we value our independence. This week we are celebrating Independence Day and our freedom as a country. We remember the joy our forefathers found in their independence from rule by an earthly king.
Independence is an important value we share as US citizens. In pioneer days, people had to be self-reliant. Their nearest neighbor may have been miles away. They needed to be able to take care of themselves and all their needs. Many people fed themselves from their own produce and livestock, made their own clothes, and built their own furniture. My grandfather personally built a house for his family. That’s practically unheard of these days but was fairly common a few generations ago.
It is difficult for us to give up this independence. We want to be able to take care of ourselves and to have the freedom to choose what we want to do. It is hard, even humiliating at times, to depend on other people to take care of us, especially when we’re used to doing everything ourselves. One of the most difficult aspects for those who live in these residential facilities is dealing with the loss of their independence. Many of you have had to give up your cars, your ability to cook your own meals, and even your basic privacy. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to have to rely on other people so much. Many of us want to be spiritually independent as well. We want to be able to take care of our own spiritual needs. We don’t want to rely on someone else for our salvation.
When it comes to salvation, though, it is a good and right to be dependent on God. When we try to do everything ourselves, we fail miserably. We just make a mess of things. My two and half year-old son is getting to the age where he wants to do more and more things for himself. Unfortunately, this means that he ends up making a mess most of the time. There are certain things that his mother and I still need to do for him. When we try to live a good life and to please God, we constantly make a mess of things. We always fail miserably.
When it comes to important things like our salvation, we would only make a mess of things on our own. Thankfully, you can depend on Jesus Christ to do everything for you. Jesus does it all from beginning to end. He died for you. Jesus gives you His free gift of salvation through the means of grace: Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Holy Absolution. Throughout our lives we remain dependent on God to take care of us.
Lord, keep this nation under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.