Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sermon for 9/23/12--Trinity 16

Power Over Death

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Jesus walked up to the open coffin, and everyone stopped. He said to the woman, “Do not weep.” Then He told the boy to get up. That is how our Savior deals with death: He treats it as a nothing. There was weeping and wailing and a widowed mother burying her son. And Jesus just strolled up to the coffin and brought the boy to life. It’s as if He has power over death, as if death must yield before him. And it must. Death runs from Christ because He defeated death. He died on a cross with our sins. But on Easter, the third day, death flees from Him. Jesus is alive. Death is powerless before Him.

The one thing that the world cannot control is death. You could probably argue that there are plenty of non-Christians out there living happily without any sort of faith at all. But they will face death. Death can come without any warning. The world fears death. It spares no expense trying to avoid it or overcome it. But it can’t. And every person—the poorest and the richest, the oldest and youngest and even the unborn—eventually will be lowered into that hole or shoved into that vault or poured into an urn. There are no exceptions.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where the Christian faith matters most. Many religions have morality. Even people without religion have some sort of right and wrong. There are many who seem to get along just fine in this life without any reference to God or faith. But the great equalizer is death. And for death, for which the world can’t find an answer, we Christians know the truth: Death is defeated. It’s not natural. It’s not a natural part of life. Death is an enemy, but it’s an enemy that has been defeated. When it all comes down to it, nothing in this world can answer the question of what happens when we are put into the ground other than the Christian faith: namely, that on the Last Day we will be raised up again and live forever.

Death may seem a long way off, but we know it can come at any time. In order to teach us not to fear death or think that it’s the end or buy into the world’s silly idea that it’s just a part of life, Jesus rescues us from it. The young man of Nain is an example of this. Jesus touched the coffin, spoke His Word of life, and handed him to his mother. He does the same thing for you. You were born into this world dead. But at the font, Jesus spoke His Word and raised you from the dead. And then He handed you over to your holy mother, the Church, who cares for you in life and when you die. Your whole life in Christ is a denial of death. Now, we don’t pretend we’re never going to pass away. But we do deny the power of death. We deny that death is the end of our lives, that it will keep us down. Against all these things Jesus’ victory over death and your Baptism into that victory mean you have the victory over death as well.

When Jesus raised this widow’s son, the people were amazed. They said, “God has visited His people.” That’s what happens when God shows up. He takes your sin and your death into Himself and gives you life. He raises the dead and gives them to their mother. He gives you victory over death by your Baptism and His Body and Blood, and He puts you into the care of your mother, the church. And on the last day, He will speak to you in that hole in the ground or that urn on the shelf and say, “I say to you, arise!” And you will rise. You will live forever in the new heaven and earth that your Father has prepared for you. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The Lord has conquered death, and it no longer has any power over you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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