MVOPC 20 April 2014 – Easter
Call to Worship: Pastor: “Christ is Risen!” Congregation: “He is Risen Indeed!”
Opening Hymn: 286 “Worship Christ the Risen King!”
Confession of Sin
O You whose chosen dwelling is the heart that longs for Your presence and humbly seeks Your love: We come to You to acknowledge and confess that we have sinned in thought and word and deed; We have not loved You with all our heart and soul, with all our mind and strength; We have not even loved our neighbor as ourselves. Deepen within us our sorrow for the wrong we have done, or for the good we have left undone. But You, O Lord, are full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy; there is forgiveness with You. Restore to us the joy of Your salvation; Bind up that which is broken, give light to our minds, strength to our wills and rest to our souls. Speak to each of us the word that we need, and let Your Word abide with us until it has wrought in us Your holy will. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Colossians 1:11-14
Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
New Covenant Reading: Matthew 28:1-10
Hymn of Preparation:268 “Welcome, Happy Morning!”
Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-28
Sermon: Lord Triumphant
Hymn of Response: 276 “Up from the Grave He Arose”
Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 277 “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”
PM Worship:1 Samuel 17:41-58 – Venturing Forth in the Name of the LORD
Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School
CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #43
Q. 43. What is the preface to the ten commandments?
A. The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Monday (4/14) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 15:1-28. While all truth is equally true, not all truth is equally important. Paul begins today’s passage by reminding the Corinthians of the gospel he had preached to them. He then writes:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
These facts were of such importance that Jesus Himself revealed them to Paul as He had previously revealed them to many eyewitness and especially to the 11 remaining Disciples who would become Apostles. The critical nature of this truth only becomes evident when we realize that the truly astonishing thing in this passage is not that Jesus rose from the dead but that He died in the first place. At one point in His earthly ministry, Jesus challenged His critics by asking: “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” If I were to ask such a question every hand in the room could go up; but no one could ever legitimately raise such a charge against Jesus. Yet, (1) if Jesus was utterly without sin; and (2) death is the punishment for sin; (3) Why did Jesus die? As Paul, and the entire New Testament make clear – “Christ died for our sins”. The reason Christ’s death is of such great importance to us isn’t only because of our Lord’s own intrinsic worth but because He died united with us and in our place. But this means that He also rose united with us guaranteeing our future bodily resurrection and life forever with Him. As Christians we will continue to suffer from the travails of this world. But we can face tomorrow with courage and hope. For …
Christ has died!
Christ is risen!
Christ will come again!
Read or sing Hymn: 286 “Worship Christ the Risen King!” Prayer: Give thanks for the certainty of your future resurrection.
Tuesday (4/15) Read and discuss Matthew 21:1-11. Jesus was in complete command of the situation. Even in the smallest details, our Lord was orchestrating the events surrounding His “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem. On the one hand, what Jesus did should strike us as a bit unusual. Wherever we have encountered Jesus up to this point He has always been on foot. He walked everywhere. Now, suddenly, that was going to change. The King was going to ride into Jerusalem while accepting the Messianic hosannas of the crowd. But why would He ride on a donkey? Jesus didn’t need Madison Avenue to tell Him that a Messiah riding on a white stallion would have been far more impressive. So why did He choose the colt of a donkey? Imagine for a moment that two men were riding into Washington D.C. claiming to be the President of the United States. The first man arrives in a row of tanks all sealed up and ready for battle. The second man arrives in an open limousine waiving to the crowds. Clearly the second man is the President who is coming to his own town and to his own people. Likewise, Jesus enters Jerusalem not to wage war against His people but to go into battle on their behalf. Yet, unlike the fickle crowds, Jesus knows with certainty that a battle will take place and that anyone riding into battle on a colt is going to get slaughtered. That is where the meekness of the King is so clearly on display. Christ’s meekness is true strength that will be exercised for the sake of others. He rides into Jerusalem not to overthrow the religious establishment or the Roman overlords but to be crushed by them. He embraces the crushing weight of God’s wrath against sin on the cross so that through His death Satan, sin, and death would be swallowed up in Him. To the very end Christ was true to His mission: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).” Let us look to the One meekly and resolutely riding on a donkey – and behold our Lord and our God. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would bring visitors to our church who would be blessed by becoming a part of our congregation.
Wednesday (4/16) Read and discuss Ezekiel 37:1-14. The following story is told from the old Soviet Union before the Berlin wall fell:
The communist lecturer paused before summing up. His large audience listened fearfully. ‘Therefore,’ he said, ‘there is no God; Jesus Christ never existed; there is no such thing as a Holy Spirit. The Church is an oppressive institution, and anyway it’s out of date. The future belongs to the State; and the State is in the hands of the Party.’
He was about to sit down when an old priest near the front stood up. ‘May I say two words?’ he asked (It’s three in English, but he was of course speaking Russian). The lecturer disdainfully, gave him permission. He turned, looked out over the crowd, and shouted: ‘Christ is risen!’ Back came the roar of the people: ‘He is risen indeed!’ They’d been saying it ever Easter for a thousand years; why should they stop now?
In this story we are reminded how subversive Easter is to all the tyrannies of this world. Tyrants all base their power on the ability to kill. “They claim to have the keys of death and hell, but they’re lying. Where the tyrants’ power runs out, God’s power begins. He raises the dead (N.T. Wright).” Today’s passage reminds us of the explosive nature of this truth. Even the Bible believing Church sometimes tones down and domesticates the explosive nature of Christ rising from the dead in the middle of history. We rightly speak of Easter as the source of our spiritual life and our hope for the future. Christ’s resurrection does mean those things, but it is also about far more than our private spiritual lives. Today’s passage speaks of the entire nation of Israel being nothing but dry dead bones. God steps in and sovereignly gives them new life. This new life is not merely individual and private – it is corporate and powerful. Ezekiel sees the whole house of Israel being reconstituted as a mighty army. It is a foretaste of the transformative event that crashed into the world when Christ conquered the last enemy and rose triumphantly from the grave. More than a rescue plan, Easter morning is the proclamation and the beginning of God’s new creation. “It declares that, after all, God is God, and that His kingdom shall come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Easter speaks of a world reborn (N.T. Wright).” It is easy to become discouraged when we dwell on our culture or the state of the Church in our country; but for God’s people the decisive victory has already been won. The pain of this world is real and so we rightly weep. Yet, because Christ is risen we can look forward in confidence to the day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will dwell in His house forever. And because He lives, we can courageously live as His people in the world today – paradoxically as a meek yet mighty army. Read or sing Hymn 268 “Welcome, Happy Morning!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send revival and reformation to New England.
Thursday (4/17) Read and discuss Matthew 28:1-10. Easter is a time when everyone should feel good. At least that is what the world thinks. A generation ago it was common for many people to get new clothes that they wore for the first time on Easter Sunday. Churches are filled, familiar hymns are sung, spring is in the air, and the message is about victory over death. Who wouldn’t be happy on a day like that? The only problem is that this isn’t what happens when people first encounter the reality of the risen Christ. When an angel from the LORD appears to the guards, they become frozen in fear like dead men. Hagner puts it neatly when he writes: “The irony is not to be missed: the ones assigned to guard the dead themselves appear dead while the dead now have been made alive.” Rather than being a cool breeze across our face on a hot summer’s day, encountering an actual angel and experiencing the reality of Christ’s resurrection brought devastating terror to the guards. Furthermore, they had every right to be terrified. Not only were they sinners in the presence of true holiness, their pretensions to being in control were instantly unmasked. Having forgotten this truth, modern Americans expend an enormous amount of energy and money trying to convince ourselves that we really have everything under control. Sure, we need to tinker with the economy and health care from time to time – but for the most part we can manage just fine thank you very much. Today’s passage reminds us how deluded such a notion is. Once the illusion of being in control was stripped away the guards became paralyzed with fear. We should notice that the women were also afraid. The greeting from the angel is best translated “Stop being afraid”. Additionally, the first words of Jesus to the women after greeting them was “Do not be afraid”. Their world has also been instantly turned upside down. But there the similarities between the women and the guards would end. The fear of the women, and all true disciples, would soon be turned into joy that no one could take away. Easter, rather than being a great unifying event for all mankind, radically divides followers of Christ from the rest of the world. The proclamation “Christ is risen!” is indeed the greatest news imaginable – but only for those who have put their trust in Him. Read or Sing 267 “The Day of Resurrection!” Read or sing Hymn 276 “Up from the Grave He Arose” Prayer: Lift up the young children in our church and pray that the LORD would grant each of them saving faith.
Friday (4/18) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 17:41-58. Mark Boda writes:
We know the rest of the story well as David defeats the great Goliath, breaking the confidence of the philistines and propelling the Israelites to defeat their retreating enemy. But the narrator of the story does not end the story there. In a surprising move he concludes the narrative by ushering us back to a scene at an earlier point in the story. In verses 55-56 he grants us the vantage point of Saul watching the young David as he goes out to encounter Goliath and commissioning his general to investigate the boy’s background. Then in verses 57-58, the general brings David to Saul for an interview. The significance of this conclusion to the David and Goliath story is that it reminds us that this story is not ultimately about David and Goliath, but rather about David and Saul. There is David standing face to face with Saul with Goliath’s head in David’s grasp.
Prayer: Lift up President Obama, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and all who are in positions of civic leadership and ask that they would be granted both wisdom and moral courage.
Saturday (4/19) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 15:1-28. A very strange thing seems to have happened in Corinth. There were members of the church who apparently were doubting or even denying that there would be a future resurrection of our bodies. We shouldn’t imagine that they were envisioning some sort of future annihilation where everything ended at death. This wasn’t modern America where unbelievers can feel comfortable in a liberal church. These were people who were (in some sense) placing their trust in Jesus for a better life in the age to come. Yet they had allowed secular philosophy to alter their understanding of Biblical anthropology. That is, they had lost sight of the fact that God made matter good and that our physical bodies are an important part of our humanity. Why would they do this? It was common in some parts of Greek philosophy to hope for the deliverance of the human spirit from the body. The spirit was seen as noble and good while the body was seen as decaying and limiting. In fact, some philosophers called the body the tomb of the soul. Oddly, many Christians in modern America have let this idea creep into their own thinking. If you were to ask many individuals about what they expect after they die – they will vaguely talk about heaven and, if you listen closely, it will sound like a surprisingly immaterial place. But this is not the goal for which we have been created or redeemed. As one New Testament scholar likes to put it, “Heaven is important but it’s not the end of the world.” If we die prior to the Second Coming, we will in fact pass directly into the presence of the LORD while our bodies remain buried in the ground. This will be a glorious experience but it is not the end of our redemption. Scripture teaches that we will then be looking forward to the redemption of our bodies so that in glorified bodies we will live in a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell. This truth is so important that Paul actually argues from Christ’s resurrection to the resurrection of our bodies. Is this the way you think about the body God has given to you? Read or Sing Hymn 277 “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.