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Awake My Heart, With Gladness! Happy Easter!

April 8th, 2012
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Detail from the St. Peter and Paul Altar Painting, Weimar, Germany, by Lucas Cranach, the Younger, 1555.

Detail from the St. Peter and Paul Altar Painting, Weimar, Germany by Lucas Cranach, the Younger, 1555.

A blessed and happy Easter to you. Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Here are a couple things for your Easter Day meditation and consideration. First, Paul Gerhardt’s beautiful Easter hymn, “Awake My Heart with Gladness” then an Easter sermon by Pastor William Weedon.

Awake, my heart, with gladness, see what today is done. Now after gloom and sadness comes forth the glorious Sun! My Savior there was laid where our bed must be made when to the realms of light our spirit wings its flight.

The Foe in triumph shouted when Christ lay in the tomb, but, lo, he now is routed, his boast is turned to gloom. For Christ again is free; in glorious victory He who is strong to save Has triumphed o’er the grave.

This is a sight that gladdens; what peace it doth impart! Now nothing ever saddens the joy within my heart. No gloom shall ever shake, no foe shall ever take, the hope which God’s own Son in love for me hath won.

Now hell, its prince, the devil, of all their power are shorn. Now I am safe from evil, and sin I laugh to scorn. Grim death with all his might cannot my soul affright. He is a powerless form, howe’er he rave and storm.

The world against me rageth, its fury I disdain. Though bitter war it wageth, its work is all in vain. My heart from care is free, no trouble troubles me. Misfortune now is play, and night is bright as day.

Now I will cling forever to Christ, my Savior true. My Lord will leave me never, whate’er He passes through. He rends Death’s iron chain. He breaks through sin and pain. He shatters hell’s dark thrall. I follow through it all.

To halls of heavenly splendor with Him I penetrate; and trouble ne’er may hinder nor make me hesitate. Let tempests rage at will, my Savior shields me still. He grants abiding peace and bids all tumult cease.

He brings me to the portal that leads to bliss untold whereon this rime immortal ws found in script of gold: “Who there My cross hath shared finds here a crown prepared. Who there with Me has died shall here be glorified.”

Text From: The Lutheran Hymnal (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941).

Pastor Weedon’s Sermon:

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Today we mark yet another step in the unfathomable love of God for the human race. It was not enough for Him to have created us out of nothing in His image and to place us into the paradise of plenty. It was not enough for Him, when we fell into sin, to promise us a Savior. It was not enough for Him, to give us the Law to teach us our need of His mercy. It was not enough for Him, to send us prophets to call us to trust in Him and to turn from all that is death and vanity. It was not enough for Him to send His Son into our flesh. It was not enough for His Son to walk among us, a man among men, the only REAL man among all others who are really only failures at being men. It was not enough for our Lord to stand in the waters of the Jordan in solidarity with sinners. It was not enough for Him to reach out and touch and heal. It was not enough for Him to teach us the counsels of salvation. It was not even enough for Him to offer up His life a ransom for us upon Gologotha’s stony slope. It was not enough for Him to share our graves and taste our death. It was enough for Him. He would love us even more. And so the joys of THIS day.

For make no mistake about what THIS day celebrates. Not merely that a man was raised from the dead. This Man had raised others from the dead before – Jairus’ little girl, the widow of Nain’s son, Lazarus. But they were all brought back from death into life with still corruptible flesh. That is, they each finally grew sick and died yet again. I don’t imagine that any of them faced death in the same way again – for they had encountered Him whose Word and call was stronger than death. But their coming back to life was not like what we celebrate today.

For THIS day we celebrate that human flesh, like unto our own, of a piece with us, has been raised from death in incorruption. He will never die again. He is forever beyond all that. As we like to sing: “Gone the nailing, gone the railing, gone the pleading, gone the cry, gone the sighing, gone the dying, what was loss lifted high.”

This is the news that the Angel brought to the Marys and Salome at the tomb: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here. He is risen. Come, see the place where they laid Him, but go and tell His disciples and Peter that He is risen and goes before you into Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you.”

As He told you. His words of promise never fail. You can count on them when everything else around you is shaking, when your world crumbles, when your heart breaks, when your body fails. He will not fail you. It wasn’t enough for Him to merely share our flesh and blood. Oh, no. He would have that flesh and blood glorified, raised in incorruption, shining with the light of deity, the very source of our eternal hope. And He will take that glorified flesh and blood and raise it to the right hand of the Father, bringing humanity at long last to that place where God had intended us to live from the beginning.

And do you see what His incorruption means to you? He, who is now forever beyond death, beyond sin, beyond the accusations of the law, beyond hell – He has joined you to Him. In your Baptism you went into that grave with Him and you came out with Him. Alive. One with Him. His life was given you there in the water to be your life – His INCORRUPTIBLE life. But with Him, that’s never enough. There’s always more.

And so He sends His servants out to proclaim His promises – promises that cannot fail, that are as sure and certain as His rising from that grave on this day in incorruption. Incorruptible promises to make you partakers of His divine nature. This is how St. Peter put it: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3,4) The promises of the Incorruptible One impart to you incorruption and make you a sharer in His divine nature – so that all that He is by nature you become by grace. He, a child of God; You, a child of God; He, the Heir of the Father; You, the heir of the Father.

But with Him there is always more. It was not enough for Him to baptize you into His own indestructible life; not enough for Him to arrange for His promises to be spoken to you to impart to you incorruption through faith. He goes further; He has more; His love knows no limit. He has a meal for you. He wants to put into you, into your corruptible, dying, sinful bodies His incorruptible, undying, sinless Body and Blood for your forgiveness and for you life. He wants to unite you to Himself; to strengthen the bonds of your faith; to comfort you; to hold and still you in all your anxieties and fears. He wants you to know that just as death was not the end of Him, so it will NEVER be the end of you. He wants you to rejoice that YOU have a life that is stronger than all the death in this world.

Old Job could go to his grave in the confidence that his Redeemer lived, and that on the other side of the corruption – yes, though his body be destroyed – yet he would live again in this flesh and his eyes and none other would behold God. And as he thought of it, his heart burned within him.

We see more than Job. For we have known the Redeemer for whom he waited, and we know His triumph over death and the grave. We know that not a single word of His ever proves false.

So, beloved, since Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, let us keep the feast. Away with the corruptible leavened bread of malice! Away with the corruptible leavened bread of evil! Let us welcome the incorruptible unleavened bread of sincerity and truth: the sincerity that is God’s earnest promise and the truth that with our God and His love for us, nothing was good enough until He had made our nature incorruptible in His Son and united us to Him that we might live in Him forevermore. This is God’s sincerity. This is God’s truth. This is the Bread on which we feast this day – the incorruptible bread that is Christ our Passover Lamb to whom be glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit – the only true God who has loved us with a love immeasurable, deep, divine. Amen.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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  1. Sven Wagschal
    April 27th, 2011 at 08:36 | #1

    There is a third verse which has been omitted in all German hymnals since the 1950s and is missing here, too. It shows what that sight that gladdens really is:

    3. Der Held steht auf dem Grabe und sieht sich munter um.
    Der Feind liegt und legt abe
    Gift, Gall und Ungestüm.
    Er wirft zu Christi Fuß
    sein Höllenreich und muß
    selbst in des Siegers Band
    ergeben Fuß und Hand.

    (The victor stands on the grave and looks around with joy.
    The enemy lays on the ground and is loosing
    venom, gall and his evil power.
    He throws his empire of hell down at the feet of Christ
    and puts his hand and foot into the shackles of the victor.)

    4. This is a sight that gladdens …

    Maybe you can make this German verse into an adequate English translation.

    • April 27th, 2011 at 11:15 | #2

      Very interesting! Clearly the language reflects how the Risen Christ is portrayed in many Lutheran paintings depicting the resurrection. See, for instance, the Cranach altar painting on this blog site! Thanks Sven, very fascinating.

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