The best part of us: Being the 500th anniversary since the commencement of the reformation, I’ll pass over to Dr Luther, for it is hard to find a sweeter set of words summing up what Christ achieved this big Easter weekend for all who trust in his Word of promise:
‘There is also a second half to this event [the resurrection] that goes beyond the first half: that through Baptism we are raised spiritually in faith already. This means the best part of us… The husk and the skin are still to be raised but the kernel, the true part, has already been raised. This is our firm belief. So when we see a Christian who is sick and dying or being lowered into the grave, or when we ourselves must die, we should forget what we are seeing and repeat prayerfully the message of the angel that first Easter morning: ‘he is Risen’ (Matt 28:6). We should confess and say that the best part has already happened in the resurrection: Christ the head of the whole church, has come through death and been raised to life. In addition, the most important part of me, my soul, has also come through death and is with Christ in heaven… If Christ, of whom our text says, ‘he is risen’, has passed through death and the grave, then those who say, ‘I believe’ and hold on to him will follow behind. For he has gone ahead of us so that we might follow after him; and that has already begun to happen in us so that we daily rise in him through word and Baptism’ WA 36:162 (Sermon for Easter Evening, 1531).
While the quote stands beautifully on its own two feet, there are also several specific points of connection for Bethlehem this weekend.
– On Good Friday I preach on the Hebrews 10 text that describes how with confidence we may ‘enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body…’ (Hebrews 19-20) The quote above has that same movement whereby we follow Christ into his heavenly sanctuary. Through our baptism this movement is something to be understood for the here and now, not some future event. And it is all made possible through the flesh of Jesus which took the nails for the sin we commit.
– On Easter Sunday Zoe Luise Rogers is baptised into Christ’s church (see Easter Sunday page). I will preach on Colossians 3:1-4, picking up how ‘we have been raised with Christ’ (Col 3:1) but our ‘life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Col 3:3). It is through baptism that our hidden life with Christ is inaugurated and we are raised with Christ. We will however take a good look at hidden life… and what it means for joy in our say-to-day life
– For Maundy Thursday the focus of the movement is another kind. While we follow Christ, our focus will more be the food for the journey he offers in his precious meal the Lord’s Supper. Accordingly, the sermon text is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
By the way, the Luther quote above is taken from A year with Luther: from the great reformer for our time, published by ATF Theology, Adelaide, 2016. Launched at last year’s Luther@500 conference run by Australian Lutheran College in Melbourne, it was complied by German theologian Prof Athina Lexutt and edited and translated by LCA theologian Rev Dr Jeffrey Silcock. Each entry includes a comment by Dr Lexutt, beautifully translated by Dr Silcock. The accompanying entry for the quote above gives us a solid reminder about the importance of faith to our Christian lives when it comes to ‘understanding’ both Christ’s resurrection and what it has given us.
‘Reason will never understand this, nor can it be stood logically by philosophy. The natural sciences can do nothing with a phenomenon like ‘resurrection’. Philosophy can perhaps think of it as a model. But only theology, only faith, can understand and experience what it means.’ (Lexutt: 119)