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April 21, 2019      Golden Dancing Slippers

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

He is risen; (he is risen indeed!) Alleluia!   The tomb is vacated; the grave is empty. If you believe this, say ‘yes’. Yes, indeed; there were witnesses, and the Scriptures confirm it = both Old and New Testaments. This is the angel’s proclamation: No dead body is in that carved-out cave!   But *what does this mean? By itself, an empty tomb only means an empty tomb. And, this most holy day of the Church Year is not about emptiness;

but about something else far more worthy of our ‘alleluias’.

Let’s hear the example of a woman named Agnes. Because of her, in the church one day, there were 2 items that seemed out-of-place = a pair of dancing slippers, gold in color. *Why were they there in the church that day? They belonged to ‘Aggie’ -as she liked to be called- a dear child of God, and a member of Christ Lutheran Church, faithful to the Lord Jesus.

Early in life, Aggie had loved to dance, but suffered from polio;   and later in life, she was confined to a wheelchair. The day the golden dancing slippers showed up was the day of her funeral. Her dear husband Larry place the slippers there in the narthex on top of Aggie’s wheelchair.

Larry didn’t need to explain the golden slippers; the message was quite clear: Aggie always said she couldn’t wait to get to heaven, and finally dance again; even if she had to wait ‘til the day-of-resurrection, that was okay. She was confident that she would dance again, since her Savior had been sacrificed on the altar-of-the-cross for her sins.  By His forgiveness, her room in heaven was reserved.   She believed the news:

Jesus rising from the grave on the third day was announcing the Father’s satisfaction, & victory over all our enemies. His tomb was empty!   If you believe this, say ‘yes’.

Yes = indeed; the promise of Scripture was true; it was even spoken by Job = around the time of Abraham: I know that my Redeemer lives!   To Aggie, that means the Lord’s promise of her own resurrection was also true; now nothing could separate her from her Lord & her promised future home, and all it’s activities.

Ordinarily, an empty tomb is just an empty cave; but not that one; the one just outside of Jerusalem 2000 yrs ago.   Now, we could say with our mouths that that is what history records, and we could look at the evidence with witnesses, and agree with our minds of this fact.   But even the Devil also knows this fact; so intelligence does not give hope, or joy; and it does not save a soul.   This fact must be combined with faith = faith is

God Himself convincing us that the One who died on the cross to forgive us, & then laid dead in the tomb is now alive & gives us life; making Him alone Savior and Lord.

Like Aggie’s empty shoes filled with hope, God sent angels that Easter morning to point the women to an empty tomb filled with resurrection & life. +The empty tomb preaches the fulfillment of all of God’s promises of salvation directed to a condemned world filled with broken, sinful people; including you & me. +The empty tomb preaches the completion of the Father’s rescue-plan to provide one-way back to Him.

+The empty tomb preaches the absolute truth that death has now lost its ‘sting’ & fear in Jesus. +The empty tomb preaches that -even now- because Jesus shattered death by rising to life, a new creation has begun, even as the old creation is still passing away. Jesus lives, and He will return; and after that finale, we will have a life better than we can possibly dream-of or imagine.    If you believe this , say  ‘yes’.

Long before Jesus’ arrival, God spoke about this death & resurrection. Thru Isaiah, God said: “He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors =chpt.53

   And in chpt.25: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.”

In John 5, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”    And Jesus says: “Because I live, you shall live also.”

 The empty tomb proclaimed & showed what the Scriptures preached: death is undone; the sting of death is over; the power of death is bowed down to the Son of God.

Thru Paul, the Spirit says,   ‘if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins ….but in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, ….for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.’ In this world we face death;

but we face it with Jesus, our death-conqueror.   If you believe this , say ‘yes’.    Because of Easter, the empty tomb is filled with meaning.

Our lesson said the women were ‘perplexed’ at the emptiness = confounded, stunned. Then, they were frightened by the 2 men with dazzling clothing = shinning, luminous. They could hardly take it all in. They had seen what Isaiah had prophesied; that our suffering-servant from God would be so disfigured by his abuse & crucifixion that he wouldn’t look human anymore. That’s what they had seen, & now expected to find in the tomb. Instead they find an empty tomb & gleaming men.

The Lord’s angels had casually waited for the women to show up so that they could finally begin to tell someone the Good News. Their message? ‘the strife is over, the battle done. Jesus is alive, just as he said. And because he is, the grave will not hold you in, either. All is well for the people of God == for ALL who believe, and are baptized into this Risen Lord.  

This power of Jesus had already been glimpsed at the tomb of Lazarus, recorded in John 11. Martha believed that Jesus could’ve healed her brother’s illness, preventing his death.   But Jesus was testing her faith in looking forward to Easter morning.

He said to her, I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in Me, tho he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?   And Martha answered, ‘yes Lord.’   If you believe as Martha did, say ‘yes.’

Yes, indeed. That empty tomb means that your tomb is already empty; this faith already joins us to our Living Lord = in whom is life, not death. So, Jesus has promised that you will go from this life-of-faith to a life-of-sight. Yes, for a time, the grave will hold your physical remains; but you will not be there, you will be with your Lord.

That’s how empty the Lord’s tomb is = its emptiness affects your tomb.

This is the grace & mercy God has shown to YOU; that you have been brought into His Church, and brought into His family, & into a new life-of-faith in Christ. By using water on you, He has applied His promise to you. In His Baptism, God has already had you die to sin, and He has given you a new birth, raising you to life in faith. As His child, He has now placed you beyond the stinging reach of death, the tomb, & this old life.

Today, and every Sunday, God’s people gather with grateful hearts to be renewed & refreshed in His grace & mercy. We come-away from the fallen world;  because out-there we forget how good God has been to us; we’re too busy to even offer a prayer of thanks.  Out-there we fall back into our old sins, our selfishness, & our shameful disrespect of God’s holy ways. Out-there we forget how to be God’s people, & that’s dangerous to our soul.

So, here, God calls us back.   And here He reminds us of our need to turn away from the things that caused Jesus to have to take up His cross & die in our place.

Here He promises that He will restore us in His grace, and restore to us the joy of our salvation. When we are here, we are joining with the angels, & archangels, and all the company of heaven in our worship in His presence.   And all these things are true because of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, and raised again in glory.

Aggie’s golden dancing slippers once told a story; empty slippers full of faith & hope. It’s the same story of the faith given to you & me.   It’s the story of Jesus & the terrible cross, death & tomb. It’s also the story of the risen Christ, sins forgiven, death defeated, and all is well for YOU, and for all who believe & are baptized in Christ Jesus.

You have life now, & life to come, because “Christ was dead, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.”   If you agree that the message of the empty tomb is full of good news for you,  say ‘amen.’

Amen