Easter Sermons by Pastor Rank

Easter 2 – Quasimodogeniti – April 23, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Quasimodogeniti, Easter 2

April 23, 2006

Text: John 20:19-31

22Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our risen Lord,

Joseph had been stripped of his coat of many colors, a special and unique gift from his beloved father; he had been thrown into a pit, and then sold into slavery. His own brothers had done this to him. But Joseph did not stay a slave. Over the course of years he rose to become one of the most powerful men in the world. His brothers probably figured he was long dead. They were wrong.

They found out how wrong they were when they needed food during a severe and long-lasting famine. Joseph was in charge of the food in all the land of Egypt, and that’s where the brothers had to go to get food. Without the food they and their families would starve to death. Joseph recognizes his brothers when they come to Egypt, but they do not recognize him. Finally though, Joseph lets them know who he is. And Moses, the writer of Genesis, tells us: “they were dismayed in his presence.” Yes indeed, the brothers who had wickedly sold Joseph years before out of their jealousy and hatred of him, the brothers who despised him, the brothers who had to “settle” for just selling him into slavery when most of them wanted him dead – these are the ones who are now “dismayed” in front of Joseph.

The fate of these brothers, these sons of Israel, is in the hands of Joseph. Joseph has reason to hate them. He has reason to want them punished for their evil; for their betrayal, for their cruelty. Yet what does Joseph do? Listen to what Moses tells us: “And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:4-5). Joseph knows that God had a purpose for his slavery – the purpose was that Joseph might save lives through God putting him in the right place at the right time. Joseph does not use his power nor his advantage over his brothers to give them what they deserve. Instead, he forgives them, he accepts them back as his brothers, as his family, and rejoices to be with them again.

You can probably figure out the connection between Joseph and Jesus. On that first Easter evening Jesus meets His disciples. What are His first words to these men? These are the ones who all promised that they would never leave Him. These are the ones who said they would die before they would abandon Him. But what did they actually do? They fell asleep instead of praying. They ran away when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter had actually denied even knowing Jesus three times. They did not rally around Jesus to protect, support, or help Him in any way. They left Him alone during the time of His greatest need.

So, now it is the evening of the third day. Stories of resurrection have been circulating, but the disciples have hardly dared to believe. How does Jesus greet these men? He could have refused even to meet with them. He could have met them with fire and brimstone, punishing them for their cowardice, their lack of faith. He could have scolded them.

What are His words? “Peace be with you.” I want you to remember that. I want you to have this picture of Christ in mind when you wonder if God will forgive you, if He wants to forgive you, if He’ll hold your sins against you. Jesus did not scold. He did not punish. He gave peace to them.

Now, some abuse this peace with God and interpret it to mean that now God allows every and any thing to be done, as if there is now no morality, no right and wrong, and that God will simply love no matter what. There is enough truth in that statement to make it sound right, but it also has enough error to make it deadly to souls.

Why doesn’t Jesus need to scold or punish the disciples on that Easter evening? There’s no need for more law because they know their sin. They know they failed. They know they cannot excuse their actions or lack of action for Jesus. They are not trying to say that what they did was right or something that God should allow. The disciples, like the brothers of Joseph, understand their sin. And by the grace of God alone they are forgiven.

One disciple is not there on that first Easter evening. When he hears the story of the resurrection for the other ten Thomas doubts it. He demands to see, to touch.

When Jesus shows Himself to Thomas the next week, He doesn’t need to scold Thomas much either. Jesus says: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas sees Jesus and recognizes Him. He does believe. He confesses his faith in the risen Jesus: “My Lord and My God.” Thomas knows why the nail prints are in the hands of Jesus, and why the side of Jesus has a wound. These are the marks of the crucifixion. These are the marks of the winning of salvation: forgiveness from sin, life.

The wounds of Jesus are a reminder that forgiveness came with a price – the death of the Son of God. Those who imagine that God’s love for us allows us to continue in sin or to think that God doesn’t care about sin, are not only mistaken, but they also blaspheme the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to pay for sin. He didn’t die so we can consider sin as of no consequence.

But as we realize our sin, as we come to understand more and more that our sins are known to God even more than Joseph knew the sins of his brothers against him, then let us remember that Jesus wants us to believe in Him. Jesus wants us to know peace with God. Jesus wants us to hear forgiveness for all sin. He doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him, or to run away from Him, or to hide from Him. Jesus calls us to Him with words of peace, forgiveness, and love.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Blessed are you, by faith in Jesus Christ. Life is yours, by believing in the name of Jesus. You have a God who forgives, who paid for sin with His own death, who rose again in triumph, all for you. Trust the words written for you, that you may believe and live. God grant this to you all in the name of Jesus – Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Easter Sermons by Pastor Rank

Easter 3 – Misericordias Domini – April 30, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Misericordias Domini, Easter 3

April 30, 2006

Text: John 10:11-16

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Dear fellow redeemed in our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

Have you ever noticed that the word and idea of “sheep” is not much used as a name for things like cars or military vehicles? In World War II the German army named their tanks after animals like: Tigers, Panthers, Rhinoceros, Elephant: power, size, killing ability. British airplanes were called Spitfighters and Hurricanes; the Americans had Thunderbolts, Lightning, Mustang, Flying Fortress. Some modern American planes are Hornets, or Super-hornets. Trucks and cars are given names with numbers and letters, or names like Titan, Mustang. These things are given names that we associate with power, or speed, or sophistication. About the only sheep-related name I can think of that’s used for a vehicle is “Ram.” Not many people would talk about how they drove their “Ewe” into work today, or took their “Lamb” our for a spin on the back forty.

The word “sheep” does not bring up images of power and might, nor great speed or intelligence. In fact, we use the word “sheep” to describe people who follow a leader without thinking. It is not considered a compliment for a group of people to be called “sheep.”

But this is where the distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world can be seen. The world has its power games. The world thrills to the powerful. And the power of the world is mostly very blatant: bigger engines, more powerful weapons, faster vehicles, and so on. There is a time and a place for such power. It has its rightful sphere in the way this world must operate. But the church is different.

Power in the church is very different from the power of this world. The most powerful in the Christian Church, and in the history of the world, is the One who went like a lamb to the slaughter, who deliberately did not use the power of the sword, but relied on His word. This one was even called “the lamb of God.” What a contrast between the power that people are impressed with, and the power of God.

God shows His power by allowing death to come to Him and kill Him: “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” The world shows its power by its ability to deal out death. Again, such power has its place, but it is not in the church, for the church is not about such punishment, it is about how God takes our place in the deserved punishment for our sin. And that is what the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, wants us to know.

Sinners, without Jesus Christ, are the prey, the targets, and not the predators. Sinners without Jesus Christ are gobbled up by sinful flesh; they are dominated by the world for their end is death; and they are run over by Satan. Yet we sinners like to imagine that we have power, that our human strength, or the power of our machines, can overcome obstacles. So we invest so much in the power of this world. And we are left at the end with nothing. Death destroys us, just like rust and wind and water erode, dissolve, destroy the things of this world.

We are sheep. And we need help. Our help is the Good Shepherd, Jesus.

How does this Shepherd help? He calls to us. He speaks to us. He lays down His life for us and then tells us that His death is our life. He takes the poison of our sin into His own body, and gives us instead the green pastures and pure springs of water that restore us and keep us.

All of this is brought to us as we hear His voice, as we listen to the Word of God. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and I give them eternal life.” Martin Luther preached: “[Christ and His kingdom] all depends on hearing it with faith….Its whole makeup and nature is to hear….We Christians should be and remain attentive, for all depends on the hearing of the Word and believing it….We Christians know Christ through the voice of the his gospel, and Christ knows us by our hearing, that we hearken to his gospel which proclaims to us that he died for our sins” (Hauspostille, II, 84).

The voice of Jesus, His Word, the Gospel, is the power of God for salvation. This is a power which turns upside our ideas of what power should be. And this is really the nature of the Gospel – it turns everything around. How does Jesus get rid of death? By dying. How does He get rid of evil? By taking it upon Himself. How does He show power? By being weak. How does He take on the dogs, the strong bulls of Bashan, the lion? By being a lamb.

Because this is so against what we want power to be we may very well find ourselves rebelling at such a 180 degree shift in our thoughts. That is part of the struggle in the life of a Christian. But it is a necessary struggle for us – for our Savior says to us and shows us in many ways that whoever would lead, let him become like a slave; whoever is strong, let him become weak; whoever is proud, let him become humble; whoever wants to be first, let him be the last. God didn’t pick the powerful nations of Egypt or Assyria to be His chosen people; God chose a small family, a family that became slaves, and then God rescued them and He alone, by His power, makes them strong. David, small and unarmored, defeats the giant and well-armed Goliath.  Jesus, alone, bloody and tortured, takes on death. David cuts off and lifts up the head of Goliath in triumph. Jesus rises glorious on Easter Sunday, alive, victorious, undefeated.

This is the way of God. This is the way of Shepherd and sheep.

This victory is yours by hearing and believing the voice of the Shepherd. That means hearing the Word of God, reading Holy Scripture wherein we find the bread of heaven, the life-giving work of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

Wolves, the lies of Satan, the power of the world, the false teachings of those who want to lead you away from the truth of God, the voice of Jesus, all these are around us in this world. That is why we continually hear the voice of the Shepherd. We keep learning to distinguish His voice from all that falsely mimic Him or try to sing a different song to us.

God keep us safe in the hearing of our Good Shepherd, the one who knows us, who calls us by name, who makes us His own. In that way we are safe, safe from all predators that would prey on the people of God. May the Lord keep us steadfast in His Word, and may we by faith trust the blessed voice of Jesus: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” In the name of Jesus, our risen Lord, Amen.

Easter Sermons by Pastor Rank

Easter Sunday – Resurrection of Our Lord – April 16, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Resurrection of Our Lord

April 16, 2006


The joy of Easter does not depend on the weather – if it is snowing and cold or if it is stormy or if it is bright and sunny – such things do not change the meaning of Easter. The joy of Easter does not depend on us, on whether or not we have an “Easter feeling.” The joy of Easter does not depend on its recognition in the world – what do headlines on magazines or newspapers, or lead stories on daily news shows, which today are here and tomorrow are gone – what can these do to Easter? Nothing.

The joy of Easter is about a fact, and about what that fact means for people, for you. Easter is the fact that Jesus, the Jesus who was dead on Friday, is alive on Sunday morning. Easter is the fact that the Son of God was not defeated by worldly enemies, nor by Satan, nor by death itself. Easter is a time of joy because it proclaims to the world what God has done in Christ, the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Therefore we rejoice this Easter morning, not depending on anything other than the truth of God’s Word which brings to us the news, the message and power of salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Away then with all worries and cares and concerns and troubles. For Jesus is alive, and that means you have life, too. Let us then all rise and join in singing to each other and praising God with the hymn:

Hymn 348 – “He Is Arisen! Glorious Word!”

Text: Mark 16:1-8

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away – for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 “But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Dear people gathered on this day of resurrection,

We know that every year for the past several decades, at least, various efforts are made through printed materials and through special broadcasts to raise doubts about the facts of Christianity: especially the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Mary’s Son. So this year we have the fantasy of the Gospel of Judas examined by so-called “scholars” and declared to be another hurdle for the Christian Church. “What will this do to those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus?” the scholars wonder.

After you’ve been around a few decades, most Christians get used to these contrived events. But, for those of you who see this as something that does make you wonder, think of it this way: instead of it being looked on as a challenge to the faithful, I suggest that we look at these efforts, in whatever media they appear, as just more evidence of the fact of the resurrection. One can hardly imagine there needing to be such efforts year in and year out to discredit something, if that something were not considered too dangerous, and, true. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning was not a bone stuck in the craw of many people, do you think they would expend the money and time to try to disgrace this great event in the history of humanity? By the very scale of the protests we get a good picture of just how much the resurrection truly discomforts people. It reminds me of the Passion history of Jesus when Pilate hears from the Jews that Jesus is called “the Son of God.” That’s when Pilate determines he wants nothing to do with judging Jesus. He washes his hands and says to the crowd: “you do it.” He was nervous about Jesus, and rightly so. There are many people nervous about the resurrection of Jesus, and they calm their nerves, or try to, by finding reasons not to believe it.

Why? Why not just believe it? Well, belief in the resurrection of Jesus entails believing in Jesus Himself, His birth, His life – the miracles and teachings – His suffering, death, and then resurrection. It also means believing in the reasons for Jesus coming here: our sin, our need for a Savior, and the love of God which sends the Savior. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus, for you, means believing that you need it, and that, more than anything else, is what makes people not want to accept it.

Do you see what it comes down to? It comes down to confessing: “I am a sinner in thought, word, and deed, a sinner against God and against people.” And that is hard to admit; it is hard for us, it is hard for the unbeliever. Pride and stubbornness get in the way. And so Jesus is rejected. But that is just where we need Jesus the most.

Think of the efforts so many religions require of their followers. Think of the life of denial that Buddhists try to live, or Hinduism’s ways of works, knowledge, or devotion; or Islam’s requirements of prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimages. Other religions all have their own sets of rules and regulations that are to be followed so that you can become more at peace with the world, with yourself, and with your ultimate destiny.

Now, sadly, some even make of Christianity a religion of rules, legal requirements, godly principles, and so on. And every time that happens, Christianity sinks away from its unique message, and becomes one more works-oriented religion of the world.

Christianity, biblical, Christ-centered Christianity, has no equal. It points away from our efforts. And it points to Christ. Sure, there are many things of good that we can do and even should do as the people of God: works of charity of all kinds, support and encouragement for the many people who need help. But these works are never part of the main fabric of the Church, for that place of honor is given only to the work of Christ and never to us or what we do. It is that unique understanding and teaching of God’s Word that puts Christ at center stage that the world hates. For as Christ is put there, we see how little our works can do. The world cannot stand when our efforts are minimized and Christ’s are maximized. Never forget that. It is never Christian charity that is despised here in this world, but it is the teaching of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone that will be attacked. That is why the resurrection is attacked, as well as the virgin birth of Jesus, the fact that Jesus is both truly God and truly man, and that He suffered and died, and rose again the third day. These are attacked, undermined, mocked, declared a hoax, because they are at odds with the religion of the sinful flesh and devil and world which wants us and what we do at center stage.

The resurrection of Jesus puts all that in the proper perspective. Our celebration of Easter says to the world: Jesus is at the heart of it all. He has won the victory and declares to all people on this day of His resurrection from the dead. He died for us all, for our sins, for our pride at thinking we could ever, in any way, measure up to what is needed for eternal life. He sweeps that all away like the remains of last year’s leaves from our yards and patios. He replaces our failed efforts with His own victory, His own death for us, His own resurrection so that we, too, may one day rise from the dead to life eternal, through faith in Jesus Christ.

On this Easter morning let us rejoice in the fact of the resurrection, and even more, rejoice in what it means for us, for all who have died in faith in this Jesus Christ, and for all who cling in faith to the One whom even death cannot destroy. This is Jesus, our Savior, our Redeemer. God keep us in such faith, from now until we see Him face to face in life eternal. In the name of Jesus who was dead and is now alive. Amen. Alleluia! Christ is risen, He is risen indeed