An Eastertide Reflection from Martin Luther


From Concordia Academic blog.
LW 58: Selected Sermons V

LW 58: Selected Sermons V

Martin Luther’s preaching during Eastertide in 1544 and 1545 provided his listeners with four sermons on 1 Corinthians 15, the great resurrection chapter of St. Paul. “It would be better,” Luther wrote, “to give this season its due and, between Easter and Pentecost, for the instruction and comfort of the people, to give a thorough exposition of the article concerning both Christ’s resurrection and our own—that is, the resurrection of all the dead—on the basis of the preaching of the apostles, such as the fifteenth chapter of St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, all of which deals with the resurrection of the dead” [WA 21:349–50]. The sermons emphasized the assurance of the general resurrection; the ways in which Christians can “read” nature and be assured of God’s miraculous power to bring life out of death; and the unity of Christ’s resurrection with the resurrection of Christians, which means Christ’s victory over death also belongs to Christians.

For your Eastertide reflection, the following is a condensed version of the third sermon, on 1 Cor. 15:51–53. Here Luther contrasts the “bearable” divine speech in the present preaching of the Word with the unbearable sounds of the Last Day: the shout of the angel and the trumpet of God. The Christian should always keep the Last Day in mind, Luther says, as they fulfill their vocations in the world faithfully, remembering the last trumpet while enjoying the “eating, drinking, good cheer, and happiness” that God grants as a benevolent Father—but not mocking God and the last judgment with security amid unrepentant sin.

The complete text of this sermon and the other three sermons on 1 Corinthians 15, including the detailed annotations not included here, are available in LW 58: Selected Sermons V. Click Luther’s Works for information on becoming a subscriber to the extension of the American Edition of Luther’s Works.

On the Last Trumpet of God

[1 Corinthians 15:51–53]
Translated by Mark E. DeGarmeaux

…It is fitting in this time after the Easter festival to preach and deal with the article concerning the resurrection, not only the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead for all our sakes, just as He also died for all our sakes, but also our own resurrection, so that we may be firmly grounded in faith and completely certain that our own body will come forth again and live. For the resurrection of Christ is of no use to us at all if we, for whose sake Christ rose again, do not follow after Him and rise again from the dead just as He did. But we will not be able to follow after Him and rise to life with Him unless we believe that His resurrection happened for our good. Neither will we believe it unless we preach about it continually and proclaim this article without ceasing, so that it may take root in our hearts. Continue reading. . .

A Prayer for the Resurrection of Our Lord—Easter 2011


The Morning of the Resurrection, 1882, Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

(from the Easter sermon of John Chrysostom,
pastor of Constntinople ca. AD 400)

O almighty and eternal God through the death of Your Son You have destroyed death, and by His rising to life again you have restored innocence and everlasting life. Being delivered from the power of the devil, grant that I might live under You in Your kingdom and that I may be forever comforted by true faith in the resurrection of Your dear Son. Do not let the thought of death fill my heart with terror, but give me the blessed assurance that, just as You have with Christ, I will not remain in the grave but will rise again at the End of Days. And when, by Your grace I have finished my course let Your resurrection be for me a sure pledge that an inheritance that does not fade is reserved for me in heaven. While I live, guide me with Your holy counsel; and when I die give me the crown of life, that with all the holy angels and the elect I may praise and glorify You, world without end. Amen.

Eternal is the gift He brings,
Therefore our heart with rapture sings:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Now still He comes to give us life
And by His presence stills all strife.
Christ has triumphed! He is living!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

-Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds, stz. 2, Paul Z. Strodach

Easter and the Easter Season


Easter is a victory celebration, a time for all Christians to proclaim boldly their faith in a risen and victorious Savior. For the early Christians, Easter was not merely one day, it was (and is) a whole season that also includes the celebration of Jesus’ ascension. The fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, known as the Great Fifty Days, was the first liturgical season observed in the first three centuries of the Church. This fifty-day celebration is a week of weeks, renewed in the last decades by emphasizing the Sundays as being “of Easter.” The season’s length is fitting because we are dedicating one seventh of the year to the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection.

resurrection

'Resurrection of Christ' Piero della Francesca (c.1420 - 1492

Easter begins with evening prayer on Holy Saturday, and ends with midday prayer on Pentecost.

The first celebration of Easter is the Easter Vigil, the evening of Holy Saturday. The Vigil includes a service of light, in which fire symbolizes Jesus as the light of the world. The service is designed to take the Christian from the solemnity of Good Friday to the predawn joy of Easter.

Easter is the richest and most lavishly celebrated festival of the Church Year. Congregations may hold a sunrise service, commemorating the surprise of the women visiting the empty tomb of Christ, as well as services that celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While not as lavish, this joyous and celebratory tone echoes down through the Sundays of the Easter season.

Forty days after Easter (Acts 1:3), the Church celebrates the Ascension of Our Lord, who ascended into heaven not only as God but also as man. The final Sunday of the Easter season, celebrated as Pentecost, was adopted by early Christians to commemorate the first great harvest of believers for Christ (Acts 2:1-41). Thus, Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian Church as the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they gave their compelling witness about the resurrected Lord. Pentecost is a day of joy in the gifts of the Spirit as He still reaches into our lives just as He did to the crowds on that first Pentecost: through the apostolic preaching of God’s Word and Holy Baptism. Continue reading

A Prayer for the Resurrection of Our Lord–Easter


The Resurrection

James J. Tissot, 'Resurrection'

Matthew 28:1-6

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.

Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate; Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen; Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing; Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty; Christ is Risen indeed from the dead, the first of the sleepers, Glory and power are his forever and ever.
–St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!
–Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, Charles Wesley (1707-1788)