Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
May the joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead lift our hearts to praise our God today and always!

The morning was quiet in its darkness, the city lay sleeping, many having been shaken by the events of the last week, which began with the riding into Jerusalem on a donkey by the One who many cried out to with joyous voices, Hosanna, Hosanna! They had recognized Him as their Deliverer as it had been prophesied.

But the deliverance did not come in the way that thy expected, for this Deliverer ended up being delivered to His death on a cross. They had looked for deliverance from the oppressive Roman government, but it did not happen in that way. Instead the Roman governor Pilate had handed their Messiah over to the religious leaders and to the people to be crucified on a cross between two criminals high up on the Mountain outside Jerusalem.

Now on this early morning after the Sabbath, it was quiet and it was now going on the third day since the one who called Himself the Son of God had been put into a tomb. Those who knew of the teachings of this man they called Jesus knew that He had predicted on numerous occasions that on the third day after His death, He was going to rise again.

They who were in Jerusalem or near it had felt the earthquake when Jesus had breathed His last on the cross. Those in Jerusalem in the temple had not only felt the earthquake, but had seen the curtain tore from top to bottom which separated the Holy of Holies from all but the High Priest once a year. The Holy of Holies was the place that sacrifice was offered on behalf of the sins of the people and was a foreshadowing of the coming Christ to shed His blood for the atonement of our sins.

On Saturday, the Jewish religious leaders had come to Pilate and told him that Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. They requested that Pilate order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last fraud will be worse than the first." Pilate told them: "You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can." So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Matthew 27:62:66)

They waited, they waited.....they waited.......

The account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ rising from the dead is in all four Gospels, and today we are reading John's Gospel, which was the last Gospel written. We will read this account but will focus mostly on the part which contains the conversation between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

KJV John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself

Mary loved Jesus, comes to the tomb with other women, assumes that the body had been stolen, left the tomb, meets up with John and Peter, and they come to the tomb. They come to the tomb to find the empty tomb, but with the graveclothes lying neatly and in separate places. The clothes are no longer needed since He is now alive. He is all done with death.......

Two evidences of the resurrection of Jesus were the clothes through which he had passed and the napkin lying alone folded up in a different place. Any grave robbers would not have bothered to unwrap the linen clothes off of the body before taking it and if they had they would have left them strewn around.

8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

John's Gospel, chapter 20 gives us a lot of insight into how Mary Magdalene reacted and responded to the resurrected Jesus Christ. May we be given eyes to see the happenings of Easter morning through the eyes and heart of God towards Mary.

As the first streaks of dawn begin to peak over the horizon on the first day of the week, (Sunday as we know it today), we find Mary Magdalene, out of whom had been cast seven devils by Jesus (Luke 8:2) and the other Mary coming to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with spices. As they were on their way, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: Those who were there guarding the tomb were so fearful of the angel that they became like dead men.

She came to the tomb while it was yet dark, saw the stone rolled away, ran away from there, only to meet Peter and John, telling them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

In verse 11 of our text today, we see that Mary returned to the tomb, weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 The angels spoke to her: Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

Mary, apparently did not yet understand that Jesus had arose as He had said He would and did not see past her grief. For she did not seem to be affected by the angels in the tomb, one at the head of where Jesus had lain and the other at His foot. All Mary seemed to see is that the One who had brought her deliverance from sin and to freedom to live was dead and she did not know where He was. She did not realize yet that something better than she had before was coming to her.

She was broken hearted, she wept. She turned away from the tomb and looking the other way, and saw Jesus standing, but knew not that it was Jesus.

Mary was despondent on the first Easter morning, even though all of creation had rejoiced in its Creator being raised from the dead. As the earth had quaked at His giving up of His life, now again the earth shook and quaked at His resurrection., the trees, rocks, plants and all of nature praised their Creator on Easter morning. It was as if the creation could not keep still at the great work that its Creator had accomplished for the redemption and life of fallen mankind! The creation was praising its Creator!

But Mary was not there yet. As she turned away from the bright and shining angels in the tomb, she saw the gardener standing there and through her weeping and grief heard him ask two questions:

Jesus spoke to her: Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?

Her Saviour was speaking to her, but she did not recognize His voice yet as all she saw was a gardener of the earth, an ordinary man. She responded by telling him:

She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus chose the moment to speak the words into her heart that would open her eyes so that she would see things as they really are. He waited, first asking her to reveal the state of her heart to Him, even though He knew it.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

At this point, Jesus opened up her heart by speaking into her innermost being, by calling her by her name: "Mary" To which she responded, "Rabboni," " Master"

Mary went from weeping and a sense of lostness to utter rapture and joy at the revelation that He is not dead, but that He lives! All that He had said is true, all that she had experienced from His grace was true, and now He was not dead, but alive!

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

How her heart must have bubbled over with joy as she shared the Good News of how Jesus had spoken to her of the new relationship between her and her Saviour. She had found that which she thought was lost, but what she now had was much better than before! It would not be like before with his physical presence on earth, but after His return to heaven to finalize all His redemptive work through His ascension, He would be forever present with her through His indwelling Holy Spirit. All this because of the great joy and love that our God has in us and for us!!! He wants everyone...............................

May we think on what this means for us today in our lives, using the two questions that Jesus asked Mary and allow Him to ask the questions of ourselves:

Why are you weeping? Whom/what are you looking for?

We often times have difficulty in remembering how much God loves us and of how deep His love is. We tend to lose sight of His deep desire to gather us to Himself so that we might live in a relationship of love, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. There are many distractions and hindrances that can often crowd out His heart of love for us and of His joy in us. We often focus on how we should love Him and in so doing feel our lack of ability to do so. Whether on earth or in heaven, there is great joy when one comes to recognize the voice of Jesus that calls them to live.........

Jesus illustrated this seeking heart of God in the fifteenth chapter of Luke by sharing three parables with those who He was wanted to teach. He told a parable of the lost sheep, of the lost coin and of the lost son, and of how when they were found, there was great rejoicing by both those on earth and in heaven. Allow me to read excerpts of those three joyful occasions.

KJV Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:.........
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

Recently a song called the Apple of His eye has been speaking His love and joy into my soul and I have found myself listening to it many times for encouragement and comfort it brings to my soul. It speaks of the Life in us that never dies....I would like to think that this song would have brought great joy and comfort to Mary's heart.......

He is the one who loves you more than you will ever know.
He is the one who dries the tears you cry.
He has born your very soul and he knows your every need.
He will guide you through your darkest night.
For you, do carry inside you His Life that never dies.
And you are always before Him, the apple of His eye.

He's the one who holds you close when no one will come near
The one who sees what no one else can see.
He's the one who keeps your burden light enough to bear.
And he will be your strength when you are weak.
For you, do carry inside you His Life that never dies.
And you are always before Him, the apple of His eye.

Nothing in this world could ever keep His love from you.
And he gave his life to see His promise through.
He is the one who loves you more than you will ever know.
He has conquered every tear you cry.
And He'll become your wings so that you can fly.
For you do carry inside you His life that never dies.
And you are always before Him.
The apple of His eye.
Your the apple of His eye.

There are occasions in life when we are given lessons by God so that we would better understand the joy of His heart when one is found by Him. We all here today perhaps have had these occasions and when we do they are very special. I saw one just yesterday which some very close loved ones as well as myself were given this special gift. Here is the story.

A week ago on Sunday morning my son lost his cell phone somewhere. He and many of us looked all week for it to no avail, looking in every possible place that it might have been lost. No cell phone and along with it a lot of prayers for help in finding it, was an increasing thought that a new one will have to be purchased. Both my wife and I were extremely sad for our son who is in the process of making plans concerning the funding of his upcoming mission trip to Thailand as we knew that the replacement cost for a phone that he would need while in the mission field was a substantial set back. All week long the cell phone was prayed about and looked for....

Yesterday morning after our Easter breakfast at Mom's in South Haven, my wife and I who previously had agreed that we would swing by the church to make sure that things were ready for Sunday morning did so. She had finished some things in the kitchen and was walking to get to our car which was parked by the sign upon which I was putting the Easter morning message.

I did not see her coming, but heard her say something like "I can't believe it." and when looking at her coming toward me she was holding our son's cell phone and saying words of amazement. She had found it lying on the grass about 30 feet off of the parking lot, as she walked towards me. Are you able to imagine the emotions of joy that we experienced at the finding of our son's cell phone and of how much joy we would experience when we told him the good news? Are you able to imagine the joy that was in our son's heart when he heard and thought about how that which was lost is now found?

Why are we weeping? Whom/what are we looking for?

Let us look into the empty tomb and see Life.

Let us hear the words of the angels who testified that He lives.

Let us see the true Gardener and hear His voice that speaks Life into our soul.

Let us rejoice in His saving grace and out of this joy share the love of our Father with others so that they may experience the joy of life through Christ Jesus.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
Prayer of Joy in the Resurrection of Life
Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 05 Apr 2015 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Palm Sunday and Holy Week 3/29/2015
Dear friend,

(A guest speaker is preaching today, so I am placing here that which I posted last year on Palm Sunday).

Today (Sunday) is called Palm Sunday in the Christian church because of it being the day of the commemoration of entry into Jerusalem by Jesus during which palm branches were waved as Jesus entered the Holy City. It is the beginning of Holy Week which includes Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with the word Maundy pointing to the giving of the new commandment in John 13:34-35. It also marks the evening (Thursday) in which He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

This entry into the city was on the back of a donkey, precisely as Prophet Zechariah prophesied around the year 500 BC:

ESV Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Those watching Him riding on the donkey, knowing the prophecy, would have grasped the significance of his humble means of transportation as pointing to His Kingship, but they did not understand the nature of His kingdom.

This is always difficult for us, for we have no problem declaring Him as King, but do we understand the nature of the kingdom that He brought with Him? Apostle Paul clearly outlines the attitude of Jesus in a portion of one of our readings for today:

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What is the nature of the kingdom of God? What were the people expecting the Messiah to do? Well, for the most part, they were looking for a king who would overthrow the Roman authorities through his power of fear and dominance, so that through his life they would be freed of the oppression that they lived under. But how confused they must have been when the events later in the week showed something quite different, in that this their Hope died a terrible death on a Roman cross like any other criminal of their day. What???? How does that make any sense?

Well, those questions are why the church throughout the years has seen the importance and necessity of having a special focus on the events of the Holy Week, which Martin Luther taught as being broken down into six separate categories:

1. Passover/Institution of the Lord's Supper by Jesus
2. Jesus' suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane
3. Jesus before Caiaphas, the High Priest (ecclesiastical authorities)
4. Jesus before Pilate (civil authorities)
5. Jesus on the Cross
6. Jesus in the Tomb

The passion accounts are recorded in Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23 and John 18-19. I have found that it is helpful to keep in mind the different phases of the passion of Jesus as I read and meditate over these scriptures and as I read other writings that are at our convenience to use as a help to give us a deeper understanding, and therefore, a deeper appreciation of the meaning of Jesus' death and burial for us.

Today we are reading three different passages which speak of the events of Palm Sunday (Luke 19: 28-48), an explanation of Christ's humbling of Himself (Philippians 2:1-11), and an account of Jesus before Pilate, His crucifixion and His death (Matthew 27:11-54) Even though we will spend some time on the account of Matthew, a large focus of today's writing will be to encourage us all to devote time to hear from the Lord about His passion for us through His giving of Himself for us.

Martin Luther also wrote that there are two main reasons to meditate on the passion of Christ during this Holy Week. He stated that we need to be reminded that His suffering was greater than any other man ever suffered, further saying that many have died on a cross, but only One has suffered under the entire guilt and condemnation of all the sin of the world, past, present and future.

Secondly, he wrote that we continually need to be reminded that through the cross heaven was opened, hell was closed and eternal life was won. What he is saying here is that we must be reminded and renewed in our knowledge of how Jesus suffered and why He suffered.

One of my mentors who is now absent from the body and present with Christ would read during this time of the year a book entitled The Suffering Saviour which was written by a German Theologian of the past, F.W. Krummacher. In this book is chronicled the events of Holy Week written in a very interesting and gripping manner for the reader. Using this book as a help is a practice that I have also tried to follow as the depth of the man's understanding is great so that there are things that he writes that I have to this day not been able to understand and grasp.

The importance of setting quiet time aside during this week to read and meditate over these scriptures along with other resources that will help us to focus on the love of God as demonstrated through the giving of His Son for us cannot be overestimated. It is important to read and to listen to what God is saying to us today through the scriptures so that our knowledge of Him is gained through the revelation of Himself through His Son, Jesus the Christ.

I pray that you will have a wonderful time during this Holy Week as you spend time with the Lord in His Word, in prayer, in conversation with loved ones about Him and His love and in the various worship services that occur during this time of the year.

Let us remember that Christ died to reveal His kingdom to the world. It was in His dying that He showed the power of God, for in His death, we were made alive. The kings of the world rule and dominate through fear and intimidation, while our King Jesus humbled Himself and allowed Himself to be killed in order to do His Father's will for our salvation.

As we read through these accounts, may we be impacted in our hearts, in our minds and in our lives as His Word sinks deep into us so that we live in this forgiveness that was won for us and live our lives in forgiveness towards others. A forgiveness which is not a burdensome task, but a forgiveness which flows out of a heart that has been so richly forgiven of all our sin through Christ's taking on Himself of all our sin.......................

Matthew 27:11-54

In quietness before Him we wish to be,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 29 Mar 2015 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Carol Fischer and her family as they grieve the loss of Bob