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!! 4/20/2014

On this Resurrection morning, we rejoice in this reality, that He who died now lives and, because He lives we live. We who were broken and dead due to our fall into sin in the Garden of Eden have been put back together again and brought to life by the love of God. On this Resurrection Morning, may we be renewed in the knowledge of what it means that He lives. Because He lives, we live. Because He lives, you/I are forgiven.

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 placed a stone over the opening of the tomb and guards at the site to stop him from rising again as He had predicted He would.

Now may we read the text that we have designated for today, which is from John's Gospel.

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.
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.
11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre 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 And they say unto 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.
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? 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.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
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.

We all like reality shows, wherein we are able to identify with real people in real life situations. That is exactly what we have before us. Jesus is in the forefront as usual, then we have Mary Magdalene, Apostle Peter and Apostle John.

Apostle John.

Not much is said about John, other than in verse 8 where it is written that "he saw and believed." He saw the empty tomb and that was enough for him, "he saw and believed."

Mary Magdalene

From verses 1-2, 11-18 there is much about Mary Magdalene, who was the first one to the tomb. Jesus had cast seven devils out of her earlier in her life.

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

Moving down to verse 11, we see that Mary remained at 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, 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 was broken hearted, she wept. She turned away from the tomb and looking the other way, and saw Jesus standing, and 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:

Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?

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 that "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.

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," an endearing term for 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 in His life is true, all that she had experienced from His grace was true, and as a result of believing it for herself she worshipped Him. She now saw Him as the Gardener of her soul. She rejoiced at His word that His Father is her Father and that His God is her God, at then at His bidding went away to tell others of what she now knew to be true.

Why are we weeping today? Who or what are we looking for?

Let us look into the empty tomb and know that He lives. Because He lives, you are forgiven!

Let us hear the words of the angels who testified that He lives. Because He lives, you are forgiven!

Let us see the True Gardener and hear His voice that speaks Life into our soul. Because He lives, you are forgiven!

Apostle Peter

And then we have Apostle Peter, oh how I see myself in him....He was one of the original 12 men that Jesus chose to travel with Him during His 3+ years on earth so that they would learn from Him as well as be the leaders in the New Testament church after Jesus was taken to heaven. Peter was a very forward person, was the spokesperson for the 12, and was very impetuous in his actions.

He was quick to stand with Jesus, to protect Jesus's honor and went even to the point to say that he would die with the Lord if that is what it took. Jesus told Peter that he would eventually disown His Lord, but Peter did not really grasp what Jesus told him, and so when it came time for Jesus to suffer and die, Peter disowned His Master, even to the point of cursing and swearing in his disowning of Him.

Peter was crushed in his disappointment of himself, for all his big talk had come to a bitter end, and besides that, now the One he trusted in was dead. What a bleak place to be for Peter. He had rejected the very One who was His Saviour!

A song writer/singer in the 80's Don Fransisco has done a good job of helping us see resurrection morning through the eyes of Peter, which allowed him to go from disappointment in himself to joy in Christ. May that be our experience also today.

He's Alive by Don Francisco 1980

The gates and doors were barred and all the windows fastened down;
I spent the night in sleeplessness and rose at every sound
Half in hopeless sorrow and half in fear the day
Would find the soldiers breakin' thru to drag us all away

And just before the sunrise I heard something at the wall
The gate began to rattle and a voice began to call;
I hurried to the window and looked down into the street
Expecting swords and torches and the sounds of soldier's feet

There was no one there but Mary so I went down to let her in;
John stood there beside me as she'd told us where she'd been.
She said "They moved Him in the night and none of us knows where;
The stone's been rolled away and now His body isn't there!"

We both ran t'ward the garden, then John ran on ahead;
We found the stone and empty tomb just the way that Mary said.
But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in was just an empty shell;
And who or where they'd taken Him was more than I could tell.

Well, something strange had happened there,
but just what I didn't know;
John believed a miracle but I just turned to go.
Circumstance and speculation couldn't lift me very high
'Cause I'd seen them crucify Him, then I saw Him die.

Back inside the house again the guilt and anguish came;
Everything I'd promised Him just added to my shame.
When at last it came to choices, I denied I knew His name;
And even if He was alive, it wouldn't be the same

But suddenly the air was filled with a strange and sweet perfume;
Light that came from everywhere drove shadows from the room.
Jesus stood before me with His arms held open wide;
And I fell down on my knees, and just clung to Him and cried.

He raised me to my feet and as I looked into His eyes,
Love was shining out from Him like sunlight in the skies
Guilt in my confusion disappeared in sweet release
And every fear I'd ever had just melted into peace

He's alive! He's alive, He's alive and I'm forgiven!
Heaven's gates are open wide:
He's alive, He's alive, oh He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide
He's alive, He's alive, hallelujah He's alive

Yes, my dear friend, He is alive and you are forgiven. Believe that today to your soul's peace and joy in what the love of God has done for you through Jesus Christ.

Let us rejoice in His saving grace and share this good news with others, for heaven is big enough to hold all those that God has created. He has not created anyone for death, but He has created all for Life.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever, Amen.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 20 Apr 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
A Maundy Thursday Meditation
A Maundy Thursday Meditation 2014

Tonight in our congregation we are having a Holy Communion Service and tomorrow night a Good Friday service, both at 7:30 pm. Tonight we commemorate that night in history 2000 years ago when Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples, Judas. On that same evening, He celebrated the Passover, which had been a ritualistic practice ever since God had directed them to observe it annually at this specific time. In the 12th chapter of Exodus this ritual is initiated so that through the years they would remember the time when they were delivered out of the bondage of Egypt. We remember that the Pharoah finally let them go after the first born of every living being was killed in the night. That was it for the Pharoah, for after the nine previous plagues that came upon him and his people, this one was the straw that broke the camel's back.

It is difficult for us to put ourselves in the place of the disciples, for they were at a real disadvantage compared to us who live 'after the fact." The Jewish leaders had for their "Bible" the Old Testament and in their interpretations, Jesus was not recognized or accepted. They did not know the outcome of what was going to happen with Jesus, for they lived only in the prophecies of the Old Testament and even though Jesus was the fulfilment of those prophecies, they seemed to not connect the dots.
In addition to that, since the Holy Spirit had not been given yet, the disciples' understanding of what Jesus was saying and doing was not grasped very well at all. They seemed to understand that He was a king, but they were confused as to what kind of a king he was. Their concept of a king was one who would deliver them from the bondage of Roman tyranny and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem, and they were not seeing that in Him or hearing it from Him. But still they were looking for a Deliverer, but the Messiah of prophecy was in their understanding at this point. And this Jesus of Nazareth certainly did not fit their ideas of the Messiah.

As I think of how they charged Jesus as being a blasphemer, it is no wonder, for since they believed God was a mono God, so there was no Three in One as we believe the Scriptures teach. They were standing for what they thought was true and they naturally would think that it would be necessary to kill anyone who stated that they were God. Wow... In their mind, they were protecting the honor of God.

So I wonder what they thought after they had observed the annual Passover meal with all its symbolism which pointed to their deliverance out of slavery from Egypt through the leadership of Moses. I can hear them settling back on their couches after the Passover Meal, having been reminded of the specifics of their deliverance through the different food items, and then maybe even looking at one another, saying, "well, another Passover gone by...we sure thank our God for His deliverance. But yet wondering about who their Master really was....and then a night that was like any other night became the Night of Nights.........He drops one bombshell on them, and then another...

Matthew 26:20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. {hymn: or, psalm}
31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

Wow, one of us is going to betray you, one of us is going turn you into those who want to get rid of you? What are you saying, Jesus? Of course, they were sorrowful, and everyone of them began to ask Him, 'Is it I, Lord?"
The disciples indicate by their question that they recognized that within them was the capability to do betray a friend, so consequently they asked the question. "Is it I, Lord?"

Jesus then gave an indicator as to which one it was going to be, (only He and Judas understood what it meant by verses 23-24) and even then Judas continued his hypocrisy by asking the question, "Is it I, Master?" Jesus told Judas, something like this: You said it, Judas....In saying that, Jesus indicated that there was still a door of grace open to Judas to repent and to fall upon the mercy of Jesus, but.........

Then Jesus did something that they did not as of yet understand by taking the bread and wine and applying it to the upcoming sacrifice and offering of Himself on the cross, with his body represented by the bread and his blood being represented by the wine. He points to the shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of sins which also was extended to Judas still. How great is grace? It is greater than anyone's sin, including my sins, your sins, Judas' sins, Peter's sin, Apostle Paul's sins, the worst murderers' sins, the worst child molester's sins, the worst hypocrite's sins, the worst adulterer's sins, the worst thief's sins and so on. ...........

So when we come to His table tonight to receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, to celebrate life and salvation and to have a foretaste of the heavenly and eternal feast, it will be a great time of rejoicing in His great grace for us. His grace is abundantly provided for all those who come to His table.
In His grace,

Pastor Orval
Posted on 17 Apr 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!! 4/20/2014
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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