Sermons for the Triduum


Maundy Thursday

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What is the end of the Law? To where does it take you? Death and the grave. For the Law is the righteous demands of the good and holy God. And you are anything but good and holy. You are a sinner.

The devil accuses you, reminds you, batters you with your list of sins. He calls you liar and filthy and unfaithful. And he’s not wrong. You have done all these things and more. You have lived as if you mattered most. Your worship and prayers have faltered. Your love for God has failed and so has your love for others. You treat as common and worthless that which has been given for your salvation.

So you stand guilty. You have broken the Law and been broken by it. The devil accuses you without ceasing. You stand, broken, guilty, and defiled, before God who is holy, righteous, and just. You are dust, covered only in the dust, filth, and grime of your own sins, and unto the dust of the grave you shall return. Repent.

But Jesus has loved you unto the end. That is, Jesus has loved you even unto death – His own death. In love Jesus serves you by giving His cheek to the smiters, His back to the flogging, His head to thorns, His hands and feet to nails, and His side to the spear. Jesus has given Himself to death for you.

For He is the Lamb of God. He is your Sacrifice and your Substitute. Jesus pours out His Blood upon you and death passes you over. Jesus is roasted in the Father’s wrath with the bitter herbs of death and you are reconciled to God. You will never taste death. The Lamb of God is slain and you live.

And all of this, Jesus endures for you. He takes the weight of the Law from around your neck and puts it around His. He, though innocent, allows Himself to be judged guilty and declared as the worst and most vile sinner that you may go free. Jesus takes your place in the devil’s sights and takes every fiery dart aimed at you. He drinks every last drop of the Father’s wrath that none be left for you. He gives Himself to the beating, the floggings, the thorns, the nails, and the spear that you would be healed, cleansed, and made whole. What you have broken, Jesus has healed.

For Jesus has loved you unto the end. And He loves you not just to the end of the Law’s accusations or His own life upon the Cross, though He does. Jesus loves you even unto the end of the age and into eternity. So He offers Himself upon the Cross, pours out His Blood, and allows the spear to open His side, pouring forth the water and Blood of Life. Jesus fills the Font, that He may scrub the grime and filth of sin and death from you, that He may join you to Himself in death and resurrection. He offers up His Body and pours out His Blood that He may satisfy your hunger and quench your thirst. Washed and fed, you live eternally.

This is why, on the night in which He was betrayed, Our Lord Jesus Christ washes the feet of the Apostles. It is a sign and token of the Baptismal life, of Jesus’ own enduring love for you. For when you fall and wallow again in the muck and filth of sin, you are not Baptized again. But Jesus brings you back to your Baptism through daily contrition and repentance, through confession and absolution. That dust and those ashes of sin and death are washed away by Jesus’ word of Holy Absolution.

And after having cleansed you, Jesus now leads you to His Table. For what else are you given to do with the Passover Lamb but eat? So the Flesh pierced on your behalf and roasted in the Father’s wrath, Jesus now places upon your tongue. The empty, aching pit of death is satisfied and you live. The Blood poured out that death may pass you over now fills the Chalice pressed to your lips. The withering, parched accusations and demands of the Law are quenched and you are declared innocent.

To you humbled and broken and killed by the Law, Jesus feeds you in love with His own holy Body and precious Blood, exalting you. He is your Passover Lamb, sacrificed but risen again. He is the Sacrifice that reconciles you to God. And He gives Himself for you, here, as Food. Here, in His Body and Blood, Jesus gives you salvation, life, and resurrection from the dead. Eat, drink, and be redeemed and set at liberty. For Jesus loves you unto the end and He has given His Flesh for the life of the world, that you may eat and have eternal life.

Jesus is sacrificed for you. His Blood covers you from death. His Body feeds you for life and salvation in the freedom of the Gospel. It is Jesus who, by His mighty, outstretched arms, brings you out of slavery, through the water and the wilderness, and into the Promised Land, all the while feeding you on the way.

Israel of old ate the meat of a dumb lamb to fulfill the Passover. Having done so, they smeared their doorposts with blood and laughed at the destroyer. You eat the Word of the Father made Flesh, the eternal Son, your Savior, Jesus Christ. He seals the lintels of your heart with His Blood of the new covenant. Not only do you laugh at the destroyer, but, in Jesus, you even mock death and the grave. For Jesus does, indeed, love you unto the end.

Behold: the Hour has come.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Good Friday

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The most touching scene in The Passion of the Christ comes in the depiction of the fourth Station of the Cross. Jesus has fallen under the weight of the Cross, the Blessed Virgin sees Him, and remembers a time when He fell as a Child and she ran to comfort Him. So she runs to Him again. She tries to comfort Him, but instead Jesus comforts her. Jesus looks at His mother and says, “I make all things new.”

And that is what Good Friday is all about. Today is not a funeral for Jesus. It is not a day to be overcome with sentimentalism and emotionalism, for feeling sorry for poor Jesus the Victim of a miscarriage of justice. Today is the day of victory, the day of comfort. By His death upon the Cross, Jesus has made all things new. Jesus has made you new.

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle, sing the ending of the fray, for he who once overcame by the tree of the Garden has now, by the Tree of the Cross, been overcome. What began long ago in the Garden has now come to an end. The devil has lost, he has been defeated, and not only that, he has been defeated by exactly that which was once his domain: death.

For God’s wrath must be poured out against sin. His holiness cannot abide sin. His justice must punish sin. So you were doomed to die. And it does not matter whether, in your mind, it was a small sin, a minor sin, a sin that didn’t hurt anyone else, or whatever the case may be. Sin is sin and God hates it.

It separates you from Him. It brings death. It damns you to Hell. This is the cost of the devil’s lies. This is the cost of doubting the Word of God. And you cannot escape it. By his victory at the tree of the Garden, by his lies, Satan brought corruption, suffering, and death into the creation. He brought corruption, suffering, and death upon you. He is a liar and a murderer.

And like any murderer, he is greedy and insatiable. There is never enough death to satisfy him. Though he tried to tempt Jesus away from the Cross, though he knew the death of the Son of Mary would be his end, he could not help himself. He gleefully mocked God. He happily flogged Him. He joyously pounded the spikes into His flesh.

But the death of that Man was Satan’s undoing. In the death of that Man, Death itself was put to death. Death lost its sting and victory. For in the torn, ripped, bruised, and Bloody Flesh of that Man, God was reconciling Himself to the world. In that torn, ripped, and Bloody Flesh, God was answering the demands of His own Law, satisfying His own justice, vindicating His holiness, and punishing your sin.

Jesus is judged guilty that you may be declared innocent. And you are. Jesus is condemned to death that you may live. And you do. Jesus is punished, consuming the full cup of the Father’s wrath that none may remain for you. And none does. Instead, you receive the Cup of Blessing, the Cup filled with the Blood shed as your redemption price, the Cup filled for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus endures all the devil’s might, all of Hell’s fury, suffering even death, to silence the devil’s lies, to crush his head, to kill Death forever. And He does. He who once overcame by the tree of the Garden is now overcome by the Tree of the holy Cross.

And by Jesus’ agony and Bloody sweat, by His Cross and Passion, by His precious death and burial, you are made new. You are recreated. You are cleansed from all your sins. You are comforted with a comfort that can never be taken away. You shall not die but live. No longer are you called sinner, forsaken, unloved, and damned. Now you are called forgiven, beloved, redeemed. You are called by the greatest title, by Christ’s own Name: you are called Christian.

For what pours out of the Lord Jesus’ pierced side? Blood and water. That Blood fills the Chalice and that water the Baptismal font. Adam’s bride is formed from his side, and so the Bride of the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, is formed from His. And by these Holy Sacraments, Jesus’ victory upon the Cross, the fruits and benefits of His holy death, are now made yours, are applied to you, and bestowed upon you. You are Baptized into His death and resurrection. You feast upon the Body offered as your Substitute and drink the Blood poured out to reconcile you to the Father.

Indeed, the holy Cross is, for you, the very Tree of Life. For the Fruit that hangs upon this Tree is the Flesh of God Himself. The Fruit upon this Tree forgives your sins, grants you life and salvation, and joins you to God Himself in His Flesh, crucified and risen again. The righteousness and obedience of Jesus counts for you. His death counts as yours. And as He is risen and glorified from the grave, so too shall you.

But if you must mourn and lament today, mourn and lament your sins. And do not mourn and lament your sins today only, but every day. Mourn and lament that you yourself have driven God to be brutalized, strung up naked upon a Cross, left to die. Repent and yet know this: Jesus loves you. He goes willingly into the hands of sinful men for you. He goes willing to the Cross and death for you. He will not withhold anything to have you as His own, to rescue you from sin, death, and the devil. For by His death, Jesus has won the victory. Jesus has won, Jesus has overcome, for you.

Thus the old creation has passed away and the new has come. For note well on what day Jesus dies: Friday, the sixth day of the week. Long ago in the Garden, He formed man from the dust of the earth on the sixth day, and rested on the seventh. Now, on the sixth day, Jesus has labored upon the Cross to recreate you, to make you new, and is laid in the dust of the grave. But it is only to rest from His work of recreation and only for the Sabbath that He rests. Indeed, the old has passed away, for the very next sunset shall bring the new day, the third day, the eighth day. It is the day of new life and new creation. It is the day of your new life in Jesus Christ.

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle, sing the ending of the fray, for he who overcame by the tree of the Garden has now, by the Tree of the Cross, been overcome. What began long ago in the Garden has now come to an end, has now been fulfilled. Who shall now accuse you? Who shall now deceive you? The devil’s lies are silenced and his head crushed. You are covered in the shed Blood of Jesus and made righteous. You feast upon His Body and Blood, joined flesh to Flesh and blood to Blood with God Himself.

You are a new creation in Jesus Christ. He is your Peace, your Comfort, your Rest. Rest tonight in Him, knowing that the third day soon draws nigh. Your Alleluias will not remain silent much longer.

We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Easter Vigil

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It is said that death is a part of life. But death is cruel. It is cold, heartless, and evil. It tears away loved ones, depriving you of their love, friendship, and company. It is not what God once called “very good.” But it is the penalty and cost for the ancient sin.

It was born when the devil slithered into perfection and hissed, “God is a liar,” seducing man and cursing all of creation. As that sin spread to all men as a disease, so death spread to all men. There is nothing you can do to escape it. You cannot make yourself holy and righteous. You will always be found lacking, you will always be lost in sin, you will die. So it is that death has reigned from that time of the first disobedience.

Until tonight. For tonight is the end of death’s reign. This is the night when the grave gives up the Dead, when the shackles of death are burst apart, when death is swallowed up in victory. For Jesus lives. This is the night of the dawning of the third day and Jesus is risen again from His rest after His work of recreation. He has come forth from the tomb as a Bridegroom coming from His chamber for His Bride. Death has done its worst and lost. Death is dead, and sin and the grave have lost their sting and victory. Jesus lives. The darkness of sin and death is scattered in the bright Light of Life. Jesus lives, and Life now reigns.

Death and Life have contended in that combat stupendous. For the ancient serpent who devours men of dust tried to devour this Man. As he sunk in his fangs for the fatal blow, his head was crushed. By delivering the killing strike, he was defeated. His kingdom and his demonic hosts were routed, slaughtered in the battle with the Prince of Life.

The Man was laid into the tomb, but the grave cannot hold God. Though Jesus bore many sins even unto death, they were not His and death could not claim Him. He sucked up the venom in His fang-pierced heel and there is none left. He drank the cup of the Father’s wrath and it is all consumed. He is now exalted. The grave is robbed of its Prey and Jesus lives.

So tonight ends death’s reign and begins the reign of Life. This is the night when the seal of the tomb is broken and the Light of the new creation scatters the darkness, when Christ arises victorious from the grave, when the faithful are brought forth from bondage to the hellish pharaoh through the sea of the Font and into the promised land of Christ’s eternal Kingdom. Sin and death now lie dead at the bottom of the Font like so many crushed Egyptian chariots, for Jesus lives and He ushers in a new era.

Now you have nothing to fear. Death is dead and Satan’s hold on you is shattered. God has shown Himself truthful. And not only could death not hold the Lord Jesus but even the trappings of death are empty. The shroud that held His Body is empty, bearing only the icon of your redemption and testifying to His resurrection. Because your Passover Lamb has been sacrificed and now lives again, so too will you be raised incorruptible from the dead.

For you are no longer enslaved to death and the grave. Jesus has freed you from bondage, bearing your sins, crushing your master’s head, and bringing you into His holy Church. Your old enslaved nature is drowned and you are numbered among the faithful in the holy ark of Christendom. You have been led through the sea of the Font, washed clean in the water pouring forth from Christ’s pierced side and made an heir of Heaven. You are fed with the Fruit of the holy Cross: the Body that hung there to satisfy your hunger and the Blood which was poured forth to slake your thirst.

Life is yours. You shall not die. For Jesus is only the First to rise from the dead. Because you are joined to Him in Holy Baptism and are fed His Body and Blood, you too shall rise. Your own Easter shall come soon. Because the tomb of Jesus is empty, so too shall yours.

It is said that death is a part of life. But death is cruel. It is cold, heartless, and evil. It tears away loved ones, depriving you of their love, friendship, and company. It is not what God once called “very good.” But it is dead and Jesus lives. Death’s reign is over. You shall not die but sleep. And when you sleep, you shall be awakened. On that Day, your grave will be empty and your body will arise and live, for Jesus lives.

Behold: death is dead, the devil’s power ended, your sins forgiven, and you are an heir of Heaven. You are made righteous by the Blood of Jesus and are once again called “very good.” Life now reigns for Jesus lives. O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the demons 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 Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



One thought on “Sermons for the Triduum

  1. Thank you Pastor Stephens. My whole world on this side of Heaven was forever changed two months ago, when my oldest son unexpectedly passed away. In constant need of reassurance, I struggle with this reality. God continues to lead me to places like this. My Heavenly Father somehow leads me to the alter and the fellowship of my brothers and sisters in Christ. He opens the lips of my Pastor, and for a time I am reassured, until I weaken and need the medicine again. He leads me to my bible and the Hymns full of scripture. Though my faith in Gods promise’s to me and my Son; through my Savior Jesus have not wavered, my human frailty has made me weak. This is the ultimate war for a mother. The battle here, is unprecedented, yet victoriously won by King Jesus. I have wondered that My Heavenly Father may have chosen this time of the church year to take my son home, for MY benefit. Knowing how weak and frail I am in sin and transgression. How strong and Victorious is my Lord who Never fails me. Who promises to be with me to any and every end.
    Thank you for giving me Gods Word for today. Life giving Words that strengthen and nourish my battered soul.

    “Hold fast the pattern of sound words, which you have heard from me in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”
    2 Tim 1:13

    Heaven is Home.

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