LCMS President Matthew Harrison has posted a video message for our meditation this week, “Blessed Holy Week.” Click to watch. And I’ve posted a transcript below.
Matthew Harrison, President, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
“Blessed Holy Week”
This is a miniature of what is probably the most famous Lutheran altar painting in the world. It’s from St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg, where Luther was pastor and preacher. It’s painted by Lucas Cranach, and it was placed in the church the year after Luther died, in 1547. And in this famous painting, we see several significant things: Holy Baptism, the foundation of the church’s life. Over here, the Office of the Keys, and Pastor Bugenhagen is forgiving the sins of one man and retaining the sins of another. And in the middle, we have this wonderful depiction of the Lord’s Supper. At the bottom, though, we see especially Luther in the pulpit preaching, and he’s preaching to a congregation on the left that is made up–if you knew the faces, these are his family and famous people in Wittenberg, Katie Luther is there. But what is Luther doing? You notice, he’s pointing to the crucified Christ. He’s like John the Baptizer, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” I love this painting dearly.
You know, one of my favorite crosses is this one right here. It’s beat up. It’s been broken many times and put back together. It’s tied–actually, the corpus is tied on the cross with an old string. I was actually in Sri Lanka just days after the great Asian tsunami. And there was a fishing village that had been struck by the tsunami. This enormous wave had come in, the first wave and then the second, and virtually destroyed the entire, entire village. There was a house with only a wall or two remaining. The fisherman who lived there was taking me around, showing me the devastation. And this cross remained on one of those walls that was still standing in the midst of all that devastation. And he gave it to me. So it’s precious to me.
What does the cross remind us of? It’s Holy Week. Jesus, we recall, in His trek to the cross suffers for us. His suffering is for the forgiveness of all our sins and the sins of the world. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” This cross sometimes is not pretty to look at. We know there’s a resurrection. Easter is glorious, precisely because we know Jesus suffered for us. And so will go often in our lives today. It’s not all wonderful in this world. We will suffer in this life. But we should know this. You know, when the women looked at Jesus suffering and dying on the cross, they thought, “It’s over. God has forgotten us. God hates Him. This is purposeless.” And yet, right there at that moment, when everything seemed lost, God was doing exactly what He proposed to do from eternity for the salvation of the world. It was the greatest act in all of history. In your life, when difficulties come, challenges come in the life of the church, we should be confident that the Lord is the one who controls all things. And, in fact, all things, even the most difficult and challenging things in our lives, “all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Blessed Holy Week. May the Lord bless you with confidence, even in the midst of crosses, right in the midst of your Good Fridays and your Holy Saturdays. A blessed Easter to you, too.