The Blessed Dead
Thursday of Easter 2
12 April 2018
The church speaks of the "blessed dead." The world cannot make any sense of this description of the dead. Death is an enemy from which the world seeks a cease-fire. But like the many cease-fires that have been declared in wars ravaging lands across the globe, this attempt at cease-fire with death ends in a predictable way. The inexorable monster of death still explodes in the lives of humans. There is no way to sue for peace, for the peace will never be kept by death, our enemy. How then could we ever speak of the blessed dead? If the world is the valley of the shadow of death, how could we ever live in joy and optimism? Then isn't the peace that the Lord, our Shepherd, assures to His people just so much religious claptrap?
Never forget that this Shepherd has power over death and its ravages. We can go through the valley of death, attacked on all sides, but never succumb to fear, not even about death itself. As a Christian pastor, I have been privileged to walk with the people of God through the valley of the shadow of death, holding their hand as they compose themselves to meet Christ face-to-face. They sometimes are afraid to suffer physically, but they are not afraid to meet Christ through death. They know that He is with them, even as they give out their last pain-wracked breath. These are the blessed dead, who know the good Shepherd and give their lives into His gracious hands.
No matter how much the devil may plague us as we traverse the death-strewn valley of this world, we shall never be overcome by him nor his minion, death. For we have a Shepherd who has swallowed up death forever. If we are in Him by faith, death can never touch us. We die and we do not die. We see death because of sin in the world. However, we hear that death has no dominion over Christ (Rm 6:4). He has pledged His life and death to save our lives from death. What we see and feel is undone by what Christ has said He will do, which is what we believe with our whole heart. Those who believe this are truly blessed and therefore will be among the blessed dead.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"The Lord's sheep are surrounded by much danger and misfortune (Ps 23:4). But the Lord, David says, not only protects them but also saves them from all trials and distresses; for He is with them. He also shows beautifully in what way He is with them.
"Here you can see that as soon as the Word is preached and as soon as there are people that accept and confess it, the devil quickly appears with all his angels and rouses the world with all its might against this Word, to stifle it and completely destroy those that have and confess it. Whatever our Lord God says or does, must be swept clean and pass through the fire. It is very important for Christians to know this, else they may become perplexed and think: 'How can this be harmonized?' The prophet has said above, 'The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,' and here he says the very opposite: that he must walk through the valley of the shadow, and in the following verse he admits that he has enemies. With these words he surely lets us know well enough that he does want-too much, yes, practically everything. For he who has enemies and wanders through the valley of the shadow can see no light, that is, he has neither comfort nor hope but is forsaken by everybody, and everything is black and dark before his eyes, even the beautiful, bright sun. How, then, can it be true that he does not want?'
"Here you must not be guided by your eyes or follow your reason, as the world does. The world cannot see this rich, splendid comfort of the Christians, that they want nothing. Yes, the world considers it quite certain that the opposite is true, namely, that on earth there are no poorer, more miserable, and more unhappy people than these same Christians. And it helps very faithfully and boldly in having them most cruelly persecuted, exiled, reviled, and killed. And when the world does this, it thinks that thereby it has offered service to God (Jn 16:2). Outwardly, then, it appears as if the Christians were the scattered sheep, forsaken by God and surrendered to the very jaws of the wolves, and that they wanted absolutely everything." 

Martin Luther, 
Psalm 23, 23.4

1 Corinthians 15:35-49

But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, gentle Shepherd, we traverse death's dark vale hand in hand with You. You have died to be death's undoing. Help us to count ourselves among the blessed dead, by counting us among Your blessed. Keep us from fear and panic when we feel death's approach and allow us to defy the devil's minion with a clear confession of Your compassionate love for us by Your suffering, death and resurrection. Amen.
For LouAnn Weber, who will be undergoing surgery on Tuesday, that she would be kept safe and be given complete healing in accordance with God's will
For those who are grieving the loss of loved ones taken by the Good Shepherd to their heavenly home, that they would grieve in the confidence of a blessed reunion in heaven
For Memorial Lutheran School as its faculty serves the needs of children and parents, that the faculty would be faithful to the calling of our Lord to care for the little lambs
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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