Worship Helps for Easter 6

Moses, by divine inspiration reports the first murder this way, “While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:8).
Many of the classical paintings portray Cain rising up with a club to kill his younger brother. Some of the paintings even portray God confronting Cain immediately after the murder.
“The First Mourning” by French artist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, is different. It is a unique subject matter that depicts the moment after Adam and Eve found the body of their son, Abel. Bouguereau painted this work in 1888 shortly after the death of his wife and infant son in 1887.
This is a striking painting because the way it deals with death. Adam and Eve, are distraught. Sin not only cost them their home, their comfort, and their own lives. Now it cost them their son.
Adam and Eve are holding their dead son. Few things on earth can compare to the sorrow parents feel at the death of a child. God’s curse upon sin is felt most severely when a parent must bury a child. The emotional scars, the hurt, and the sense of emptiness may linger for a lifetime.
Adam and Eve are grieving. But because they are believers in the promised Savior, they are not grieving like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). They trust that death will be swallowed up in Christ’s victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54). Already, they have the same resurrection faith of Job and King David. After Job lost ten of his children in a single day, Job professed, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). After King David’s infant son died, David gave this testimony to his servants, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23).
Sin was able to become Cain’s master (Genesis 4:7). But sin and death are no longer our masters! That’s because of Jesus’ sinless life, because of the innocent sacrifice He made upon the cross, and because He carried Cain’s sins, along with yours and mine and our children into His tomb.
Because the Lord has risen from the dead, He has Abel safe with Him in heaven. Because the Lord has risen from the dead, He has our Christian children, whom we have buried, also with Him in heaven.
During His ministry, Jesus opened His arms and welcomed the little children. What a comfort it is to envision Jesus standing at the gates of heaven with open arms welcoming His children as the angels usher them home!
“The First Mourning” portrays death and grieving as supreme. But because of Jesus’ death and His open grave, death and the grave have lost their supremacy. We Christians will grieve for our children, but we will grieve differently than the rest of the unbelieving world.
When Christian parents clearly understand what happens at death, there is no need to grieve like we have no hope.  Yes, we are sad when we our children die what we consider an early death.  We imagine all the Saturday soccer games, the art projects hanging on the refrigerator door, the butterfly kisses, etc. that we will never enjoy. Yet the Lord gives us this comfort: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13). 
Though we may want our children here with us, Jesus wants them in the safety of heaven with Him. Though we may miss our years of having them in our home, we are comforted that we will spend an eternity getting to know them better in our new home.
Adam and Eve are now with Abel and Jesus in heaven. We, too, will be reunited with our Christian children and live forever together with our Lord Jesus!

Worship Theme: The love of God who lives in us leads to a life of obedience.  Jesus’ promise of another Counselor is a loaded one: the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to do what Jesus asks.  This Sunday’s lessons teach that love for our risen Lord means obedience to his commands.  Only Jesus’ promises make that possible.  The Prayer of the Day sets the tone:  “Put your Spirit in us to think those things that are true and long for those things that are good…”

Old Testament: Genesis 4:1-16
Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" 10 The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth." 13 Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." 15 But the LORD said to him, "Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

1. What do we learn about the obedience God wants from the actions of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel?

Epistle: 1 John 3:13-18
Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

2. What kind of love does God call on us to give to those around us?

Gospel: John 14:15-21
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

3. How can Jesus say that the Spirit "lives with you and will be in you"?

4. What comfort is ours when Jesus says, "Because I live, you also will live"?
  


Answers:
1. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they opened a Pandora’s box on an unsuspecting world. Life as God intended had disappeared from this world. Expelled from the garden and guarded from the Tree of Life, man would know only inevitability of death. But to this dying world, God promised a Savior, born of woman, who would restore to man life as he had once lived. That promise had so quickened Adam’s heart that even when faced with the new reality of living death, he gave his wife the name Life, (Eve) because through her womb the eternal Gospel would be fulfilled, and this life of death deferred would become a life of death destroyed. When this womb produced its first fruit, Eve exclaimed, “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man!” Martin Luther offers the grammatically correct opinion that Eve actually said, “I have gotten a man, the Lord!” Eve thought she had given birth to the Promised Seed, the Savior of mankind.

How wrong that thought would have been! She did not bear God’s Son, but Adam’s son, Cain, who showed that mere obedience does not please God, but only the obedience that flows from faith and love. Abel lived in the blessedness of forgiveness, and not even his brother’s murderous actions could take away that true Life.

2. Love means obedience to God. It was love that led Jesus to obey his Father, obedient to death, even death on a cross for us. Now that same love empowers us to love our brother. Hatred and vengeance have their home east of Eden. But here, among the people of God, there is no room for hatred—only love. Christians are to be the antithesis of Cain: we lay down our lives for our brothers, not just in word, but in every daily deed. We do it because we now have that life once lost, but now regained by our living Savior. We have passed from death to life.

3. The Holy Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, was already at work in the hearts of the disciples bringing them to faith in Jesus.  But there was also going to be a special outpouring of the Spirit on the disciples on Pentecost.

4. Because I live, you, too, will live! Jesus is life, that state of blessed holiness and perfect righteousness and communion with God. Man had lost that life in Adam’s fall, and sin and death rushed into the vacuum left behind. The Son of God, the Life, came to bring it back. Because he is alive, we, too, will live in blessedness and holiness forever. We are children who will never be orphaned, but rather will be comforted, counseled, and kept forever. What is our response? Life lived as God intended—a life that treasures our Lord, his Word, and obedience to both! 



Putting your faith into action

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ.  This group is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with many different gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms.  I am also a part and member of this same group.  I am brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Spirit through having heard and continuing to hear God’s Word.  In the past, before we had attained to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing about God and about Christ.  So, until the Last Day, the Holy Spirit abides with the holy congregation or Christendom [John 14:17].  Through this congregation He brings us to Christ and He teaches and preaches to us the Word.  By the Word He works and promotes sanctification, causing this congregation daily to grow and to become strong in the faith and its fruit, which He produces.
God’s grace is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word in the unity of the Christian Church.  Yet because of our flesh we are never without sin.  Therefore, in the Christian Church we daily receive the forgiveness of sin through the Word, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here.  So even though we have sins, the Holy Spirit does not allow them to harm us. – Large Catechism, Part II, Apostles’ Creed (paragraphs 51-55)

Hymns: 496; 492; 377; 332

1  Go, my children, with my blessing, Never alone.
Waking, sleeping, I am with you; You are my own.
In my love’s baptismal river I have made you mine forever.
Go, my children, with my blessing—You are my own.

2  Go, my children, sins forgiven, At peace and pure.
Here you learned how much I love you, What I can cure.
Here you heard my dear Son’s story; Here you touched him, saw his glory.
Go, my children, sins forgiven, At peace and pure.

3  Go, my children, fed and nourished, Closer to me;
Grow in love and love by serving, Joyful and free.
Here my Spirit’s power filled you; Here his tender comfort stilled you.
Go, my children, fed and nourished, Joyful and free.

4  I the Lord will bless and keep you And give you peace;
I the Lord will smile upon you And give you peace;
I the Lord will be your Father, Savior, Comforter, and Brother.

Go, my children; I will keep you And give you peace.

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