Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sermon for 4/7/13--Second Sunday of Easter

Peace Be With You

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The spirits of disciples were pretty low.  They were still behind locked doors, huddled together in fear.  Jesus was still dead as far as they knew, and their hopes had died with Him and remain buried, even as His tomb had been shut and sealed. And then, suddenly, He was there.  He came and stood in their midst.  All could see Him; there could be no mistaking who He was.  And then He spoke to them.  Did He chide them for their lack of confidence in Him?  Did He give them a good “dressing down” because they had not believed His Words?  Did He shame them because they had fled in His time of need?  He said to them: “Peace be with you.”  They had never known such joy as this.  Jesus was dead, but now was alive again!  They had been just as dead; and now they, too, had come to life!

In our sinful and weakened condition we are not able to handle much glory.  It is a sad commentary on who we are, but we simply would not survive all the tension if every week was like last week. The Easter joy; two services; Easter breakfast; the baptism of Hadley; the hymns; the body and blood of Jesus—that was about as good as earth can get!  But it’s overwhelming. It’s no wonder that the pews are usually near to empty the Sunday after Easter. On the other hand, an amazing experience of glory is reserved in heaven for us. But there we will be able to handle, and even rejoice in, endless wonder.  In the mean time, we resemble those disciples more than we may know.  We know He is risen, alive, at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.  However, turning “what we know to be true” into “something lived out daily” is far easier said than done.

Jesus knew the load of guilt His disciples were carrying, and that to heap any more on them would crush their spirits.  And so the first words they heard from Him after His resurrection were words of comfort and hope: “Peace be with you.”  There could be no doubt that Jesus had forgiven them their weakness, their failure to stand by Him, their sin of doubting His Word.  Does He not do the same for you?  He knows the load of guilt you carry.  He knows there are times when your spirits are nearly crushed by your sins.  He knows that there is nothing you can do to lighten the load.  And He is not about to burden you with even more guilt.  That is why He shouldered the guilt for us.  Jesus does not answer your guilt with even more guilt.  He meets your sin head on with the life that He gave and the death that He endured, with the wounds He suffered and with the shame He bore.

Thomas learned this for Himself.  If there was one of the remaining disciples who would make things hard for himself, it was Thomas.  This was not the first time Thomas had openly expressed his doubts.  On the night of His betrayal, when Jesus had told His disciples that He was about to return to His Father, and that He was going there to prepare a place for them, and that they would follow Him there, Thomas said: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?”  It would take more than a few words to sell him on what Jesus is promising.  And now, Thomas is absent when Jesus first appears.  His fellow disciples told him later that they had seen Jesus, but he was not about to have any of that.  You know the rest of the story.  Jesus appeared again on the next Sunday evening, and it was to Thomas in particular that He showed His wounded hands and feet and side, with the admonition: “Do not be faithless, but believing.”  Jesus would not have Thomas faithless, any more than He would have the others be faithless; nor would He have us be faithless.

And so it is to us, too, that He shows the marks of His suffering.  In Holy Baptism, we die to sin with Him, and are raised to newness of life with Him.  In His Word, He sets before the eyes of our faith His blessed cross, the place of His suffering and our redemption.  As much as we might like to have been in that room when Jesus appeared, we have no such need.  For He brings to us everything He gave to them. Even when we are at our lowest, even when our spirits seem crushed under burdens we cannot bear, even when we have fled from Him in fear of what it will mean to follow after Him, He still comes to us, and says to us as we approach the altar, “Peace be with you.”  And as we consume His very body and blood, all our guilt is lifted away, all our thoughts and hopes are returned to Him; and, like Thomas, we kneel before Him and confess, “My Lord and my God!”  Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

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