Monday, April 13, 2015

Sermon for 4/12/15--Second Sunday of Easter



Doubt and Faith

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Even though we may remain uncertain about the things of this world, there is one all-important question that seeks a sure and certain answer: How can I be certain that God forgives me? We are still very much in the midst of the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord; what does that have to do with forgiveness? What does that have to do with my life?

We are often uncertain about forgiveness because we use our experience with this world as a judge. For many in our world, forgiveness is for weaklings. Revenge, not forgiveness, is what motivates so many in this world. In this world you are judged by your actions, and there is no mercy in the court of public opinion. We use that view of things, and then we apply it to our relationship with God. I am guilty, therefore I cannot be forgiven. That’s it. It’s all over.

Another reason we are often uncertain about forgiveness is that we want visible proof, like Thomas thought he needed. We try to turn faith into sight. If I can’t prove it, if I can’t measure it, if I can’t see it, then it must not be true. That is what our science-above-all-else world would have us do to the Christian faith. But even worse, perhaps, we want our faith to have all of the perfect answers to life’s problems. If the Christian faith cannot answer everything the way I want it answered, then it must not be true. That is how this world trains us to think and believe.

Yet another way we doubt forgiveness is when we look inside ourselves, rather than to Christ and His cross and resurrection. Our world thrives on self-empowerment. Even the church is infected with this plague. We try to judge the condition of our faith based on our feelings and emotions. If I don’t have a particular feeling, then there must be something wrong with my faith. Somehow we have gotten the idea that we have to do something to prepare ourselves for God, and that He won’t forgive us until we are in the right frame of mind.

Now, compare that uncertainty to the resurrection of Jesus as the firm foundation of our forgiveness. When Jesus died, He took on all of our sin for us. He paid the full and final price for all the sins of the world. Christ alone is our confidence. There is nothing we can do or say or feel that adds anything to our salvation. By the standards of the world, that doesn’t make any sense. Why should Someone else pay the price that I deserve to pay? He did it simply because He loved us, even to the point of His own death. That’s who He is; that’s what He does.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the solid ground of our faith and the source of our forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t something we get, like a new pair of shoes. Forgiveness means reconciliation with God. It means communion with Christ. It means receiving from Christ. We receive forgiveness by becoming one with Christ. Again, this isn’t something we do. In Baptism we put on Christ, but there is no work on our part. It is an objective fact, something that happens to us. St. Peter writes, “Baptism now saves you.” And then He comes to us with forgiveness through Holy Absolution and the preaching of the Gospel. Jesus gave that gift to the Church so that we could see and know that He is always with us, forgiving our sins. It is that gift that stands behind the words of your pastor when he says, “In the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And He finally comes to us in His body and blood, feeding us with forgiveness and life.

It is through these means that Christ gives you a solid foundation for faith. In spite of any uncertainty you may have—and we are all visited by uncertainty from time to time—He gives us the certainty of the forgiveness and salvation that comes through the resurrection of Jesus. Thanks be to God that He has given us so many gifts to bring us to everlasting life. Thanks be to God, that by His grace we are among those of whom Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 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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