Sunday, April 03, 2016

Sermon for 4/3/16: Second Sunday of Easter

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Sent for Peace

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

Irony of ironies: Unlike most of the rest of Christians, Thomas missed church on Easter! He only knew that the Risen Lord had appeared to the other apostles because they told him. And he didn't believe it! But he was there the next Sunday—also unlike most of the rest of Christians—and he believed when he got to stick his fingers and hands in the nail and spear holes in his Savior’s body. But the Lord says, "Do you believe because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Our Lord is preparing the disciples for their next task, because then He said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." With those words, Jesus establishes the Office of the Holy Ministry; He places those men into that Office to do the work of preaching the Gospel and forgiving and retaining sins. What Jesus points Thomas and us to is not a vision of Himself that we can see and touch, but the preaching of Him through which He comes to us. Thomas teaches us our post-Easter repentance: we are not to seek Jesus on our terms but upon His; not looking with our eyes, but hearing the preaching which forgives and saves.

Jesus says to the disciples: "As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." Thus He makes them apostles, “sent ones.” By sending the apostles to preach and forgive sins, Jesus teaches us that He will use the mouths of pastors to preach His Word. It is true that Jesus accommodates Thomas' weakness by allowing Thomas to see Him and touch the nail and spear holes. But He will not be visible to the world that way for long. Therefore He directs even Thomas to the preaching of the disciples, of which Thomas would also be a part. Through these apostles sent by Jesus, the forgiveness of sins would be delivered to the world. And as these apostles went and preached, they ordained men to preach, and these men did the same, and so on, down through the ages even to the present time, where the Lord still calls and ordains men to be His preachers and to deliver His gifts: Baptism, Absolution, Supper. And it is through these preachers that Christ comes to the world and deals with us, rebuking and correcting us in sins and comforting us with the preaching of the Good News of forgiveness. This is the way the Lord has always dealt with His people. Consider the valley of dry bones. How did the Lord make these bones come together and come to life? By a preacher. It is the Lord's Word that makes these bones come to life, but it is spoken through a preacher. The Lord deals graciously with the children of Israel, dead in their trespasses and sins, but He does so through the preaching of Ezekiel. Ezekiel is an integral part of how the Lord deals with His people, and yet he is just a mouthpiece, so that the Lord Himself can say, after Ezekiel preaches, "'I have spoken and I have done it,' says the Lord."

Dear Christians, the job of the pastors that Christ calls is not to be the information guy and just give you some facts to accept or reject. Christ calls pastors to deliver His Word to you. His pastors act as His mouth, announcing His victory over sin and death to the world. They act as His hands, laying upon sinners the comfort of His life-giving, sin-erasing gifts. The ministry that Jesus sends His apostles to carry out is summed up in Christ’s command that they forgive and retain sins. Our Lord doesn't leave faith and salvation up to our wishy-washy notions; He gives us preachers to faithfully declare His Word to us and to rightly administer His holy gifts of salvation. Sometimes that means speaking harsh Law to those who are willfully unrepentant, persisting in their wickedness; and it also means proclaiming the word of forgiveness. In these means, Christ Himself comes to us—not figuratively, but for real, so that we have all confidence that our Lord has rescued us from sin and death.

St. John, who recorded all these words, also tells us that this ministry of Gospel and Sacraments is the witness to Christ that the Father gives. He tells us that these three bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood—the Spirit, who is active in the preaching of the Word; the water, which is Holy Baptism; and the blood itself, which is Christ's Holy Supper. The witness, the testimony, is given: your Baptism—the water; the preaching of the Gospel—where the Spirit is; the Supper—where the blood is given. In these you may be certain that you have Christ. Crave the Word; crave the gifts given in your baptism and by absolution; hunger and thirst for the Holy Supper of Christ’s body and blood. Eagerly desire the gifts your pastor has been called to give you. Cry out for them constantly and partake of them as often as possible. These gifts save you because they give you Jesus. You don't have to see with your eyes as Thomas did. The Spirit opens your eyes of faith, and you receive Jesus. As the Father has sent Christ, so Christ has sent His preachers to deliver His saving gifts, gifts giving you the peace which the world cannot give. 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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