Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sermon for 4/19/2020: Second Sunday of Easter

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No Longer Cut Off

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

            Our bones are dry. Our hope is lost. This pandemic seems to be going on forever, and it’s hard to imagine the future after the emergency ends. For many of us, it has been over a month since we have received the body and blood of Jesus. We’re down to our last spiritual straw, reading our Bibles at home and watching videos on Facebook of a pastor who doesn’t like to hear the sound of his own voice. How can we continue on?  Our bones are dry. Our hope is lost. We ourselves are cut off. How can faith persevere?
Thomas dares to voice our rebellion: “I will not believe.” He does not say to Peter: “I do not believe you. I think you are lying or delusional or playing some cruel joke.” He says: “I will not believe.” He will not allow himself to be vulnerable. He will not take the risk and be disappointed once again. He is done playing the fool for God. In his self-absorbed pessimism he issues a dangerous ultimatum: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side”—unless God jumps through my hoops—“I will not believe.” Thomas seems hell-bent on denying the truth…all the way to hell.
But Ezekiel cries out after us. “O dry bones! Hear the Word of the Lord: 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.'” Ezekiel prophesied in a valley of dry bones. The Word of God in flesh came to that awful place. He suffered our betrayal, stretched out His arms, and died. And then, with a rattling, the graves in Jerusalem let out the dead.
Ezekiel foresaw this. Bone came to bone, sinew and flesh came upon them, and skin covered them. But despite what he had said, there was still no breath in them—dry bones no more, but still lifeless corpses lying in the valley. So Ezekiel prophesied again: “Thus saith the Lord: 'Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.'” Breath came into them and they lived. Three days after the soldier plunged His spear into the side of God, God in flesh lived again. The upper room had a valley of dry bones in the grief and fear of the disciples. He breathed on them to bring His peace to them.
The pride and doubt of Thomas is not as great as the love of God in Christ. Jesus says to Thomas: Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.” Look at My hands. See where they drove the nails that held Me to the cross. Reach your unblemished hand and put it here into My side. Feel the hole from which water and blood flowed. Eat and drink of the true Passover Lamb. The atonement is full. I bring you life and peace. “Do not be unbelieving, but believing. The breath Jesus breathed on the disciples now came to Thomas, and he lived. Death died in him. Doubt was gone. He was reborn. His faith burned once again and he confessed: “My Lord and my God!”
The dry bones now have flesh and breath. Thomas has faith and a confession. So Jesus turns His gaze to you and says: “Behold, O My people! I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it.” That Holy Breath from Jesus was breathed into you in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. He called you by name out of death. He made you His people. He has given you faith and bestows His peace on you. He will not give up on you. He loves you. That Holy Breath is breathed out again by His ministers to forgive your sins and join you forever to His death and resurrection.
In the midst of all the world’s fear and panic, you may be tempted to say, “Our bones are dry. Our hope is lost. We ourselves are cut off.” But your bones have been given life in the waters of Holy Baptism. You see the crucified and risen Lord of Life in His Word and in His body and the blood. Do not be afraid, for the Lord has given you His peace. 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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