Sunday, May 1, 2011

Easter 2 Sermon

Easter 2 – May 1st, 2011 – John 20:19-31

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen
So there are the disciples. Peter and John have seen the empty tomb. They’ve heard Mary’s report of our Lord’s Resurrection… and they just still don’t know what is going on. The last week has been wild, everything that happens in Holy Week is fresh and vivid in their minds, from the loud shouts of Hosanna on Palm Sunday, to the loud shouts of Friday morning calling out “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” The whole gamut is there before them – and when in doubt, they do what many of us would do. They hide. They gather together, and they barricade themselves in their room, because they’ve seen angry mobs this week already, who knows when another will come for them. Their attitudes, their emotions, would sort of be like ours when we have to go to the storm cellar or the Fraidy Hole – except this isn’t an hour long storm – this has been going on for days. So there they are, frazzled and frightened and scared, and then we hear this: “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ Jesus appears to them, Jesus appears to them there in that room, even though the doors are locked. Death couldn’t keep Him in a tomb, He is God Almighty, risen from the dead, a door latch or a dead bolt isn’t going to do anything. Jesus appears to them in that room, and He opens His mouth, and He says to them – “Peace be with you.”

Dear friends in Christ, these words are the essence of what the Christian faith is – what we believe, what we confess, why we gather here for worship. Christ Jesus has beheld sinful, fallen man, and He has been born of a virgin, has suffered under Pontius Pilate, has crucified, died, and buried, and indeed has risen again on the third day so that He can stand before the disciples in His resurrected body, a body never to die again, and say to them – “Peace be with you.” Peace is a profound word. It is a word of life and forgiveness and salvation. What does Christ say when He says, “Peace be with you”? He says, “Peace be with you – because I live, you too shall live, not even death can separate you and Me. Peace be with you – because I have died for your sins, they are totally forgiven, and you need have no more fear of hell or death because of them. Peace be with you – I won for you your salvation, I have done it all for you, and it is secure in Me.” This is the word that says, that shows that everything is right with the world and creation again. And then Christ shows them His hands and His side – see, it really is Me, I am Christ the Crucified, raised from the dead.

And so what does Jesus do, now that He has announced His peace? He makes the disciples into peacemakers – He sends them… in Greek He “Apostles” them – He makes them apostles, sent ones, because that’s what the word “Apostle” means – and He sends them out to bring His peace to others. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’” Jesus ordains them. That’s what this is – this is Jesus ordaining the Disciples to be the Apostles – to be the first pastors of His Church, and as such they are supposed to go out and preach Christ’s death and resurrection and forgive sins. And what happens? That’s what they do – that’s the book of Acts. And then they lay hands on others, give them the gift of the Holy Spirit and order them, ordain them, to go preach and forgive sins. Same thing that happened to me here almost 7 years ago – I was ordained, I was sent here and commanded to preach Christ, to forgive the sins of any of you who are penitent, and to warn you against sin and unbelief that would make you despise forgiveness… because that’s the only time forgiveness is withheld – if you despise Christ and His forgiveness. And now I have to preach, I have to forgive. I have no choice – for as long as I am the pastor, I must preach Christ. Period. In a few months, God willing, this is what will happen to Jay Hobson. He will be ordained and installed somewhere to preach Christ and the forgiveness of sins. And when that happens, he has to. Period. Right now, I could ask him, “Jay, you want to preach here on May 29th,” and he can say, “Eh, sure” or “No, I’ll pass.” When he’s ordained and at his own church – that option is gone – there will be preaching, and he’ll see that it is done. I don’t get to say, “eh, who cares about preaching today, we’ll just skip it.” I, and every pastor, have as our duty and office to see that the Gospel of Christ Jesus is preached and that sins are forgiven.

Why? Because that’s what’ Christ’s peace is. Christ’s peace is His forgiveness, and forgiveness brings Christ’s peace. Where there is no forgiveness of sins, where people do not know, or where they reject, where they disbelieve, there is no peace. No security in God. No confidence in Christ, no hope for life everlasting. And the Gospel lesson gives us an example of this – consider Thomas the disbeliever. “Now, Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.’” Do you see the contrast? Can’t you hear the anger and pain in what Thomas says? Thomas is cold and angry and bitter and defiant and fearful. As he says these words, he does not believe. And he has no peace. He has turmoil and fear and anger. The rest of the disciples, they know, they believe, they have received Christ’s peace and forgiveness. Without knowing that Christ Jesus lives, and that He lives for you – there is no peace. And in fact, what happens in our lives when we put our focus on things other than Christ? We become nervous and fearful. In fact, Satan would have us never look, never think on Christ again. But in His Church, Christ Jesus constantly calls our eyes back to Him, makes us to ponder His love once again, to know His peace and to be focused there.

“Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’” Christ Jesus appears to Thomas – gives Himself to Thomas – here you go. Behold Christ the resurrected. And we then hear Thomas’ answer – “My Lord and my God!” Thomas believes, and that doubt and fear and anger is gone and it is replaced with joy, with peace. And then our Lord says this: “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed.” Jesus is here referring to you. The normal operating procedure of the Church is the people of God gathering together, and a pastor then preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments – and faith and belief and peace flowing from this. This is you, this is us, right here right now. We don’t expect Jesus to show up and start preaching right now – or if He does, we expect it to be the Second Coming. But until then, He sends His pastors to preach His Word and to give His Sacraments in His place. In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ… I forgive you all of your sins. And through His Word proclaimed, through His Sacraments, Christ is here and He comes and He gives you His peace and His forgiveness until He comes again. Everything we do in this service revolves around this – I’ll say to you, before I do something important in the service, “The Lord be with you” / “And with thy spirit.” We are confessing that Christ Jesus will be here and giving us peace and forgiveness by what is coming up. Or think about the Supper – after the words of institution, I will turn and hold before you the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus and say, “The Peace of the Lord be with you always.” That’s not me just being some sort of hippie saying “peace out everybody” – that is a confession that here, in the Supper, Christ Jesus is here for you with His own Body and Blood and is giving you His peace. We are the people who live by Word and Sacrament, who trust what God proclaims to us through the people He sends out to serve us. Here in this Church, that’s Pastor Brown – in a few months in some Church somewhere, it should be Pastor Hobson. We speak His peace, we administer His sacraments.

You too have a share this – not so much the administration of the Lord’s Supper, because the Body and Blood of Christ is something that is for the whole body – but also have a share in proclaiming Christ, in speaking His Peace and forgiveness to others. This is part of what you do in the various vocations, the various callings that God has called you to. You do this in your homes. Do you have a spouse – God has joined you to that person, so speak peace and forgiveness. A child – God has given you that child, and so speak peace and forgiveness. Friends, neighbors, all gifts from God – you are free to speak unto them the gift of God’s peace and forgiveness in Christ. We are the people of God’s peace, who hear and confess and speak out Christ’s peace.

One final note. John sums it up beautifully – “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.” We are the people of the Word. We hear the Word of God, telling us what Christ Jesus has done for us with His death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit works faith in us. It is as simple, it is as wondrous as that. God puts people into our lives, be they pastors who proclaim publicly, or be they family or friends who deal with us in our private lives, all so that we might hear the Word and believe. That we might always have access to hearing the Word and have our faith strengthened. Our Lord, through His Word, still pulls our eyes off of sin and pain and sorrow, and He still says to us, Peace be with you. Christ is Risen (He is risen indeed, alleluia) Amen.

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