Monday, May 2, 2011

Second Sunday Of Easter A (2011)

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 20:19
Theme: Peace in the Resurrection

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God achieves and establishes peace for His people. At the Messiah’s birth the angels proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.”1 The apostles explains, “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him [Christ], and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things…by making peace through His blood, shed on a cross.”2 Jesus Himself often comforted His disciples with expressions of peace. In the Upper Room He said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”3 And now when He greets them after His resurrection His first words are, “Peace be with you!”4

It’s a fitting way to announce the resurrection. Satan’s real power of war is broken. Forgiveness is achieved for and offered to humanity. The resurrection shatters the bondage sin has on creation and all its creatures. It reverses the inevitable march towards eternal death instituted at the fall into sin. The hopeless situation of the sinner estranged from God now shows promise. Do not doubt that without Christ overcoming death you were surely lost. Do not doubt that all who snub His forgiveness still stand in judgment. Do not dare to spurn His grace for all who do not die with Him through repentance, baptism, and faith and are not raised from their spiritual death. Only in Christ do you have new and full life.

We do not take these matters lightly because surely it is not easy not to doubt. Doubt often plagues the mind and soul. Thomas could not help but be skeptical. Even the word of his companions was not good enough. Thankfully, he would soon see the scars of the resurrected Jesus. God grant that the Holy Spirit would make us mindful of these scars that we may see with the eyes of faith. Fewer, it seems, have such trust these days.

In commenting on the phenomenon of the association of Easter with chocolate a columnist for The Weekend Australian Magazine makes this statement, “These days, educated Christians mostly accept that the resurrection is a metaphor. This is sensible, of course. But at the same time you can’t help feeling the whole show has become a bit like one of those cheap chocolate bunnies- kind of hollow at the centre. But what can you do? We live in a post-Christian world now, and there’s no going back.” (April 9-10, 2011 edition)

Note the stated bias towards the so-called ‘educated’. Education has supposedly demystified Christianity. As if the first Christians made up ‘Christ-stories’ because they knew they could pull the wool over the eyes of others. The ancients had no less of an understanding of the origin of things than we do today. For all of our accumulated knowledge and applied science we know not one iota more about how this universe could have come into existence. But today the educated need not believe things they cannot personally verify. The resurrection becomes nothing more than an ancient legend propagated by pious followers.

Dear friends, Christians (educated or not) who think the resurrection is a metaphor- only a symbolic way speaking- aren’t really Christians. They are misnamed. If you believe that the body of Jesus rotted in the grave then your faith is not actually in the Living God who has overcome death. Such skepticism is nothing new. It is as ancient as Adam’s fall. St. Paul says it bluntly, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”5

If you don’t believe in God then you can’t believe in miracles. Miracles are a transgression of the laws of nature. And if you don’t believe God can bypass the law He Himself established then you can’t really believe in a resurrection of any sort. Of course, the educated are generally expected to believe the entire universe just spontaneously brought itself into existence under its own power. This is supposed to be based on science and fact. Darwinian evolution claims chaotic and random powers gave birth to the highly organized and astoundingly complex array of life we witness today. To believe this requires a giant leap of faith. The cosmos is allegedly self-organized. All talk of the person and work of Christ aside, how could an educated person truly believe that?

Many years ago, a retired French diplomat decided that Christianity was no longer for him. He saw Church institutions as being in decline, he criticized the clergy for lack of zeal, he thought all Church-goers were hypocrites; he questioned Jesus' teachings on the "Sermon on the Mount," and so on. One day, he made his feelings known to his friend, Talleyrand, a famous French statesman. "What if I should decide to start a new religion?" he asked. "How would you suggest I begin?" To which Talleyrand replied, "I would recommend, my friend, that you get yourself nailed to a cross, and then die. But be sure to return again on the third day."

There are many religions in the world and who knows how many more will be invented. But there is only one way of salvation; only one that has the Good News of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. There is only one truth about salvation by grace, through faith. There is only one body of Christ on earth in which the Holy Spirit operates, the baptismal water cleanses, and the sacred meal nourishes. For this we give thanks in the way St. Peter leads us today, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you.”6

That inheritance awaits us even as we continue this pilgrimage. This journey of our mortality involves the accrual scars. We are battered and bruised as we get knocked around in life. We conceal wounds within and reveal traumas without. We are fallible, frail, and mortal. But we are only living life’s “little day.” Our scars will be healed by the wounds of Christ. Thomas felt the wounds of the risen Lord and in them he found peace. What is the last word the minister, the undershepherd of the Good Shepherd, speaks at the conclusion of the Divine Service? Peace! “The Lord look upon you with favour, and give you peace.”7 Peace is the last word. It is the Saviour’s word. It is language for eternity. Amen.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
+ in nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday Of Easter
1 May, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 2:14 2 Colossians 1:19-20
3 John 16:33 4 John 20:19
5 1 Corinthians 15:17-20 6 1 Peter 1:3-4
7 Lutheran Hymnal, p.22