+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 20:20
Theme: Joy In His Presence
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Christ is risen!
There was bound to be fall out. Collateral damage was unavoidable. An ordinary person doesn’t come back from the dead without causing a stir, let alone, someone of Jesus’ significance. The media would have a field day today. Those first hours were a blur of confusion, uncertainty, excitement, fear, bewilderment, and doubt. Was it really true! What did it all mean! How would the Roman authorities react? What would the Jewish leaders do? The disciples were huddled together in fear. It was still Easter Sunday.
The resurrection is not a truth you can wrap your head around overnight. The apostles were nearly dumbfounded until Pentecost. Proclaiming the risen Jesus, and in Him forgiveness, life and salvation, was then the all-consuming focus of the rest of their ministries. All but one were reportedly martyred for the cause. The Book of Acts records the activity that typified their ministry. “Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.”1
The preaching of the resurrection was marked with a sense of urgency, with tenacity, and a willingness to suffer rejection. The suffering Servant was living. He had overcome the power of death. It was news that could not be kept quiet. It could not be muzzled. St. Paul says, “When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”2 That continues to be the mission of the church.
It’s convenient, obviously, to use Thomas as the reference point for those who are skeptical that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. Thomas has the benefit of putting his fingers into the flesh of the risen Lord and his doubt is quickly overturned. The evidence was indisputable. Today’s cynics, however, should not be singled-out as being unique. It is the temptation of every generation to see itself as more enlightened than all previous ones. But Christianity is no respecter of generations in this regard. Accumulated knowledge does not translate into a more superior status in relation to God. We may have supercomputers and spaceships but these don’t make God more accessible. As science discloses more of the mysteries of creation we are finding that the wisdom and power of God is not being eliminated but being made all the more necessary. The scientific enterprise is in the process of coming full circle.
How then to proclaim the resurrection to people whose bellies are full, bank accounts are overflowing, egos are over-inflated, and sense of holiness is being destroyed by a largely vulgar secular society? The appetite for spiritual truth is not easily whetted. Personal reflection is a good starting point. It’s easy to become a too-comfortable Christian. The same applies for pastors. Certainty of salvation is not the same as complacency in our sins. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”3
We’re not necessarily meant to always fill comfortable even in the house of God. God’s holy word is confronting. It is convicting. It penetrates our hearts and reveals our motives. As it operates in that capacity it doesn’t result in a relaxing process for us. It names us as sinners and goes to work on us. We don’t come into His presence to have our egos stroked. We don’t gather in a casual atmosphere.
But we are most certainly to believe that God’s house is a refuge for us. It is here that Christ is among us as one who serves. If your life is lacking in happiness, here you find joy. If your life is full of turmoil, here you find peace. If your life is beset with conflict and contention, here you have the comfort of knowing you are reconciled to the heavenly Father through Christ. Here the forgiveness of sins binds us together, heals us, and empowers us. Luther says, “Satan will more easily put up with all other articles than this one concerning the forgiveness of sins.”4 The devil cannot bear to see people reconciled to God. But that’s exactly what Christ has done. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”5
When the conscience, flooded with doubt, burdened with anxiety, knows not where to turn it can recede into itself like a turtle disappearing into its shell. Or, it can grope aimlessly about for any offer of support. Both are dangerous decisions. The bottling up of fear, doubt, and anxiety only cripples our ability to mend and engage relationships. Grasping at options that might ease the pain but not address the ailment- engaging in fantasy, overindulgence in alcohol or drugs, pursuing distractions to the point of obsession- only compound the problem in the long run. Christianity is the truth for realists. A real God interacts with real people. Here the baptized gather with a family that transcends bloodlines. Here our faith is nourished by Christ’s body and blood, the equivalent of putting our fingers into the side of the risen Jesus.
Dear friends, no one can stand aloof from the truth of the resurrection. The crucified Jesus was not a tragic failure; death could not hold Him. Because this truth makes a claim on humanity it makes a claim on each of us. Christ shares our human nature. He did not relinquish it after His ascension. He remains the one Christ, God and man forever as the Athanasian Creed says, “not by changing the Godhead into flesh but by taking on the humanity into God.” The implication is universal. “At his coming all men shall rise with their bodies and give an account of their own deeds.”6 Neither the believer nor the unbeliever is exempt from the bodily resurrection; the difference is the eternal destination.
The resurrection is the bedrock upon which our hope is built. The Israelites celebrated a jubilee year every 50th year7. It was the year in which debts were forgiven, grievances were put aside, and property returned to its original owners. So too, the season of Easter involves 50 days of jubilee. Holiness and joy mark our celebrations of the resurrection. Hallelujahs roll off our tongues and elation fills our hearts. Even in the midst of adversity we have life; and we have it abundantly. Amen.
Christ is risen!
+ In nomine Jesu +
Second Sunday of Easter
12 April, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Acts 17:2-3
2 1 Corinthians 9:16
3 1 John 1:8-10
4 AE 44:21, 115
5 Romans 4:25
6 The Athanasian Creed
7 See Leviticus 25:11