Sunday, April 28, 2019

Quasimodo Geniti (The Second Sunday of Easter / Easter 2)

John 20:19-31; 1 John 5:4-10; Ezekiel 37:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Easter Gospel ended in fear and silence. The women “went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” And, they were not alone. Today’s Gospel has the Apostles gathered together in the upper room behind locked doors in fear that what the Judaizers did to Jesus they would surely do to them. They were all filled with fear the night He was betrayed and arrested in the Garden, and when He was tried, convicted, sentenced, and crucified on Friday. But, now that He is risen, why are they so afraid?
They were afraid because Jesus’ resurrection means something. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! And, that changes everything! You simply cannot go on living your lives the same as before now that Jesus is risen. Yes, it’s confusing. No, it doesn’t make sense to human reason. But, it’s true! Jesus is alive. He lived and walked on this earth for forty days after His resurrection. He was seen by the women. He was seen by the Apostles. He was seen by over five hundred in a single day. He was seen by hundreds and maybe thousands more. The fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is simply incontrovertible. The evidence and the eye witness testimony would be overwhelming in any court of law. So, why don’t more people believe? Why doesn’t everyone believe? Well, why didn’t the women believe? Why didn’t the Apostles believe? Why didn’t Thomas believe, and all those who had seen Him? Why is it so hard to believe that Jesus is risen and living? Because the resurrection of Jesus demands a change on our part, a change in our lives and how we live them, a change in what we live them for and how we treat each other, our family, friends, and our enemies.
They saw the angel. They heard his Gospel message, “He is risen!” They saw the empty tomb, the stone rolled away, the burial cloths folded and lying neatly at the head and foot where they had laid His body, but still the women fled in terror and they told no one anything. The Apostles all told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!” But, still, he refused to believe. Why? Because, if it’s true, if it’s true that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then that changes everything. No longer can we live for ourselves and for our own selfish pursuits. No longer is the meaning of our lives the accumulation of possessions and wealth, the grooming of our reputations and names, the envy of our peers, and all the countless foolish, idolatrous things men and the world value. Truly, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.
It’s so much easier to believe that things simply go on as they always have: Birth, school, work, death; eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. The fallen world and our fallen flesh love this scenario; we love death, and we live in a culture of death. However, Jesus lives; He is not dead, but He is risen! And that fact demands a change from us. That fact demands that we see things differently. We are accountable and we are answerable for our actions, not to mention our words and our thoughts! And, that’s terrifying, isn’t it? That fact makes your sinful flesh and your fallen reason want to deny the resurrection, to hide like cockroaches when the lights are turned on. That is our natural reaction, according to our sinful and corrupted sight, reason, and flesh. But, Jesus calls us in His resurrection to see differently – to see, not with our eyes, but with our ears.
“I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified, and kept me in the true faith.” Mary beheld her resurrected Lord, but she did not recognize Him until He called her by Name, “Mary.” Then the Holy Spirit opened her eyes and she believed, confessing, “Rabboni!” Our Good Shepherd Jesus knows His sheep. He calls them by Name. They hear His voice and they follow Him. He leads them into green pastures and He feeds them beside the still waters in the presence of their enemies who surround them. Likewise, Jesus called Thomas by name, inviting him to touch His wounds and believe. Then Doubting Thomas confessed, “My Lord, and my God!” Jesus didn’t only rise from death Himself, but He calls His people to rise from the death of sin and to live resurrected lives now, seeing differently, newly, and clearly for the first time.
Jesus invites you to see Him with your ears, to see Him in His Church, His Body, in His Word and in His Sacraments, His Word made flesh – seeable, touchable, tasteable. “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!” But, do you see it? Do you see Him? Or, do you see only a sinful man spouting too many words that make you wait an extra fifteen minutes to fill your bellies with food that doesn’t last? Or, do you see only an aging and slowly dying congregation, and with it diminishing resources and worldly relevance? Or, do you see only empty and unimpressive rituals that bore with their repetition and redundancy? Or, do you see only archaic hymns with too many stanzas that fail to spark a flutter in your hearts or to inspire you to tell others? If so, then this word is for you today. See– not with your eyes, but with your ears! Can these dry, dead bones live? Well, can they? Pay no matter to what your eyes see! Pay attention to what your ears hear! “Behold! I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” You will confess with Mary Magdalene, “Rabboni!” And, with no-longer Doubting Thomas, “My God, and my Lord!”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed everything! You cannot continue to live as you did when you were dead, unless you choose to remain in death. You cannot continue to see things as you did before, unless you choose to walk in darkness and blindness. The Light is shining in the darkness; you can either live in it or attempt to hide from it in fear like a cockroach. “Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk therefore as children of the light.” We do not worship a God who is absent or far off, but we worship a God who is near, who in fact is present among you right now. And, this fact demands something of us. How do we behave in the presence of the King of heaven and earth? What do we say in the presence of our God who has defeated death and lives? We say, forgive me, a poor, miserable sinner. We say, Lord, have mercy upon us. We kneel before Him in deep reverence, humility, holy fear, and awe. We stand before Him in boldness and make our petitions known to Him as our Heavenly Father has invited us to do. We seek to touch Him, to hold Him, to taste Him, to receive Him into ourselves. He is our life; apart from Him we are truly dead. The way we worship Him is a confession of what we believe about Him: He is here, really and truly here with us. He is risen and living, bestowing life to us still through His life-giving and sustaining Word and though His Word made flesh, the body and blood of Jesus who is risen!
Do you not see Him? Then repent, and have your eyes opened by His Holy Spirit and see Him with your ears. Every Lord’s Day, that is every Sunday, is a little Easter, a day of resurrection for you as our Lord breathes His life-giving Spirit over you and into you once again. Here, in this place, this Church, His body, you are the recipients of His life, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness. Here He raises your dry, dead bones to life again and again. Here He puts sinews and flesh upon your lifeless bones once again that you may live, and live for Him by living for one another. Here He gives you anew the deposit and down payment of His Spirit, the promise that your resurrected life now is but a foretaste of the life He will bestow upon you when He raises your bodies from the dead on the Last Day when our Lord returns in glory.
If you eat His Supper too frequently it will not be special, you say? You are thinking wrongly. Open your eyes and see with your ears. The Supper is not fine China to be brought out only on Easter and Christmas, but it is your weekly, even your daily spiritual food and sustenance. If you are not hungry for it as often as you might receive it, check yourself to see if you are truly alive. Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! His life is your life now and forever. Apart from Him there is no life, but only blindness, darkness, and death. Do not disbelieve, but believe, and confess with Thomas, “My Lord, and my God!”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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