Monday, April 20, 2009

Second Sunday in Easter

Second Sunday in Easter
John 20:19-31
Bror Erickson

[19] On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
[20] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. [21] Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld."
[24] Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] 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."
[26] 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." [27] 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." [28] Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" [29] Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
[30] Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] 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. John 20:19-31 (ESV)

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, Peace be with you. When he said this he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Then he said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Peace be with you. And it is. Peace is with you. God’s peace, God’s favor, God’s grace. Your sins are forgiven. That is the reality. I think people often have this confused with a feeling. People want the peace of God. People want peace. But they often look for it in the wrong places. That is they look for it within themselves. They look for it in their works. They look for it in an experience. But the peace of God is not found in these places. The peace of God is found in Christ alone, in his works, and his word, which is “Peace be with you.”
We look for this peace, precisely because we don’t often feel it. And even when we do feel at peace it can be a misleading feeling. Feelings do that. They mislead people. We are sinful people, by nature unclean. So our old Adam, our human sinful nature is unclean and so are its feelings. Lutherans are often accused of being emotionless because we don’t trust our feelings. Our worship service for instance, the divine service, is looked on as being dry because it does not set out to manipulate emotions. So many other traditions do exactly that, manipulate emotions. The very fact that we can as people manipulate emotions should teach us that our feelings should not be a barometer with which to measure our standing with God. It should be a warning to us that our feelings however great, and ecstatic they maybe, are not very reliable witnesses to our faith.
We routinely manipulate our own feelings. We also manipulate the feelings of others. There really is no secret to it. A two year old knows how to manipulate his parents feelings. Mothers are famous for guilt trips. And even when we check the manipulations of others we tend to feel at least a tinge of the feeling they have tried to manipulate in us. Stoic we may be on the outside, but our heart strings are being played sad songs, happy songs, and love songs.
We condition ourselves for these things. Self help books are full of hints as to how one might manipulate one’s feelings, how to rekindle love in a loveless marriage either by rekindling your love for the spouse you should be loving, or manipulating them to feel love for you. If you fall out of love with your spouse you really only have yourself to blame. But true love is action, not a feeling. One loves by doing. Love is first and foremost a verb that should not be confused with butterflies. The butterflies might be a good thing, they might be all that a young couple has at first. But when that couple marries now they need to learn to love with or without butterflies. Love by serving. Love by sharing.
We condition ourselves to be happy, sad, angry and depressed. Movies, television, adds, and music all manipulate these feelings. Christ himself acknowledges this when he says:
[31] "To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? [32] They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
" 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.'
Luke 7:31-32 (ESV)

The overwhelming wealth of devotional literature the pop Christian presses pump out day after day does not serve to have you grow in your knowledge, faith and understanding of the faith, but rather is a calculated ploy to manipulate your feelings. Why? Because people like to have their feelings manipulated in certain ways, mostly to have a feeling of peace, or happiness. Even the titles give it away, “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Think chicken soup, and you automatically start feeling comfort as you remember childhood bouts with the common cold, and you mother caring for you with a bowl of the healthful broth full of little chunks of chicken, carrots, and noodles.
Some people like to be afraid and flock to horror houses at hallowing, tell ghost stories by a campfire, and sustain a thriving movie business all to manipulate that feeling. Want to be angry? Watch the news, listen to Rush, or Al Franken. Want to be giddy with laughter? Go have a few drinks at a comedy club. Drugs too are used to manipulate feelings, whether it be a few beers after a hard days work, or shooting up heroine to numb the pain of life. Not to compare the two as equals. Heroine can’t hardly be used without abuse causing a destructive downward spiral in ones life.
And you may find a sense of peace and calm with any of these manipulative tricks, but don’t think that this sense of peace is the same as the peace Christ offers you. No, Christ gives “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” In other words, it surpasses all feelings, and all reasoning, all modes of human understanding, because it is rooted in forgiveness that is beyond our comprehension. It is rooted in his death and resurrection for “in Christ in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Cor. 5:19 (ESV) God was that is he did it in Christ, past tense, it has been done, we have been reconciled to God insofar as we are part of this world it is our trespasses that no longer count against us! And this is an objective fact, it is not dependent on us, what we do, or how well we manipulate ourselves into feeling it. And this is the point of we Lutherans make with our worship. It is not an ecstatic orgy of emotional manipulation. But it conveys the peace of God that is grounded in his objective word that says “Peace be with you.” And armed with that our fears are put to rest once and for all.
Yes we have fears. Fears that lock doors from the inside. We are no different than the disciples. We are sinners like them. And fear comes over us. It locks us in our private prayer chambers with our “Personal Faith” we are reluctant to share with others for fear of rejection and ridicule. This is quite the bastardization of the term personal Jesus. Jesus is personal, as in, he is a person. But he isn’t yours, he isn’t personal as in your personal possession. He isn’t your personal savior. No if he is your savior than he is your neighbors savior too. There are no personal saviors in this world. For in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. He is a public savior, the savior of all, owned by none. It really matters little what he has done for you personally. What matters is what he has done for the world objectively. Just as he gives peace to you so he gives peace to all, all that is who will hear it, and believe it. It is objective, but many people seem to have no problem rejecting the objective. They won’t have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, even if they confuse their manipulated emotions with that peace and call it that. And they are left without it for they will not know it.
Indeed, even though we ourselves know it we are often attempted to abandon it! How often do we forget it, and let that fear of the world wash over us! And why? Why should we fear the world? We have Christ and he has overcome the world! I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (ESV) And we know that, but we still hate the tribulation. Oh we are not spared the tribulation far from it. Who hasn’t felt the tribulation of this world? Who hear has not declined to speak for Christ with a friend or neighbor even when opportunity presents itself. Who here hasn’t painstakingly couched their words with polite platitudes instead of speaking forthrightly and bluntly like Peter in the second chapter of Acts, or Paul on Mars Hill, when they have spoken? Afraid to offend our family member, our friend, our neighbor or even a stranger on the street. And we think we are just trying to be winsome. We manipulate a calm in our hearts with that pious lie after we couch our words with sentiments of a personal Jesus, who has done this or that for me. The “it worked for me” ploy we use. That implies it may work for you also, but also implying it may not! Do you see the uncertainty this implies. Uncertainty, the key that locks the door of fear. Locks us inside so though we are sent, just as the Father sent Christ, though we are entrusted with this message of reconciliation we do not go out. We curl into our shells.
But then we hear the Gospel, Christ breaks through our locked doors, and shatters our fear, pulverises our doubts, he doesn’t even bother to knock, he shows himself to the Thomas within us. As we play back our failures that torture us with the tribulation of the world. He shows himself to us in an historical account of the resurrection, an event hard to fathom. He came back from the dead. He conquered death! He overcame this world of death! He over came the tribulation of this world, survived its worse, and broke the portals of hell. And this Jesus says “Peace be with you.” And so it is you have the peace of God despite all. It is yours, the forgiveness of sins, Christ has given it to you. Not just once, not just for some sins, failures and short comings, but all of them, even your lack of faith that breeds uncertainty as you confront the tribulations of the world with the Gospel of Christ the message of reconciliation.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Now that was a lot of breakfast...we can be chewing clear past dinner! While TOA might top that off with sliders...I tend to be rather frilly so I'll go for the Godiva Chocolate Cordial...