April 3, 2016

Easter 2   April 3, 2016   Ps 150, Revelation 1:4-8, Acts 5:27-32, John 20:19-31 ************************************************************* Here’s the disciples, after Good Friday, suddenly without Jesus. Struggling all the more with what to believe and how to believe – in the one who was their all and all – who is now… no more among them. Til he shows up in plain clothes, looking like a gardener, unrecognized, outside the tomb on that first resurrection morning. (Where we were last week.) Chatting away with Mary Magdalene, one of the few who stuck with Jesus all the way to the cross and tomb. Yet now even Mary can’t recognize him at first – not til Jesus tips her off by calling her name in his familiar voice. Only then does she understand. Now she goes, as Jesus said to do, to tell the others, “I have seen the Lord!” But it’s as if Mary hasn’t been heard or believed by the other disciples. Here they are, later that same day, meeting together, fearfully, behind locked doors. Not exactly acting like people excited about the resurrection. Now here’s Jesus, without warning – (funny how he never does seem to call ahead to ask if we’re home) – greeting us, ‘Peace be with you!’ Reminding us that he promised – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” Greeting us with the most ordinary-kind-of-everyday-greeting – a greeting people gave each other every day – Peace be with you – (Shalom to you) – as if he and we were used to doing this rising-from-the-dead thing every day. Then breathing-on-us, like God breathes life and Spirit into Adam, in the garden in the beginning. (And yes, he is, after all, the Gardener, as Mary supposed – though not exactly as she thought. He’s The Gardener – like God is The Gardener in the beginning.) And here’s Jesus, suddenly, commissioning us – telling us to forgive, or even withhold forgiveness.  Giving us way more power and responsibility than we know how to use, would be my take. But kind of like God gave Adam power to name the birds and animals in the Garden – now Jesus gives power to novice disciples – to us, his church – to be agents of his new creation. Here is the Word-who-became-flesh-and-lived-among-us – still bearing the marks of the nails in his hands, the scar of the spear in his side. The wounds of his life poured out for us in the dark of Good Friday are still very visible, as Jesus calls and commissions us into life and ministry with him. And yes, at least some of this is probably still hard to believe for some of us some of the time… Jesus risen for the dead has been difficult for some to believe all along – as all the gospels make clear. That part has somehow actually not been hard for me to believe. The part of the gospel that has at times been difficult for me to believe is the part about Jesus giving so much power, authority, and responsibility to the church. Part of me sometimes thinks, “How can Jesus trust the church with power to forgive or withhold forgiveness? How can Jesus trust the church to make disciples of all nations? Look...

read more

April 12, 2015 – To be continued…

Easter 2 April 12, 2015 (Psalm 133, 1 John 1:1-4, Acts 4:32-37) John 20:19-31 To be continued… ********************************************************** One morning last week, as I sat in the kitchen trying to get started on this sermon… I noticed our daughter Rohi, singing hymns. (Nothing unusual there; she does that nearly every morning.) But here we are now in the season of Easter – and she was singing hymns from Lent and Holy Week, singing – Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days for us didst fast and pray… (and) Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?… (and) When I Survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died… I’d just been thinking how, after Easter, probably Jesus sits down in heaven at a grand banquet with God the Father and the angels – a huge, many-course meal with all the trimmings…And all the angels sing as the heavenly orchestra plays…And surely nobody’s thinking about Good Friday in heaven now – are they? So what’s with our daughter, singing songs of Lent and Good Friday… when we’re now in Eastertide? But maybe Rohi understands intuitively better than I… How, according to the gospel.. Later that same first Easter Sunday – Jesus appears again, this time to disciples, gathered in an upper room, behind locked doors for fear of the religious authorities. And Jesus walks in without knocking and greets them, saying “Peace be with you.” Sharing what was, in that culture, in those days, the most ordinary of everyday greetings. He shows them his hands and side – still bearing the marks of the cross and the spear that pierced him. (Almost as if this too might be an everyday kind of thing for him to do.) He says again, “Peace be with you.” Adding now, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit…” And he breathes on them, as God the Father breathes life into adam. (The Hebrew word adam means human.) And just as God’s breath causes the first human to become alive, in the beginning, in the garden… Now Jesus, whom Mary Magdalene mistook for the gardener earlier that same first Easter morning (last week, our time) – is revealed as The Gardener (capital G), who was with God in the beginning – as Jesus does what his Father does – Giving life without end to all who believe – (And–) Commissioning his followers now to continue the work of new creation God began in him – saying, “If you forgive the sins of any they’re forgiven. If you retain them, they’re retained.” (That’s where we get the hymn we’ve just sung:) “Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew…that I may love what thou dost love – and do what thou wouldst do…” But Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, wasn’t there when Jesus came. The others tell him “We have seen the Lord.” Earlier that morning, remember, Mary Magdalene met Jesus at the tomb in the garden, and spoke with him, and told the others “I have seen the Lord.” Now those disciples have seen the Lord for themselves. Now they say to Thomas what Mary said to them, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas gives his famous one-liner: “Unless I...

read more

April 27, 2014 – Second Sunday of Easter

1 Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. John 20:19-31 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, 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 the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 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. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. Easter 2 April 27, 2014   John 20:19-31 Opening doors, walking through walls ******************************************************** I was a part-time campus minister at Plattsburgh State in New York for several years (while serving nearby Methodist churches). Every week our student group would sit together, pray and study bible and have fellowship....

read more