Easter 2-C/April 28, 2019/Community Lutheran/Rev. Dr. Joseph Vought
Two explorers were on safari when a ferocious lion jumped in front of them. “Keep calm” the first explorer whispered. “Remember what we read in the book about lions? If you stand still, look them in the eye, he will turn and run.” “Sure,” replied his companion. “You’ve read the book, and I’ve read the book. But has the lion read the book?” You don’t have to be on a safari to feel the weight of your fears. Fear can paralyze and terrorize us. Fear of our past and guilt that hangs around our necks can weigh us down and make us afraid.
Last week on Easter the Risen Lord reached Mary Magdalene through her tears and called her to tell others Jesus was alive. Most all of the resurrection accounts at first have the women meeting Jesus. Do you remember what happened to the disciples? The disciples are behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” They knew what happened to Jesus could happen to them. But if a coward dies not once but many times, they were not only afraid but probably sick with guilt for having left Jesus die on the cross. Even the criminals crucified with Jesus were braver than they were.
Ever go into hiding because of fear and guilt? Ever try to bury something you were ashamed of? It is not easy is it, it calls to you through your conscience. It can intrude on the joy of living. It can rob you of life and make you sick. Every one of us bears some silent pain I think, perhaps a broken relationship, something from our past, unresolved with torn, frayed ends.
I am happily married to Debra for 37 years but before I met her I was nearly engaged to another woman. We had gone together for 6 years and were talking marriage. When it became apparent it simply would not be a good relationship, I broke it off. I know I hurt her. That is over 40 years ago. I wonder what it would be like to meet her again. I know it would scare me to death if I were to see her because of the hurt I brought upon her. So I have had to make my peace and rest on the forgiveness of Jesus. I hope and pray she is happy. When I told someone that story recently, they said, “Oh Honey, she probably forgot about you years ago. You’re taking yourself way too seriously.” When I think about the disciples seeing Jesus coming through locked doors, I realize it was seeing a loved one they had abandoned. It must have made their hearts leap into their throats. Like confronting a lion, I wonder if they thought they would be torn limb from limb.
The first words of Jesus to the disciples and Thomas by this risen Christ are “Peace be with you.” Then the Risen Christ shows the disciples and Thomas his hands and his side, the wounds of Good Friday. It is Jesus way of saying, “Yes, it is I Jesus who was crucified. What happened on Good Friday really happened but it is behind you and me, I no longer hold it against you, I wish you peace!” The Risen Christ says “Peace” to let them know there is Easter and a new future called Forgiveness.
Jesus gives them Easter marching orders. They are to pass it on: “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any they are retained.”
There is enough sadness and hurt to keep us locked up, guilty and in pain for the rest of our lives. Each one of us have been hurt and, because of sin, we have hurt others. Forgiveness is the only way to live in this Good Friday world. We have work to do here … grudges, petty quarrels, the pain from our past… some circles may never be closed like the young woman I hurt… we have to make our peace, receive God’s forgiveness and move on. Confession and Forgiveness is an opportunity for any person to share the pain, hurt and guilt they are carrying with a pastor or any other Christian, to let it out and let it go, so that Jesus’ word of forgiveness can be that Good News and New Beginning. Martin Luther said, “Let everybody regard their Baptism as a daily garment which to wear all the time. Every day we should be found in faith and be suppressing the old man and growing up in the new… If anyone falls away from Baptism, let them return to it, so forgiveness remains day by day as long as we carry the old Adam around our necks.”
Today the risen Christ says to you and me: “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” We are Easter people, time to come out of the tombs and our locked rooms and breathe in the fresh air of Easter. Time to pass it on. With the Gospel and God’s Amazing Grace we believe our future will not be determined by the past but by the grace of God and the New Life of Jesus. Time to receive Jesus precious body and blood so we can live like Jesus. So we can say with Thomas and all the disciples, “My Lord and my God!”