Saturday, April 7, 2018

Easter 2

Easter 2
8 April 2018
John 20:19–31
The Risen Christ Breathes His Peace in the Holy Absolution Eliminating Doubt and Fear

Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection may by Your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

This year marks the 180th Anniversary of the signing of our congregation’s charter. It was Pr. Jesse Hoover. Who found this settlement of about sixty newly arrived German immigrants. With his guidance, this parish was formed. As the brand, “Friedheim” was bestowed upon us. 

It is only natural for us to idolize the past. But, were the good old days really so good? Was it all sunshine? And happiness? Not always. In most cases –NOT! Many are nostalgic for the past. Yet, there are dangers of nostalgia. Every era has had serious struggles to overcome. But, I would like to think that these struggles have made us a better people. 

The prospect of a better life is what drew many to come here. After 180 years what’s changed? What motivates you to do what you do? Isn’t that you want a better life now?  

What they found was not a paradise, rather thick forest and swamp. Have you ever wondered why you can see a steeple every three miles out here in the middle of nowhere? Well, back in the day, to get from here to there would take the better part of a day.  

Life was dangerous and difficult. And if there were any dreams of a safer life a better life back home. Well, that ship had already sailed. And it wasn’t going back anytime soon. Yet, despite such challenges the Lord remained faithful.

The story of Friedheim is a statement of God’s grace and forgiveness. Here Jesus is present. The Gospel of Christ has been proclaimed at this place. The Sacraments have been delivered to weary souls. And the word of Christ’s forgiveness has been spoken and received. Without these clear marks of forgiveness, life, salvation there would be no church. But the church is present here at this place because Jesus has chosen to make His presence here with and among us. 

Friedheim,” which translated; ‘peace be with this house’ is expressed by Jesus three times in this morning’s gospel. As fearful frightened disciples heard the Savior’s word of peace on that first Easter evening so He also speaks peace to you. 

1. Peace in the face of fear. 

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." - John 20:19 

Imagine the scene in that upper room. It’s Easter Evening. The first day of the week. And for fear of the authorities the doors are keyed and locked. Suddenly, Jesus stands before them. Speaking His word of peace. 

Remember. Standing before them is the exalted Christ. Jesus’ state of exaltation changes everything. He has a different nature. How different? Jesus just appears.   

Back in the garden the Lord appeared to Adam and Eve. He came in the cool of the day in the evening. And He asked, “Where are you?” This frightens Adam. He hid himself because of guilt. And shame. And embarrassment. These frightened disciples. Hid themselves for fear of the authorities. Adam hid himself for fear of being found. 

What do you do when fear seizes you? Some throw themselves into their work. Some become preoccupied with outside distractions. Where do you go at such times? A bar? The gym? The mall? Some simply check out or drop out. They cut themselves off or avoid family and friends…because it’s just too painful.  

Jesus addresses fear with three powerful words, "peace to you." When facing fear Jesus speaks directly to you. He appears and says “peace to you.”

We experience peace when facing fear. That peace goes with us as Christ sends us.

2. Peace in Christ’s sending. 

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." - John 20:21

Here Jesus establishes the apostolic ministry.  Jesus is sent to be Savior. The Apostles are sent to be preachers. Christians are sent to be witnesses. As Christ’s ambassadors.   

As you go. You are sent with authority. The authority of Christ. “Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.–John 13:20

As you love God through service to your neighbor Christ is using you for His purposes. He sends you. To do His bidding. 

We experience peace when facing fear. That peace goes with us as Christ sends us.  With this knowledge you go it not alone. For Christ is with you – wherever you go. 

3. Peace because Christ is truly present

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." - John 20:26 

Jesus rises and appears on the eighth day. His disciples were again gathered. Thomas was with them. And the door was shut and still being shut. Yet Jesus still comes to offer His friends His peace. Jesus appears.  He shows them the very thing Thomas asks to see! His hands and His side.

Consider the realities the disciples faced. Their circumstances had not changed. In fact, they had grown worse. The authorities were still out there. And their hatred would only worsen. Growing in intensity in the coming weeks. Surely, Jesus’ words were beginning to come back to them. Yes, they would drink the drink which Jesus drank. Yes, they would be baptized with His baptism. The shepherd would be struck down. And the sheep would scatter. When Jesus appears He addresses a persecuted church, facing uncertainty and doubt.

Says the Savior, "See rights before you…My hands and My side…do not be faithless but not be unbelieving but believing. It is I

And wouldn’t it be so easy? To snap your finger to see your problems go away. Wouldn’t it be such a relief? If our challenges would simply disappear. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful? If suddenly, we woke up and the pain would be no more. 

Three times Paul asked that His suffering would be taken away. But instead of removing the obstacle Jesus reminded him, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  -2 Corinthians 12:9  

We touch the marks of the nails and thrust our hands into those sacred wounds every time the word is preached and the sacraments administrated. You receive in the Sacrament the whole Christ. 

No, you have not seen Jesus with your eyes. Now you see with your ears.  “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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 20:30-31

May that peace. The peace of Christ be yours this day. So that you may live out the meaning of your name – Friedheim – A House of Peace, A Haven of Hope - for those who suffer and a Harbor of Light in this sin-darkened world. 

As followers of Jesus, Christ’s ambassadors – commissioned by Him who has reconciled the world to Himself continue to be salt and light in this world. Continue to be a witness as you pray, “Lord, use me to be an instrument of Your peace.”

Words –1,305
Passive Sentences – 14%
Readability –82.5
Reading Level -3.5
Image of Thomas and Christ © Google Images

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