Sermon from 4/3/16

John 20:18-31, Psalm 150

Christ has Risen!  

He has risen indeed!  

The good news of the Gospel has been revealed to us in our world yet again!  

Last week, we raised our voices in praise and we got back the Hallelujahs we buried away for our journey through Lent and into the dark woods.  

We are back in a joyous time!  We are back in the light of new life!  We are again set free by the miraculous death and resurrection of Christ!  

But that was a week ago.  That was seven days ago.

In my world, that was 6 clients, 4 papers, 100 pages of reading, multiple goodbyes with family members I wish I saw more, and one bumpy airplane ride ago.

For you maybe that was 10 meetings, 5 conference calls, one flat tire, and 2 sick kids ago.

Maybe it was 3 appointments with a specialist ago or 6 hours on the phone trying to get insurance/taxes/childcare sorted out, or even a day or more in the hospital ago.  

 

Two weeks ago we sang Hosanna!

Last week we lifted our voices proclaiming that Indeed, he HAS risen.  

What is our word today?  What is our phrase of the week?  

If we turn to the disciples for guidance, our word today may be fear.

They were locked away in an upper room.

They were gathered together to stay safe and to feel supported.  

They hadn’t had their Hallelujah day yet.  

 

Then, Mary Magdalene came in and told them in no uncertain terms that she had seen the Lord.  

But, I mean, why should they believe her?  They know what the world is like around them.  

They know that their radical message of the Messiah is a dangerous one, and the only witness they have is this one woman and her story.  

 

Maybe they did believe her.  

Maybe they were jumping with joy, hugging and high fiving each other in that moment of jubilation.  

 

But then night fell and the next day we find them back in their safe space.  We discover these commissioned leaders hiding from the world.  

 

Thanks be to God that the story doesn’t end there.  

Jesus appears.  

The risen Lord, Emmanuel shows up right there in the space with them.

The locks on the door do not begin to keep him out and neither do the locks of doubt keeping the disciples away from their neighbors and those to whom they were called as teachers of the good news.  

 

Jesus appears and greets them with what becomes the code greeting of Christians, “Peace be with you”.  

 

He is a familiar face.  

He offers them the familiar password and yet this experience is anything but familiar.  

 

This is extraordinary!  

This is miraculous!  

This is cause for celebration!  

Christ has risen!  

He has risen indeed!  

 

But that was a week ago.  

Since they saw Jesus, their stories of this miracle, this good news, had gone no where.  

They tried to tell Thomas, one of their friends who had accompanied them on every step of this journey with Jesus, and he would have none of it.  

 

His doubt must have been discouraging.  

I wonder how many times they tried to tell him the story.  

I wonder if each time their own certainty and excitement waned just a little and the story began feeling less amazing.  

I wonder if they were all filled with doubt by the time that week was over and we catch up with them again, in the same room, with those same locked doors.

Their fear still keeping them apart from the world, the world that doesn’t seem as safe anymore without the constant presence of their teacher and Lord.  

 

But again, thanks be to God, they are not left alone in their fear in that upper room.  

They are greeted once again by Jesus.  

He comes through the locked door, offers the same greeting of peace and then turns to speak directly to Thomas.

This great teacher offers his tactile learner the evidence needed to believe and it works.  Thomas, like Mary a week before, greets Jesus by name and proclaims his belief.  

 

Jesus then, in the presence of his closest friends, offers a blessing over those who will come to believe without the one-on-one encounter with his risen body that the disciples, Mary Magdalene, and Thomas were privy too.  

 

This reads to me like yet another blessing over their ministry of evangelism.  

Maybe a little hint hint wink wink that it is their job to get out there and spread the good news as they were commissioned to do by Jesus when they had gathered those many nights ago to share a meal and share a prayer before they would turn around and betray him.   

This should do it, right?  

This third encounter should be what it takes to get the disciples out into the world to speak the good news and witness to the new life in resurrection, right?

You know this story.  

They go back to fishing.  

They go back to life out on the waters, fishing, without much success for, well, fish.  

Or maybe you know the story a tiny bit further when we find them again in an upper room locked away in fear waiting, about to receive the Holy Spirit and be gifted with the words to preach to the multilingual multitudes gathered.  

 

Locked away in fear.  

Christ has risen!  

Locked away in fear.  

He has risen indeed!

Locked away in fear.

 

I am sensing a pattern.  But it doesn’t start here.  

If we think about the great celebrations and the miracles of our faith, they are so often followed by and preceded by fear.  

The Hebrew people escaped Egypt and were brought, by God’s hand, into freedom and so they celebrated.  

Miriam led them in song and their celebration rang throughout their community!  

A miracle!  

Freedom from slavery!  

Escape from their tormentors!  

But then time went by and their journey towards the Promised Land made them weary.  

40 years in the desert was the hard work that followed their celebrations.  

 

Later in the history of our scriptures we meet a woman chosen to be queen, Esther.  

Esther is chosen to be wife to King and yet her life of luxury and power comes with a challenging task.  

Her celebration of this new station in life is followed by her call to risk her life to save her people.  

Our Psalm today was full of praises: “Alleluia! We praise you, Lord, in your sanctuary; we praise you in your mighty skies!  We praise you for your powerful deeds; we praise your for your overwhelming glory…Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!  Alleluia!”  

This is the last Psalm in the Psalter.

This is the final prayer offered in the book of Psalms and it is a Hallal, a Psalm of praise.  But this final section of the Psalter follows many songs of personal and community lament.  The book of Psalms itself follows, in our Bibles, the story of Job.  One person who could offer a powerful testimony for how difficult a journey life can be, even after an affirmation of faith.  

The last word is good news!  

That last line is Alleluia, but no one should pretend that this Alleluia doesn’t come in a context of a difficult world.

Getting back to the Gospel of John itself, can you remember back to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry?  

This gospel begins with the celebration of Jesus’ baptism, and a miracle at a wedding.  

The journey of Jesus’ work, persecution, death, and resurrection begins with two celebrations and are followed by an arduous journey.

The good news that we celebrate this week, the good news of the miracle of the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ it is that, it is good news.  

Honestly, it is the best news that we as Christians have to offer the world.  

It is the good news of liberation, so we sing like Miriam “Sing to the Lord, for God has triumphed gloriously!” (Exodus 15).

It is the good news of God who is with us in miraculous ways as our journeys begin with all the twists, turns, term papers, tax forms, and other tribulations, so we sing from the Psalms, Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!  Alleluia!” (Psalm 50).  

It is the good news of a man, God with us, Emmanuel, who came to Earth to dwell among us, who Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and the rest of the disciples saw after his miraculous resurrection and called out in faith, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18), “We have seen the Lord.” (John 20:24), and “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Just like the disciples gathered in that upper room, we are called to do hard work, at times wearisome work because this news is so good.  

But even with good news, it takes hard work to break into the cycle of 24hr bad news with a glimpse of hope.

It takes grabbing our alleluias and carrying them out of the safe space of this sanctuary.  

It takes reaching out to neighbors, offering communion to those who may not feel like they could join us around this table that we has been prepared today.  

So how will we reach out?  

How will the password of peace spoken in that upper room become the shout that follows our Alleluias?  

First, we must be fed by the joy, by the miracle of the resurrection, the liberation, and the fellowship provided to us by our creator and the bread of life, Jesus, our Savior and then we must take our bread, our stories, our hope, and our Alleluias, out into the world so that others may hear, and in hearing, believe the good news, and by believing, have life abundant.  

Amen.

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