Friday, April 17, 2015

Disbelieving for joy. . .

Sermon for the Circuit Brethren, preached on Thursday, April 16, 2015 (text Luke 24:36-38)

I wish I could believe you. . . says the wife to the husband who has admitted infidelity and promises never to stray again.    I wish I could believe you says the sponsor to the addict who has fallen off the wagon but vows never to do it again.  I wish I could believe you says the parent to the child who has broken faith one more time with words and actions.  I wish I could believe you says the merchant who has heard one more excuse from someone who cannot pay his bill but promises to make it good.  I wish I could believe you says the patient to the doctor who says the news is bad but there is a chance of recovery.  I wish I could believe you says the grief stricken family to the pastor who speaks of hope, resurrection, and everlasting life.

We live in a real world of disappointments, of caution which finds it safer to be skeptical than to pin your hopes on something only to be let down, and of broken promises from the people we count on most.  We do not want to disbelieve and it would give us only the greatest joy to believe that our cheating spouse will not cheat again, the addict will not use again, the kid will not screw up again, the deadbeat will not renege on his debt again, the doctor will not disappoint again, and the pastor will not just speak nice words again. . . but we are left with the track record of death, disappointment, destruction, decay, disease, and darkness and we don’t know how else to live.

So I understand the disciples disbelieving for joy.  Christ was dead and the whole world saw Him suffer, cry out from the cross, breath His last, and the spear pierce His side.  What they wanted to believe and what they thought they could afford to believe were two different things.  And they are for you and me as well.

Easter’s challenge is not to sing the alleluias and shout Christ is risen on Easter Sunday.  No, the challenge of Easter is to look into the eyes of the person who has hurt you one more time and forgiven them as Christ has forgiven you.  The challenge of Easter is to hope when everything around says the rate of recidivism is impossibly high for addicts, folks behind in their bills, people who get cancer, and grieving folks who find the hurt too deep to believe again.

Here we come.  The broken, the disappointed, the skeptic, the addict, the sinner, the bereaved. . . and what does Jesus offer?  The meal of His flesh in bread and His blood in wine.  The witness of Scripture which says the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms all testify to the Christ who must suffer and on the third day rise and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations...

The refuge for the doubting, for the skeptic, for the hardened sinner, for the grief stricken, for the cancer victim, for the aged, for the youth, for the seemingly righteous and those whose shame is terribly obvious....  Christ offers us Himself in bread and wine, rich with forgiveness, deep with grace, abundant in mercy, and strong enough to hold up all our broken hopes and hearts.  Christ offers us the plan that always was, before the foundation of the world, witnesses first in the Law Christ would keep for us all and in the prophets whose message hid the cross, I am here. . .

I am not at all sure we come as the confident who do not doubt or fall or struggle. . . but like the disciples of old we come disbelieving for joy, hoping against hope, the tomb is empty and the promise is full, the cross has paid the debt and we are free in Christ from prison of our first parents choice.  Faith comes but in halting steps, small advances, and little gains.  We keep coming back here disbelieving for joy, eating Christ’s flesh, drinking His blood, hearing His Word, and Christ walks us more and more into the light.  The old Adam still beckons but little by little our fearful hearts learn, there is something stronger than sin in the blood of Christ, stronger than death in the flesh of Christ, and stronger than doubt and fear in the Word of Christ.  Lord, where else can we go?  You alone have the Words of the eternal life.  Amen.
Christ is Risen.  He is Risen indeed.  Alleluia!

1 comment:

Joseph Bragg St Polycarp of Smyrna Orthodox Chapel, Smyrna TN said...

Wonderful homily! Thank you.