Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Christ's peace here. . .

Sermon for Easter 2C, preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, April 28, 2019.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
                Peace is something we all want in our lives, but we rarely find it.  What we wouldn’t give for some peace and quiet in our ever changing, constantly moving, always on the go lives.  What we wouldn’t give for some peace from all the social conflicts and politics unrest, from all our struggles at work, from all the shouting at home.  Peace seems to be absent in our world, nowhere to be find.  But it’s not absent.  It’s here.  Christ’s peace is right here, in His Word and Sacrament, for you. 
                The disciples were without peace on Good Friday.  Their Lord was gone.  The One they’d followed for three years, the One they left everything for, was gone.  Their Teacher whom they lived with and saw perform all sorts of miracles, He was gone; dead.  He was betrayed by Judas into the hands of His enemies, and He was betrayed by all the rest when they ran away after His arrest.  Peter betrayed Christ when he outright denied knowing our Lord, even though just a few short hours before he promised he’d follow Jesus wherever He went, even to the point of dying for Christ (Jn 13:37). 
The disciples were without peace on Saturday, not knowing what would happen to them.  As they quietly kept the Sabbath, their future was uncertain.  They were without peace on that first Easter Sunday, afraid and confused, not knowing what happened to the body of the Lord.   Peter and John saw the empty tomb, but they still didn’t understand the Scripture.  That night, they all gathered in a locked room because they feared the Jews.  Would the Jewish religious authorities come looking for them?  Would they be arrested and beaten, accused of stealing Jesus’ body.  Would they be handed over to the Romans to be crucified like Christ?  Just imagine the angst and anxiety the disciples felt.  And then, out of nowhere, Christ appeared in their midst.
The first words out of Christ’s mouth were exactly the words His disciples needed: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19).  These words weren’t hollow encouragement or tentative assurance.  These words gave exactly what they said.  The Lord His peace, peace of the forgiveness of sins. 
The disciples needed this peace, this forgiveness.  They’d abandoned their Lord.  They denied knowing Him.  They didn’t believed His resurrection promises.  But with Christ’s words, that guilt was taken away.  He was there to give them peace.  He was there to send them out, so that they too could speak peace giving words of forgiveness. 
                On that first Easter night, all the disciples knew the peace of forgiveness and the joy of the risen Lord, except for one...Thomas.  Thomas wasn’t there with the other 10.  We don’t know why or where he was, but he didn’t see our resurrected Lord.  He didn’t hear His forgiving and peace giving words...and when they others told him about Christ’s resurrection, He refused to believe.  He wanted physical proof, hard evidence. 
So the next Sunday, again, they all gathered in a locked room.  And again, our risen Lord appeared to them.  And again He said: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:26).  Then He turned to Thomas and told him to put his fingers into the nail holes of His hands and to put his hand into His pierced side.  Immediately, with words of faith, Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
                Jesus appeared with peace and forgiveness for His disciples, men who’d abandoned Him, men who’d doubted His.  And we do the same.
Like the disciples, like Peter, we abandon the Lord in interest of self-preservation.  We hide our faith when it’s not beneficial to show it: in the hallways of school, at the water cooler at work.  When our faith causes us to be an outcast or social pariah, we deny it.  We abandon the Lord when we look for peace in other places: in our bank accounts, in our social status, in the governments and laws of this world.  We abandon our Lord and the holy living He’s called us to when we give in to the temptations of our sinful flesh and the world.
Like Thomas, we doubt the Lord and promises.  Instead of hearing and believing the words of Scripture, we want to see physical evidence.  We demand God give us the proof of miracles.  We want Him to give us personal assurances on our own terms instead of trusting the Word He’s spoken to all.  We want to be the deciders of our faith, what we can believe and what we won’t believe.  We want to pick and choose the truths of Scripture. 
In all of this, we think we’ll find peace.  Peter sought peace in his denial, thinking it would save his life, but it only brought guilt and shame.  Thomas sought the peace of physical proof, but the Lord says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).  Our sin, our abandonment, our doubting, it doesn’t bring peace.  It brings death.  But the Lord has overcome your death and brings you peace, right here, today. 
Just as our Lord came to His disciples in that locked room, He comes to you here.  In His Word and His Sacrament and He says “Peace be with you.”  This peace is the forgiveness of your sins.  As you confess your abandonment and doubt, the Lord answers with His absolution, spoken by His pastors.  These men, like the disciples, Christ sends out to forgive the sins of repentant sinners.  And after that absolution is spoken, the pastor says, “The peace of the Lord be with.” 
Christ’s peace comes to you in His Holy Supper.  As you eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood, He gives you the peace won with His death and resurrection.  You receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.  After words of our Lord are spoken, the pastor raises the host and the cup and proclaims, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”  And then again, after you’ve communed, you’re dismissed with these words, “The body & blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.  Depart in peace.”    
In these things, in the Word and Sacrament of our Lord, you are given His peace.  This peace is a constant, always here.  Here you receive the forgiveness of sins.  Here you receive everlasting life.  Here, in His sanctuary, there’s peace from all the craziness, chaos, and turmoil of our sinful world.  This peace is a peace the world cannot give.  This peace is everlasting and it overcomes all sin and death.  It overcomes your sin and your death.   
Christ gave His peace to His disciples after they abandoned and denied Him.  Christ gave His peace to Thomas when he doubted the Lord’s resurrection.  And Christ gives you His peace through His Word and Sacrament.  This peace is the forgiveness of sins.  This peace is the assurance of life.  This peace is your promised salvation.
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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