Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Growth through repitition. . .

Sermon for Easter 3B, preached on Sunday, April 18, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    There’s a common saying that we all know and most likely we all agree with.  They say variety is the spice of life.  This proverb tells us that new and different experiences are what make life more interesting and exciting.  Repetition is boring.  Repetition is bland.  Repetition is a killjoy.  What we want, what we need is spontaneity; to experience new and different things.  We think variety is more meaningful and authentic.  But, then there’s also this truth, that we’re creatures of habit.  Given the chance for variety and spontaneity over routine and repetition, more often than not, we choose repetition, we choose our routines...and that isn’t a bad thing. 
We think repetition is harmful.  We think repetition is a stumbling block to growth and understanding, but in reality, especially when it comes to growing in our faith, repetition is key.  We need to hear God’s Word constantly.  We need to hear over and over and over again about Christ’s death and resurrection for us.  We need to hear the Gospel repeated, because we so easily forget it. …And we aren’t the only ones.  Jesus’disciples forgot what He said.  They forgot what He said about His death and resurrection.
I.     There were at least three different times that Jesus told His disciples what was going to happen to Him.  On three different occasions, throughout the length of His ministry, Jesus bluntly said He would be killed and on the third day rise again.  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”(Lk 9:21-22, cf Lk 9:43-45 and 18:31-34).  When the crowd came for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, the disciples shouldn’t have been surprised; Jesus said that would happen.  When Christ was beaten and crucified, they shouldn’t have been surprised; Jesus said that would happen.  Our Lord explained all of this to them, and witnessing it, they should’ve known how it was all going to end.  Jesus was going to rise on the third day.  Now, does that mean it would be easy for them to see Jesus betrayed and killed?  No.  Even knowing the end, even knowing that Christ was going to rise victoriously, it was still difficult.  But remembering the promise of the resurrection, their fear would be quieted with expectant hope.  But they forgot what Jesus said.  They didn’t remember His Passion predictions, and so it all was a surprise, even Jesus’resurrection.
    As the disciples were together that first Easter evening, after they heard the report about the empty tomb from the women, while they were talking with the two disciples whom Jesus appeared to on the road to Emmaus, Jesus came to them, and it scared them.  The disciples weren’t expecting to see the risen Lord.  At first, they thought He was a ghost, an evil spirit.  But Christ was patient with them.  He spoke peace to them and invited them to touch His wounds, proof that it was Him, proof that He wasn’t a ghost, but bodily risen from the dead.
    Seeing the Lord standing before them, there should’ve been no doubt in their mind, no question whatsoever.  But Luke tells us that even then there was still disbelief.  The disciples disbelieved for joy.  It was too good to be true.  There’s no way this could be happening.  There’s no way Jesus could be alive. 
    We can understand this kind of disbelief.  There are times in our lives when we hear things that just seem too good to be true.  We disbelieve for joy when the doctor calls and tells us that the cancer is gone.  Husbands and wives who’ve long for a child disbelieve for joy when they discover they’re expecting.  After long periods of unemployment, people disbelieve for joy when they finally get hired.  This is what the disciples were going through.  They were growing in their faith, moving from unbelief and doubt to a sure and confident faith.  And this growth of faith came from hearing the Good News again.
II.    Jesus didn’t only prove His resurrection by showing up and eating some fish, He showed from the Scripture, from the books of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, that everything that happened to Him was foretold.  All of the Bible is about Him, all of it points to His death and His resurrection.  Just as He did for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Christ repeated God’s Word to the disciples that night, and He opened their minds to understand. 
    The disciples had heard these words before.  Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms, they were all read and sung in the synagogue.  The words of Scripture were familiar to them.  And yet, they still needed Jesus to repeat it one more time.  They needed Jesus to focus their attention and show them how it was all connected, all pointing to Him.  And hearing the Word again, they grew in faith; going from disbelieving for joy to believing with joy.
    One of the great temptations of repetition is that we can fall into the trap of thinking we get it.  Since we’ve heard the same thing over and over again we think we understand it.  We can repeat the words, and therefore we know it all; we’ve heard it enough, we’ve become masters of it, and now we can move on to other things.  But that isn’t the case when it comes to our faith and the hearing of God’s Word.  How many of us are bold enough to say that we’re masters of Scripture? 
We aren’t masters of Scripture.  We don’t know everything.  Just think about it; how many times do we read and re-read the same portions of Scripture, and yet every time something new is revealed, some new aspect of the faith comes to light?  How many times do we read and re-read the same portion of Scripture and we see something we’ve never seen before?  It happens all the time.  Therefore, we need to read and hear God’s Word over and over again.  We need to hear the Gospel of Jesus’death and resurrection for us over and over again...not just to gain head knowledge so we can win Bible Trivia, but because it is the very power of our salvation.
Scripture doesn’t just tell you who Jesus is and what He’s done, but it gives you Jesus and the benefits of what He’s done.  Through the Word God gives you the forgiveness of sin.  Through the word God gives you life.  Through the Word He gives you salvation.  St. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).  You receive Christ when the Gospel is preached to you.  You receive Christ when you read and study God’s Word.  You receive Christ when Pastor Peters and I pronounce His Absolution.  And this happens all the time.  There’s no limit.  And you’re never beyond needing it.  
We need to continually hear the Gospel repeated.  We need to hear Jesus’death on the cross and resurrection for us repeated, because we are in constant need of His forgiveness.  We need to hear so that we can grow in our faith, so that we can believe with joy, so that we can receive our Lord.  
The disciples grew in their faith.  They went from disbelieving for joy to believing with joy.  The Lord is risen, and we have forgiveness in His name.  We need to hear this Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection over and over and over again.  This Gospel can never be proclaimed enough.  We can never hear it too much.  We can never become a master of it.  At all times we need to hear His call to repentance.  We need to listen and confess our sins.  And then we need to hear the words of His absolving forgiveness.  And in this repetition, your faith will grow.  In this repetition you will receive your Savior.  In this repetition you will have everlasting life.   

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