Our April 19 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. Due to technical difficulties, it is available in two parts.
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The Sunday 8 am service on April 26 is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
April 19 Worship Service Sermon: EASTER 2
Acts 2:14a, 22-32 Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9 John 20:19-31
The Gospel lesson today, as will be the next several Gospel lessons during the Season of Easter, is a post-resurrection appearance of the risen Christ. Actually, it is two post-resurrection appearances a week apart. The first one takes place on the evening of the day of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday, the second takes place a week later, or, as per the Church calendar, today.
The first time, the disciples are gathered in the locked room. The room is locked for a good reason. The disciples are terrified that now the Jewish leaders or the Romans are going to come to arrest them next. And there was a good chance of that. They are afraid that they are going to suffer the same fate as Jesus (ironically, many of them do, but years down the road). They are hiding. They have already heard from the women that morning that Jesus has been raised, but they don’t really believe it. Luke even tells us in his Gospel account that the disciples “regarded it as an idle tale,” or more likely, they didn’t know what to believe. Suddenly, Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.” In fact, he says it twice. Because, at this point, this is what the disciples really need to hear. They have no peace. Also, his sudden appearance in the locked room probably was enough to terrify their already shattered nerves! He breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and gives to them what we call the Power of the Keys, the power to forgive or retain sins, the power which the Church has continued to proclaim in Jesus’ name.
So far, so good: there is only one problem. Thomas, called the Twin, isn’t there. What is striking about the story this year is that most of you aren’t here. It presents an interesting parallel. Through history, he has been called Doubting Thomas. I’ve heard from a number of people who have told me that it just doesn’t seem like Easter this year. There weren’t special services to attend. And with current restrictions, celebrations have been very muted. Thomas wasn’t there with the others to celebrate, like many of us. He is the only one who wasn’t sitting around in the locked room. He was out and about. In fact, the usual take on what Thomas was doing out and about was that he was buying groceries for the group. That’s about the only thing that many people get out of their homes for, another parallel. And when Thomas is present, and the others tell him, “We have seen the Lord.” He doesn’t believe them. But, in light of the events, I think everyone of us would have responded in the same way. “Jesus has been raised from the dead, and resurrected, really? Show me.” Remember, up to this point, they hadn’t believed either. Let’s face it, the proclamation of the Risen Christ kind of goes against our common experience. And, although I have tried to hear people try to explain the resurrection, frankly it can’t be done. All you can do is proclaim it. “God has raised Jesus from the dead.” Thomas is no different than anyone else. Thomas wants what the others have received. That is all. And, I’m certain that through the centuries, there have been a lot of people with that attitude.
As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for.” A week later Thomas gets what he asked for, in spades. Jesus appears to them a second time. I think Jesus appears this second time to meet Thomas’ request, but also to give him what he hasn’t received: Peace, the Holy Spirit, and the Power of the Keys. It is a case of “seeing is believing.” Thomas sees and believes. John doesn’t tell us whether Thomas actually has to touch Jesus’ wounds or not. I don’t think that he did. Just seeing Jesus would have been enough. He cries out, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then says, and is echoed by Peter in the Second Lesson today, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” That would be us.
The Gospel writers tell us of the post-resurrection appearances as proof that Jesus is alive. That is the wonder of the Resurrection. But, thinking about them this week, it suddenly occurred to me that not only are these appearances proofs of the Resurrection, and that Jesus is alive, they also serve the other side. They are extensions of the Mystery of the Incarnation. The divine cannot be killed, but the human can. The divine of Jesus, God’s Son does not just leave His earthly body behind. In Him, the human and the divine are joined, still. It was not just Jesus’ divine nature that is resurrected, it is His human as well. Humanity is glorified in the Resurrection, and later again in Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. Death could not hold His divine nature, and He took His human nature with Him. It is indeed a Mystery, and a deep one. In the world of theology we say that prior to the crucifixion Jesus’ human nature overshadows His divine nature. After the resurrection, Jesus’ divine nature overshadows His human nature. But, they are still joined together. As the Athanasian Creed puts it, “Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ. He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity. He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures,” that is His divine and human natures. We have been glorified through Christ, as He is raised victorious over sin, death and the devil! But, isn’t that what John is trying to explain to us in the very first Chapter of his Gospel, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us?” We too are changed because of this “God graceful event!” God has claimed us as His own. That is something for everyone during this Season of Easter, as we “Shelter at Home,” like the disciples in the locked room, to think on, and come to believe more deeply. Peace be with you! And, you have received the Holy Spirit!
For those of us who have come to believe, we have life in His name. For in Christ, the love of God is made manifest. Christ saves us from sin; delivers us from death; and keeps the devil from us. In Him, we are saved and glorified. For He is risen! He is risen indeed!