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Easter Peace be With You

Readings for Easter II, Year C

Sermon Audio

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

There are many sermons that could be preached from today’s readings. St. John’s account of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples and his interactions with Thomas gives us pause to reflect on the many times and ways our faith in Christ has fallen short.

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles tells of the great faith of the apostles and the rough persecution they bravely faced. In their strength it is easy to dwell on our weakness and the ease in which we follow our luke-warm faith.

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

St. John’s Apocalypse presents to us the resurrected Christ standing as beginning and end, triumphant over death and hell. As the “sharp two-edged sword” comes from his mouth, we can only think of how it will pierce our sins and how his eyes “like a flame of fire” will peer into the darkness of our souls.

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

These are all great sermons and, God willing, I pray I am able to preach them all. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Moses, David, Isaiah, and Ezekiel; this God calls us into his narrative. He calls us to reflect on the ways we have fallen, to name our sin, to repent, and to believe. Our God is holy and he will have a holy people.

In our hyper-critical world it is easy to reflect on the many ways we fall short. We’re not cool enough. We’re not pretty enough. We don’t drive the right car. Live at the right address. If I could just get a better job. If I could just lose another ten pounds. If I were just a little bit smarter. Not enough. Lacking just a little. These are the false stories woven into our contemporary culture. Through social media and our interactions with fallen people in the fallen world, these stories speak continually into our lives.

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Outside of the lies we confront and battle daily, we face the truth of our sinful depravity. The death of a loved one brings to light our neglected relationship with God. Trouble at work, reminds us how deeply we rely on Mammon for our daily bread over the living God. Sickness or fear call us to pray for the first time in weeks. We have indeed sinned against God in “thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”

I don’t know about y’all, but sometimes it’s easy for that old black dog of depression to step into my life. In a world so negative and dark. In a life where we so easily burden ourselves with the task of holiness. Darkness comes easily. This is the work of Satan. He seeks to keep Jesus locked inside the tomb and have us forget the Good News of Easter.

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

I know the struggles of my life over the last several weeks. I know the many struggles of this parish. I know there are many troubles more in this sanctuary known only to God. When Jesus appears to the disciples in John, they have all been through hell. Though they have denied him. Though they have abandoned them. Jesus comes with the peace of his Holy Spirit.

Just as he did so many years ago dying on the cross, today the Eternal Word speaks to me from the Psalms.

The Psalms, in the words of Bishop Andrewes, are part of the duo testamenta (two testaments) of nobis canon unus in scripta relatus a Deo (our canon reduced to writing by God himself). Two testaments. The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. We share the Psalms, Moses, Adam, Isaiah, and so much more with the Jewish people. Jesus sits enthroned now as a Jewish man at the right hand of God the father. The Good News of the Holy Spirit in that first post-resurrection Pentecost was not that God was replacing his chosen people, but that he was increasing it in a new and unexpected way. Our Old Testament, the Bible of the Hebrews, is full of the narrative of God’s grace and mercy. If we are his adopted children, if we are his Holy Bride, God’s people are our people, too.

There is a hate in our country that drives people to kill our Jewish and Black sisters and brothers as they worship or common God. Jesus has already conquered this hate and the death it brings. I pray he leads to the places in our community where this hate lives. I pray he empowers us to douse the flames of evil with the cooling balm of his transformative love.

In the hundred and eleventh Psalm the joy of Easter is rekindled in my heart. In the hundred and eleventh Psalm I am energized to stand behind the banner of Christ and follow his will in our fallen world. In Psalm 111 I hear God speak defiantly against the lies spoken into our lives.

“Praise the Lord!” sings the Psalmist. “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart”. Alive and forgiven through baptism into the eternal life of God, we have much to praise. Our God, left his throne in heaven to become a man for our sake. While the world sells us the false lie of a distant god, the true and living God came so near to us that he took humanity upon himself. Easter isn’t primarily about the teachings of Jesus, abstract love, or utopic visions of lambs lying down peacefully with lions. Easter is about the cosmic reality of what happens when one who is fully human, but also fully God takes on the sins of the whole world and enters death.

Great are the works of the Lord, […] full of splendor and majesty is his work.

Jesus didn’t trick death. Jesus didn’t avoid death. Jesus experienced death more fully and more completely than any human ever will. Jesus broke death. Death came into existence presuming the finite; it was made for creatures with a beginning and an end. Fully divine, Jesus has no end. Death cannot hold him. No tomb. No hell. No expanse of darkness can contain the unending love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This alone should bring us to shouts of praise, but God has done so much more. God’s humanity through the Blessed Virgin’s womb didn’t just bring humanity into God, it brought God into humanity. Jesus bore our flesh as he stood upon the stormy waters. Jesus bled our blood from the cross. His tomb was the same Earth that took Adam back to dust. The Good News of Easter is that Jesus rose for us.

He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered […] he provides food for those who fear him

Each week we worship God together by recalling his mighty works. From Adam, to Moses, to the Cross we remember the valleys and hilltops of God’s people. We recall God’s patience. We remember God’s saving acts. Though we break our promises to him over and over again, “he remembers his covenant forever.” Like manna falling from heaven, Jesus feeds us at his table. Changing common wine and bread into his blood and body, Jesus freely gifts a taste of his prefect resurrected body to us his Church. Jesus feeds our bodies and empowers us with the means of grace required to stand in the world as icons of the Risen Lord. The eternal body that broke death, flows through our veins and lives within our cells.

He sent redemption to his people […] Holy and awesome is his name!

The world says you’re not enough. God agrees, but adopts you as his own and gives you so much of himself that you are transformed from lacking to abounding. So great is God’s love for you, that his first act of creation was to make time so that you could experience slices of his incomprehensible greatness. Binding himself to your humanity, God the Son entered the Creation as Jesus of Mary’s womb. On the cross, Jesus took on the full weight of your sin and the sin of the entire world. Breaking free from the depths of hell, Jesus defeated death and freed you from the penalty of your sin. In baptism, Jesus seals your adoption as a child of God. Having freed you from the burden of your own salvation, Jesus feeds you at his table to strengthen you as he sends you out into the world to share his love in the great name of the Triune God.

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

There is much at work to drive us to depression, to anxiety, to fear. God enters our midst and stands among us. His will for us is always good. Yes, he calls our bluffs. He names our sins. But, he only does this because he knows our potential is more than we can even understand. Further, he knows he is able to pull us along the journey to the places he has prepared for us. He gives us his peace. He leads us to peace.

Praise the Lord!

This is an imperative as well as a declaration. Our God lives. Our God stands by our side. Our God gives us his peace. We don’t deserve the feast of Easter, but Jesus has made us worthy. The Psalmist who wrote the deepest laments, also sings Psalm 111. Even if we don’t yet feel it, let us praise the Lord for his “splendor and majesty,” knowing the wedding feast that awaits us in our future with him.

Happy Easter! May we joyfully feast and sing songs of praise to our King and Redeemer! May those who bomb, kill, and persecute hear the joy of our songs and turn to the God whose arms, even now, stand open and willing for embrace.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.