Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sermon: Quasimodo Geniti (Easter 2) – 2014

27 April 2014

Text: John 20:19-31 (Ez 37:1-14, 1 John 5:4-10)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

What makes us Christians different than everyone else is not that we’re better than anyone else, not that we have earned our salvation by our good works, and not that we know some secret knowledge.  What makes us different, dear brothers and sisters of our risen Lord Jesus Christ, is our confession.

For we confess about Jesus what St. Thomas, sometimes called the Doubter, himself confessed: “My Lord and my God!”  But Thomas’s confession took some convincing.  Thomas was plagued by sin, including the sin of doubting the very Word of God.  Thomas did not believe that our Lord had risen from the dead, because Thomas doubted the divinity of Jesus.  Thomas had not yet been converted to the religion of the crucified and resurrected Jesus, the only religion that promises forgiveness of sins and eternal life by virtue of the grace and mercy of God, won for us at the cross, and confirmed for us at the empty tomb.  St. Thomas had ceased being a Christian, and had fallen away from the true faith, that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man, that He came “by water and blood” and that “the Spirit is the one who testifies.” 

And as St. John also reveals to us by that same Spirit: “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.  Whoever does not believe God, has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son.”

And in His mercy, our Lord Jesus Christ comes to Thomas.  He doesn’t come to scold or to condemn, but the Good Shepherd comes to comfort and to re-gather Thomas into the flock of His beloved sheep.  He greets the disciples as He so often does: “Peace be with you!”

A week before the reconversion of St. Thomas, the Lord had appeared to the other disciples.  At that point, He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit, the one who testifies to the truth.  And He also authorized them to forgive sins under His command and authority. 

Thomas was not present that first time.  The Lord allowed him to spend a week wrestling with the testimony of those given the Holy Spirit to forgive and to testify in the name of Jesus.  And when our Lord appeared to Thomas, when the Lord manifested Himself physically, it was then that Thomas confesses: “My Lord and my God!”

The fact that God is a Man is part of that testimony given by the Holy Spirit, testimony that can either be believed or rejected.  The fact that God took human flesh, that God was born to a mother, that God experienced life in our fallen world without sin, was condemned by our sinfulness, was crucified, died, and was buried, and who rose again to offer Himself to us in Word and Sacrament, so that we might be saved from sin and death – is difficult to believe.  In fact, we say it together with our brothers and sisters around the world as we confess: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

In the same way, the Spirit led Thomas to His confession, as the Lord Jesus Christ used His Word and His flesh to invigorate Thomas with the very faith by which he receives God’s grace, receiving eternal life as evidenced by that bold and death-defying confession: “My Lord and my God!”

And as St. John, who reports these events to us himself confesses: “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

There are many ways to doubt this truth, this testimony, this confession of the one true faith.  Many believe Jesus is only a man, now dead, nothing more nothing less.  Others believe that Jesus is some kind of angel or saint.  Others deny the true humanity of our Lord, considering Him to be some kind of consciousness or energy.  Others believe in false gods, be they made of wood or metal, or gods made out of money, entertainment, or the self.  Some desperately want to believe, but are dying for their lack of contact with the very Word of life that will restore and revive them, as our Lord did to Thomas.

Dear friends, we are like the dry bones in the valley that Ezekiel saw while “in the Spirit of the Lord.”  And though the bones were dry, disconnected, and lacking flesh, Ezekiel saw them transform before his very eyes.  He watched the Lord reassemble them in their flesh and breathe life and spirit into them.  He watched them rise again, a resurrection.  And He heard the Lord speak a promise: “I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O My people….  And I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live…. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

Dear friends, amid the world’s mockery and disbelief, amid the maze of false doctrine and confused cults, amid a culture that openly embraces evil, amid the sinful nature of our own flesh, amid a life in which Satan is the prince of this world, amid an existence in which we must always confront death and mortality, by virtue of the Word and in debt to our Lord who likewise manifests Himself to us in His very flesh and blood, by the Spirit’s testimony of the truth, and through the proclamation of men speaking by Christ’s command and authority, we confess with St. Thomas concerning our Lord Jesus Christ: “My Lord and my God!”

He is a Lord and God who is merciful.  He is a Lord and God who saves us.  He is a Lord and God who comes to us as a human being.  He is a Lord and God who dies for us to redeem us.  He is a Lord and God who rose from the dead, and who promises resurrection to all who are baptized and who believe.

Let us receive the blessing of Peace from our risen Lord as we too meet Him in His wounded flesh and shed blood in a communion even more wonderful than the communion our Lord shared with Thomas in His gracious invitation to examine His wounds.

Let us examine our own wounds, let us examine our consciences and our sins, and let us confess “My Lord and my God” of Him who has come that “by believing” we “may have life in His name.”

“My Lord and my God!”  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


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