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06 Easter 02 Second Sunday of Easter John 20.19-35

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Alleluia, Christ is risen!!  He is risen indeed, alleluia.  Our text for today comes to us from the 20th chapter of St. John’s gospel, beginning with the 19th verse.

What a day it must have been.  The disciples are behind locked doors, and the reason why? Is because they are afraid.  This isn’t “I saw a scary movie and now my mind is planning tricks on me afraid.”  This is, “I’m freaking out because my life is danger.”

Welcome to the continuation of our Easter story, which began last week.  The morning of Easter is fairly well known, but what happens latter that evening I think is too easily overlooked.  But for the disciples, for the life of the church, that would be you and me, these verses are very important.  What are the disciples afraid of?  They are afraid of the Jewish leaders.  Why?  Because they had seen what had just happened to Jesus.  Here is where the disciples are.

Three days earlier, they saw their Lord, the Messiah, the one who was going to make all things right in the world, God in the flesh, they saw him, betrayed, forced through a mockery of a trail, crucified and killed, placed into a tomb, and that tomb was even sealed.  They know that earlier that morning the tomb was empty.  It is kind of funny, I think.  Verse 10 says that they saw and believed and then they went home.  Sometime between the empty tomb and that evening, fear takes over and doors get locked. 

And can you really blame them?  I mean, I know that I would be freaking out at this point too.  Besides they probably were recalling the words of Jesus loud and clear, "When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you.  19 The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don't. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you.  20 Do you remember what I told you? 'A servant is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you!” Click, just making sure that those doors are still locked. 

Jesus, the risen Lord, comes into their midst.  These poor disciples.  If they were scared before, what about now?  But Jesus is so good, so gentle.  If it had been me, I would have said, “Boo!”  But lucky for all of us, I am not Jesus.  Instead, before they have a chance to be even more afraid, Jesus simply says, “Peace be with you.”  A greeting to be sure, and far more appropriate than “Waz upp??!!”  He greets them with peace, shows them his hands and his side, and the response of the disciples?  They rejoice.  They rejoice.  In this moment their belief is confirmed by their sight.  And the feeling?  Relief, joy.  And somewhere, maybe way far back in their minds, maybe not, there is the sense that this is just odd. 

Jesus again greets them with peace.  And then he says, “I want you to know that your comfort and happiness are of the utmost importance.  So whatever you have to do, make those things a top priority.”  Right?  Well, not exactly.  Although it is easy to distracted and to get caught up in that kind of a mindset.  No instead Jesus sends them out just as he was sent by the father.  He sends them out into the world. 

Though it is safe behind the locked doors, he sends out his disciples into the very world that had crucified him. Why?  Because of his great love for this world.  It is the desire of God that no one should be separated from him by their sins, but how can they hear this message unless someone is sent to them.  Here’s the key, he does not send them alone, by themselves.  Instead he breaths on them and gives them the Holy Spirit.  “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven.  If not they are not forgiven.” 

This is no small matter.  This is not one of those things where you go and say the right things, and do nice things, and then there are warm fuzzies and everyone is happy.  Blah blah blah.  No this is ministry.  The forgiveness of sins.  That is a big deal.  This is the ministry of reconciliation.  This is why Jesus came into the world in the first place, not so that people who be punished, but so that they could be healded and restored and forgiven and in relationship with our God.  This ministry that Jesus sends his disciples to do is the continuation of the work that was begun by Jesus.  Now that he is risen from the dead, he must return to the Father in heaven, but he does not leave his people alone.  Instead he sends his Spirit.  And a few weeks into the future, when the Holy Spirit comes upon all members of the church, well, then things really begin to get exciting.

What are you afraid of? What is going on in your life that causes you to hide behind those locked doors? … The message for you then is “Fear not, for the risen Christ is with us always, and he will see us through.  Is it sin? He forgives.  Is it a problem? There is no problem he cannot handle.  Is it a trial? There is no trial he will allow to overcome us.  He will always love and care for us and so we can live joyfully in his grace, and living in this way, we too can know the peace that he greeted his disciples with.”

And as wonderful as these truths are, there is more to the text then Jesus giving us peace in midst of our fears.   And so while affirming that Jesus is indeed with us individually and personally, and that in him we have peace and hope and joy and comfort and forgiveness and life.  And that those things for you and me are to be a source of comfort and joy and strength.  What we also need to see in this text a call to the church to carry out the mission of her Lord, and to do the work of God in this place in this world. 

Again, I will ask.  What are we afraid of?  What is it that causes us to hide behind our doors?  I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day.  We found it interesting that even though we know that God is in control.  That he rules and reigns, that nothing that happens is outside of his ability to handle, and that as he rules and reigns he does all things so that his church can accomplish her mission in this world, we found it interesting that even though we know this to be true, that we often act as if it were not the case.

It is almost funny when you think about it.  How often do we approach things in our lives as if those circumstances were outside of God’s ability to work through?  How often do we act like everything is dependent upon us and if we don’t do then God can’t get it done?  But do you want to know something?  God is big enough to handle anything we face.  Now why he allows us to go through the things we go through, or to experience I cannot say.  But we can certainly know the peace of God which surpasses all understanding in the midst of those things.  Our Father Lutheran Church is not called by God to stay behind the our doors, but to go out into the world, to proclaim the good news, and to love and serve our community because God loves them.  There is a great Luther quote.  He says, “It is the job of every Christian to be Christ to their neighbors.”  Of course this is a mindset.  So it requires that we think a little differently than what we are use to.  As we make decisions now, as we plan for the future we need to ask, “Is this for us?”  or “Is this for our neighbors?”  How can we work to be a blessing to the people that God has placed into our lives?  How can we make use this building, and the activities that take place here, to provide opportunities to connect people to Jesus and to grow in that relationship with him. 

These are questions that we need to ask not just in our meetings, but in the way we live and interact with one another around here.  If you are part of the Experience 101 class, you know that we have been pounding home the importance of wearing name tags.  That is a small and easy thing to do, and in doing that you are making this place more welcoming.  It is just that simple.  But no matter what the ministry issues are, we can be confident that the Holy Spirit will be with us.  That he will care for us and enable us to show that same care to others.  That he can move us outside of the locked doors and into the world.  Because after all, Easter is the final word.  Not even death has the last word.  But Easter does, and so there is nothing that can take that away from us.  So there is no need to hide or be afraid.

I don’t have to tell you to take some time this week to list out what it is that frightens us.  Chances are those things come up on their own without much prompting.  But when they do come up over this next week, I want you to ask God what he is trying to teach you through this, and to pray in the midst of it that his will would be done. 

As God works in the lives of his people, he strengthens us and makes us more and more into the image of his son.  Though we would like to remain in the safety of the locked doors, that is not what God is calling us to do, instead he gives to us his Holy Spirit, and the task of being ministers of reconciliation, and continuing the mission that was begun by Jesus.  We do not walk this road alone, but we have the blessing of one another, and as we live in this way, we will bring glory to our God.  May his Spirit fill us and move us.  May his will be done in our midst.  May he receive glory through the things we say and do.  And may his peace be with us as we do these things.  Now and always.  Alleluia Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed. Alleluia.  Amen.

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