John 20.19-31 Quasimodogeniti (Easter 2)
St John's Ev LC, Victor, IA 2013.4.7
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You see here how the Holy Spirit is given to each according to what each needs. God is no glutton. He does all things well, / and in moderation. The Holy Supper, for example: it is Itself an eternal meal, and you Feasted on that eternal Meal just one week ago, (The Easter Feast at that) / yet, / because of your great need, you are here again. God certainly could have given you so much grace last week that you never hungered or thirsted again. But He didn't. He gave you what you asked for (your “daily bread”) and that grace was sufficient. So, He calls you back again this day.
The gift of the life-giving Spirit of God is also like this. In Holy Baptism, you have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, / but, / again, / in moderation. For example: The Holy Spirit sanctifies you, yet you are not yet fully sanctified. The Holy Spirit creates and strengthens faith in you, yet your faith is not yet fully perfected. The Holy Spirit enlightens you, yet you are not yet fully enlightened.
Such was the case also / with the holy Apostles. On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, after He had instituted the Holy Supper, Jesus promised these same apostles that the Father would be sending them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He was speaking primarily about Pentecost, but you see in our Gospel reading for today how Jesus gives them a moderate gift of the Holy Spirit, even before Pentecost. Hear this familiar passage again: “And Jesus breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
The Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles / in just the right amount / that they would have the power to act in the stead and by the command of Christ Himself / to forgive sins on earth. This is what we confess with Luther in the Small Catechism. It says, “I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”
This we believe and confess. We believe these two witnesses: Scripture and the Small Catechism; and our fellowship shows that we believe it.
Easter is the Season of Baptism. In the early Church, most baptisms were done during the Easter Vigil, and for the next eight days, those who were just baptized stayed at Church and received further instruction in the Mysteries of the Faith, and how to live a Christian life in such a hostile environment.
It was no joke. Christians were executed. It was a risk to become a Christian, but the risk didn't stop at Baptism, it continued. Each time they gathered together, they were in danger of losing their lives.
So why did they continue to meet together? That's simple: because they were Baptized. In Baptism, In Christ, they had already died. And they were living, already, the eternal life.
2000 years later, we dare not lose this perspective. Let us also find courage and strength in our Baptism. After all, it was the same Baptism for the early Christians as it is for us: there is but one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. And that one Baptism leads to the one eternal life. A shared Life, for the one common denominator between all Christians is the one who is our Life, Jesus Christ, the Lord.
He is the center of our Life Together, the center of our worship, the purpose and goal of our gathering. It is because we have faith in Him that we dare to deny ourselves and come together, even at the risk of our lives, / or our freedom.
Now, / to be honest: / the real reason the disciples gathered together on that first Easter morning / was because they were afraid. “Look what they did to our Teacher, what will they now do to us,” they must have wondered. A scary thought. Then, Christ came in the midst of them and said, “Peace be with you.” When our Lord said, “Peace be with you,” He was speaking about Himself. For Christ is our Peace. By the power of His death, He destroyed death and opened to us the gates of heaven, so that, in faith, we may walk through them. Peace with God is now established.
Beloved in the Lord, / do you have peace?
Certainly you have this peace objectively, just as the whole world does, because of Jesus' death. That's the Gospel. That's the saving message that we proclaim in and to this hostile world.
And the world is hostile, every last inch of it is now rebellious against it's Creator and Lord. And you, as Friends of this same Lord, are bombarded by this hostile world daily. Life is hard, and it often hurts. It shouldn't be that way, but sin has caused it to be so, / in other words, sin is a barrier to peace.
But that's outside of you. The peace I'm asking you to contemplate here this morning, / the same peace that Jesus came to bring / is still possible even in the midst of so much external hostility. The martyrs of the Church show us this very thing. Some of you have read the letter from Saeed Abedini, the Christian pastor in Iran who is imprisoned simply for being a Christian. That letter showed an inner peace / even in the face of such awful persecution.
How is this possible? It is the grace of God; it is a gift. The Lord has given him the strength needed for his trials. Still, a moderate amount, but always just the right amount. This gift doesn't make the suffering and pain any less, though it may, but it gives the strength to continue on in the faith, to remain faithful, and joyful and thankful, / even to death.
Beloved in the Lord, / do you have this same peace? What is it that attacks you? What hostility do you face. Perhaps not beatings and ridicule for the sake of Christ, though I know some of you do suffer in this way, but each of you has his own struggle, not only from the world, but also from inside of you. And because of this, God is here this morning to provide each of you with the moderate gift of grace, what is needed for you to press on for another week in your situation.
See here [point to altar], here is the means / of that very grace of God, for you. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God puts the actual body and blood of the Prince of Peace / into your body and blood. And this Body and Blood of Christ is the same body and blood which was strong enough even to defeat death, not only your death, but everyone's death, for all of time. So come and receive this Grace again, It is certainly powerful enough to destroy your enemies. And to bring you Peace again.
In the name of +Jesus, our Prince of Peace. Amen.