Sermon April 18, 2021, “Still Risen?”

New Testament Reading:

            1 John 3: 1-7              (CEB)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us.

Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves even as he is pure. Every person who practices sin commits an act of rebellion, and sin is rebellion. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and there is no sin in him. Every person who remains in relationship to him does not sin. Any person who sins has not seen him or known him.

Little children, make sure no one deceives you. The person who practices righteousness is righteous, in the same way that Jesus is righteous.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Gospel Reading:

            Luke 24: 36-49           (Common English Bible)

36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 37 They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

38 He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” 40 As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of baked fish. 43 Taking it, he ate it in front of them.

44 Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.”

This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise to you Lord Christ.

Sermon, April 18th, 2021

            Christ is risen! Christ is risen? It feels like by the time we get to this Sunday in the Eater season, we change the word indeed, “Christ is risen indeed”, for a question mark at the end, “Christ is risen?” That’s why I tend to say as a reminder, “Christ is STILL risen!”

It feels like Easter was months ago! I mean we still have reminders of Easter all around us, but it still feels like a long time ago. All the peeps are gone. So is the chocolate. As Pastor Emily noted last week, it’s hard to keep the festive candy around with little ones at home. Easter still feels like a long time ago. I don’t mean just the celebration or the candy, but the feeling of resurrection. That’s how I felt this week. You know that feeling of resurrection, right? That feeling of new life, fresh energy, and excitement. It was in the air. You could feel it. Then post Easter arrived. “They were terrified and afraid.” They had questions, doubts, and those voices crept back in saying that resurrection isn’t possible. Are we talking about the disciples or us?

            While the disciples were still talking about the news of the day; Jesus’ death, the missing body, the reports of Jesus being seen alive again, the risen Lord came among them. It seems like his presence among them would be enough, but he tells them, as he did before, “Peace be with you.” It’s a very common phrase in Scripture. In John, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” After Jesus healed the sick woman in Mark he told her, “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” In John, after Jesus explains that he will die, he tells the confused and frightened disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” They could have used those words after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

            Wait, he did say that to them. When Jesus appeared to the disciples he said, “Peace be with you.” When he appeared again to Thomas and the disciples, he said again, “Peace be with you.” After the experience of two unnamed disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, an experience only recorded in the Gospel of Luke, the disciples are discussing all that happened on the road, the appearances of the risen Lord, when the risen Lord shows up among them again and says what? “Peace be with you.”

            Instead of feeling reassured or hopeful, they think he’s a ghost. Jesus gives them the same proof he gave Thomas last week. “Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t haven’t flesh and bones like you see I have.” While this and the next section of the readings, where Jesus eats, might seem to be out of place, but there’s really a lot of significance here.

Luke is trying to tell us that the resurrection is real. It’s not just Jesus’ spirit walking around, but it’s really him, a new life, a new body, fully resurrected. Jesus’ resurrected body has “flesh and bones” and apparently eats. This gives some flesh to the resurrection and some earthiness to it. It’s not just some high theological idea or theory, no, the resurrection of Christ shows us that he is truly “in the midst” of them and still among us. Just as Jesus was born with flesh and blood, and that flesh was crucified, it was also raised to live new life. It makes the resurrection real and possible!

            Still, we read in Luke that the disciples “were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness.” Even as they saw physical evidence of the risen Jesus standing among them, they still wondered and questioned. They were filled with joy at the very thought that this could actually be true, but they still had their post Easter experience. The disciples had what so many of us long for, physical proof of the resurrection. He was standing in front of them, yet that still didn’t fully convince them.

            You might expect Jesus to become frustrated with them. They followed Jesus for a few years, they knew him, and loved him, and they still didn’t get it. You might expect a grand teaching, a theological discourse, an amazing sermon from Jesus, a mystical experience of the Spirit of God hovering over his new shiny resurrection body or maybe a voice from above, and instead Jesus asks, “Do you have anything to eat?” That’s it! Wait a minute? That’s it? Again, Jesus’ resurrection is one of flesh and blood. It’s real and really in front of them. Yet they still had their doubts. They still struggled.

            Our post Easter experience is one where we are found trying to hold onto the resurrection a little longer. As I preached on Easter Sunday, our invitation is to live the resurrection every day, but there are days I wonder. Sure, there are times when I wonder am I ever going to break this habit or overcome this or that temptation. There are weeks when I watch the news, like this one, and I wonder if new life or a new way of life is ever possible. I especially felt that this week as we witnessed yet another death in Minneapolis while the trial is going on for another death a year ago. It’s all terrible and sad. Then we hear the news here at home of more shootings and even the death of a 16-year-old at the hands of gun violence. When we see all of this, we might question, doubt, and even fear that resurrection isn’t possible or didn’t happen in the first place. We might think that dead things stay dead and that includes Jesus, but that’s not the way of our living God.

            It’s in that post Easter place of doubt and struggle to hold on that the risen Jesus shows up with outstretched hands saying, “Peace be with you.” He reminds us that not only is resurrection possible it’s life, it’s reality. Even if Easter feels like months ago and it was actually two weeks ago, we can choose every day to live and experience the resurrection, to believe it is possible. I often keep the line out of the Rule of Saint Benedict close to my heart, “Always we begin again.” We choose to begin again and again to believe in and live the resurrection. We pick ourselves up, we might take an Easter nap, eat some broiled fish, and keep moving. We begin again and we say to ourselves and our unbelieving world that “Jesus is STILL risen!”

There’s always going to be that voice that tries to talk you out of believing it or trying it or living it, but there’s another voice, the voice of the risen Lord who says, “Peace be with you.” It’s that voice that brings us to wholeness, that makes us complete, that brings us abundant love, it’s the voice of our risen Lord. In those difficult moments when we feel like we’ve lost that Easter spirit of resurrection, we can remember those moments when the risen Lord walked with us. Sometimes we forget and we need to remember the presence of our risen Lord.

I had the chance to cross the border into Michigan this week and visit with our beloved church member Marie Kangas. She had a birthday recently, so I had to go visit her. She told me that she just turned 49. If people want to think she’s 102, that’s fine, but she’ll tell you she is 49! Marie is a blessing to so many people. She loves talking with the people she eats with asking them about church and their faith. She encourages those around her. I have to tell you that before I left, she had introduced me to three of the staff by name and she introduced me as her pastor. I even learned that one of the nurses is having a baby because Marie asked her about how she was feeling. That gave me the opportunity to say a word of encouragement and blessing to this young expecting nurse. Marie always looks for an opportunity to bless someone else, to lift them up, to encourage them. Marie is a witness to the resurrection.

            Sometimes when we forget that it’s still Easter, that we have a resurrection faith, we need to remember that we are to be witnesses. Jesus told the disciples about all that had happened. They were not to forget these things. Then be witnesses. “You are witnesses of these things.”

            As we try to hold onto the spirit of celebration we felt a few weeks ago, we are also invited to become witnesses not only of the celebration of resurrection, but in the ways we have lived it and experienced it.

When those other voices try to make us doubt the resurrection, may we hear the risen Lord say, “Peace be with you.” When we lose hope that it’s real, may the risen Lord say, “Peace be with you.” When we wonder if resurrection is even possible today, may the risen Lord stand among us with outstretched hands and arms and say, “Peace be with you.”

            May we continue to be witnesses to the resurrection, holding onto the proclamation that “Jesus is STILL risen!” He is not dead. He is alive. He is telling us today and always, “Peace be with you.” He is sending us to be witnesses of these things and to always know that “Jesus is STILL risen!” Amen.

I invite us to proclaim our Easter faith in this affirmation of faith. Please respond with the bold words……

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