Peace Be With You – Sermon for Quasimodo Geniti (April 27th/28, 2014)

 

Peace Be With You

John 20:19-23

2nd Sunday of Easter (Quasimodo Geniti)

April 27th/28th, 2014

St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

Fear.  Hiding.[1]  They seem to go together hand-in-hand.  Where there is fear, there will be hiding.  It’s been that way since the beginning of time.  There in the garden were the first man and woman, naked, exposed in their sin, and hiding.  But from whom are they hiding?  Do they really think that they can hide from the all-seeing eye of the all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe?  I’d hope not.  But then again, that’s probably exactly why they’re hiding.  They know he is the all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful adam_eve230212_02creator of the universe, and they know that they have sinned against him.  They know they have eaten from the tree of which the Lord said, “You shall not eat.”  They know they have been bested in a battle of wits against the serpent.  They know they are naked.  They, like God, now know the difference between good and evil – and they know which one they are.  They know they have sinned.  They are ashamed.  They are afraid, so they hide.

Fear.  Hiding.  They go together hand-in-hand.  The disciples hide for fear of the Jews.  The disciples hide for fear that they will be the next ones to be captured, the next to be put on trial before the Sanhedrin, the next to be sent to the kangaroo court before Pilate, then Herod, then back to Pilate again.  The disciples are afraid that they are going to be the next ones whipped and beaten within an inch of their lives, forced to carry the instrument of their own torture to the place of their death, nailed to a wooden cross and executed, condemned to endure one of the most excruciatingly painful forms of death ever conceived in the gruesome mind of sinful man.  The disciples are afraid, so they hide.

Fear.  Hiding.  They go together hand-in-hand.  We hide out of fear.  Like our first parents in the garden, we know our own sin.  We know all too well, better than anyone else, how sinful we really are.  We know the inmost desires of our hearts.  “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” wrote the prophet Jeremiah.[2]  We may be unable to fully understand our hearts, but we know all too well what they are capable of.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, hatred, lust, sexual immorality, greed, lies, slander.[3]  These come from our hearts, and we know it, so we hide.

We hide behind walls of rationalization by lying to ourselves, saying that any desire we feel must therefore be natural or we wouldn’t feel it.  We hide behind walls of self-justification by playing the card of the Pharisees and measuring ourselves against other 20110312021240-bricksinners rather than measuring ourselves against God’s holy Law.  “I’m better than so-and-so,” we tell ourselves in a vain attempt to bury the guilt our conscience feels over our true condition.  “At least I don’t do drugs.” “At least I don’t cheat on my spouse.”  “At least I go to church.”  We hide behind a self-constructed wall of good intentions and bad excuses.  “I would have spoken up and defended my neighbor, but I didn’t know what to say.”  “I know that I technically cheated on my taxes, but it was only a little, and money is really tight this year.”  “I know that I watched that movie with lust in my heart, but it’s not like I said or did anything wrong.” “I know I really hate my boss, but he’s asking for it.”

Hiding.  All we are doing is hiding, hiding because of our fear.  Fear of being held accountable to a higher standard.  Fear of having our sins and shortcomings brought to light.  Fear of being seen for who we truly are: sinful and unclean.  Hiding and fear go together.  But like Adam and Eve could not hide from the all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe, where do we think we can hide where our Lord cannot find us?  There is no place that is safe, for our Lord Jesus is not Superman and our acts of kindness and charity are not lined with lead.  Our Lord sees right through our so-called good deeds to the truth of our hearts.  There is nowhere to hide.  He will find us, just like he found Adam and Eve.

And thanks be to God for that.  Thanks be to God that he does find us, even when we hide, just like he found Adam and Eve, just like he found those hiding disciples.  For remember that when our Lord found Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden, he comforted them with the promise of the one who would crush the serpent’s head.  He made them garments of skin to clothe their nakedness.  He escorted them from the tree so that they would not eat of it and be trapped living in their sin forever.  When our Lord found Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden, he had mercy on them.[4]  Remember what happened when Jesus found the disciples locked in the upper room for fear of the Jews.  The resurrected prcas2184Christ did not come in to interrogate them for their cowardice or scold them for their lack of faith.  He came to speak peace into 10 lives burdened with the oppressive weight of fear.  There stands the risen and victorious Christ in their midst, come to show them his wounds not to say, “Look what you did to me,” but rather “See what I have done for you!”

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says.  When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  Not afraid.  Joyful.  Mission accomplished.  10 lives now overflowing with peace where fear once ruled the day.  Death has been defeated, there is no need to fear, there is no need to hide.  Sin has been overcome, there is no need to fear, there is no need to hide.  Satan has been conquered, there is no need to fear, there is no need to hide.  Where there once cowered 10 fearful men who amounted to little more than a heap of lifeless bones, the Lord spoke
words of life.  Bone was joined to bone, flesh came upon them, and the breath of life filled their souls.  Jesus is risen, there is no need to fear, there is no need to hide.  Jesus is living, and through the power of his Word, now his Apostles were alive in him too. So alive, in fact, that our Lord sent those apostles out from their hiding place to share the peace they have received.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  JesusOnCross_01As the Father has sent me, so also I am sending you.”  As the Father sent me?  How exactly did God send his Son into the world?  “God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world
might be saved through him.”[5]  God the Father sent his son into the world to save the world.  Jesus sent the apostles into the world to save the world, not by dying for it again, no, Jesus had already done that.  Rather the disciples were sent out to save the world by delivering to it the peace just delivered to them through the Word they were given to speak.  Our Lord doesn’t want his gift of peace to stop with 10 souls, but wants it delivered to every person everywhere.

As Jesus sends them on their way, he gives them the tool that they need for their task.  For having sent them, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”  The peace that the apostles speak is not of this world – it is the peace of the Spirit himself, for it is the Spirit himself.  Into these men Christ breathes his Spirit and sends them out into the world to use that Spirit to deliver the gift of peace.    And so they did.  The disciples took up the ministry of reconciliation and began preaching Christ crucified all over the ancient world.  And churches began to sprout up: in Ephesus, in Galatia, in Corinth, in Rome.  In whatever places the Apostles delivered the message of peace that they themselves received, other lives were filled with peace.  And having delivered that peace, the Apostles then sent other men to do the same.  And so the Word of the Lord was sown.  The peace of the Lord was delivered as more and more people heard the message of reconciliation.  That very same peace has been delivered into your life by the spiritual descendants of the apostles, by the pastors who have baptized you, who have fed you the body and blood of the risen Lord, who have catechized you and preached to you from this very pulpit, who have stood before you in this place to declare your sins forgiven in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  But as with the apostles, so with you.  As Jesus delivered peace into their lives and then sent them to carry that peace to others, so also he has delivered peace into your life and sent you to deliver that same peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding.

keep-calm-jesus-is-the-risen-kingAnd yet so often we are hesitant.  So often we are too afraid.  While our Lord would have us go, we hide like Jonah.  Fear and hiding go together hand-in-hand, and so we often hide from the opportunities to speak our Lord’s Word of peace.  Maybe we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.  Maybe we’re afraid of being called a hypocrite.  Maybe we’re afraid of not having the answers to the questions that so naturally arise in discussions about Jesus.  But never forget that before Jesus sent the apostles to deliver the message of peace, he first delivered it to them.

That is how our Lord works.  He didn’t send the apostles out to undertake an impossible task, but gave them everything they would need.  He does the same for us.  We can’t hide from our Lord, so instead we kneel before him in humble repentance.  He takes our doubts and fears and shame and bitterness and makes them his own.  He takes his faith and his hope and his life and his joy and gives them all to us.  He breathes his Spirit onto us through the words of the Gospel spoken through the voice of his pastors, spoken through the voice of your fellow Christians, written for you in the pages of Holy Scripture.  He does not send us out unequipped, but gives us the gift of forgiveness and new life in him, the exact things we need to go forth with no fear.

And so we do go forth.  We go forth from this place and bring reconciliation and peace into our relationships, into our families, into our school, into our workplaces, into our world.  Fear and hiding go together.  They always have, and they always will.  But our Lord comes into our hiding places with words of comfort and of peace, with his own crucified and resurrected body and blood to strengthen and preserve us body and soul as we take his words of comfort to a dying world.  May the Lord who has so graciously given us this gift of reconciliation and peace grant that by his Spirit we too may proclaim the good news of salvation so that all who hear it may receive the blessing of the peace that surpasses all understanding.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

 

 

[1] This sermon draws on a sermon by Pr. Tony Sikora entitled, “Upper Rooms, Fig Leaves, and the Resurrected Christ.” I liked the correlation drawn between fear and hiding in the scriptures and in the lives of God’s Children today.

[2] Jeremiah 17:9

[3] Matthew 15:19

[4] Genesis 3:15, 20-24

[5] John 3:17

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