Sunday Sermon – AiM Brenda

20150413_1049232nd SUNDAY OF EASTER                   April 12, 2015

TEXTS: Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133: 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

RESURRECTION DIFFERENCE: CONFESSING BELIEVERS

OPENING PRAYER:

“Speak, O Lord, as we come to You, to receive the food of Your Holy Word. Take Your truth, plant it deep in us; Shape and fashion us in Your likeness.    That the light of Christ might be seen today, In our acts of love and our deeds of faith. Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us, All Your purposes for Your glory.”   (- Keith Getty, Stuart Townend) Amen.

What difference does the resurrection make in your life?   Beyond an Easter Sunday celebration held once a year or maybe standing at the gravesite of a loved one. Does it make any difference in your daily life and daily actions that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried…and Yes! On the third day he rose from the dead! Each day. Every day. Are we still believing?

The Gospel Lesson for the First Sunday after Easter is always the story of Thomas. It challenges us with the question of: “How will we live out our lives now that we have heard the good news that Jesus lives?” This text has become so familiar to us that we simply label it “The Doubting Thomas Story”, thereby jumping to final conclusions without really asking what it is the text wants to teach us.

In John chapter 14 (just a few chapters back from this morning’s text), Jesus was preparing his disciples to carry on after his death and resurrection. It was Thomas who asked Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus answered him, “I Am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  So it would only seem logical that when Jesus was standing face to face with Thomas explaining that “He was The Way”, that made sense. Well, “The Way” was no longer visibly in front of Thomas. Jesus had been crucified, died and buried. How could Thomas possibly begin to know “The Way” now? His world had been rocked to the core. He had lost his compass point.

And then to “top it off,” now the women and the other disciples claimed to have seen Jesus! Why wasn’t Jesus showing himself to Thomas if it was really true that Jesus had risen from the dead? Things like that aren’t natural. Thomas’ heart was locked within a room of grief. His mind was locked within a room of logic. He needed something… He needed Someone… to open those locks allowing resurrection light to shine upon him. And when Jesus met Thomas where he was at, Thomas became a confessing believer, a witness to the very light of Christ.

We know that part of the story very well.

Looking around that particular part of the story, however, we see some other interesting things were taking place. In the midst of the disciples’ grief, confusion and fear – Jesus showed up! He came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he showed them his hands and his side. You can imagine how they would have rejoiced and been ecstatic to see their Lord living and breathing and standing among them! But it wasn’t party time. There was still work to do. It was time for Jesus to lay out their callings because the resurrection had, indeed, made a difference.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus wasn’t about to leave them “empty-handed” for their mission. For when he had said this, “He breathed on [into] them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Echoes of creation! The start of new beginnings!   For indeed the Word became flesh and dwelled among us!

In The Book of Acts and in 1 John, we heard followers of Jesus testifying to the goodness of the Lord. They told and lived the story of the crucified, resurrected and coming again Christ. The resurrection made all the difference in the world in their lives; and, it propelled them out to share the good news. The Holy Spirit gave them the words to say and the courage to speak!

“Teach us Lord, full obedience. Holy reverence, true humility;                        Test our thoughts and our attitudes, In the radiance of Your purity.                  Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see Your majestic love and authority. Words of pow’r that can never fail – Let this truth prevail over unbelief.”  (- Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)

Has the resurrection of Jesus Christ made a difference in your life? In the life of your faith community? Who is it you are looking for as you come to worship? Are you looking for Jesus? Wherever you are in your journey, He will meet you there.

The first disciples lived in a very dangerous and violent world. Their lives were turned upside down following Jesus, yet they were filled with an energy to share and love and live as Easter people, as people who truly believed that Jesus’ death and resurrection made a difference!

We are the beneficiaries of 2,000 + years of their testimony. We have Bibles and ancient texts and the lives of saints bearing witness to us of how Jesus’ death and resurrection makes a difference. S till, we often find ourselves questioning or ruling out things we can’t understand. We are afraid and are in need of a face-to-face encounter with the risen Christ. We lock the doors to our hearts and minds to Jesus’ commission to testify to the amazing love of Jesus with others we know. We lock the doors to our sanctuaries and faith communities by shutting out the very people Christ died for – because they might “be different” from the faith community we knew in the past. Sometimes, we are simply afraid to be changed by moving forward; and so, we are entombed by the stale air of the past.

Jesus promises a blessing to “Those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” These texts in the Living Word have been written so that “you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” Resurrection life that begins even here and now! Abundant life that is meant for sharing!

“Reach out your hand.” Jesus told Thomas in his unbelief. Jesus says this to you and me, too. Reach out. Believe. Jesus will meet you – in the bread and in the wine. In the Word and in the water. In the community of faith where He is present with us and out in the world where He goes ahead of us. Jesus comes to us – desiring to be in close relationship with us – giving us his very body and blood, giving us his forgiveness and love, giving us an invitation and a commission: “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus said, “so I send you.”

“Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds. Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.. Truths unchanged from the dawn of time, That will echo down through eternity. And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises, And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us. Speak, O Lord, till Your Church is built, And the earth is filled with Your glory.”  (- Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)

What difference does the resurrection make in your life?

Take a moment.

Exhale the fears and cares of the world.                                                        Breathe in the life-giving breath of the risen Lord Jesus Christ –             that together, we may proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord!                              And, that together, we might declare and worship Jesus as Thomas did, boldly confessing, “My Lord, and my God!”

Amen.

– Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry