SERMON Easter 2 A John 20 19 31
It’s Easter evening, Mary Magdalene has proclaimed the story of the resurrection -that Christ has risen from the dead, just as he said he would!
But none of the disciples believed her story. Instead, it’s evening on that first Easter Sunday, and they’re all still paralyzed by their fear of the outside world. Everyone except for Thomas is huddled together behind locked doors. Instead of going out and sharing Mary Magdalene’s story, the disciples have placed themselves in seclusion –shuttering out all threats to their safety and wellbeing.
How quickly they’ve forgotten Jesus’ final and most important teachings! In his farewell discourse, gathered around the table with these same disciples on the night before he died, Jesus promised, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; and because I live, you also will live…. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
The world says that peace comes when everything around us is perfect, when there are no longer any problems or struggles or threats. A lot of TV preachers will promote this concept -that the role of a life of faith is to achieve perfection. But anyone who’s truly lived life knows that this is a falsehood. There’s no such thing as a perfect life, every person you know has known struggle in one form or another! Reality is that the world is broken and will remain broken until Christ almighty comes again!
Real peace, the peace we all need, the peace that Christ promises, comes to us in the midst of our fears and struggles.
While paralyzed by fear, Jesus came and stood among the disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. The peace that Jesus gives to the disciples is a visible reminder that there is new life on the other side of the struggle. Jesus promised to his disciples on his last night with them that they would experience the same persecution and suffering that he experienced. No wonder they were all terrified! But, Jesus also promised, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
Jesus could have come back from the dead with his body perfectly whole, but God left the marks of the nails on his wrists and feet and the mark of the spear in his side as a reminder of what he has conquered! Our Lord came back from the dead still bearing the marks of the evil and brokenness of the world! And that matters, because we sure still experience the suffering and brokenness of the world –even as we trust in the promise of life on the other side. We’ve each been through some stuff in our lives, and we are the people we are today because of the scars and marks we bear through our lived experiences of suffering. Christ came back from the dead still bearing his wounds so that he could be the Messiah we need when life gets hard. Christ came back as a visible reminder of the new life on the other side of that which tries to break us. And as we trust in the reality that Christ has conquered all the forces of this world which cause our pain, we receive the gift of Christ’s authentic peace –a peace which persists in response to and in the midst of this world. Theologian Frances Taylor Gench says, “Christ’s peace is thus the fruit of the decisive victory over the powers of evil that his cross represents. Indeed, it is as the disciples behold the wounds of the cross in his hands and side- wounds made by Roman nails and a Roman spear- that their fear is transformed into joy and gladness. In view of these wounds, they can rest assured that whatever the world inflicts upon them, it will not ultimately undo them. The peace that Jesus gives is clearly the gift of his enduring presence with his disciples and the church.” (Encounters With Jesus)
The peace that Jesus gives is not the absence of suffering and it’s not even necessarily an inner calm (I’m sure the disciples were still scared of the promised persecution that would come). But Christ’s peace is the strength and comfort and courage that comes with the awareness of Christ’s presence with us always –even and especially in the midst of struggle.
Christ gave his disciples his promised gift of peace, and then sent them out to share that gift with the world. From Easter evening to the present day, the church has been called and commissioned to share the strength and comfort of Christ’s peace with all who need it. Jesus said to his disciples in that locked room, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed his Spirit –the Holy Spirit- on them, raising them up and inspiring them to go out and be Christ’s liberating presence for one another and the world!
And we’re still about this work today. As we gather together for worship, we practice this holy work of embodying Christ’s peace for each other. The “Sharing of the Peace” is not a liturgical 7th inning stretch, but is rather the time we carve out each and every Sunday to share Christ’s peace with one another so that we can leave our sanctuary and share Christ’s peace –true peace in the midst of pain- with others in our lives who need this good news embodied for them. Perhaps you know someone who feels like it’s all their fault that their life isn’t perfect, or who feels like they’re not worthy of God’s love or peace because they’re still a little broken. Our mission as the church is to share peace –not the peace that world proclaims that says you need to have your life together to feel that inner calm- but the authentic gospel peace of Jesus Christ! Our privilege as Christ’s disciples is to be Christ’s presence for our friends and neighbors, and to proclaim that Christ loves everyone and promises to be our source of strength and courage and comfort even in the midst of our brokenness and struggle.
We worship a God who still bears the wounds of a world which tried to break him. But, our risen Christ has ultimately conquered all of those forces which still try hard to break us too. The peace of Christ is the strength to endure until we find the new life that awaits us on the other side of our present struggles. Alleluia, Amen.