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2021-04-18 Easter 3

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

As you all know, I grew up here in the Holy City of Moose Jaw. “Holy” is a reference not to righteousness but rather to pot holes! It’s good to know that somethings never change, right? Not really. We all wish that would change! I see that in my absence the city has changed the motto to “Canada’s most notorious city”. But we all know that’s just code for “notoriously holy”! Anyways, I grew up right beside Parkview Funeral chapel. All the school yard kids would always ask me if that was weird or spooky in some way. “What about ghosts and the spirits of the dead at night?!” they would ask, imaginations running wild. Truthfully, it never even crossed my mind. For we also lived across the street from the little Dairy Queen on Caribou St. For a husky lad, dilly bars and ice cream cones trumped funeral home terror any day of the week!

It is funny though. For as scientific and digitally advanced we have become as a society, we still get the heebie jeebies. Something goes bump in the night and we freeze, instinctively on high alert, as the mind tries to unravel the mystery of what made that sound. A squeaky gate blowing in the wind after the sun has set and we are anything but at ease. Caught in the darkness without a flashlight while the coyotes are howling, bats flying overhead and buzzing dangerously close to us sends our hearts racing into overdrive! Now imagine such creepy noises and vermin were actually other worldly spirits! It would be a notoriously terrifying experience indeed!

Enter the Disciples on the Third Sunday after Easter. They found themselves doing a spiritual double-take on exactly this - or so they thought. Jesus our Lord suddenly shows up, resurrected and risen from the tomb. He sneaks up behind them and shouts “Boo!” Just kidding! He says the same thing He said last Sunday, “Peace”. “Peace to you.” He might as well have yelled Boo! because that’s how the Disciples respond. “But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit” (LK 24:37). We hear this and think these guys must have been a bit crazy to respond this way. But we’ve had many, many years to get familiar with the idea that Christ is Risen. But to the Disciples, this was all brand new! And new things are often quite scary in life, aren’t they? Moving out of your home and into a senior’s care place. Being scheduled for a surgery. The first day of Kindergarten. We’ve all been in those shoes at one time or another.

So fear and uncertainty is the Disciples’ first response to our Lord being in their midst. This has always been humanity’s age-old response to God. Right after the fall in the garden - when people embraced death in sin rather than life with God - this becomes the “new normal” when it comes to how people response to God. “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8). They hid. They were frightened. They were now suddenly cut off from God and it was strange. It was new and scary. It’s the same kind of thing the Disciples experienced with Jesus. “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Our Lord knows their hearts and just as He did for Thomas, He does for them. He doesn’t chastise them or smack them around for their fear and doubting. He heals it. He gives certainty and assurance that they need not fear some spooky ghost. This was actually their risen Lord in the flesh!

This is such a good passage to remember when we have doubts and fears in the challenges we face from day to day. Our Lord knows how difficult faith can be for us. If it were up to us to believe on our power and abilities, then it would be nothing short of impossible for us. Rather, our Lord comes to us. He comes into our presence and gives us His word of assurance. His voice meets our doubt and fear and calms them down. And, our Lord Jesus even goes the extra 1.66 kilometres for the Disciples. After showing them His hands and feet, “And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvelling, He said to them,”Have you anything here to eat?" They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them" (41-43).

There is something very comforting about eating, isn’t there? It makes us feel better about life most of the time. It’s central to our human experience of life together. Besides the day to day, almost all family functions revolve around eating. Birthday celebrations, graduations, weddings, funerals. Whether the occasion is happy or sad, sorrowful or joyful, eat, eat, eat! No wonder the dieting and weight loss industry makes zillions of dollars every year! But we notice what our Lord Jesus does here in the presence of His bewildered Disciples: He eats with them. Heart healthy broiled fish it is!

It’s no mere coincidence that our Lord Jesus operates this way. He calms His people down. He heals their disbelief. He stills their fears, worries and distress. He comes into the presence of His people and gives them His word and eats with them. It’s exactly what happens here at our Lord’s house, Sunday after Sunday. For we are all a bunch of sinful, fearful disciples, doubting Thomases that need to be assured and have our faith strengthened and shored up all the time. These are the gifts our Lord so graciously gives us in His mercy.

Here, where two or three are gathered, our Lord is in our midst. And tied to His promise of His presence is His Word. Resurrection Peace fills our troubled hearts. We return to the Bible and mine out the gems of God’s word over and over again. And as if this wasn’t enough, God assures us of His peace and presence in His sacraments. Our Baptism washes us clean of iniquity and unites us to our crucified and risen Savior in a bond that lasts for eternity. And, embracing that all-central aspect of human life, eating, our Lord gives us His Supper where He is known in the breaking of the bread. It is in these wonderful places that our Lord’s grace forgives sins and life replaces death. Doubt and fear are exchanged with certainty and assurance.

A young man was learning to be a paratrooper. Before his first jump, he was given these instructions: 1. Jump when you are told. 2. Count to ten and pull the ripcord. 3. In the unlikely event your parachute doesn’t open, pull the emergency ripcord. 4. When you land, a truck will be there to take you back to the airport. The young man memorized these instructions and excitedly climbed aboard the plane! The plane climbed to ten thousand feet and the paratroopers began to jump. When the young man was told to jump, he jumped. He then counted to ten and pulled the ripcord. … Nothing happened. His chute failed to open. So he pulled the emergency ripcord. … Still, nothing happened. No parachute. “Oh great,” said the young man. “And I suppose the truck won’t be there when I get down either!”

Life is full of uncertainty. We all fail in our sin and in our doubts. But Jesus doesn’t chastise us. He invites us to confess ours sins, repent and receive His grace, life and salvation. We have no greater gifts than these! For Christ Jesus our Lord who was crucified is alive and He gives us real confidence in the most challenging and difficult times of life. Though our best intentions and following all the rules may fail, Jesus’ word and sacraments and promise to you never fail. Thanks and praise be to God now and ever more! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen!

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