Thursday, May 05, 2011

May 1, 2011 - The Second Sunday of Easter - St. John 20:19-31

Dear Babies in Jesus. Yes, I said babies. We heard it from St. Peter in the Introit: “Like newborn babies, crave the pure spiritual milk of the Word!” Why are we babies? Well, babies are helpless. Babies can't do things for themselves. The Readings we have this Second Sunday of Easter teach us that we are babies who need the Lord to do for us because we can't do for ourselves. Now pay close attention. Because the Christian faith that is for helpless people isn't usually what is preached and taught most places. We are surrounded in this world by other those who suppose that in order to be a Christian, you have to do something. But how can we? We're helpless. It is the Lord and His Word that rescues us and gives us that pure milk by which we are fed and nourished. Just consider the Word of God that we've heard today.

Apart from the Word of God, we are nothing but dry bones like Ezekiel saw. Before we were baptized and given the birth from above by water and the Spirit, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Can that big pile of bones live? Can they put themselves together? Can they come to life on their own? Of course not. The Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, that is, to preach and the Spirit will give them life. By the WORD, which is outside of them, those bones are given life. Just so you don't become a Christian by somehow bringing yourself back to life. The Spirit of God is given to you by water and the Word and THAT is what makes you live again. See? We're too helpless on our own. It's only when the Word is spoken that the Spirit awakens us from being dead. We could never do that on our own.

Our problem is that we were dead. Unable to come back to life. Unable to live. Unable to do anything. That is why Jesus came. To do what we could not: pay for our sins by His death. To do more that we couldn't do: conquer death and rise to life again. Jesus' death and resurrection accomplish what we could never accomplish. We are taken down by death. He takes death down. We were in slavery to our sins. Jesus sets us free. We were spiritually dead, unable to fear, love and trust in God. Jesus makes us alive by His Word. St. John says we have overcome the world in faith. That's because we could never overcome the world ourselves, so we trust in Jesus that He has overcome it by His suffering, death and resurrection.

Then we come to Easter evening and a week later. The disciples are locked inside, unable to do anything. Paralyzed by fear it seems. But Jesus comes and does what they can't do for themselves, He gives them life. By speaking His Word, He breathes the Spirit upon them and gives to them the power to absolve and retain sins. Why does He give them this task? Because sinners can't forgive their own sins. Sinners can't get rid of their own sins. Sinners can't unlock the shackles of their sins; they can't free themselves; they can't remove sins and take away death. But the Word of God can. The pronouncement of holy absolution can. For Holy Absolution is the testimony that because Jesus is crucified and risen from the dead, our sins are taken away. We can't get that ourselves. It must be given to us as it is in the church. You can't earn it or work it out. It is a gift that must be given to you. And so the Lord sends His apostles to give that gift, to forgive sins and deliver to the world the forgiveness He won for them and which we could never get for ourselves.

When Jesus tells Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” He's talking about us. We haven't got to put our fingers in the nail holes of Jesus' hands like Thomas did and yet we believe in Jesus and confess that He has died and risen from the dead. This we know, not because we can figure it out on our own but because the Word of God tells us this and the Spirit works through that Word to bring us to faith. Think of the ways in which the Lord delivers the forgiveness of sins to us: by the washing of Holy Baptism, by the Absolution and preaching and teaching of God's Word. And by the Holy Supper. These are all things that are OUTSIDE of us. EXTERNAL to us. Think about it: A baby can't make its own food either in its body or prepare something to eat himself. He must be fed. So likewise, babies in Jesus, you need to be fed and taken care of. This Jesus does by His Word and Sacraments. Remember we are surrounded in the world by those who say that you have to do something to become a Christian and that there is a part for you to play in remaining a Christian. Jesus teaches us exactly the opposite! We cannot become or remain Christians at all any more than dry bones can come back to life. We need Jesus to accomplish these things for us by His Word. Only His Word can bring us to life and keep us alive by the forgiveness that it delivers to us.

And that is all for your comfort. A baby doesn't have to worry about how it will be taken care of. Just so, we needn't worry that we've got to do our own religion. Christ has been pierced for you on Calvary. He has risen from the dead for you. He washed you. He absolves you. He preaches to you and He feeds you. These holy gifts are the pure spiritual milk we are to desire just as a newborn wants to eat! And just as the newborn is fed by his mother, so we are fed by our Mother, the church, who gives to us the pure milk of the Word and gives to us life that the Risen Jesus bestows, for we could never get it for ourselves. But Jesus gives it to us for free as His gift! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: