Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Second Sunday of Easter

Second Sunday of Easter (C)

April 3, 2016
Text: Rev. 1:4-18; John 20:19-31

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            The risen Lord Jesus Christ stands in the midst of His Church, and He holds the pastors of His Church in His nail pierced right hand.  That is the point of our reading from Revelation.  Our Second Reading throughout the Easter season will be from the Revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ given to St. John, and that will be the focus of our meditations, particularly as these readings relate to the Holy Gospel appointed for the day.  Because the Book of Revelation belongs to the genre of apocalyptic literature, the imagery can be confusing and even scary, and unfortunately has been widely misinterpreted and exploited by false teachers.  And as a result, we lose out on this very important comfort our Lord gives to us as we live in these last days.  This is tragic, and it need not be.  The Jesus of Revelation is not a different Jesus than the Savior we know and love from the Gospels.  And He has not given us the Book of Revelation to scare us or confuse us.  He has given it for our consolation and the strengthening of our faith.
            And so, just a brief explanation of some of the imagery and symbolism from our reading. Note how John begins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Well, not in those words, exactly.  He does it in reverse order.  We receive grace and peace from the Seven Spirits, or perhaps better translated, the Seven-fold Spirit, an allusion to Isaiah 7:2: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (ESV).  And from Jesus Christ, our Prophet (the faithful witness), priest (the Sacrifice who has been raised from the dead), and King (the ruler of the kings on earth), who makes us a Kingdom and Priests to His God and Father.  Holy Spirit, Son, and Father.  That is how John begins.  And now our eyes are focused on Jesus, the Savior.  That is why this Revelation is given.  That we look to Jesus, and Jesus only, in these gray and latter days.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  We would say, “The A and the Z,” “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).  This man, Jesus, is the eternal and almighty God, the very Son of the Father, who was in the beginning with God and who is God, and who is coming again to judge the living and the dead.
            Now, St. John has this vision as he is in exile on the island of Patmos.  Tradition says that John was the only Apostle who did not die a martyr’s death.  Instead, he lived a martyr’s life.  And he receives this Revelation when he is “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (v. 10).  That is to say, he is at worship.  He is at the Divine Service on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day Jesus rose from the dead, just like us this morning.  And he is told to write to the seven churches in Asia minor, modern day Turkey, of which tradition tells us he is the Bishop.  And what does he see?  Jesus is in the midst of the seven lampstands, which are the seven churches.  He is clothed with a royal golden sash, because He rules and He has won the victory over His enemies.  His hair is white, the color of holiness, and reminding us that He is eternal.  His eyes are like fire, because they see all things.  They see past the fake veneer of holiness and goodness we construct over our lives.  They see past all the things we think are obstacles to our Lord’s vision.  And when Jesus looks upon us, He purifies us.  His Law burns us and kills our old Adam.  His Gospel brings us new life, so that a new creation emerges and arises, like a phoenix rising from the flames.  His feet are like burnished bronze.  They shine, they are pure, they are immovable.  And His voice is like that of many waters.  Majestic.  Loud.  You can’t miss it.  And I wonder if there is an allusion here to the many preachers who are speaking for Him all over the world and across the generations.  These pastors, the seven stars, are in His right hand, and they speak what comes from His mouth, the sharp two-edged sword, the Law and the Gospel, the Word that kills and makes alive: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).  And John is in His right hand, too.  Jesus lays His right hand on John (Rev. 1:17), and what does He say there, in the midst of His Church, with the pastors in His hand?  He says, “Fear not” (v. 17).  In spite of all that is happening to the Church: the persecution from without, the fighting within, the unfaithfulness of some, and your own sins… Fear not.  In spite of all that is happening in the world: earthquakes and famines, wars and rumors of wars, natural catastrophes and nuclear armed terrorists… Fear not.  In spite of what goes on in your body and life: exile on Patmos, a martyr’s death, cancer, betrayal.  Fear no more.  For “I am the first and the last, and the living one.  I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (vv. 17-18; emphasis added).  You don’t need to fear, because Jesus died for you, and Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  He lives.  He reigns.  And He has rescued you from death and hell.  You have eternal life. 
            This is what He said as He stood in the midst of His disciples that first Lord’s Day, the first Easter evening, and again a week later, on the Eighth Day, both times the disciples locked away in hiding “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19; emphasis added).  Three times in our Holy Gospel, He says “Peace be with you” (vv. 19, 21, 26).  In other words, “Fear not.”  Your sins are forgiven.  Your denying me.  Your running away.  Your hiding.  Your fearing.  All your sins.  They are forgiven.  For I died, and I am risen from the dead.  Behold, the wounds.  Go ahead, Thomas.  Poke around in them.  Poke your finger into my hands.  Thrust your hand into my side.  Be absolved.  Be comforted.  Believe.  And now, standing in the midst of His Church gathered there behind locked doors, holding His beloved Apostles, the first Christian pastors in His pierced hands, He breathes His Holy Spirit upon them and sends them to be His spokesmen.  Called and ordained by Jesus Himself, they are to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, and withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.  And their Absolution (and the withholding of it) will be as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.  For they speak for Him.  And so it will be until the end of time.  The voice of many waters will announce His Gospel through the Christian pastors He holds in His hand to the Christian congregations in whose midst He is present, with His Word, with His forgiveness, with His true Body and Blood, given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of all of your sins. 
            Therefore, Church of God, rejoice.  St. John paints a picture for you in his Revelation of what is happening among you at this very moment.  Jesus stands in your midst.  The real Jesus.  The One who died on the cross 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem.  The One who is risen from the dead and lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  And He holds even this pastor in His hand.  I can’t begin to tell you how comforting that is.  But you know.  He holds you, too.  Here He is, just as surely as He was with the Apostles in the locked room.  The only difference is, He hasn’t appeared to us as He appeared to them.  He is right in our midst, directing all things in heaven and on earth and in each one of our lives for our good and for our salvation.  He knows your pain.  He knows your heartaches and your sorrows, your doubts and your afflictions.  He knows your sin.  And He forgives you.  He sent this pastor to be His mouthpiece for that very reason.  He breathes His Spirit upon you, the Seven-fold Spirit of God.  He does this in the Word.  His breath comes from my mouth in the preaching and gives you new life.  And that you know this… that you have a tangible sign, He feeds you with His risen and living Body and Blood.  That is what He does as He stands amidst the lampstands, the congregations.  He does His Jesus thing.  He washes.  He forgives.  He speaks.  He feeds.  He is with you in a very real way.

            You do not see Him now, but you will.  “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.  Even so.  Amen” (Rev. 1:7).  The unbelievers will wail because they know their Judgment has come.  He holds off that Day in mercy, that more may come to believe in Him.  Even so, the Church prays, “Come, Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.”  For we long to see with our own eyes what we know is already true.  The risen Lord Jesus stands in the midst of His Church.  He is with us.  He forgives us.  He pours out His gifts upon us.  And in spite of all appearances, our enemies, sin, death, and the devil, lie vanquished at His beautiful, pierced feet.  For this reason He died.  But, He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

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