Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter (C)

April 10, 2016
Text: Rev. 5:8-14; John 21:1-19

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            The risen Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  This is the Lamb who was slain, who by His blood ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9), yet He stands, He rules, He holds the scroll of God’s hidden counsel, and He receives the worship of heaven and earth, and even those under the earth, those in hell, who must acknowledge that Jesus is Lord (cf. Phil. 2:10-11).  In our reading from Revelation, St. John gives us a picture of what it looks like on the other side of the veil as we come together for the Divine Service, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  As we gather around the altar, there is this whole other side we cannot see.  It is hidden from our eyes, but we know it is there.  The saints in heaven, our beloved ones who died in the faith of Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the Prophets, the Patriarchs, the holy angels, the countless host from all times and places, dear brothers and sisters as yet unknown to us.  And they sing with us.  They laud and magnify the glorious Name of the Lamb.  They are gathered around the throne and they see Him, our Lord Jesus Christ, standing before them, risen and living.  We are gathered around the altar on this side of the veil, and we see only bread and wine, but we know it is Him, the risen Jesus, with His Body and Blood.  It is the Lamb enthroned there on the altar, feeding us and forgiving our sins.  And there is this whole reality we cannot see as heaven and earth meet at the altar, but we know it by faith, because of what Jesus says.
            This scroll with its seven seals is a source of great anxiety for us.  It contains the hidden things, the stuff of our questions, what will come to pass in these latter days.  And in the chapters that follow our text, St. John gives us a little taste of the contents as the scroll is unsealed, seal by seal, and we must admit that the images revealed to us don’t look good on their face: Power and aggression, blood and violence, famine, death, and hell.  But don’t miss the comfort here in our text, before we even get to the opening of the seals.  It is the Lamb who holds the scroll.  It is Jesus.  And He is the One who opens the seals.  He has the control over them.  And that means that nothing happens apart from His will, and there is nothing that can happen outside of His direction and rule.  And you can trust what He will do in the things hidden under the seals, because He is the Lamb who was slain for you and who is risen for you and who has made you a Kingdom, Priests to our God who, in the end, shall reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10). 
            Now we live in the meantime, in this time between our Lord’s resurrection and His coming again in glory, and what else is there to do now in this in between time but to go fishing and to gather and be fed by Jesus?  Our Lord gives us this clue in the Holy Gospel.  The disciples of Jesus (that’s Peter and his companions, and it’s also you!) belong in the boat, which is to say, the holy Christian Church.  We’ve talked about how the Church is a boat.  That is why so much happens in boats in the Gospels and why the sanctuary here in the Church building is called the Nave, from which we get the word Navy.  The disciples of Jesus belong in the water, which is to say, your Baptism into Christ.  And the disciples are always to be about the business of fishing.  Now, we know that fishing is never just fishing in the Gospels.  When our Lord first called His disciples at the beginning of His earthly ministry, He gave them a miraculous catch of fish, and then promised them that, following Him, they would be fishers of men (Matt. 4:19).  So to say that we are to be fishing is to say that we are to do missions.  We are to evangelize, speak the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We call many things missions and evangelism, because we are sloppy with our language, but strictly speaking evangelism is the speaking of the evangel, the Gospel, and the mission given to the Church is to baptize and teach (Matt. 28:19-20) and gather all nations around the altar.  That’s it.  No program is prescribed.  No sure-fire gimmicks are commanded.  Preach the Gospel.  Baptize.  Teach.  Gather around the altar.  And the pastors are to tend and feed the Lord’s lambs and sheep (John 21:15-17), forgive the sins of repentant sinners, and withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent (John 20:23). 
            So we are to be fishing with the net of the Gospel, and there is Jesus, standing on the shore, but notice that He is hidden from the eyes of the disciples.  They do not know it is the Lord.  Still, He is there.  And the disciples have fished all night, but caught nothing.  That often happens in the Church.  In spite of our best efforts, our faithful fishing and hard work, we just can’t seem to grow.  But where in the Scriptures does our Lord promise we will always have a miraculous haul of fish?  And is that really up to us?  Does the Lord command success measured by numbers?  Beloved, the Church has its ebb and flow.  We prefer the flow to the ebb, but even in the ebb, our Lord is doing His work.  The command is simply to fish.  Let the Lord worry about the rest.  And what happens when the Lord speaks?  Let down the nets again.  Keep fishing, He tells them.  Keep proclaiming the Gospel.  And at the Lord’s Word, there are so many fish… big ones, too!... that the disciples can’t haul it in.  The Lord grants success.  The Lord fills the nets.  Our job is simply to keep fishing.  Keep casting the Gospel.
            And when John recognizes it is Jesus there on the shore (which only happens after Jesus speaks, by the way… we only know Jesus by His Word), he tells Peter, and Peter jumps into the water.  Great joy, splashing around in His Baptism, eager to be with Jesus.  And the rest of the boat arrives, too.  The shore is not far off.  Jesus is never far away.  He is always with His Church.  Peter brings the net up on the shore, and the net is full of large fish, 153 of them, a curiously specific number, and I think it indicates that Jesus knows every one of His own who are brought to Him by the Gospel.  Now Jesus invites His disciples to come and have breakfast.  And the disciples gather around Him and He feeds them.  He takes the bread and He gives it to them.  Which is what happens for us here in the Church.  Jesus gathers us around Him and feeds us the morning meal.  He takes bread, which is His Body, and He gives it to us to eat.  And in this way He reveals Himself to us.  He restores us, as He restores Peter in our Holy Gospel.  He forgives our sins. 
            The Jesus who was on the shore by the Sea of Tiberias is the Jesus who is on the altar this morning, the Lamb who is on the throne, standing with His mortal wounds, holding the scroll.  And as His Gospel is proclaimed, as the nets are cast, as the Church eats the bread and drinks the cup and proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26), He is gathering to Himself His ransomed ones “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9; ESV).  That is what He does with the preaching of the Apostles.  It begins with St. Peter and continues with St. Paul, who is sent to carry the Lord’s Name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15), and to suffer for the sake of that Name (v. 16).  The Gospel goes forth from Jerusalem to all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  The preachers go forth to preach.  Missionaries, like Pastor Steven Mahlburg who was with us on Wednesday, are sent to places like Macau to preach the Gospel.  The people of God, you, are given as salt and light in the world to bear witness in your many and various vocations, as priests of your God and Father.  All of us are given to speak the Evangel, the Gospel.  And the goal is to gather the nations here, in the water, in the net, in the boat, to Jesus, where He forgives and feeds.  Which is to say, the goal is to get your family and friends and neighbors and others to come to Church with you.  But that’s up to the Lord, isn’t it?  You just keep fishing.  We, the disciples of Christ gathered together in the boat in this place, just keep casting the net.  And we gather around the Lamb and confess and sing and hear His Word and eat and drink.  That is what we are given to do.  And He holds the scroll in His hand.  The hand with the nail hole.  Which is to say, He holds the future and the hidden things of God.  And He holds eternity.  And He holds us.

            This is a beautiful picture St. John paints for us this morning, of the hidden reality of the Divine Service.  This is what is going on around us right now, in which we are taking part.  Oh, how blind we are.  But the Lord gives us eyes of faith to believe it in spite of all appearances.  Every now and then it hits me, and I imagine what it must look like (and this is just imagination, as opposed to the glorious vision our Lord gives St. John)… I imagine the sight as we bow before the Body and Blood of the Lord and sing the Sanctus with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  I imagine the rustle and flutter of the seraph wings as they likewise bow and cover their faces and feet in humility, and the Cherubim who attend the throne of the Lord.  And here we are gathered on one side of the veil, mouths open to receive from the Lord.  And there they are on the other side, the glorious ones who now rest from their labors.  And there is Jesus, right where He promises to be, on the mercy seat, on the throne, on the altar, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Do you ever ask yourself on Sunday morning if you really need to come to Church?  Do you recognize, now, how foolish that question is, when this is going on?  Christ have mercy on us.  We are so blind.  Here is heaven.  Right here.  Here is the Savior.  Right here.  Really.  In the flesh.  For you.  “Come and have breakfast,” Jesus says (John 21:12).  Come and eat.  For this is the Feast of victory for our God.  For 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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