the one about stepping off...
April 24, 2017, 7:50 AM

Sermon from April 23, 2017
2nd Sunday of Easter

Text: John 20: 19-31

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Risen Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, we had a wonderful time of worship last Sunday, didn’t we? Trumpets. A banging drum. Full processional. Tons of lilies. Lots of people proclaiming and shouting Alleluia in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. So many people gathering not only just here, but around the area, state, and world in celebration of this new thing that God has done in Christ our Lord. It was a good day; it always is.

Yet, how long did that worship and faith ‘high’ last? What’d we do on Monday? How’d we feel on Tuesday? By Wednesday were you already longing for that Sunday feeling again?

Who could blame you for feeling that way? You’d think after we’d celebrate God’s love literally poured out through the empty tomb, that it would just make the world better, right? What with news of potential conflicts, continued violence, heightened and heated political rhetoric from all sides it is no wonder that the new thing that God has done in Jesus’ resurrection is looked over and looked past.

Of course, that’s just the stuff outside of our own little contexts and bubbles. After Easter, we still have people recovering from surgery, getting upset, and living with the general dis-ease of anxiety and fear about a multitude of issues. Where’s the next meal coming from? How am I going to get my kids to school? Do we have enough to get the A/C fixed? Why do I feel broken in so many ways?

If only we could live into the faith of those first few disciples! You know! Those closest to Jesus who were in such awe of what God had done and were out on the streets proclaiming this new thing of resurrection to their world! Well, about that…

In our gospel this morning we look in on those stalwarts of faith, Jesus’ closest friends, his first followers and, where are they? They are in hiding. Not only that, but they are in fear. The doors are locked to the outside because they fear those in authority around them. They fear the death that their and our Lord has conquered. They are hesitant of the invitation extended to them and us to the victory parade.

It isn’t that we want to live into the faith that the disciples possessed, we must remember that we do live the faith that the disciples possessed.

Even in the immediate time following the resurrection fear and doubt still exists. Evil still occurs. Trouble still arises. Death still lurks. Anxiety still pervades.

When you step back from it all it makes you think, doesn’t it? It makes you ask that question that you don’t want to pop into your head. What did Easter fix? We still have death, we still hurt, we still fear. All those things that Jesus got up to vanquish.

Considering all that, is it any wonder that the disciples hid in fear and that Thomas needed further proof? We struggle with those same issues. Doubt still permeates throughout our lives. That sense of trust – complete and utter trust – is so hard to live into. Even when you have all the signs reminding you that you’re safe.

Last year for our 10-year anniversary, Erin and I went to the mountains of North Carolina. We had a great time and we were able to do something that we thought we’d never do. We jumped off a 65-foot platform. Now, before we got there I could be pretty ‘manly macho’ about it. It really isn’t that high. Easy enough, just step off. Piece of cake.

Well, it was another thing when you’re up there. You’re set up to go. You’re securely, if not uncomfortably, strapped into a harness. The lines are connected to you and all the places they need to be. There’s a big cushion where you’re supposed to land. All signs point to this being a very safe endeavor. The leader of your group looks you in the eye and says, “All you have to do now is step off.”

That my friends is where the rubber meets the road. That distance looks totally different from the top than it does from the bottom. I’m not one who is scared of heights, I actually kind of get a thrill from it. But, given the moment to step off the secure platform? That was scary. That was nerve-racking. That’s where belief takes you.

All of the disciples in our gospel this morning are still on the platform. They’ve been witness to all the signs and miracles of their friend. They’ve seen the blind regain sight, they’ve been witness to Lazarus’ resurrection, and throughout it all they’ve been told by Jesus to not be afraid.

Yet, they’re still on the platform. Locked in fear of what could happen. Locked in fear – for all of them – of what will happen to them. We too still are locked into that fear and anxiety.

Sure, Sunday was a glorious day of celebration and resurrection. Remembering this new thing that God has done and continues to do in the world through the cross and the empty tomb. We sang with strength and love, we shouted alleluia countless times. And still Monday comes. Before we know it, it feels like were back on that Friday and Saturday before Easter. That pain, that silence, that fear.

In that moment; in the height of the disciples’ fear – Jesus shows up. Despite all the attempts to wallow away in fear and trepidation, Jesus appears. Jesus breaches those attempts to keep the outside, well – outside. Jesus breaks through the fear that clouds their minds and their hearts.

And his first words? Peace be with you.

In that moment, through the continued emptiness of the tomb Jesus changes everything. He gives them another command. They’ve listened to him all this time, leading up to this moment. They’ve heard him talk about the ways he turned the tried and true mainstays of the world upside down. Love your enemies. I am the light. The first shall be last, the last shall be first. Do not worry. They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.

They’ve heard and seen so many wonderful blessings. They’ve been witness to it all. Yet, Jesus still has a further point to make.

As they Father has sent me, so I send you. Go.

That’s Jesus telling the disciples to step off the platform. They’re strapped in. They’re in the harness. Everything that needs to be connected to them for their safety is there. Step off. Be sent. Go.

That invitation – that command to be sent – is still given to us. After I was first ordained I remember having a conversation during an adult Sunday school forum. Someone casually said, “I just don’t understand it. We’ve got a nice young pastor, we’re friendly, our doors our open. Why aren’t more people coming?” That’s probably a statement that can be made at literally every congregation across all traditions and flavors of the church. Then, someone else chimed in right after that remark with something pretty bold, “Perhaps opening the door and just being on this side isn’t what we’re called to do. Maybe we’ve got to step out and invite people in.”

Pretty powerful, right? I sure thought so. And just so y’all know – I didn’t say it.

We live in a world where even after the resurrection and the celebration of the resurrection it doesn’t always seem that it ‘fixed’ anything. Perhaps in some very important ways, but never in the ways that we expected or wanted.

Yet, because of Easter everything has changed. As one of my friends said this past week, “Christ did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.”

Wow. That hit me hard and spoke to the depths of my being.

In many ways, the disciples are ‘dead’ as we begin this gospel story. Sure, they’re technically ‘alive’ but they aren’t really doing anything except intensifying their fear and anxiety by hiding out with one another. Building their fears inside their echo chamber.

The glorious change that Easter brings is that Jesus appears to them in that fear. Jesus brings peace to them. Jesus sends them out. Jesus breathes upon them and they receive the Holy Spirit.

Jesus steps into our fears and anxieties and meets us in them. Filled with the Spirit we are sent out to confront a world to proclaim Christ crucified. To live into the life and faith of love that our Lord commands. We get to live into this life where the brokenness and emptiness that we feel and experience are sealed and filled in the resurrected new thing that God has done.

Our Lord has shown us the harness, the line, the guide. Our Lord is there on the platform and at the bottom. Throughout it all we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses – those we know and those we’ve never met – who encourage and welcome us into this life of faith. Cheering us on to step off into that faith and belief.

And when we do step off? When we do live into the life of faith that our Lord has called each of us into? When we do step out from the closed and locked doors of our life – standing up for the oppressed, caring for those in need, living into this life of faith we do so with a word locked into our hearts and minds. Much like one might jump into the fear and unknown and cry out Geronimo. We too step out into faith and cry out as well.

What would it look like if living into this life of faith, we lived into that faith shouting, “ALLELUIA!” all the way?

That’d be fun, wouldn’t it? Sure it still might be a bit scary. Stepping off that 65-foot platform didn’t cease to be unnerving or scary. In fact, there’s always that moment where you think it didn’t work and that you made a pretty terrible mistake. Yet, the line catches, you’re secure.

The same is true in our life of faith. We step off at the command and invitation of our Lord. It can and will be unnerving at times. Yet, we remember that because the tomb was empty our Lord is there with us and within us.

So, then let’s step off. Alleluia. Amen.


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