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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service; click on the video camera icon.
April 18, 2021
Third Sunday of Easter
Grace and peace to you from our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
There’s a quote that speaks about the importance of reading the newspaper in one hand while having your Bible in the other.
As I prepared for today, I spent time reading through the news and current events of this past week. And I’m sure many of you can relate to this – as I read, I felt like I was being pummeled because there was just so much violence. And there were several times when I wanted to just put it down and walk away because it felt like too much.
But in a manner of speaking, my Bible was in my other hand, so I kept reading the news and also today’s gospel. And as I read and re-read the Gospel, it surprised me again that these events all happened on the first Easter night. That the risen Christ showed up and brought hope to a group of people who were scared and wondering what to do after their friend and teacher had been so violently killed.
When Jesus stood among them that night and said, “Peace be with you,” some of the disciples were excited to see him, some were understandably terrified. Some didn’t recognize him at first – and even after they figured out who he was, they still wondered if it was really him or if it was his ghost.
But when Jesus showed up that day, he showed up with hands and feet and scars and wounds. He walked the road to Emmaus with two of his friends. He tore a loaf of bread. He ate a piece of fish. And after spending time with him, his followers came to understand that he was no ghost.
Just when they thought the world had spoken and the violence was done, they understood that God had done a brand new thing. And that new thing, Christ’s resurrection, brought hope to people who were broken and in places of deep grief.
And within that hope, the disciples came to understand that the story of Jesus hadn’t ended – not even with his resurrection. There was more to come, and they were a part of it. As he opened their minds to the scriptures that had told of God’s promise of forgiveness and mercy and hope and love and life for all, Jesus commissioned the disciples as “witnesses of these things.”
Not just in Jerusalem, but beginning in Jerusalem. Because as the disciples told others about the risen Christ and God’s promises, they moved outward and witnessed to everyone they met. Ultimately going to the ends of the earth as they knew it.
Their witness mattered. The story of Jesus – the hope of the risen Christ – had changed their lives. And as they witnessed to it, it changed the lives of the people who heard it. And it didn’t end with them; it and its promises continue to unfold today.
Because Jesus commissions us, too. We, also, are witnesses of these things – of God’s promises of forgiveness and mercy and hope and love and life for all people. And our witness matters.
When we think about bearing witness to the Good News of Jesus, what often comes to mind – at least for me – are the people who come to your door asking whether you’ve been saved. And it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that that’s all it is.
But when we think about who Jesus was, the things he taught about God and God’s realm, he wasn’t so much concerned with saving souls as he was with making sure people knew they were loved deeply by God. And he showed that in the way that he lived.
So when the first disciples went out to bear witness to the risen Christ, they did so by living as Jesus did. Yeah, they told people the stories of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension – but their true witness was in living as he did. Loving people as Jesus loved them.
And through that love – through God’s love working through them, they brought hope to people who were living in a very broken world. And the world is still a broken place today.
And it’s in this world that the risen Christ also commissions us to bear witness to the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God. And our witness matters. It makes a difference.
When we authentically bear witness to the risen Christ we go out in love, in hope, and it reveals God’s love working through us – the love God has for humanity and all of creation.
Several years ago, Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor preached an Easter sermon entitled “Hands and Feet.” In it, she poignantly reminds us that we – as individuals and as the church – “bear hope for the world because of [the] commission that Jesus gave the disciples and the whole church long ago: [and that] ‘When that world looks around for the risen Christ, when they want to know what that means, it is us they look at. Not our pretty faces and not our sincere eyes, but our hands and feet—what we have done with them and where we have gone with them.’”
In the same way it’s easy to think there’s only one way to bear witness to the risen Christ, it’s also easy to overthink the many ways it can be done. And then end up doing nothing. But, really, all we have to do is remember what we know about Jesus and go. God does the rest.
In a world where violence and systems of oppression seem to speak louder with each passing day, we are witnesses of the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God. And our witness matters.
It matters if we go out and live God’s love. It matters if we go out and touch the wounds of others. It matters if we go out and feed people who are hungry.
It matters if we go out and embody the peace of Christ in chaotic situations. It matters if we speak the truth about the world as it is, and work toward making it the world God intended it to be.
It matters if we do these things. Because as we strive to live and love like Jesus did, God’s love works through us – bringing the hope of the risen Christ to our broken world.
None of this is to say that it’s easy to bear witness to the risen Christ all of the time. We know there are times when it’s hard, when we have to dig deep to stay in it, and to live and love the way Jesus did. And that there are times when, for whatever reason, our lives are such that we just can’t be the witnesses Jesus commissions us to be.
So it’s in those times we depend on others to do it for us. We depend on them to witness to us – to show us the hope of the risen Christ, and to guide us towards the promise of life that that brings.
As that happens, lives are changed and the story and promises of Jesus continue to unfold.
When we authentically bear witness to the risen Christ, we do more than tell people that Christ is risen. We strive to live in the way Jesus did and love as he loved. And as we do, God’s love works through us – revealing the love God has for humanity and all of creation. And revealing hope to our world. Alleluia! Amen.