THE 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."
 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.  But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.  And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men.  For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.  After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered.  So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail;  but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" So they took his advice,  and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld."
 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."
 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."  Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Hmmm… let’s see, people hidden away behind locked doors for fear of something? Just might be able to relate that this year. For fear of the Jews, for fear of Covid 19, yes, as we are all tucked away in our homes these days for fear of this pestilence that stalks in the darkness, we might just be able to relate to the frightened disciples on the first Easter Sunday. We, like them, are living in days when death is prowling around outside and we never know when it might come knocking on our doors.
Yes, in these days, a knock at the door, is not something that people look forward to in the same way as they did before. I’ve seen the worry and anxiety in people’s eyes when I’ve dropped something off at their homes. After knocking and taking my 6 feet of social distance away, the first look I see, if they don’t know that I’m coming, is suspicion and concern. Yes, it is followed by a look of joy when they see that it’s me, but it doesn’t start out that way.
For fear, yes, the disciples were locked away for fear and they were right to be afraid. Death really was prowling around outside their doors. The Jews had just killed their Lord and Master, who they had hoped would be the one to redeem Israel. He had died a horrible death on a cross. The Jews had killed Jesus and the disciples were next on their list. Any moment a knock on the door could mean death, because the Jews wouldn’t be keeping any social distance, when they came calling. They would be bursting in and taking the disciples by force to put them to death.
For fear, yes, there was just a bit of fear the first Sunday, that moved the disciples to lock their doors up tight, and it’s still hanging around by the second Sunday, because the doors are still locked when Jesus appears again. Fear, yes, there’s a bit of that going on behind those locked doors, anxiety and doubt too, and no it is not unfounded, because there was really something to be afraid of outside. As there is for us in these troubled days. Sure, the older ones amongst us have a little more to be concerned about, but the rest of us are not in the free in clear when it comes to Covid 19 either.
The health officials, the news and social media have made sure, that we all have a certain level of worry and fear when it comes to this virus. No, they tell us, its not just old people who are getting really sick and dying, its other compromised people too. And, oh yea, you young people who aren’t taking this seriously enough, check out this 19 year old who’s wasted away to nothing in a hospital bed barely able to breathe on oxygen. Yes, like the disciples, the fear and anxiety are real, and no, they can’t be easily dismissed, because there really is a virus out there, that is making all kinds of people really sick and killing some.
For fear, yes, there’s just a bit of that on this second Sunday of Easter 2020, which is why the same Lord Jesus, who came and spoke to the frightened disciples 2000 years ago, comes and speaks to you today through His Word. Peace be with you He said to them. Peace be with you He says to you. He showed them His hands and His side, just as He shows them now to you through their witness and word. He speaks peace and gives it, not by telling them that there’s nothing to be worried about or be afraid of. No, He speaks peace and gives it by showing them that He really has overcome what they are worried about and afraid of.
This, beloved, is what the Lord Jesus is at work to do for you today, wherever you may be locked away for fear of Covid 19. “I am here with you,’ He says, “to give you peace, not by helping you to talk yourselves down out of your fear and anxiety, not to help you to practice deep breathing and calming meditation or by distracting you with something nice to think about. No, I am here to give you my peace, the peace that I won for you by the wounds in these hands and in my side. The peace that comes from the truth, that I truly have died to pay for all your sins to destroy the power of death over you.”
“Peace be with you,” the Lord Jesus says to each and every one of you through my voice, wherever and however it comes to your ears this day. “I have died for you, you are forgiven. I have risen for you, so that even though you die, yet in me you shall live. No there is nothing that Covid 19 can do to you that I cannot undo. Look through the apostles eyes this morning on my hands and my side and believe that. Put your hands in those wounds through Thomas’ hands and do not disbelieve but believe, that though what’s out there is real and can overcome you, it cannot and will not overcome me. And I am with you.”
The Lord is with you. Don’t doubt that beloved, not even for a minute. He came to you when the Father caused you to be born again to a living hope in the waters of your Baptism. There, Christ applied his death to your life, as He drowned all your sins and washed them away with His blood. There, He joined His life to yours as He raised you up out of the water as a reborn Child of God. Christ is with you to be your peace, even with all that’s lurking outside your door. He is with you to be your peace in the truth that you have an inheritance, that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
He has sent me to you this day to speak through my voice to you, because He knows the anxieties, burdens and fears of your hearts and wants to guard you in the trials of these days in the truth of who He is and what He has done for you. “Peace be with you,” He says in this moment. “Fear not, for I am with you to forgive and save you. Look today on my hands and my side and know and believe that I cannot and will not fail you.” Amen.