The 3rd Sunday of Easter AD 2021
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Kurt E. Reinhardt
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!"  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?"  They gave him a piece of broiled fish,  and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed
with power from on high."
No, they didn’t send each of us to our own rooms this week, on top of being locked down in our houses, but the restrictions have tightened again. How much tighter can they get before they simply choke the life right out of us? You’ve got to wonder. After more than a year of this, it sure is getting a lot harder to breath. I know the point is to keep us breathing, but as we strangle off all social life, it sure feels like we’re being strangled individually as well.
Enough already! Yes, I’m not proud of it. In fact I’m a bit ashamed to say it. But the Lord and I had words this week. Or I did with Him anyway, as I took my daily walk through the driving snow and rain mix the other day. Miserable? Yes, it was that. And yes, I was feeling that way. It was not a faithless moment, in fact it was the exact opposite, but it was one filled with all the questioning and crying out that echoes throughout some of the psalms? How long O Lord?! Hear us! Deliver us!
And what did I get? Mr. Ford on the news the next day announcing his tighter restrictions. Without question something needs to be done. Things are not going well with the third wave of Covid 19 and its variants. No, they are not. I understand that Mr. Ford needs to do something, or at least look like he’s doing something. But you’ve really got to wonder what more can he do? Or anyone else for that matter? There is someone who could end it all overnight, or in an instant for that matter. The same One that I was having words with this past week.
Yes, God could end it all. Why He doesn’t, I don’t know. I, for one, have certainly asked Him to do just that many times over. I have prayed and pleaded, yes, I’ve even cried out. But His ways are not my ways, that simply goes along with His being God. I’ve been here many times over, with my own life, with the lives of my family and the lives of my flock - as I know many of you have been at other times as well. Yes, when everything is going so terribly wrong, it is the hardest to simply let God be God, but it is at those times that we most desperately need Him to be just that.
But no, the sinner in us doesn’t like it, when God doesn’t dance to our tune and do what we want Him to do, or think that He should do. No, the sinner doesn’t like that one bit, because the sinner in us has been deceived and has bought into the lie, that he is his own god. And gods don’t like to have other gods above them even if it is the true God. No, the sinner in us doesn’t like it when things go God’s way instead of our own. But imagine what a hell the world would be if the sinner in us was its god? Better? Sure we all think that things would be better, if they went the way that we want them to go, especially when it comes to the hard things of life. But no, you or I as god, even for one moment, no, that would not be good for anyone, Eden proved that point.
What struck me when I was thinking about today and our Gospel reading, was how the disciples had their whole set of problems as well. We’ve touched a number of times over this Easter on how they were hiding away for fear of the Jews, and not without reason, beloved. The Jews, those who hadn’t become Christians that is, hated Jesus and wanted his followers dead. St. Paul, before Christ converted Him, is proof enough of that, as is the stoning of St. Stephen. Yes, there was a lot of fear in that upper room and the disciples were right to be afraid. I do not doubt that at that time and in the hard years that followed, that some of the disciples, as fellows sinners like you and me, questioned why the Lord didn’t simply put an end to all that for them too.
The risen victorious Christ, without question, could have done it in an instant, by wiping out all the Jews on the spot or converting them as He did St. Paul on the road to Damascus. But He is God and thankfully His ways are not our ways. He doesn’t do either of those things. His Church instead has to survive and grow hidden away for many many years for fear of the Jews. Day by day it has to live under the threat, that at any moment everything could, from their perspective anyway, go terribly terribly wrong. Hard? You’d better believe it. Just as hard, if not a whole lot harder than what some of us are going through individually, or what we’re going through all together right now.
No, Christ didn’t put an end to it all, which meant, that they had no other way to live day by day other than by faith. Over and over again they had to let everything go and simply let God be God. Hard? Yes, it was hard. But there is no better place for faith to flourish and grow than in hard times. I know that it doesn’t feel like it, beloved, when your heart is full of questions and even wrestling with anger and doubt, but it is precisely in those moments when faith feels like it is dead on its feet, that it is being worked out the most to cause it to strengthen and grow. No, Christ didn’t put an end to it all, because that would have been no good for them or any of us who would follow after them.
But He did not leave them alone it. His answer to them has been His answer to the Church throughout the ages. As it is His answer to whatever we might be going through with Covid or other than Covid - our own troubles or the troubles of those that we love. He stands ever before us in His Word saying, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. See my hands and my feet. See that it is I myself. He shows you His hands and feet, so that you might know that whatever you are wrestling with He understands, because He has wrestled with it all. He shows you His hands and feet so that you might know whatever you are facing He has overcome it all.
It is I myself, He says, the great I AM of Israel and I am with you. See my hands and my feet and know what I have done for you. See my hands and my feet and know that I have truly entered death for you and risen in victory over it. See my hands and feet and know that I was truly dead but now am alive forevermore. See my hands and my feet and know that I was truly crushed for your iniquities and my chastisement has brought you peace. See my hands and my feet and know that it truly is finished. I have run the race and won the victory for you. See my hands and my feet and now that I have and will save you.
And He showed the disciples His hands and feet. Why? So that they would see the scars. Why? Because they are the answer? To what? Everything. Everything for them. Everything for us. Does God love me? See the scars. Will God provide for me? See the scars. Will God watch over me? See the scars. Does God forgive me? See the scars. Has God saved me? See the scars. Am I going to heaven? See the scars. Will I rise from the dead? See the scars. Does God care about everything that’s going on in our lives right now? See the scars. Why doesn’t He do something about it? See the scars.
True to His promise, that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, the Lord Jesus is with us this morning to show us His hands and His feet in His Word and in His flesh and blood. And in whatever it might be that we’re wrestling with, whether it’s the ongoing trials of this pandemic or worry or fear, hurt or grief, guilt or shame, uncertainty or doubt over something else, He invites each and every one of us to look on His hands and His feet and see the answer that we need written in His scars. Amen.