The Second Sunday of Easter | John 20:19-31
The disciples are shut up, behind locked doors, afraid. They arrested Jesus, executed him. “What will they do to us who followed him?” Consciences are afraid too. They didn’t come off very strong these last few days. Peter denied Him. The rest abandoned Him. “Set the locks, Peter. Are they secure? Good. Is anyone outside? Look again. No one? Good.”
So much fear that first Easter evening. Like Adam and Eve, hiding in the bushes of Eden, sinners hunkered down in their fear, afraid to face anyone, especially the Lord Jesus in the cool of the day. After all, their sin is great. Denial. Abandonment. But the big sin is that they would not trust this suffering, beaten, crucified and graveyard dead Jesus. What will happen to them now? Some punishment? Some hell? We’ll see. Because Jesus shows up. Resurrected from his death. Steps into the middle of that place of fear-filled sinners, through locked doors. He doesn’t knock. He doesn’t ask their permission to enter. He stands full on alive in their midst.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! And his Good Friday wounds are showing. First words out of his mouth: “Peace be with you.” Really. “Peace.” They are forgiven. He holds no grudge. Not their enemy. Not out to get them. He is their Savior. His Good Friday wounds have won the peace. God and sinner reconciled. “Peace be with you.” Their sins are forgiven. He has put away their sins. All nailed to the cross. All buried in the hole of his tomb.
But why? Why would Jesus forgive them? They do not deserve forgiveness. They have not earned forgiveness. He forgives them because he died for them. He showed them his hands and his side. His death on the cross hands with holes. His side with the spear stab that certified his death. How he brought them his peace. He comes to them. His wounds are showing. Fresh from the dead. Risen. Gives them a holy gift: forgiveness won for them in his bloody Good Friday death. That’s the peace: Holy Absolution. And his words do what they say, give what they say: forgiveness, peace. They are forgiven, absolved, for everything. For all that has gone wrong. Peter’s denying. Their running away, their not trusting him, as he suffers and dies.
What are you afraid of? Whom do you fear? What are you hiding from? Because you are no different from the full of fear, locked behind closed door-disciples. When pushed hard like Peter we deny the Lord Jesus, or run away as fast as we can from his living voice. We are sinners too, who cannot take the chance to trust Jesus with our lives, our sin, or with our death. Sinners really locked in fear, believing falsely that Jesus is woundless, that he had no wounds in his body, because he has done nothing. Or that he will crush you if he finds out what you have done. So you hide: hiding your nakedness, sin and shame, hiding from the Lord with excuses and dried up fig leaves, afraid to trust him with everything, especially your sins.
Right into that midst comes Jesus. The crucified and risen Jesus. The Savior. Not your enemy. He comes and speaks a word that is full of the life-giving, Holy Spirit. The word is the Absolution. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” Pastors are commanded by the Lord Jesus to speak Absolution like that, to absolve repentant, sorry sinners from their sin, to forgive those who are living locked up and fear filled lives: “I forgive you all of your sins.” Hearing those words, you are hearing the living voice of Jesus himself. He speaks through pastors whom he sends, like he was sent. Like the Small Catechism has it. You receive the Absolution from the pastor as from God himself, not doubting but firmly believing—trusting the truth—that your sins are forgiven completely, that his word of Absolution does and gives to you what it says.
On Sunday mornings, on every little Easter like today, this first Day of the week, when Christ rose, we begin the Divine Service by confessing together as a congregation, and Christ’s living voice is heard in the Holy Spirit filled Absolution, spoken by a sent pastor, to cast out fear and create a lively trust and confidence in the risen Christ, who is ever-present with his Church, bestowing that forgiveness and peace he won on the cross and brought out of the tomb.
The (Temporary) Suspension of Corporate Worship and all Business of the Church. Due to the Governor’s edict all services and meetings of the congregation at St. Paul are, for the time being, suspended. Services will be recorded and broadcast on Facebook Live and immediately uploaded to YouTube and sent out to the membership via email.
Park-In Services. The Easter Sunday park-in service was a great success. I would like to thank Jamie Tharp, Matt Gallmeyer, Connie Garner, Pastor Brege, our Deacons, and the tech pros at Innovative Concepts for lending their expertise and service. Since the park-in service worked well, we are going to continue meeting in this way as a congregation for the foreseeable future. Sundays at 9AM, come to St. Paul and tune your radio to 106.1FM. The deacons will pass out bulletins and collect offerings. Participate in the service by hearing, singing, and praying along.
I will continue to record the services ahead of time for those that stay at home and post these services both on YouTube and Facebook, until we can meet together again. Please don’t get used to this! Pray to the Lord for an end to this scourge so that we can worship in person and receive the Lord’s Supper. If you would like me to bring you the Lord’s Supper, call me.
Confirmation. All parents should have the Study Guide with the list of questions and answers to their youth. The most important items for the confirmands to put to memory are those core texts of the Ten Commandments, Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, etc. which I highlighted in my last letter. I am leaving it to the discretion of parents how and when to meet together for the examination. Please call or e-mail me when you have a date and place that works best for you, and we will try to have the elders present, either remotely or in person, for the examination.
Elders, Council, and Voters were scheduled to meet April 20-21. Due to restrictions, these meetings have been tentatively rescheduled to May 18-19.
Wyneken. Graduation has been tentatively rescheduled to May 22, and the Spring Association meeting has been tentatively rescheduled for May 28. Please mark your calendars and watch for more information about both of these. I will let the congregation know when details come out.
Offerings and E-Giving. To continue to support St. Paul and our school in the midst of this crisis, you may mail your offering envelope to the Church, drop it off in a plate by the narthex door if you are near Church, or give online. Members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, and others wishing to support our mission may now provide their contributions through a secure, and Synod-approved online website, titled Vanco GivePlus.
To view this opportunity, simply go to the Congregation's website, www.splutheranpreble.org, click the Online Giving tab in the upper right corner of the homepage, then click the Donation Link provided, set up your online giving profile, and follow the simple instructions. More details will be coming over the next several months. Please contact Tim Ehlerding.