Sunday, April 28, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
John 20:19-31 & Acts 5:27-32
Look around this morning. You’ll see brightly colored clothes, funny outfits, silly hats or socks, and many other things that make us laugh. Why? As I explained this morning, it is Holy Humor Sunday, a day set aside to laugh with even more gusto. Why? Psalm 150 sums it up perfectly. “Praise God! Praise God with tambourine and dance; praise God with strings and pipe! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” These words from Psalm 150 speak to why we are here today. We are here to praise God, as the psalmist says, “for God’s mighty acts.” And what acts are these? If we named them all we would be here all day. Think about that. What are the mighty acts God has done?
They started with creation – the universe, the plants, the animals – and God had fun when he was creating some of these animals – think of the zebra (a horse with funny stripes) or the duck-billed platypus (need I say more about that one), or the pink flamingo, or the otters who just live to have fun. Life is about color, and diversity, abundance, and joy. And God made humans with that same array of vibrancy and diversity. This was just the beginning of God’s mighty acts. God rescued God’s people from the slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land. And God continued to rescue people over and over again despite our sinful nature. Until finally God sent Jesus who suffered and died in order to rescue us from sin and death. That’s the great miracle of Easter that we continue to celebrate today. That’s something to rejoice about. That is something to sing, and laugh, and dance about. Because of Easter we have a new life, a transformed life. God created us to live, to have life -not merely exist, but to live life in the abundant and eternal life of God right now.
Yet how many of people, how many of us, simply exist? How easy it is to celebrate the joy of Easter on Easter Sunday and forget that joy the very next day. Our goals and dreams are quickly overtaken by worries, anxieties, and fears as if Christ had not risen from the dead. Even the first disciples experienced this. The gospel read this morning tells us that the early disciples were locked up in the room they were staying at out of fear. They had received the news that Jesus was risen, yet …..they let fear instead joy control their actions. Yet, once again, God’s mighty acts were made known when Jesus came to them, breathed God’s Spirit of life into them, and they were filled with peace and joy.
But one disciple wasn’t there – Thomas. And he didn’t believe that this happened. Just like the other disciples didn’t believe the women on Easter morning that they had seen the risen Christ. They thought it was a made-up “idle tale.” And that’s what Thomas thought about the story the disciples told. He thought they were joking. He wanted to believe it happened. He wanted to see Jesus, but … it just seemed too good to be true. That’s why he doubted. And again, out of God’s great love and compassion, Jesus came back to show Thomas that it was true. Jesus was alive. And Thomas spoke the highest affirmation of Christ in all the gospels, “My Lord, and my God!” Jesus came back just for Thomas that time, and Thomas responded with a living faith because an encounter with the risen Christ infuses in us a confidence that we could not gain on our own.
We see an example of that in the story from the book of Acts. Our first reading today begins right in the middle of the story. The first part of the story explains why the disciples were brought to the council. They had been healing people, and preaching about Jesus crucified and risen from the dead. They were told to stop doing this, but refused, and so were put in prison. While they were in prison, Luke, the writer of Acts said, “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.’ ” Luke goes on to say that when the guards when to check on the prisoners, the doors of the cell were still locked, but the disciples were gone. That is where our story picks up today where the disciples were once again captured, and brought before the council only to say, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” The disciples couldn’t stop telling people about what happened because they were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. They were filled with God’s Spirit that Jesus breathed on them in that upper room. They were filled with new life because of the mighty deeds God had done through Jesus’ and nothing could stop them now.
And here we are. We too are witnesses to the resurrection. We continue to spread the message that Jesus is alive. We experience Christ’s presence in the bread and wine each week where we once again receive his forgiveness and grace. He breathes into us God’s Spirit of peace and we are filled with joy. We are Easter people! God has set us free. How can we not be filled with joy and gratitude! God has unlocked the doors to whatever it is that is holding us back. We have this new life, we have received these gifts of grace and mercy; we have the confidence to go forward with nothing stopping us now. Let us carry this joy of Easter with us and spread it around. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!