Third Sunday of Easter, Year B

Purification of the Saints

As Christians we have a destiny. We are to become like Jesus. That is our hope. We read in today’s Epistle:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.   (1 John 3:1-3)

John, who was a disciple so close to Jesus, understood that more was coming. Things had not yet been consummated, but they would be. Long before John, even in all his afflictions, Job cried out:

For I know my living Redeemer,
and He will stand on the dust at last.
Even after my skin has been destroyed,
yet I will see God in my flesh.
I will see Him myself;
my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger.
   (Job 19:25-27)

We are going to see God in the flesh and we will recognize him. We will also be like him. That is the great promise of God in the Gospel message. But if we are not careful, we could easily lose sight of this by the many distractions of this age which are designed by Satan to bring us down. The Apostle Paul writes:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.   (1 Corinthians 13:12)

In today’s Gospel we have a clear picture of what is to come by reflecting upon one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus:

Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost 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. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

We see Jesus, who was not resurrected as a ghost or some disembodied spirit. He had flesh and bones. He ate food in the presence of his disciples. In other words, heaven will be real. We will have bodies. We will recognize loved ones. And we will have a body like the body of our resurrected Lord. He was resurrected in a body.

Now it is true that our bodies will be changed just as the body of Jesus was changed. He could move about in different dimensions. He was not limited by space and time. All that we cannot fully understand now. But we will. And we will be like him.

How does this transformation work, you might ask? It is a mystery. It is of God’s doing and it already has begun in our lives. The Apostle Paul writes about this transformation:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.   (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

We have a role to play in this transformation. It is God’s doing, but it is ours to receive. Are we looking at the face of Jesus or are we concentrating on the world? In truth, we become who or what we worship.

We are again reminded by John:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.  (1 John 3:2-3)

Our hope is in Jesus. When we focus on Jesus then our hope in him purifies us. It allows God to transform us into his likeness, from glory to glory. Jesus is pure and we also must be pure.

John goes on to say:

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.   (1 John 3:4-7)

This is the great miracle of the Gospel. Jesus not only paid the price for our sins, he also gave us the power of his Spirit to eradicate our sinful nature. We slip and fall from time to time. Though trials and temptations come our way, the Spirit of God never gives up on us just as Jesus never gives up on us. We may have been unfaithful, but God is faithful.

From Lamentations:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”   (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Let us go the distance with him. Let us walk in his path. No matter what circumstances we may be  going through in the moment,  let us, like Job, we will cry out with faith and hope:

For I know my living Redeemer,
and He will stand on the dust at last.
Even after my skin has been destroyed,
yet I will see God in my flesh.
I will see Him myself;
my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger.
   (Job 19:25-27)

Amen.

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Second Sunday of Easter, Year B

Attitude of Disbelief or Fellowship of the Spirit

Thomas had an attitude. The other disciples of Jesus had seen their risen Lord, but Thomas was not with them at the time. He was skeptical, saying:

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”   (John 20:25)

What was Thomas’s problem? Unbelief was one. Perhaps Thomas thought he was right and everyone else was wrong. He had not been on  the scene when Jesus first appeared to his disciples. Yet he must have believed that he knew more than those who saw Jesus alive. Do we see anyone in our churches like that today? They just know more than the rest of us.

Maybe we are being unfair to Thomas, He had been faithfully following Jesus. The whole experience of the cross, perhaps, was just too much for him to take in. He must have questiioned: Why did the Messiah have to go through that?

Our human understanding has limitations – grave limitations! People who are caught up in this world fai to understand that they are living in spiritual blindness. Without the light of Christ we cannot see. In his first letter the Apostle John wrote:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:1-2:2)

If we are to fully participate in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ, which is the Church, we must be willing to be exposed by the light of Christ. Only if we walk in the light, John says, do we have fellowship with one another. We are all sinners. No one is more important than another. We have not arrived. We must be willing to confess our sins. Only then can God forgive us and cleanse us.

There is no unity when we are score keepers of others. There is no unity when we think we are better than others or know more than them. If we are transparent, if we are humble, if we are lovers of God and lovers of our neighbors, then and only then is true fellowship possible.

Here is Luke’s description of the Early Church:

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.   (Acts 4:32-33)

Are we willing to be of one heart and soul? This cannot be legislated by any government. True sharing and mutual affection is from the heart – the heart of God. Thomas was outside the group, not just in a different location. He was outside of fellowship of his fellow believers because he could not accept their testimony.

Jesus forgave him. He forgives us all. But we must be transparent. We must be willing to confess our sins. It is time to check our attitudes. It is time to take off our masks. We are not better than any other believer, nor or we worse. In the Book of James we read:

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.   (James 5:16)

A healthy community of believers is made up of grateful, humble people who believe in the gifts and grace of God. They are too excited about telling the good news of Christ’s love to others than to allow the circumstances of this life and the attitudes of the flesh to get in the way.

The psalmist wrote:

Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
when brethren live together in unity!   (Psalm 133:1)

Our churches must be a place of refuse, a place of acceptance, a place where we find forgiveness and the mercy of God. Are we going to stand in the way of that just because we have the Thomas attitude? That attitude is more than must doubt. It is one of a false sense of superiority and a blindness to one’s own faults.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

 

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death —
    even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2:1-8)

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Saturday in Easter Week

192Witnesses to the Resurrection

Jesus understood the value of Christian witness to His resurrection. This testimony builds our faith. Thus, Jesus was not pleased with His disciples who had heard the testimony of the women but did not believe:

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.   (Mark 16:14-15)

The Apostles Peter and John, when they believed, became very bold in their faith. Without their witness the Church would never have survived or grown. So vital is the witness of the Christian believer that Satan will do all in his power to thwart it. We see this in today’s reading from Acts:

When the rulers and elders and scribes saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.   (Acts 4:13-21)

Today, we are called by God to be His witnesses of the resurrection. We are now the disciples of Jesus. Are we bold in our testimony? If we are then we soon discovered how much the enemy comes against us. Now in America Christians are beginning to experience persecution that only existed in others parts of the world. The persecution will become more intense. What will be our response? Will we still be able to speak of Jesus with Joy? The psalmist wrote:

Open for me the gates where the godly can go in.
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord.
    Only those who do what is right can go through it.
Lord, I will give thanks to you, because you answered me.
    You have saved me.

The stone the builders didn’t accept
    has become the most important stone of all.
The Lord has done it.
    It is wonderful in our eyes.
The Lord has done it on this day.
    Let us be joyful today and be glad.   (Psalm 118:19-24)

As our faith is tested, we will discover how deep our faith really is. Let us pray to God that He will strengthen us?

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