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Second Sunday of Easter April 7, 2013.

Acts 5:27-32

Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150

Revelation 1:4-8

John 20:19-31

The smell of Easter lilies is still fresh in our noses. The triumphant Easter hymns still dance in our ears. The promise of the resurrection is fresh in our hearts. Alleluia, Christ is risen, indeed!

After all of the preparation for Lent and the Three Days, after the triumph of Sunday morning, we preachers are tired. Maybe we already find ourselves back on Good Friday. The realities of a broken world weigh heavy on us. Pain, broken relationships, despair. We know all too well that these are the realities of our already and not yet world. So how do we bear witness to the alternate reality in which Christ has risen indeed?

This theme of witnessing runs through all three of our readings. We with Peter and John and Thomas, are witnesses to the triumph of Jesus Christ, the first born of the dead. None of these try to hide the fact that Jesus' triumph was messy. Peter proclaims that Jesus was killed by hanging on a tree; John's proclamation includes a reference to the blood spilled to free us from sin; Thomas puts his hands into Jesus' scars. Bearing witness to the promise of Jesus' resurrection means being honest about the muck and dirt and blood and pain that is very much real in the lives of the people who gather on any given Sunday.

In the middle of their trial, Peter is not afraid to reiterate that the apostles are witnesses to the power of the resurrection. Standing in front of the high priest, he invokes the Holy Spirit as their ally; he names God as the one who has power to raise the dead. Peter brings it back to God. Though the high priest orders them not to teach in the name of Jesus, Peter takes his orders from God and God alone. In the face of human authority, Peter witnesses to the power of resurrection, far more powerful than any human authority, including the one bringing them to trial.

In Revelation, Jesus is the faithful witness, the Greek martys (which is also the word used in Acts 5:32). We can testify to the power of the resurrection, but, ultimately, it is Jesus who saves. It is Jesus who loves, who frees, and makes us to be a kingdom.

And then there is Thomas. Poor Thomas gets a bad rap. Poor Thomas desires to see and couch, which gives him the title "The Doubter." Do you, preacher who finds yourself tired after a season of giving up that often means taking on, blame him for wanting to experience for himself the reality of resurrection? Do you blame him for wanting to see and fed the marks with his very own hands? Sometimes, in the midst of the grief, it is hard to see the signs of resurrection. Thomas, however, is fully aware that the resurrected Jesus still has scars. He does not deny that those nail marks are still there. Remember that the disciples find themselves behind locked doors. They are frightened. They are uncertain about the future; they are shocked by the events of the last few days. They know that they live in a wild world. They understand scars. When I consider all of that, I don't think Thomas is the Doubter. I think Thomas is the one who calls a thing what it is. (How very Lutheran of him!) Thomas can be a model for those of us who preach on this day. He does not ignore the fact that resurrection still carries scars. That even in the days that follow the resurrection of our Lord, there are still realities to face. There are still fears and uncertainty. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

And that's when we preachers can give thanks for the scent of lilies still lingering, the hymns still in our heads, because even in the midst of death, there is life. We can call a thing what it is and embrace the paradox of life and death, of already and not yet. We know the reality of death. We trust the promise of resurrection. We carry the scars of sadness and despair. We are witnesses to that reality, but Jesus, as John writes in Revelation, is the one "who is and was and who is to come." Jesus is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth. Jesus is Lord. And Jesus is risen. Jesus catches us up in the midst of all of the things that threaten to weigh us down and surprises us again. Maybe it's at the table, where you see your brothers and sisters come forward with their own outstretched, and sometimes even scarred, hands. Maybe it's at the font, where you repeat those words, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Maybe it's in the grocery store aisle, where an elderly member chases you down just to say hello. Jesus continues to surprise us. Jesus continues to bear witness to the ways the Spirit continues to be at work around us.

Scars and all, Jesus comes to us--in water, in word, at the table, in the grocery store. Maybe our best will mess as preachers is simply to try our best to pay attention. And then point to the One who is the faithful witness, and was and will be.
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Title Annotation:Preaching Helps; witnessing the resurrection of Christ
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2013
Previous Article:Notice resurrection.
Next Article:Third Sunday of Easter April 14, 2013.

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