Sunday, April 7, 2013

2nd Sunday of Easter Sermon

In his first inaugural address in 1933, some 80 years ago, FDR uttered these famous words in the midst of the great depression: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Our nation was fearful in the midst of the depression on what it could do to fix things, and FDR tried to name that fear as one of the things holding the country back from moving forward. 8 years later in January of 1941, FDR spoke to congress about four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of every person to worship God in their own way, freedom from want and to quote FDR “The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world.”

Sadly 72 years later, we still live in a world where nations will commit physical aggression against its neighbors and even its own citizens. But his thoughts that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself and that we need to live in freedom from fear is what happened on that Easter so long ago…

The tomb was empty, Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene, the disciples knew something had happened, BUT evening on that day, the first day of the week, the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews… Being Jews themselves what they feared was those Jewish Authorities who had arrested Jesus and the Roman authorities who killed Jesus.

They were living in Fear, of what might happen to them. The Good News of Easter morning, the new light of the resurrection had dawned, but that evening, the darkness crept in and they were still living with the old fears.

And Jesus breaks that tension and anxiety. He comes into that locked room, Peace be with you, he tells them…

They are shocked, startled, fearful, but Jesus doesn’t stop. Peace be with you, shows them his wounds and breathes on them the Holy Spirit. And then they get it. Their sorrow is turned to joy. Peace overcomes their fear.

Of course, Thomas wasn’t there, and he wouldn’t believe until he experienced the Risen Jesus who again says Peace be with you.

Such is our hope and our joy. Our God is not held back by stones or locked doors or even closed hearts, Our Risen Christ comes into our lives with the message of peace & hope & love, seeking out hearts to live in joy and to spread that joy to our hurting world. It is the peace of our Risen Christ that breaks through all of our fears.

Now, the important thing wasn’t that the disciples had this great experience for themselves. No, they had the experience because God was calling them to leave that closed, fearful room and go out into the world to share the Good News of the Resurrection.

In our fearful and anxiety filled world, God calls us to change it!
Its Lunchtime and every table is occupied with hungry patrons. The waiters race through the dining room, weaving around one another balancing trays trying to serve their customers as quickly as possible.

The manager looks around the room and shakes his head. Something is not right. He picks up an empty coffee cup and throws it on the floor. The cooks begin to whistle and cheer. The waiters clap their hands and laugh. After a few moments, cooks and servers return to their frantic pace.

Still not satisfied, the manager picks up a plate and smashes it to the floor. The staff, once again, stops and applauds. But this time, they return to their work much more relaxed and casual. The manager smiles. He's satisfied.

"Is it my imagination, or is your boss into breaking dishes?" a patron asks his server.

"Oh, he's just sending us a message," the waiter explains. "Waiting tables especially during the lunch rush can be stressful. But if we're not enjoying ourselves, then the people we serve won't enjoy themselves. Whenever things start getting too tense, someone breaks something to remind everyone to loosen up."

Just then a busser rushed past carrying a tub of dirty dishes. When he neared the kitchen door, he stumbles and drops the tub. The loud crash of dishes is met with thunderous applause throughout the restaurant. The waiter claps and says, "Some people have to learn from experience."

[Adapted from Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backwards by Brian Luke Seward.]
On Easter night, Jesus gives the gift of his "peace" - but Christ's "peace" is much more than the absence of fear. Christ's "peace" is a state of being that encompasses all: peace that breaks into our hearts when anxiety or fear threatens to take over our lives. Whether it be illness or debt or fear of the future, whatever our worries are, the Peace that is beyond our understanding is God’s gift to us at Easter.

As the manager of the busy restaurant understands, peace is hard work; creating and maintaining peace requires focused action on our parts. This Easter, may we understand the nature of Christ's gift of peace and the hard work that gift entails in our fearful world. Amen.

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