Monday, May 2, 2011

The Resurrected Jesus Continues to Appear to Us Today!

Last week at the end of my Easter sermon I said that the Easter story is not the end of the Gospel, but only the beginning, because we continue to experience the resurrected Jesus in our lives all the time.
This morning’s Gospel shows that Jesus continues to show up to his disciples after that initial Easter Sunday morning.
For the next six Sundays we will hear Gospel stories of Jesus appearing to various people.
This morning we have the privilege of being together for the Baptism of Cynthia Marple.
This is a real treat for our congregation because Baptisms in our tradition are usually done when we are babies.
But today we see that God is alive and at work in lives like Cynthia’s.
We see that the resurrected Jesus continues to appear to us today.
For Cynthia, it has been a long journey to this moment.
One of the things that Cynthia told me about her faith journey was that when she thought about God she would see Jesus.
That for her it was Jesus who best exemplified the things that she believed and understood about God.
So, even before this day Jesus was showing himself to her and was appearing in her life.
Jesus resurrection is still happening today.

Now even though Cynthia is not a baby there are couple of things that are still the same about Cynthia’s Baptism and that of a child.
First, is that Baptism is only the beginning in our relationship with God.
Like I said Cynthia has been experiencing Jesus in her life for a long time before today, but she will admit that she still has much to learn and to know about God.
In Bible study she will say, “I am just a newbie at this…”
It is really the same for all of us.
Our Baptism is the start of a long journey and a deep relationship that we develop over time with God.
It is in Baptism that God claims us as God’s children from that day we begin to mature in our faith and it is something we work on for a lifetime.
Even those of us who have been Christian our whole life still need to constantly work on our relationship with God.
We still need to seek God in our daily lives.
It is like any relationship that we have in this world.
If it is a relationship with our spouse, or a close friend we need to foster it and work on it.
The same is true of our relationship with God.

Second, it is God in our Baptism who chooses us.
Even though Cynthia is an adult this day is not about her choosing God.
It is about God coming into her life and inviting her into a greater relationship.
Consider our Gospel for this morning.
In the midst of fear and anxiety Jesus comes to his disciples in a locked room.
He comes and offers peace.
What is amazing about this story is that just a couple of days before these are the same disciples who betrayed, denied, and fled from him.
In other words they were ready to choose something else over Jesus.
They were ready to choose their own comfort over following Jesus to death.
But Jesus comes and offers them peace, and new life.

Not only this but Jesus comes back again because one of them wasn’t there and didn’t see Jesus for himself.
Thomas was missing from Jesus initial visit and doesn’t believe what the others were telling him.
So, Jesus comes back to show his wounds and offer more peace.
Even in doubt Jesus comes and brings us back into the fold.
Given the choice Thomas doesn’t choose Jesus.
It is only because Jesus went out of his way to show himself to Thomas that he comes to believe.
As Martin Luther once said, “I only believe that on my own I cannot believe.”
Earlier in John’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I choose you.”
Today Jesus has chosen you Cynthia to live forever with and in him.

And the same is true for all of us.
Given our own choose we might not choose Jesus.
It is really something that doesn’t make sense.
I watched this video of Rich Mullins who wrote the song Awesome God.
He said, “That if you are looking for a religion that makes sense then you shouldn’t choose Christianity.”
I would agree.
It doesn’t make sense that we are offered grace instead of judgment.
It doesn’t make sense that God would let his Son die for sinners.
It doesn’t make sense that Jesus would rise again.
That is why we really can’t choose God, because too often God just doesn’t make sense to us.
Thanks be to God that Jesus continues to bust down our locked doors and come to us so that we too might believe in grace and eternal life.

Third, whether we are adults or children, Baptism is not about salvation.
We are not saved by being Baptism.
No religious ritual, however good, can save us.
No act of ours, however holy, gains our salvation.
Salvation was given to us as a gift on the cross and we experience it all the time as we meet the resurrected Lord.
Cynthia you are not being baptized into a religion today.
You are not being baptized so you can be a Lutheran.
But you are being baptized into a relationship with a living God.
You are being baptized into new life with a risen Jesus Christ.
What this means is that you will continue to experience the risen Lord.
In the studying of his word, in the preaching of his word, in the gathered people of God, in his holy meal, you will hear Jesus again, again, and again come to you and say, “Peace be with you.”

Fourth, whether we are adults or children, baptism is a public affirmation of our believing.
We sometimes think of our life in Christ as a private matter.
But Jesus would not let the disciples remain behind those closed doors.
He gives them the Holy Spirit so that they can go out and tell others about God’s love and grace.
Cynthia you will have your own intimate relationship with Jesus.
But you are also called to live that out in the world.
You are called to proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.
In doing we are called to make our faith a public matter.
When we help others we always do it in the name of Jesus Christ.
We do it out of the love that is given to us from Jesus so that all may know God’s love and care.

Today is wonderful day because right before our eyes we see the way that the risen Christ is appearing to people today.
We see how God has been at work in Cynthia’s life leading her to this wonderful moment.
I hope that all of us can see in our lives the ways that the living God, who is constantly coming for us to bring us back into the fold, is working in our lives.
I hope that every day we wake up and are ready to serve the risen Christ.
I hope every day we hear Jesus say to us, “Peace to you…Now get out of this locked room and tell others that I love them too.”

Finally, May we all come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
What John’s Gospel tells us this morning is exactly what Cynthia is receiving today.
She is receiving faith so she may know the Son of God and have life in his name.
Today we are so overjoyed to welcome Cynthia into this life that we know through Jesus Christ.
May this day be a constant reminder that Jesus has chosen you, given you eternal life, called you to proclaim his grace and love, and invited you into the greatest most powerful relationship you will ever have.

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