On Easter Sunday our church was packed. We even filled the balcony, which is very unusual. It felt really good looking out at all those faces as they sang, listened to God’s Word being proclaimed, and finally, came to the Welcome Table to receive the rich sustenance that is offered in the form of bread and wine. We sang our hearts out and proclaimed that “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!”
And Jesus was present in us as we recalled our great dignity as baptized children of God. Yes, the Risen Christ was not far away or just a figment of our fertile imaginations. It was so good to be together and to celebrate the great victory over death. And yes, we will continue to celebrate that miracle whenever we come together and break bread and share God’s Word. That is why we call every Sunday a “little Easter.”
Last Sunday we proclaimed the Good News from John 20: 19-31. The little flock was gathered in a locked room. They were scared. They were all subject to the same fate as Jesus. And, they must have been so sad not only to recall Jesus’ horrific death, but that they had abandoned him! What was left for them? And then, the unspeakable happened, He came to them, and even more amazing, He said “Peace be with you.” And he said it again so that they would believe that he had forgiven them for running away. He brought no recriminations, no desire to chastise. Only PEACE.
Could this be the central teaching of Jesus? Could his coming into this world have been to stop the on-going desire for revenge? From the cross He said; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Now he greets his followers who had abandoned him, with “peace.” No more retaliation, no more revenge, no more scapegoating. Jesus was the Forgiving Victim.
Have we learned? Many of us have not learned. We still lash out at people who hurt us. We still take revenge when we can. We still speak negatively about others who we feel have wronged us. And we do this knowing that we are one of the followers of Jesus who has received “peace” from our Lord and Savior. But we are not able to accept forgiveness for ourselves nor are we always able to forgive others.
Remember when Jesus came into the locked room he showed his friends his wounds. He was truly the one who died an innocent man. He then gave peace and breathed the Holy Spirit on them and asked them to forgive others.
This is our Easter joy: We have been forgiven; we have been given the Holy Spirit and the grace to forgive as we have been forgiven. Christ has risen!