We continue to celebrate the abundant life of Jesus as opened to us through his resurrection.
On the evening of his resurrection and again, a week later, Jesus appeared in a room where his disciples were behind closed doors. Thomas was absent that first night and had a hard time believing that Jesus had risen until later he saw Jesus for himself. Jesus continues to invite everyone to faith through the words he spoke to Thomas, "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29 KJV).
Transcript of the sermon preached on April 24, 2022, at Briensburg UMC | [Audio Podcast]
Eternal life is offered to everyone. "But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through his name" (John 20:31 KJV). John concluded his gospel account by telling us that the whole world would not be able to hold all the books that would have to be written about what all Jesus had said and done during his earthly ministry.
Eternal life is offered to everyone
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31 KJV)
The Bible is just the tip of the iceberg, an executive summary, highlighting a few of the main points to help us get the picture. As we begin and continue to wrap our hearts and minds around the love Jesus, the love that Jesus has for us, his vision becomes our vision. his dream becomes our dream, his work becomes our work, his life becomes our life.
To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, you just might have life if...
- you feel your sins are forgiven, you might have life.
- If you love others as Christ has loved you, you might have life.
- If you have a desire to share your faith, you might have life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (KJV)
Faith makes us witnesses
And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:32 KJV)
Faith makes us witnesses. In our reading from Acts today, it said, "and we are his witnesses, witnesses of these things and so also is the Holy Ghost whom God has given to them that obey him." We testify from our own experiences just as these first disciples testified from their experiences. We engage others in spiritual conversations, not to control their thinking and their living, but to bring them into their own personal saving relationship with God and Christ and to encourage each other to continue building our lives around that spiritual, eternal friendship as it continues forever to develop. Through faith conversations, we elevate our relationships with family and friends and others, even strangers, even enemies, to what Paul described as "the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6 KJV).[These heavenly places are] expressed in the hymns Christians sing in the midst of sorrow and suffering and injustice, even in the very face of death:
- "Higher Ground,"
- "Dwelling in Beulah Land,"
- "Sing with All the Saints in Glory... sing the resurrection song!"
- "Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul!"
The psalmist invites us to join all Creation in the “unending hymn of praise”
Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 150:6 KJV)
The Psalmist invites us to join all creation in this unending hymn of praise. "Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord."
The Bible tells how in the beginning, God breathed the breath of life into Adam. Saint Francis in his hymn extends the same kind of invitation as the Psalmist,
All creatures of our God and King,Lift up your voice, and with us sing,Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
In today's gospel reading on the evening of the 2nd Sunday of Easter, which is what we're having now in our lectionary year. On the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Edwin Hatch echoes this event in his hymn,
Breathe on me breath of God,fill me with life anew,that I may love what you so loveand do what you would do.
Breathe on me breath of Goduntil my heart is pure,until with you I will one willto do and to endure.
Breathe on me breath of God,my will to yours inclinetill all this selfish part of meglows with your fire divine.
Breathe on me breath of God,so shall I never diebut live with you the perfect lifeof your eternity.
We are sent into our community as the priesthood of believers
[Jesus Christ] hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;(Revelation 1:6 KJV)
We are sent into our community as a priesthood of believers. And today's reading from the Revelation says, "Jesus Christ has made us Kings and priests unto God his father." In the Sacramental ministries those who are called to administer the word and sacraments and order of the church, occupy sacerdotal offices of the church as a sign of God's presence in enveloping us all and including us all in the universal life and ministry of the body of Christ. Believing in Christ makes us each a part of this priesthood of believers. Martin Luther reflected the broad term emphasized by the reformers:
We are all consecrated priests through our baptism. Peter phrased it, you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.
Our United Methodist discipline describes it in paragraph 126:
The heart of Christian ministry is Christ's ministry about reaching love. Christian ministry is the expression of the mind and mission of Christ by a community of Christians that demonstrates a common life of gratitude and devotion, witness and service, celebration, and discipleship. All Christians are called through their baptism to this ministry of servanthood in the world to the glory of God and for human fulfillment.
After breathing on his disciples and inviting them to receive the Holy Ghost, Jesus said, "Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven." The heart of the gospel message and our central role as the priesthood of those who believe in Jesus is to communicate by thought, word, and deed, God's forgiveness. Some situations are more difficult to forgive, but if we don't, who will? Jesus seems to be asking as he goes on to say, "Those whose sins you retain are retained." Out of divine forgiveness flows reconciliation and healing and wholeness and love and eternal life.
Then Jesus said to them again, "Peace be unto you. As my father had sent me, even so, send I you." During these weeks after Easter, leading up to our celebration of the Holy Spirit being "poured out on all flesh" at Pentecost, let's be each thinking about new ways to intentionally communicate God's love and forgiveness to everyone whose path we cross, "that believing they might have life."
You might have life!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.