EASTER 3, A – May 4,2014

SCRIPTURES – Psalm133; Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-25; Luke 24:13-35

“Behold,how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Ps. 133

I have an amazingdevice here (show cell phone). Even though mine is considered ancient, it’sstill amazing. With this I can not only speak to someone who is 1000’s of milesaway; I can also send a text message that is received nearly instantaneously.And, it has the knack of going off at the most inopportune times! In our day,by phone and by computer, conversations and comments and news and informationcan be passed along quickly and easily. It’s really incredible! And so, thanksto the wonders of today’s information technology we’ve been able to hear notonly the racist rants of Don Sterling, the owner of the L.A. Clippers, but alsothe endless comments and stories about him. Hasn’t this been great?

 

Today it iseasier than ever to spout off without thinking, and so make a fool of yourselfor tear down someone else. So often that is what happens. As people of Christ,we are to be different. We are not to do this! “You have been born again throughthe living and abiding Word of God,” Holy Scripture declares (1 Peter1). The Gospel of Christ’s shedding of His precious blood for you to ransom youof your sins, death and hell has given you birth into a new life; into therisen Christ Himself! As newborn people, “love one another earnestly from a pureheart,” Peter says. This is why you are on this earth right now and notin heaven with your Lord. You are here to speak and live the love of God inChrist that you hear and receive!

 

How wonderful itis when we do so. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”Psalm 133 so rightly says. That is what the Church of the crucified and risenJesus is to show forth. For, this is a gift that Jesus has given us.

 

An amazing changefrom fear and division to love and joy and unity is seen in our readings today.It begins with the Gospel reading from Luke 24, which tells us of two disciplesof Jesus who are walking on Easter Sunday to a small town called Emmaus. Thenews of His resurrection has already begun changing them. Instead of being afraidand secretive they are willing to speak about Him to a stranger who joins them.They even identify themselves to this stranger as followers of Jesus. “We hadhoped that He was the one to redeem Israel!” They begin talking aboutHim and how He had been crucified. They don’t understand it and are confused,especially by the news of His resurrection. But, they listen to the stranger asHe explains to them from the Scriptures that it was necessary for the Christ tosuffer and die and rise to life again. The stranger is Jesus, of course, andafter they recognize Him, and He disappears from their sight, they immediatelyrush back to the locked room where Jesus’ other disciples are and share withthem their wondrous story. They can’t be by themselves! They must be with theirfellow believers in Jesus and share their joyous news, that the others might bedelivered from their fears and share their joy!

 

Do you feel thisyearning? Does your heart burn within you with excitement and joy as you listento and study the Scriptures and learn about Jesus, and why He suffered and diedand rose for you? Do you yearn to be with and encourage your fellow believerswith His story? This is His Spirit at work in your heart. If you feel no suchburning and no such yearning, pray that God would change your heart! For, it iscold and dead, and the love of Christ is not within you.

 

But, today’sreadings reveal more than just an amazing change from sorrow and secrecy to joyand the desire to openly be a follower of Jesus. There is also an amazingchange of heart in Christ’s people toward those who had opposed Jesus and madethem afraid. The reading from Acts 2 relates what happened 50 days after Jesusrose from the dead. Peter, who three times had denied Jesus because he wasafraid of what people would do to him, now boldly speaks of Him. “Youcrucified this Jesus,” he says to the crowd, “but God has made Him both Lordand Christ!” He is now your God, your judge!

 

Why does Peterspeak so boldly? Is he saying, “Nyaah,nyaah, nyaah, we Christians have won and you’ve lost!” Is he condemningthem in anger? No. He is reaching out to them and calling them to repent andbelieve in Jesus with him. “Save yourselves from this crookedgeneration!” he cries. “Repent and be baptized every one of you inthe name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receivethe gift of the Holy Spirit.” He wants them to have the sameforgiveness and the same Holy Spirit that he and his fellow believers have. Hewants them to be his brothers and sisters.

 

We should allwant those who oppose Jesus, and perhaps even speak out against us, to be ourbrothers and sisters. Be, then, a loving and compassionate Christian. It iseasy to remember sins and hold onto anger for wrongs done to you. People mayeven say you have the right to do so. It’s very easy, especially with today’scommunications technology, to bring people down and create division with angrycomments. This is not the way of Jesus. He was slandered for our sins and boretheir punishment for us and did not cry out. He bore them so that God theFather would forgive all of our sins and we could be received as His children, Christ’sown brothers and sisters. By God’s living and abiding Word, spoken over youfirst in your Baptism, you were born again into Jesus. Your sins are rememberedby God no more, and you have a new and eternal life in Him! Speak and live thislove and this life that you have received.

 

It is indeed, asPeter says, a crooked generation in which we live. Crooked – skolia is the word in Greek, from whichwe get the word “scoliosis,” the condition of having a crooked and bent spine.So many people today are not only bent over their phones and computers; theyare bent down and twisted by sins. They are harmed by them and add to them withtheir own hurtful words and actions. It’s all they know. Well, we, too, aresinners, as the Scriptures remind us. “All flesh is grass.” We, too, arehurt by sins and are tempted to respond with hurt. But in Christ you have beenforgiven and healed! You have been born again, raised up to stand straight andtall! Let us show how to respond: with God’s forgiveness and love in Christ.

 

“Behold,how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” How good andpleasant, indeed. It is better than oil running down the head and onto thebeard. It is even better than good and joyful news received on your phone. Itis a foretaste of the joy and unity of heaven, when we will be together as onepeople in Christ, receiving and sharing the love and peace in Him that willnever end. May God bring this about among us now, to the praise of our crucifiedand risen Savior!