“DOUBT NOT; THE NAZARENE LIVE AND LOVES”
Saint John 20. 19-31
QUASIMODOGENITI: 27 April Anno Domini 2014
Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of Augsburg Lutheran Church
Fr. J. William Watson SSP
In The Name of + Jesus
Today is Quasimodogeniti—the 1st Sunday after Easter. Today is the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, both of His first appearance in the upper room to His 10 Apostles (Judas is dead and Thomas is absent) and of His second upper room appearance the following Sunday (today’s Sunday) to Saint Thomas, Didymus—the “twin;” your twin!
Today is the (approximately) 1,984th time Quasimodogeniti has been, or could have been commemorated—and will continue to be commemorated until The Lord returns in glory. Hallelujah!
Today is also the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the parish of Our Lord’s Church, Augsburg Lutheran Church! Hallelujah!
A congregation which is filled with Thomas’s given new life and love just like that most famous doubter; that most famous believer: simul iustus et peccator as Luther informs us—simultaneously sinners and saints.
There was a woman, not on the first day of the week, who came where the physical doors were open—to a pastor’s office—because doors were being shut in other locations to Our Lord’s reverential, sacramental, and liturgical gifts. That pastor was also having doors shut on a Lutheran ministry wherein a genuine Lutheran, i.e. an evangelical and catholic ethos was being rejected. Not the germs of a spiritually elite or inward looking repristination, but rather the seeds of a new congregation were probably planted that very day. The Lord works in mysterious ways to be sure.
The Apostles were huddled away in “fear of the Jews” more than simply being assembled by shared and bold conviction and confession. That’s what sin does—it causes fear; whether due to a raging lake which is instantly calmed, a dead 12 year old daughter, an unnatural draught of fish, or most appropriately (as per Esaias’ vision) the realization that one is in the true Presence of The Lord and has only filthy rags and unclean lips!
The only thing which banishes fear and brings peace and true joy isn’t a “thing” but a person: The God/Man Christ Jesus. No matter what the church calendar day says, no matter which Saint’s Day or festival designation…or local parochial celebration, every day is the Feast of Crucified and Risen Savior who takes away the sin of the world! And it is only by Jesus taking away sin and your sins that there is any peace. “Peace be unto you” He said the 10 in the upper room. And what was that peace? Was it peace so that the Jews would never persecute them; that their lives would be tranquil and sedentary—enjoying wives, children and grand-kids; that they would be admired and treated with honors and accolades from ecclesiastical supervisors and the general populace? No! Christ brought them supernal, supernatural, cosmic, i.e. REAL and TRUE peace with God—the Holy Trinity, Father, Son + and Holy Ghost. Christ brought them heaven on earth as a foretaste to everlasting Heaven and its eternal communion of Glory.
And how did the Christ of God deliver that peace? That peace was bought with a price, a worked-filled, commandment keeping, suffering and dying atoning sacrificial deposit that only Christ won. He won and purchased peace for the Apostles and for their flocks—all of you—on Good Friday. But He delivered that Peace to them in person: IN PERSON—by being with them with His actual Word “Peace be unto you” and with His actual Body and Blood!
Christ died for them and their sins. Christ died for you and your sins. Christ is risen and is not dead! Another paradox of Peace which stands beside the paradoxes of 3 in 1, the Two-Natures of the Personal Union, the Mystery of the Sacrament, and Genesis 1 to be sure. Easter and Low Sunday (today) is about JESUS LIVES. But Jesus lives not for Himself, He is the God/Man, He lives for you. He has resurrected His flesh and blood so that you will receive the faith to believe that your flesh and blood, your body and soul will rise from the earth on the Last Day to live forever with Him. With Him—that is good news. With the Saints—that is good news.
And what does He do? Does He give them a Francis Pieper lecture on soteriology; does He task them with methods of self-improvement and exercises for deeper spirituality; does He hand them a written historical narrative and personal diary as well as an apologetics handbook to meet all exigencies? No. He shows them His nail prints and His pierced side and has them touch and handle Him! He gives them Words from His mouth and He gives them His Body and His Blood! Hallelujah! This is church, this is salvation, this is forgiveness, and this is Peace!
Why was Thomas absent that first Easter Eve? Does it really matter? No. He was absent due to sin—either sin or a particular sin. It’s the same with all of you. Either one is in the room with the Risen Christ or one is not. If one is not, it’s due to sin. There are no excuses in this way of looking at reality because sin is original and actual. Sickness, disease, job conflicts, over-emphasis on your kid’s sports (a Breaking of the 1st Commandment to be sure), old-age, shut-in status, agoraphobia, or just being mad at the pastor or in a feud with a fellow parishioner…if any of these keep you from gathering with Peter, James and John (all sinners too for that matter), with the angels and archangels, than you are a sinner like Thomas. If one is not at font, pulpit and altar then there’s no Jesus for you.
But Thomas too was saved…just like you. The Lord had spoken “I kept them in Thy Name; those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost.” [Jn. 17.12] And again: “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” [Jn. 15.16] What was true for the Apostle, the Shepherd, is true for the flock, for Paul speaks about you: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” [Eph. 1.4-6]
Elected with Saint Thomas from before the beginning to be saved and preserved by the Work of The Blessed Son. Redeemed at a place, a time: Calvary, the Crucifix, but delivered that faith in the “Upper Room” of His Kingdom of Grace—the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in time: Holy + Baptism, Holy Word of Absolution, and Holy Supper. He has truly made you acceptable to the Father “in the beloved,” for it is only IN CHRIST and IN His True Body and True Blood that forgiveness and life is found. Touch and handle His flesh as did Thomas on the following Sunday of Grace when Jesus returned for the one lost lamb. Be carried on the back of the Good Shepherd so that you too can “reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into [His] side; and be not faithless, but believing.”
It was the Lord Christ Who formed Augsburg Lutheran Church a decade ago; Who created it as our Augustana, Article 7 says around His True Presence: “the Church is the congregation of Saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.” Or as Johann Mentzer put it so beautifully in 1726: “O Lord, let this Thy little flock, Thy Name alone confessing; continue in Thy loving care, true unity possessing. Thy Sacraments, O Lord, and thy saving Word; to us e’er pure retain. Grant that they may remain our only strength and comfort.” [TLH 477 s. 2]
Thank you Dear Lord for all Thy gifts; for Thy faithful Saints past, present, and future in this parish, as well as friends of the congregation (known and anonymous); for Thy bountiful generosity in 1st Article gifts and care; and for Thy Grace in giving us faith to receive Thy salvation, forgiveness, life and peace. Through Jesus Christ: “[Our] LORD, and [our] God.”
In The Name of The Father and of + The Son and of The Holy Ghost