Summary: A sermon for the 3rd. Sunday of Easter, Series C
3rd Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2010 “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, you defeated sin and death, and brought us new life. Like your first disciples, we need your continued direction to help us focus on this new life you would have us live. Come to us, reassure us, and empower us through your Holy Spirit, that we be faithful disciples in our present age and proclaim the depth of your love to those around us. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
William H. Willimon, in his commentary on our texts for this morning, made the following observation. “When we think about ourselves, most of us think that our selves are the result of what we have managed to make of our lives. My self is whatever I have chosen, worked, decided, and striven to be.” End quote. [Pulpit Resource, 2010]
Of course, there is some truth to this statement. As I learned from Paul Tillich, each of us participate in developing our own destiny. Every decision that we make can influence our future. For example, my decision to go to seminary had opened some avenues for my future employment, but it also closed some other opportunities, had I chosen to go to law school or some other avenue of study. Each decision that we make closes some doors and opens others.
But Tillich also asserted that there are other forces that work to direct our
lives that are beyond our control, which may be either positive or negative. For example, we know that crime and violence can wreak havoc upon a person’s life, as well as economic downturns. At the same time, Tillich knew the power of God’s grace, that could intervene in the life of an individual to enable that person to change their life in a more positive direction.
It is this positive intervention of God’s grace into our lives that seems to be the basis of our lessons for this morning. In all of the resurrection stories that are recorded in Scripture, there is no indication that the dejected disciples are looking for the risen Christ. The events that led up to Good Friday and our Lord’s crucifixion, was one of those negative influences upon their lives that derailed their expectations for the future. The death of Jesus destroyed their hopes and dreams, and left them in a state of depression.
But God did not leave them desolate. The risen Christ came back to the disciples, and because of this intervention of God’s grace into their lives, and through the power of God’s Spirit, they were given a new direction and a new purpose for their lives. God turned their despair and lack of hope into a more positive and meaningful direction. And as a result, they became the first apostles of the Christian church.
The same dynamic is at work in our lesson from Acts, in which Saul is on his way to Damascus, pursuing what he believed to be his destiny as a good Pharisee, to purge the synagogues of the heresy of all who came to believe in this ridiculous claim of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Paul felt secure in his life, informed by solid study of the Torah, which led him to embrace his mission with zeal.
But along the way, the risen Christ, through the power of God’s Spirit, intervened into Paul’s life. And this man, who felt it was his responsibility and duty to persecute those who came to faith in Jesus as the Christ, encountered the grace of God, and his life took on a new direction. His life changed from being a persecutor of the church, to becoming the church’s greatest missionary to the Gentiles. Saul experienced a change in his life, that brought him to a deeper faith, so much so, that he abandoned his Hebrew name, and adopted his Roman name, Paul.
Of course, those of us living in today’s society, look upon these stories of Scripture, and refer to them as miracles, and by that designation, we tend to think of special events that took place years ago, but seldom happen in our life today. After all, as Willimon pointed out in my opening statement from his commentary, we like to think of our selves as what we have made of our lives. But I believe that God’s grace continues to intervene in our lives, in many and subtle ways, to enable us to realize God’s gracious presence among us.
This morning, I ended my series of classes on the miracles of Jesus with my confirmation class. What I tried to point out during our studies on the miracles, is the fact that the miracles of Jesus are really intended to reveal the presence of God’s grace and concern for our lives. I also stated that the miracle stories that are recorded in Scripture certainly indicate that in Jesus, God’s presence and grace was revealed in a special way, for he was the incarnate presence of God in our midst.