Sermon – 04-28-19 – Easter II – Cycle C
Scripture: Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29 & 147; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
Sermon Title: “The Rejected Stone”
Psalm 118: 22 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
Jesus uses a building to explain himself. The building is temporarily destroyed but the essential part of the building – of the body – becomes central. Jesus has to die for his saving grace to become effective. A seed has to die for a new plant to grow and produce many more seeds. Peter has to fall out of grace, so that he could become the key to the kingdom. Thomas has to be unbelieving so that believing without seeing could be lifted as the privilege. Things that seem to be dependable need to crumble to reveal the gem inside – the possibilities of new life.
Our combination of scripture passages today are interesting.
• We have the rejected stone becoming the cornerstone idea which Jesus pulls from the Old Testament to explain the significance of his death on the cross, before he finds himself on the cross.
• Then we have two scenes after the resurrection when Jesus is proving to his close disciples that he is truly resurrected and alive. Thomas appears in the second scene.
• Then we have Peter being arrested for spreading the word to begin the church. This is the same Peter who falls apart while Jesus hangs on the cross, denying that he belongs to this band of disciples around Jesus. But Jesus, forgives Peter and has a place for Peter in the growing of the kingdom on earth.
• Finally, we have the passage from Revelation where the person named John writes this letter to the seven churches in Asia proclaiming Christ as the timeless redeemer, who is and who was and who is to come – the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end. Here we have the cornerstone in polished form, being the alive and everlasting foundation for the world and the people in it – that is us, our ancestors, and our children’s children.
This seems like the gospel in a nutshell; a fast-moving synopsis of “The Plan.” I am wondering if “The Plan” is meant to be completely serious or is there room for joviality? I find the antics of Peter to be fascinating and, yes, funny. Peter reminds me of myself. Not that I am claiming any of the glory that Peter acquires, but the compulsiveness. Things burst from his mouth. He jumps from the boat and runs to the breakfast chef, the risen Savior, on the shore leaving the other disciples to care for the fish. If we had the words and actions of Peter on film in a light-hearted way, we would be laughing, then crying, then laughing again. It would make a great movie.
Do you know, that in some churches, today is “Holy Humor Sunday?” I have not ever been in a Holy Humor Service. I have only heard about them and wondered what place they have in Christian worship. Surely, we hear about laughter being good for our souls and actually for our physical condition. After Lent and Holy Week and then the depth of the excitement about the resurrection, a bit of laughter is what the doctor orders.
I can even hear Thomas being light-hearted in his response as the disciples find him and tell him that the real, risen Jesus appeared to them. I can hear him saying, “Alive! You must be kidding,” Well, something like that he says. I see the disciples walking away shaking their heads. They really want Thomas to believe. They care for him as a brother. Anyway, for the good of all, Jesus arranges to appear again when Thomas is present with the group. Thomas believes because he sees. Do we believe without having seen the holes in Jesus’ body?
Our proof comes when Jesus appears in our lives – not seen by us, but experienced by us. We know then that in dying and rising, the gem in the core of Jesus is revealed. In Jesus’ death the shell of his body is sacrificed so the gem could be revealed and this gem is alive – yes, an alive gem. This gem may appear to be hard but it propels us to share Jesus with each other. It expands, it bounces, it is full of joy, it invites, it embraces.
I am often chided about being too serious. I am too earnest about achieving what I perceive to be necessary and important. This past week, after many of us spent umpteen hours in this church or in the other Zion church before Easter, making candy, repairing, practicing, cleaning, writing sermons and services, preparing the Maundy Thursday meal, preparing Easter family meals, we are exhausted. Exhausted to the point of giddiness; when the only way to deal with picking up our daily lives, where we left them, is to laugh. Do you not feel the lightness of your soul?
I would have skipped the idea of humor and laughter for today except that two separate people pushed “Some Godly Humor” to me recently. It was the kind of email that we are supposed to pass on to avoid some disaster in our lives or to receive an extra blessing. I usually delete those emails. But today I am passing some of this humor to you not because I expect an extra blessing or that I am avoiding disaster but simply because Jim Althouse and Mary Ann Schwartz tempted me to try this Holy Humor stuff.
First, I found one all by myself. After Holy Week and Easter, pastors feel as tired as Charlie Brown did one day when his team lost yet another ball game. I am rephrasing this cartoon message a bit. “I am so tired from all the services, the sadness and then the rejoicing. I am too tired to cry. And even if I did cry, the tears wouldn’t run down my face. They would walk down.” Cartoonist Schulz gets the credit.
Here’s another one. There was a very gracious lady who was mailing an old family Bible to her brother in another part of the country. “Is there anything breakable in here?” asked the postal clerk. “Only the Ten Commandments,” answered the lady.
This joke explains partly why I think The Lord’s Prayer needs to be spoken with reverent slowness and clearness. A Sunday School teacher asked her class what they know about God. A boy burst out, “He is an artist.” “How do we know that?” asked the teacher. “You know,” said the boy. “Our Father who does art in heaven.”
A pastor asked the organist to think of something appropriate to play after the pastor made an announcement that the cost of the building repairs was going to be twice what they expected. So when the pastor made his announcement and asked the people to stand who could give $100 more, the organist played “The Star Spangled Banner.”
There are those who wake in the morning and say, “Good morning, Lord.” Then there are those of us who wake and say, “Good Lord, it’s morning!” Which one are you? I’ll say that God and I need to work on this attitude deficiency for myself.
Oh Lord, thanks for this laughter and the smiles. May our hearts be refreshed and renewed for doing your work. Amen