Homily: Glad Tidings

“And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again.” [Acts 13:32-33]

In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there is a scene where Peter and Susan are very worried about Lucy.  It seems that, while playing hide-and-go-seek, Lucy had stumbled on a magical world through a wardrobe.  What troubled Peter and Susan is that Lucy actually believed she had gone to this magical world instead of just pretending.  They feared their sister was losing her grip on reality and could no longer distinguish between reality and make-believe.  So, Peter and Susan go to the Professor to discuss their fears.

To their chagrin they discover that the Professor actually BELIEVES Lucy’s tale.  And the one thing he found the most convincing was the fact that Lucy claimed that she had been in this magical world for hours, but only a brief moment had passed in this world.  C. S. Lewis wrote, “‘That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true,’ said the Professor.  ‘If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world, … I should not be surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never use up any of our time. … If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story.’”

Like Peter and Susan, many people have a hard time believing the Christian claim that Jesus rose from the grave.  They liken us to Lucy, obviously lacking a strong grip on reality; we have confused what we WANT to believe with what we SHOULD believe.

They will also claim that the early Apostles were delusional. Their claim that Christ rose from the grave must be false.  And some of these naysayers are people who claim to be Christians – even Bishops who are charged with preserving the faith.

But, in our first lesson for today, we have Saint Paul stating the very basis for our Christian faith:

“And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again.”

The very fact that the Apostles claimed such an unbelievable event as the Resurrection should give pause to those who do NOT believe.  If they truly made up the entire story, why would they come up with something this implausible? What could they possibly achieve with such a story?

Let’s face it, this story was not going to achieve any kind of fortune for them.  And any person living during the Roman Empire would be able to tell you that the Romans HATED new religions.  They always sought to stamp them, and the people who perpetrated them, out.  But, there is more.

Our lessons for the last several Sundays have involved disciples seeing Christ after His Resurrection.  In every case we’ve read, the disciples did not recognize Christ UNTIL He did something that clued them in: breaking bread with the men on the way to Emmaus; catching huge amounts of fish with Saint Peter and Saint John.

Like the Resurrection, this point is very unbelievable to those who don’t believe.  But, precisely because it is something that someone who is lying would not make up, it is most likely to be true.

The fact that many did not recognize Christ until He made Himself known is the MOST believeable contention in the Gospel.  If the Apostles were making up the Resurrection, wouldn’t they come up with a better scenario where they instantly recognize the risen Lord? Why would they have it that He was NOT recognized at first?  Maybe it is because what they are reporting is the truth.  Maybe it is because they did NOT recognize Him at first. And maybe what the Apostles and the early Christians reported, they reported accurately because they believed that Jesus IS the Messiah.

But for many, things like the Resurrection and Christ’s appearance without being recognized are stumbling blocks.  They cannot get past their own skepticism.  They want something more than someone’s testimony.  They want a personal experience to confirm it or absolute proof.  But even when they get their wish, many will still reject Christianity.  This happened even in Christ’s day.  Many people did not believe even though they saw the miracles:

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.”

Christ Himself says that many will not hear what He has to say.  They will not believe no matter how dramatic the miracle.  Only those who “belong” to Him will believe and follow:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

Remember, men do not usually reject the Bible because it contradicts itself but rather because it contradicts them!

The question for us is not whether God is speaking to us, but rather are we listening?  Do we hear Christ’s voice, or are we allowing it to be drowned out by this world?

Each of us needs to take the time to listen; really listen.  If we listen for Christ’s voice when we read Scripture, we WILL hear Him.  We will see the truth of which He speaks. And our faith will become stronger.

In turn, this may mean that we will be rejected by those who are “so much wiser and smarter than we.”  We will be rejected by those who are too sophisticated to believe all this Christian nonsense.

But in the end, if we hear Christ’s voice, if we truly become one of His sheep, we will be given a reward beyond price.  We will get eternal life lived in the love of God.  What a gift! And isn’t this gift worth the ridicule that we may get by those who have eyes but cannot see and those who have ears but cannot hear?

So I bring you glad tidings. The Lord has risen indeed, and He is speaking.  He is speaking to all of us.  All we need do is listen!

Amen.

Categories: Sermons

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