by The Rev. Christopher S. Esget
Acts 2.37-47; Luke 24.13-27
The voice of terror and doom pierces our every hiding place; it is the voice of the LORD, which demanded of Adam, demanded of Cain, and demands of you: What have you done?
What have you done in the dark? Did you think I would not know?
What have you done with the door closed? Did you think I would not see?
What have you done, against My commands? Did you think I would overlook it?
What have you done, by ignoring My Word? Did you think I would not care?
What have you done with the talents and gifts I gave you? Did you think they were something to be squandered on useless and foolish pursuits?
What have you done against the parents I appointed over you? Did you forget I gave them My authority?
What have you done with the body I gave you? Did you think the institution of Holy Marriage was a joke, and My gift of sexuality was something you could tarnish by your lack of self-control?
What have you done with My Son? Why have you pierced His hands and His feet? Is this how you thank your God?
What can you answer to such questions? There is no bargaining with God - He holds all the cards. What shall we do? We are not alone with such thoughts - those who listened to Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost had the same question; we heard it in the first reading:
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Their situation is hopeless; Peter has just accused them of murdering the Son of God - and guilt turns to dread when He says that the One they murdered has come back from the dead, has ascended so that He fills the heavens, and has been given all authority in heaven and earth. You murdered Him, but He is back from the dead. How do you expect Him to respond? That is what lies behind the panicked question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” And then, the astonishing answer: There is nothing for you to do; this Jesus who is risen from the dead has not come for vengeance, but for pardon. Repent and be baptized, and you will receive His gifts: the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, life.
A different kind of dread hung over those two men walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus; we heard about them in the Gospel. It was Easter, but they were singing no Alleluias. “What shall we do? Jesus is dead; we thought He was going to redeem Israel! Now everything is lost.” The shadow of death hangs over them, and they cannot even recognize Jesus when He walks with them on the road. But their ears hear Him open the Old Testament Scriptures – “All of it,” He says, “shows that the Christ had to suffer before entering His glory.” And then, the story continues beyond what we read: Jesus sits down to supper with these men, who still don’t recognize Him. And He takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to them. Sound familiar? And that is when they recognize Him. The risen Jesus is there with them in His Supper. He vanishes from the sight of their eyes, but not from their midst. Jesus continues with them, and continues with us, in His Supper, in the breaking of the bread.
In both cases, hopelessness was turned to joy, only by Jesus. Now our lives deal us plenty of circumstances where everything feels hopeless.
What shall I do, when everything is going wrong with my family?
What shall I do, when everything is going wrong with my friends?
What shall I do, when everything is going wrong in my body?
And then the worst, when we have messed up and done horrible things that offend God, things that we wish we could take back, things we would like to keep covered up, and yet we know and cannot avoid the fact that God sees, and He will judge – and we ask, What shall I do?
And the answer for you is the same as it was in Jerusalem - it is the voice of God pointing you to repentance and Baptism, saying everything is pardoned, everything is atoned for, everything is made new in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“What shall we do?” Wrong question! What has Jesus done? He has done what you cannot; He has redeemed what you have lost; He will restore what in you leads only to ruin.
Why are you gloomy and sad? Christ is risen, and death is undone!
Why are you anxious and worried? You are baptized, and your sins are drowned!
Why are you hungering for the food that cannot satisfy? Christ is in our midst, and gives you the bread of life!
He says to you: “You are foolish” – and we can only reply, “Yes, yes, it is so.” He says to you: “You are slow of heart to believe” – and we can only reply, “Yes, yes, it is so.”
But then He says to you: “You are still Mine; I claimed you in the font” – and all there is for us to say is, “Amen!” And again He says, “Behold, I give you My body and blood, and join you to Myself” – and all there is for us to say is, “Amen!
And when you are dying, you will remember these things, and look at the crucifix, and go to your short slumber saying, “Amen!”
And then on the last day, our Lord will call you from your grave, and to a world made new you will rise in a body made new, and you will say, “Alleluia! Amen!” +INJ+
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The Rev. Christopher Esget is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church & School in Alexandria, Virginia. Formerly a student sacristan at Kramer Chapel (Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne), he served as Worship Coordinator for the 2008 Amen Conferences. This Sermon was preached at the Divine Service during Amen - Scranton.
Created: August 2nd, 2008