Christ Lutheran Church
April 18, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
His Wounds, Our Healing
As they were talking about these things Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you!" But they were terrified and afraid and thought they had seen a spirit. So he said to them, "Why this panic, and why these doubts stirring in your hearts? Behold! My hands and my feet. Touch me and see that it is I myself; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this he showed them his hands and feet. And while they marveled and were still incredulous with joy, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat? And they offered him a piece of broiled fish. Then he took it and ate it in their presence. Luke 24:36-43
Every Christian knows that the cross is the church’s chief emblem of the Lord’s victorious death. But does she have one for his glorious, and death-defying resurrection as well?
Today the mystery will be solved.
As regards the cross, the church makes rich use of it! She emblazons her furnishings, vestments, paraments, liturgy books, walls and windows with the cross as a tangible sign of the love of God for us, and the victory over death that Christ won by it, for us.
Indeed, many Christian churches are constructed in the shape of a cross, with a long center aisle, and two “transepts” that are built outward, near the front, as if to hold the Lord’s arms.
Christians, moreover, make the sign of the cross over their bodies to sanctify this temple of the Holy Spirit – for that is what the body of a Christian is; and so be careful never to besot, or defile God’s temple.
They also cross their foreheads, lips and hearts with the “seal of God” to prevent evil from taking up residence in them – and it is no empty symbol or superstition. But a practice that according to church tradition (Bede) may date back to the apostles themselves. It is a sacramental gesture that Christians have used for centuries to glorify God, and to strengthen themselves against trembling and fear.
Next time you are assaulted by sinful thoughts, or discover hideous sin in your heart, or are about to use the tongue with which you bless God, to curse men made in his image, sign yourself with the holy cross.
And by the same token, when you need a special measure of courage or wisdom to do or say the right thing – then, again, sign your mind, lips and heart with the cross by which our Father bestows every blessing upon us, and your needs will be supplied.
And don’t let the mockery of the cross by batters stepping up to the plate; or twisted tattooists, surprise you. People have always perverted the cross. Even the well-known organization named after it, “The American Red Cross” no longer allows the name of Jesus to be mentioned to the grieving at their disaster sites.
That said, if the cross is the church’s icon of the Lord’s victory over death, is there a symbol of the Lord’s resurrection?
Yes. But first let us remember that: the crucifix is the sign of both the Lord’s death and his resurrection, because the seeds of the resurrection are enclosed in his death. This is explained in St. John chapter 12 but in a word, Jesus is the “grain of wheat” that died and was buried in the ground, so that by his rising again he should bring “much fruit” with him!
You are that fruit, the fruit of his resurrection.
But your resurrection is not only a future reality, but a present as well. In baptism we are put to death, buried and raised to newness of life with Christ. We are made new persons dedicated to serving God alone, “in righteousness and purity forever.”
But to get to our point the Blessed Sacrament that we consecrate, and eat at God’s Table is the chief icon of the Lord’s resurrection!
Because we do not receive the dead Christ in this Holy Communion. But the resurrected, glorified and exulted Body and Blood of our Lord; who mercifully condescends to “come under our centurion roofs” (Mt. 8:8)
We learn these things from today’s readings!
In our first reading Peter and John restore a 40 year old man who had been crippled since birth. A man who spent his whole life at the Beautiful Gate of the temple begging for alms. All the people were familiar with him. They knew him well, very well. And so when he was made whole and strong and stood up and walked, and even leapt about like a deer, there was no end to their amazement.
But Peter and John were quick to explain that it was not by their own power, or their own piety, that this life-long cripple could now walk. But by the power of Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and resurrected Lord whom they preached.
In today’s gospel we are given to see our Lord in his glorified state; and what a state it is!
He passes through locked doors and stands in the midst of his disciples. He speaks a benediction of peace upon them; But they were still frightened and incredulous with joy! They were sure that what they were seeing was the Lord’s ghost. A spirit image of him. A hologram, but the Lord quickly corrects them.
He asks for something to eat and they gave him some broiled fish which he ate in their sight, so that they might know he is not a ghost, but that this is Jesus himself. The whole Jesus. The real Jesus. The One Jesus. The Son of God who is fully God and fully Man; and will remain eternally the same.
They touched his glorified body at his invitation. So do we, at his altar! They looked at the 5 remaining wounds in his hands, his feet and his side; and their heads swam with gladness. So do ours as he transforms Bread and Wine into his life-giving Body and Blood to make those crippled by sin: strong, and able to stand against sin, death and Satan, and to walk and leap in praise to our God.
Yes, all this is accomplished by this Divine Liturgy, this Sacrament of the Resurrection!
And finally, St. John in his epistle, which is but one long Eucharistic exhortation, makes this Pearly Proclamation: “Beloved! Now we are God's children, but it is not yet clear what we shall be. But we do know that when he appears WE WILL BE LIKE HIM! For we will see him as he is. And everyone who treasures this hope purifies himself, as he is pure.”
And so come now to his altar, to wash your robes, and make theme white in the Blood of the Lamb! Amen.