1 Corinthians 15:51-57
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In the end, if you believe the Christian faith as defined by the Creeds of the Church—the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds which all Christians everywhere agree with, for if you do not then you are not in fact a Christian—however, wrong as you may be in other points of God’s teaching, if you truly believe those creeds then you are part of that One Church. Thus, the Church on earth can not be seen with your eyes. For our eyes can not see the faith of the heart. Instead, the Church can only be known by the ear. For it is with the ear that you hear this faith of the creeds. It is through the ear that this faith gets into heart and is born. And it is with the heart that you believe and then in faith speak this faith back to your God. So the Church can not be seen. Rather, it is heard.
And since none of us were eyewitnesses of the events 2000 years ago, it is with the ear that we have come to know that: Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Wherever this confession of faith is heard true faith in the true God can be found. For the power of the Spirit is such, that even though lies, falsehood, and misunderstanding cloud your perception and seek to choke out your faith, nonetheless, the Spirit of God which raised Christ Our Lord from the dead can and does win through! He calls many from the manifold deceptions of this world to the faith that proclaims and clings to the proclamation that Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The heard Word proclaimed into your ears, and confessed from your lips is the basis of the one-ness of the Church. But the Church is not only One in faith and one in confession of her Lord. She is also holy.
We tend to look at the Church as a human institution. And in that light she does not seem holy. For she is:
“by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.”
By politics she’s plundered, by power games oppressed.
With sinful men and women in leadership and pew,
She is the treasured inheritance of but the faithful few.
There is no use denying that the people in the name of Christ and His Church have been responsible for all manner of wickedness and evil from clergy sex scandals, to the cultural destruction and abuse of church run residential schools, to the reckless blood letting of the crusades, and on and on.
Even though the Lutheran Church had no part in any of those abuses—we did not run residential schools, we did not preach the Crusades, our clergy are allowed to marry in keeping with God’s Word and therefore when there are sexual scandals in our midst they tend to be of a different nature—nonetheless, the fact, that Christians are doing such things, that the broader Church is afflicted by such abuse of power and of the Christian faith impacts us also. Because we are one in the confession of Our Lord Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead, we too are hurt by these scandals.
So just as the Church’s unity is not something that will be seen on this side of heaven, neither is the Church’s holiness. For to look at the Christian Church on earth is to see sinful human beings trying to live with and get along with each other as well or as poorly as any human beings anywhere in any organization, be it a family, a workplace, or a community organization. We all know how well we get along with everyone, ie. we don’t get along. Whether it be at Church or school or the workplace, we play favourites, we do not act fairly, we adults bully and stick our heads in the sand. And when someone rubs us the wrong way we avoid them or we fight with them, more often than living together charitably, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, trying to walk a mile in their shoes, working out our problems with each other. We do this because it is human nature. Our default setting. Thus, the Church is no different. For it too is made up of sinful human beings.
In the face of this we thank God that the Church’s holiness is not of ourselves. It is of our Lord Christ and Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
He is one the human being in all history who was verifiably, undoubtably completely dead, buried in a sealed tomb and yet, against all odds, against all laws, against nature itself, and the sum total of human experience, this dead man came back to life! He has reversed death. He has conquered that thing which is our enemy. He has defeated that which causes death: sin, with its wickedness, its entropy and decay. He sucked it all into Himself, and put it to death in Himself on the cross. But because He Himself had done nothing to earn death, unlike us, He only underwent death in order to put death to death. And having killed death, He rose again in victory over it. Did a victory dance. And now Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Baptized into Him, set apart, declared alive in Christ the death-defeater, that One Church is Holy. Not because Her actions are so different than the rest of the world. Not because we are not as flawed as the rest of humanity. Not because any one who believes in Christ’s victory over death has conquered death themselves or figured it all out. But because Christ did it on your behalf. That victory over death, that completely supernatural, miraculous fact that you too will rise to eternal life on the last day is yours.
His uniqueness, His set-apart status as the one man ever who conquered death, that’s what your holiness is. It is His set-apart status given to you. A complete and utter uniqueness that sets you apart from the masses of humanity. For though you may die, which is the lot of all mankind, yet you shall live! It is yours through your baptism into Him. There in those waters of Baptism you were spiritually put to death and raised to new life. The old man of sin, with those sinful desires—that you sometimes wonder, “where did that come from,” when you pay attention to your thoughts—that old man was put to death in baptism and a new man, Christ Himself, rose up within you. This already happened in you spiritually in Baptism, and daily when you turn from your sins and believe on Christ Jesus. It is yours. And it will be completely fulfilled and be accomplished in your flesh on the last day when our risen Lord comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Then that mystery, that changing in the twinkling of an eye, that being clothed with immortality and imperishability will occur. Then the One Holy Church which can only be known and perceived with the ear will be visible to the eye. For on that day all those who by faith were part of the Church will be made known as the sons of God and will be revealed to all who have ever lived.
This is what it means that Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON