Bridgewater, Massachusetts, April 20, 2003
Easter Sunday


Isaiah 45:20-25 There is no other god or savior

Assemble yourselves and come together. Draw near, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge--those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.

Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that will not return: "To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." They will say of me, "In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength." All who raged against him will come to him and be ashamed. And in the Lord all the offspring of Israel will triumph and glory.


 There is only one God and Savior

Today being Easter Sunday, I suspect that there are some of you in church today who are a little out of practice in listening to sermons . . . and that's all I'm going to say about that. For your sake, and for the sake of the children who are staying here in church with us, this Easter I am breaking the sermon up into a series of three bite-sized pieces.

I also suspect that many of you have heard quite a few Easter sermons focusing on the Lord's resurrection--as Easter sermons tend to do (for some reason). This Easter, as we celebrate the Lord's resurrection with hymns and readings and choir anthems, our sermon series will focus on the Lord himself: who he is, and what that means for us.

Though many Christians focus primarily on the Gospels and the letters of the Apostles in the New Testament, it is only when we put both the Old and the New Testaments together that we can see and appreciate who the Lord Jesus Christ was and is.

God, in his respect for our human freedom to think and believe as we wish, does not bang us over the head with the truth. Instead, he sets it up for us just like an Easter egg hunt: as we search through the Scriptures, we find nuggets of wisdom and kernels of insight hidden here and there throughout the mass of stories, poetry, and prophecy. And like a person who is very good at hiding the Easter eggs, knowing that some of us are good at searching out the truth, while others need it laid out before us a little more clearly, the Lord places some of these "eggs" of truth in plain sight, while others are more hidden and require extra effort.

One of the eggs of truth that is hidden in plain sight is in our reading from Isaiah. Here, the Lord sets it right out before us. He invites us to present our case--if we have one--on any alternatives to his own declaration. And what is his declaration? "There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other."

Could the Lord have said it more plainly? There is only one God and Savior. And it is critical that we understand this if we are to know who the risen Lord is.


John 20:24-28 Jesus appears to Thomas

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord."

But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. And do not doubt, but believe."

Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"



My Lord and my God

Here we have another one of those Easter eggs hidden in plain sight.

The scene takes place after the Lord's resurrection. Just before this reading, the Lord has appeared to the disciples in a locked room, where they were hiding for fear of the Jews. But Thomas was not with them; and he did not believe the rest of the disciples when they said they had seen the Lord. He needed to see and touch for himself.

A week later, the Lord appeared to the disciples again, and this time Thomas was with them. Jesus spoke to Thomas directly, inviting him to touch him, overcome his doubt, and believe. And with the risen and glorified Jesus standing in front of him, the formerly doubting Thomas spoke the clearest words in the New Testament about who Jesus was: "My Lord and my God!" he exclaimed.

I have read some traditional, Trinitarian Christian commentaries on this passage that attempt to put this particular Easter egg right back into hiding. They attempt to explain it away, saying that Thomas was getting just a little bit too excited, and blurted something out that we, on calmer reflection, should realize is a bit overstated. In their view, God is God, and Jesus is his son--a separate person who is Lord, but not God.

I beg to differ.

I believe that Thomas knew exactly what he was saying. After all, he had been with the Lord in person throughout the three years of Jesus' public ministry. And he certainly knew him better than any fancy theologian who came along two thousand years later. Besides, if God in his providence allowed Thomas's statement to remain in the Gospel, can we really think of it as a mistake?

I believe the Lord was hiding one more Easter egg for us to find in the Scriptures. He was telling us the most vital message that Easter has to give us. The Jesus that stood before Thomas and the rest of the disciples was not some mystical second Person of a divine Trinity, somehow together with, but still separate from, the Father and the Holy Spirit. This Jesus, as Thomas said, is not only our Lord but our God. This Jesus is the one God who created us all. This Jesus is God himself come into the world--as the ancient prophets had predicted--to share our human struggles, sorrows, and joys. This Jesus is our Lord and our God--for as the prophet Isaiah has told us, there is no Lord and Savior but Jehovah God.


Doctrine of the Lord #21 The Lord is God

Many people these days think of the Lord [Jesus] as being an ordinary human being like themselves. They think only of his human side, and not at the same time of his divine side. Yet his divine and human sides cannot be separated. The Lord is God and human at the same time. And in the Lord, God and the human side are not two, but one person--yes, entirely one, just as the soul and the body are one human being.



 Our Divine Human Lord

Over the centuries since Jesus Christ walked the earth, a multitude of Christian theologians and preachers have struggled with the question of who Jesus Christ was and is. They have come to many different conclusions, some of them directly contradicting others. And in the end, it is up to each one of you to make up your own mind what you believe.

My own belief is that after we humans (in the West) had spent seventeen centuries getting completely off track and totally missing the point, the Lord finally gave Emanuel Swedenborg the task of giving us the message that will straighten out the Christian world--if we are willing to listen to it. Hidden in the voluminous, and sometimes dry, writings of Swedenborg, we have the clearest, deepest, and most beautiful expression of the Christian message that exists anywhere. And if you truly want to understand who Jesus Christ is, and what this means to you, I would be happy to help you search out the answers.

For some of you, this may seem like a side issue. We all have busy lives. Who has time to look into fancy theology? And yet, what is more important than knowing who created us, and why, and what that Divine Being has in mind for us? Does it really make sense to spend all our lives providing for our brief time on earth--a few decades, a century or so at most--but have not prepared for the life we will live forever afterwards? And how meaningful is even our brief life here on earth if we cannot look to some deeper meaning and higher calling that simply eating, sleeping, working, and getting what pleasure we can out of life?

Our beliefs about God will determine the course of our lives. If we don't believe in God at all, our life will be a materialistic one, limited to the things of this earth. If we believe in a distant God, an angry God, a punishing God, our life will be lived in fear and trembling, always trying to appease a potentially hostile omnipotent being that we cannot control.

Our church offers something far more beautiful, healing, and soul-satisfying. We believe in a God of pure love and pure wisdom, who created the universe and each one of us in it to give us love and joy. When God saw that we had wandered so far into error, pain, conflict, and sorrow that we would never find our way back, the Creator of the universe came to us personally to show us the way back to life and love. God came to us as a human being, Jesus Christ, and lived among us. And now the Lord God Jesus Christ is ready and waiting for each one of us to overcome our doubts and say, "My Lord and my God." Amen.

Original Artwork by Greg Olson 2003
Used with permission


Title: Keeper of the Gate

 

Music: Dawn's First Light
2002 Bruce DeBoer

Used with Permission