Third Sunday of Easter

April 18, 2021

Chanthip Phongkhamsavath

Good morning.  It was a nice reminder this week when I saw an email from Becky mentioning that it still Easter.  So often the anticipation during Lent and the joy of being able to say Alleluia again on Easter Sunday makes the rest of the Easter season a little less exciting.  It’s almost a similar feeling during Christmas time when in the lead up to Christmas Day, radio stations often play Christmas songs after Thanksgiving then they stop after Christmas Day.  However, in Church it’s just the beginning of the celebration and we don’t start singing Christmas hymns till Christmas Eve, then for several weeks after.  That’s really the time when we know the good news has arrived and the celebration of hope begins and continues.

That hope is renewed during this Easter season, after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.  During this time Jesus does what I think of as the tour of faith.  Affirming for those, that what he preached has truly come to be and giving them the power through knowledge and faith confirmed, to share the message.

I was thinking about that message and what it came down to in terms of Jesus’ role.  In the Gospel he reminds the disciples around him as they doubted that, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

He knew and told the disciples of what was to come and they did not believe him until it was completed.

Have you ever been in a place where your friend told you of a plan and you listened but didn’t necessarily believe it would come true? Have you ever made a plan and weren’t even sure yourself if you would be able to go through with it?

I wonder what Jesus thought as God said something along the lines of – you are my beloved and part of myself, I also love these people, but they need a little help to be redeemed so I am going to send you as my messenger to suffer alongside them, to be prosecuted and put to death.  Then I will raise you from the dead so you can go back to them and show them through this ultimate sacrifice that their sins have been forgiven.  In writing this out I am even a little skeptical of whether Jesus just looked at God in amazement or disbelief.

This happens I’m sure in our daily lives as well.  This past December, I started working for Leadership Public Schools a network of three urban charter high schools and for months, really over a year now, they have been operating in a distance learning environment.  There had not been much thought that we would reopen our schools for any type of in person instruction this school year.  Even a month ago when the Governor and Legislature approved funds to incentivize in person instruction this school year, I was skeptical that it would actually encourage or even be enough for us to move forward.

Except after careful thought about our high school students, especially those struggling with online access and other issues, we looked at what it would take to reopen.  And we looked at the funds the Governor made available to provide incentives to bring staff back and so a plan was developed to do exactly what a month ago we were so skeptical about doing – bringing students back to campus.  We made a plan and we are in the middle of implementing it and I am still in disbelief some days that it is going to really happen.  However, with each day we are getting closer to this coming Tuesday when some of our students will be back on campus.  We are doing just as the Governor and Legislature had planned – to provide enough of an incentive to encourage schools to reopen for in person instruction.  There were many political motives that went into the Governor’s plan, yet all that aside, it is working, it pushed enough schools to seriously consider and move forward.  Although we may not know the outcome and in truth there will be many more months and years of work to address the needs of our students it was a plan that worked.

Even though we were not in total ignorance of the plan, it took the actual passage of the legislation to seriously consider it.  It’s almost similar to the first reading when Peter addressed the Israelites and acknowledged, “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.”

Even before Jesus’ arrival the prophets had already known a Messiah was coming and that he would suffer.  And without fully knowing it, they did exactly would God foretold, they prosecuted Jesus and made him suffer.  And through that act, what was written came to be, and in Jesus’ death and resurrection our sins were redeemed.  It was God’s plan all along and despite telling it, and being a part of it, there was still doubt.  And so, Jesus after raising from the dead has to remind the disciples again that this was always the plan.

Even when we sometimes doubt the outcome of a plan, we can still continue to hope and plan for it to be completed.  And even when we sometimes don’t fully comprehend what has been laid before us, it is something wonderous to think that despite our human nature to sin, God was still willing to craft a way for us to be redeemed.

In this Easter season as we are reminded of the sacrifice and resurrection, let us also continue to remember it is through that resurrection and our faith in that plan that our sins are forgiven.  What great love it must be to create an avenue that would forgive God’s people of their sins.  To find a way to redeem those who may not have even thought about or possibly wanted to be redeemed.  For those who saw Jesus come to life again still doubted, what great love it is to give those who believe and who did not actually see the plan come to completion, the same redemption.  For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son.

That was God’s plan all along.  That Jesus would die and rise, so that we can all rise again.  Despite our sins God loves us so much he created a plan so that we could be forgiven.  Even when we may doubt ourselves or the world around us, as long as we believe and have faith, what was foretold had been done.  It was always God’s plan, he told us so and made it so.