Remembering From The Heart
“Remembering From The Heart”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
First Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2017
Readings: Acts 2:14a, 22-32, Psalm 111
1 Peter 1:3-9
Easter can be considered as one of the highest points in the history of mankind. If Christ didn’t come at Christmas there wouldn’t be Easter, but Easter is the fulfillment of God’s purpose, will and plan for all mankind. If we truly know God, we’ll have tremendous respect for His patience, mercy and grace. He gave man all authority over the universe, but the first man failed, and in so doing turned over that authority to God’s enemy. God respected that; it’s God’s character. We have a hard time understanding that. Someone does a wrong to us and we “crucify” them. God is patient. He gave that authority to man but man violated it. Treason is my terminology for it. Despite man’s failure, God’s plan didn’t change; there is no plan B. There came a time when He sent His Son so that man could take back this authority given to him at creation. Notice the respect that God has for His Word. He sent His Son to become man so that He could redeem us and give us back the authority over all creation. Easter is all about God’s patience with man brought to fullness, and an understanding that God didn’t change His plan. He went a little further by instilling in us His very presence, with Christ living in us, the hope of glory; the hope of our ability to take back what was stolen from us. He also sent the Holy Spirit to empower us. There’s nothing greater than the power of God and His Spirit. If only we understand who we are and what God has done for us, there’s no reason for us to become despondent, discouraged or give up; because God instilled in us His image and likeness.
I want to bring this phrase to you that I hope will stay in your heart: “remembering from the heart”. It’s not the hurts, emotions and failures that we remember, but remembering from the heart what God made us to be. Yes, there are things going against us and today’s Gospel shows this so clearly. The disciples all failed; they turned against Him and went into hiding out of fear. Peter even cursed the fact that he knew the Lord. But Christ didn’t come in revenge, anger, hurt or even to discipline them. He remembered from the heart what His Father had sent Him to do. And even though everything seemed to be going against Him – they were going to kill Him – this didn’t stop Him from fulfilling the work He had to do. Yes, in the garden He showed His humanity, sweating drops of blood and asking God if He could make the cup pass from Him, but then He remembered from the heart what He was sent to do. He didn’t remember all the pain that He had to endure or the fact that He was in the flesh. He only remembered what He was sent to do. Even if the disciples deserted Him at His greatest need, He didn’t even mention this to them. Peter who denied Him three times was even the first one He sent a message to. This is the image that God thru Christ gives us and this is fully manifested at Easter. He didn’t count our sins against us. We tortured Him, crucified Him and put Him to shame, yet He gave His life to redeem us.
How easy it is for us to forget our purpose and react to situations, instead of responding from the heart. If it isn’t from the heart, it’s empty. When we sing in worship, it has to come from the heart or it’s empty. So much of what’s in the world today is entertainment, not worship. Remember what the Lord did for you, His compassion and forgiveness. Remember that He restored life to you and created you in His image and likeness. When you remember from the heart, all things are possible. You don’t count people who are against you or hurt you because you know your purpose; it’s in your heart and you remember from your heart.
After the resurrection of Christ – and the resurrection is a whole sermon in itself because he conquered all evil, destroyed its power and came back to life; the greatest miracle that ever took place – the disciples were in fear. They feared that the Roman and Jewish authorities would come after them next. They went after the leader and they could go after His followers to wipe them all out. It’s human to be afraid. Jesus wasn’t like that. When He rose from the grave, the first one He talked to was Mary. He asked Mary to tell the others what she had seen. You can imagine what the disciples must’ve felt when Mary told them she talked to Jesus – jealousy, envy? Why didn’t Jesus come to them? Jesus talked to her first because she was always there – during the trial, crucifixion and burial. And she was there at the resurrection. Jesus asked her to tell the disciples to meet Him; He’ll be talking to them. The disciples go to a room and lock it because they didn’t want the Romans and Jews to find them. Suddenly Jesus stood in their midst. I don’t know how it happened; they didn’t open the door. Note this event. He appears in the room. Wouldn’t you think He’s a spirit? But they touched Him. He proved that He was flesh and blood. Here’s the great miracle that we still have to grasp and believe – the revelation that we aren’t only flesh; we’re also divine spirit. This is what God gave us because of Easter.
Imagine how much greater the disciples’ fear was when Jesus appeared in their midst. The door was locked; who is this now? Their hearts must’ve been beating wildly. What was the first word He said to them? “Peace”. He didn’t want them to be afraid. In saying “Peace”, He was telling them, “I died for you, took away all your sins and its effects on your life, and you’re now all that God intended you to be. Receive My peace”. This is the peace that passes all understanding – that allows us to have peace in the midst of turmoil. The martyrs of the early church were burned at the stake, their bodies pulled apart and fed to wild animals, and yet they had peace. There’s an account of one martyr who, while being tied to the stake said they didn’t have to tie him down because he isn’t going anywhere. This is the peace that overcomes all difficulties. What we go through may be difficult and painful, but it can’t pull us down because Christ has given us new life. Read Ephesians 1 and Colossians; you’ll find there all that God has given us. They should be rooted in our hearts so that we can walk through the fire and not be burned. When we know who we are, we won’t be intimidated no matter what comes against us; we will overcome. We don’t know how, but God’s peace can’t be explained.
Jesus comforted His disciples with His words alone, words that were so powerful that their fear was taken away. They needed His comfort because they were feeling guilty for what they did to Him. Now they were facing Him. Would He chide them, correct them? He speaks peace to them and that erased all their anxiety, uncertainty, insecurity and guilt. Why did Christ come to them at night? Because darkness symbolizes fear and anxiety, and this tells us that in the midst of our darkness. He comes to us and gives us peace and takes away our darkness. Jesus calms the disciples down, shows them His hands and sides and possibly made them touch them. He wanted them to know the reality; the scars on His hands and side were there. Everything else was gone – the scars from His scourging and the crown of thorns. The only signs of what He went through were the scars on His hands and side to show that He was Christ, the One they killed and buried. And now He’s risen and the proof is in His hands and side. All the other wounds were healed and unscarred. This is His greatest miracle. He conquered the enemy, hell and death. Now He was coming to His disciples in the midst of their fear because they were imprisoned by that fear, as shown by the fact that they locked the door. Today we lock our doors because we’re afraid. Where’s the peace? We’ve lost all that God has given us. We’re in the wilderness like Israel; we’ve received our freedom yet we still live in bondage. We must remember from the heart; remember all that God has done for us. We were “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Born again to a living hope, not despair. Things may not be all good today but we have hope that God will change our darkness to light. We may not know how, but we have peace.
After Jesus gave them His peace, He gave the disciples the commission to continue His ministry. These were men who failed Him and were afraid. They couldn’t help others because they needed help themselves; yet God looked at them from the heart. These were men He gave His life to and He was commissioning them to do His work. It’s almost like a re-enactment of Genesis 1:2 when God took dust and made it into man. He changed darkness (dust) to light (life). He wanted them to take His message to the world. Then He breathed on them, as God did at creation – breathing life to man that He created out of the dust of the earth. Remember the valley of dry bones? They all came together but they had no life; when the wind blew, they became a mighty army. This shows us what happens when God breathes His life on us. We stop being weak and fearful and become a mighty army feared by others. Even the enemy is afraid of us. “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue evil and rule.” This is God’s commission to us; what He created us to be and to do; not a weak people subject to fear. He created us to be rulers and He restores this to us on Easter.
Jesus breathed on the disciples and they received the Holy Spirit, the strength and power to face whatever would come their way. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” What did the Father send Jesus to do? He sent Jesus to redeem mankind, destroy evil and bring all His children back into the family. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the hungry”. Jesus was talking to the disciples. You and I are His disciples. We’ve been commissioned to do His work. Jesus said that we shall do the things He has done and even greater. We are sent, like Christ was sent to the world. He has fulfilled His ministry; restored mankind, and now that we have been restored, we are to go and restore others. Easter is given to us not just to make us feel good. He saved us for a reason – so that others may receive the same hope and glory – because He wants the whole family back. This is our responsibility. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors. He changed our heart; gave us a new one filled with power and authority. We don’t lock our doors in fear and we don’t face the issues against us in anger, but we remember what Christ did for us and who we are in Him. Easter changed our direction. Jesus breathed the breath of life on the disciples. That is power! We have been given something so powerful, yet we still allow ourselves to be shoved around, and this is why the enemy attacks us. He scares us and we run. He should be the one running, not us.
Jesus showed a great example for us. He was betrayed by His own disciples, yet He doesn’t say one word to them about their betrayal. He doesn’t mention it to them at all; He simply says, “Peace”. And that’s what I say to you today on His behalf: “Peace!” All the things that don’t belong to you are gone because He paid the price to deliver you from them. “Awake, awake, O sleeper! Arise, give glory and praise to God!” This is the hope we have, not despair. I understand that we’re still human, but we’re too human. We have to balance our human nature with our spiritual life; then we can walk through doors. The door is symbolic of the things that shut us out. The spirit will carry us through that door when the enemy is against us, and we will come out victorious for the glory of God. Peace beyond understanding – what does this mean? God’s love has been poured in our hearts and the Holy Spirit was given to us to empower us. So on this first Sunday of Easter, take off the old garments and put on the new. Dump everything that’s holding us back from what God has given us and made us to be. It’s not easy but you just have to take control of your thoughts and emotions.
Here we are on this journey, on what Easter brings to us. Jesus tells us, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you”. We have been commissioned, disciple-ized. We must prepare ourselves for what He intended us to be. Remembering from the heart just as Jesus didn’t remember their failures. He remembered that they were His friends. He wiped their failures away and restored them to be what God intended them to be. We are the people of God, His family, His children. It’s time for us to rise up and let the world see how great our God is.