Please join us for our April 19th Worship Service! You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link: https://youtu.be/Qu1anIE2jWg
April 19, 2020 [White or Gold] The Second Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-23
Rejoice in the Midst of Trial
Gloomy days in April
It’s April, it’s spring. The days are getting longer and the weather is getting milder. When I go out early in the morning these days, I can feel the energy of spring – birds are singing in the air and trees and flowers begin to bud. But I can’t open my windows because it’s still so cold outside. I already turned off my heat but still sleep under my winter blanket.
April in New England is a very capricious season. Last week, we had rainy days, a snowy day, cloudy day, and sunny days. The day after the storm passed, when I went out, I
saw a number of broken branches scattered on the ground. I just talked to myself, “What is so sad in the land where we live, that heaven wails in grief?” And I was reminded of my grandmother’s death when I was a little boy. When she passed away, it had rained all day long. I was so innocent to think that all the raindrops must be the tears that she was shedding in heaven.
Watching the news on TV these days, I think that heaven is weeping for our world that has been terrified by this Covid-19 pandemic. Just in our country, there have been over 600,000 confirmed cases, and over 25,000 who have died. What a tragedy it is! Spring has come, but we haven’t heard any joyful greetings of spring but only sad and gloomy news all around the world.
The cruelest April
T.S. Eliot says in his poem, The Waste Land, “April is the cruelest month.” Just like me, does he complain about the capricious weather of April? Perhaps in his poem he tries to remind us of historical tragedies which occurred in April. Interestingly enough, our history shows the strange fact that many righteous and innocent people suffered tragic deaths in April. Here are some famous examples.
In April 9, 1945, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer had gone to the execution ground of a Nazi concentration camp. He was martyred for his righteous fight against Hitler’s tyranny. He made this famous statement, which was the reason why he joined the German resistance movement against Nazism: “Hitler is driving Germany to catastrophe. If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”
April 15, 1865 is the day when the most honorable President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed. He was the man who led the liberation movement for the Black of America. He left these famous words that show his desire to see the emancipation of slaves: “As I don’t want to be a slave of others, I don’t want to stand in place of ruling others.”
Even though he freed the black from slavery, the racial discrimination still remained between the black and the white until the middle of the last century. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his whole life to fighting against it and establish human rights in America. While he was still advocating for the civil rights movement, he was assassinated by a gunshot in April 8, 1968. Before he died, he exclaimed in his most famous speech: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men [and women] are created equal.’”
How said it is that the righteous have to fall down by the power of evil. When the lives of great leaders and saints have to end in tragedy, no doubt millions of people fall into deep sorrow. Why didn’t God intervene in this kind of tragedy if he is really the God of justice?
Considering the progress of our history, however, we may recognize that God didn’t let their sacrifices go in vain. Because of someone like Bonhoeffer, the Nazi regime collapsed; because of someone like Lincoln, democracy has been advanced; because of someone like Martin Luther King, we live in a world where all kinds of races live together in equality, freedom, and peace. If we believe we live in a better world, we should admit that we are indebted to their sacrifices for our life, history, and civilization.
Death and Resurrection in April
April is also the cruelest month to all Christians in that our Lord Jesus was sacrificed sometime in April, according to our Christian calendar. When he fell to death, all his disciples and followers fell into deep sorrow and despair. Hiding in their room, they must have thought that there would be no more hope in their lives.
Ironically, however, April is also the month full of hope to all Christians in that he was risen from the dead sometime that month. According to John’s Gospel lesson, the risen Christ didn’t let his disciples be stuck in their dark room. Immediately, he reached out to them and spoke to them, “Peace be with you” (v. 19), breathed on them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v. 22), and then encouraged them to go out to the world “to forgive the sins of others” (v. 23).
What do you feel when you read this resurrection story? As I meditated on this again and again last week, I felt the dazzling morning sunlight shine through the curtain of my window into my dark room. I even felt the fresh spring breeze touch my skin and renew my spirit. I could also imagine that all the dark clouds would suddenly disappear, and people, looking at the sunny sky, would shout in joy, “What a wonderful day!”
The broken-hearted disciples met the risen Christ in their dark room! That is the point of today’s Gospel lesson. Darkness in the Bible is often described as a mysterious moment for people to encounter God. For example, God appeared to Abraham in the night and promised him descendants more numerous than the stars. The Exodus from Egypt happened at night. Moses received the Ten Commandments from God who descended on the thick darkness atop Mount Sinai. The Apostle Paul’s conversion happened after he lost his sight. Jesus was born beneath a star at night and resurrected in darkness of a cave. The risen Christ came back to his broken-hearted disciples when they were crouching in a dark room.
Even if we happen to be stuck in the dark, it does not mean that there is no more hope and joy in our life. Rather, the Apostle Peter in his letter encourages us to “rejoice, even if now for a little while [we] have to suffer various trials” (v. 6) because it is a time to meet the risen Christ who has a power to transform our lives.
Rejoice in our trials
It’s April, it’s a beautiful season. It’s the season when grass grows, flowers bloom, and squirrels are crossing in our gardens. But it’s still cold outside, and we can’t open the windows yet. We still have to see the strong wind breaking the branches and white snow falling on the green grass. Nevertheless, April is the season of spring. The warm air will eventually kick out the cold wind, and sooner or later we will open the windows and rejoice in our beautiful days.
It is Easter! It is a joyful season. It is the season of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and his final victory over the power of death and sin. But we still have to watch for bad things that continue to happen and hurt our lives, and sadly enough, there is nothing we can do to stop them except to crouch in our dark rooms and pray for the victims.
Even so, let us rejoice in our trials because we are told this morning that God will not let our tears go in vain; as much as we weep in pain, God will provide us with days to laugh with joy. While waiting for that day, today’s scripture reminds us that the risen Christ comes in our broken-hearted to give us the gifts of his peace and the Holy Spirit, that we may have the power to endure the current trial, drive it out, and will soon celebrate our final victory. Amen.