Bible Text: 1 John 5:4-12; John 20:19-23 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year The Easter Life 1 St. John 5:4-12 & St. John 20:19-23 by William Klock Just two weeks ago we celebrated the feast day of a British teenager, who in the early 5th was kidnapped from his home by Irish pirates. His name was Patrick. Those pirates took him back to Ireland where he was sold as a slave. When he escaped he travelled to France where he entered the priesthood, following in the steps of his father and grandfather. He studied and about AD 432 was appointed to be a missionary bishop to Ireland. His great desire was to return to the people who had kidnapped him and who had made him a slave so that he could share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. As word of Patrick’s ministry spread people began to seek him out. One of those people was Findcath mac Dego, one of the Irish kings. Patrick shared the Gospel with this pagan king and with his whole entourage of warriors and druids. The king and his men took the message of Jesus Christ to heart that day and were baptised by Patrick. His instruction to the newly baptised men went something like this: “Today you have put on Christ. You have bound him to you like the armour on a Roman soldier’s chest, a lorica, is tied to him. Now you belong to Christ. As you have been washed in the well of washing and poured and sprinkled with water from above, so have you received the Spirit from Heaven. You are surrounded by Christ as the waters swelled around you in the regeneration of new life.” Patrick’s parting advice to the King was this: “My King you now belong to Christ and Christ belongs to you; go and live your Baptism.” Martin Luther described Findcath when he left Patrick that day as going out “to swim in his Baptism.” I think Luther’s words describe our new life in Christ very well. We’re to go out and swim in our Baptism. The Sacraments are the outward and visible signs of the grace that God has worked in us through his Son. Next time you go to a Christian bookstore, look around you at all the books that aim to tell us how to successfully be a Christian. Some of those books are good and lots of them are trash, but how many of them start where Patrick started – with the Sacramental sign of our being grafted into the Body of Christ? It shouldn’t be any surprise to us that Jesus forever linked Christian discileship to the sacrament of Holy Baptism when he gave his Great: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” One of the great errors of the modern Church has been to separate the very Sacraments that Our Lord ordained from his call to discipleship and our sanctification. Too often the Sacraments have become something optional. You get baptised if and when you feel like it. Holy Communion has been taken from the main gathering of God’s people on Sunday morning and has been moved to a small, optional, and poorly attended Wednesday or Sunday evening service. Jesus didn’t give us a whole lot of direct commands, but he did tell his people to do these two things: to be baptised and to receive his Supper until his coming again. These two Sacraments should be the starting point of our faith, but they aren’t just ceremonial points in time with a beginning and an end. Our baptism marks a new life – one that continues. Baptism isn’t a “been there, done that” sort of thing. It’s “been there, still there.” It’s done that, still doing that. The same goes for Communion. It’s not just something we do on Sundays. What we do on Sunday is to be a reminder to us that we live our lives in perpetual Communion with Christ. He is our spiritual nourishment. As we go down the road of discipleship, we start with our baptism and continue in Communion with our Lord as we make the journey. As modern people we want to segment or compartmentalise our lives. We go to work and live in the “work sphere.” We go home and we live in the “family sphere.” We go to church and live in the “church sphere.” A lot of us have a hard time putting it all together and realising that they’re all ongoing and part of one life. We tend to look at things as isolated events. Easter tends to be that way. We celebrate Easter one Sunday and the next we’re on to something else. But the Church knows better than that. That’s why we celebrate Easter for fifty days. It’s a reminder that Easter is the reality of the Christian life – that every day is an Easter for each of us as we celebrate and live in Christ’s resurrection. The Resurrection is supposed to have a lasting effect on us. In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul writes, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). We need to rebuild our lives on the grace of Easter and that means building on a solid foundation of faith. The Sacraments are signs and seals of Gods grace. As they communicate God’s promises to us they confirm and strengthen the faith that God calls us to live daily. Our Epistle lesson tells us that the victory that overcomes the world is that faith. In the Gospel lesson Jesus says to Thomas, “have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Our faith is what gives us the desire to put into action what God has taught us. Faith should never stop with head knowledge or intellectual assent – our faith has to go into action. The problem is that our human nature is inconsistent. We stumble and fall. But God knows we’re prone to getting weak as we journey with him. He knows that and he gives us the grace to persevere. In the Epistle we’re told that Christ comes to us in both water and blood and by the Spirit. All three are there to encourage us. Our baptism is a reminder that we are not of this fallen world – we’re a part of Christ’s Body – and the Holy Communion reminds us that we receive our life from Christ. These are what give us strength to persevere when we’re spiritually tired. In Romans 6, St. Paul tells us that all who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death. As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, too, should walk in newness of life. Last Sunday our focus was on the Resurrection. But it’s important that we remember that the resurrection isn’t something that just relates to Jesus – it related to us to. St. Paul wrote to Timothy: “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11). So we need to ask, “What does it mean that we partake of Christ’s resurrection too?” Look at our Epistle lesson, 1 John 5:4-5: For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? The power for the risen life comes from union with our risen Saviour. We know that we’re citizens of God’s Kingdom, but until we either die or Jesus comes again, we all have to spend our earthly lives living in a sinful and fallen world. If you remember back a few weeks, the lessons of the first three Sundays in Lent put our focus on how we’re assaulted by the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We might be God’s children, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still face very real temptations and struggles with what we’ve been called away from. The only way that we can overcome the ways of our old lives is by a life and an energy from a higher source. The Christian must be “born from above.” It’s not enough to have head knowledge, as I said earlier. It’s not enough to accept Christ as a teacher who came to show us a higher and better way for living. If that’s all we do, then all we have is a higher standard than others, but no real power to rise to it. The difference comes when we believe that our Teacher and Master is the Son of God who was resurrected and has triumphed over sin and death. We can find the grace and power to live according to his commandments when we understand Jesus is the Son of God. Through faith we receive the grace of God. Our old selves are buried with him in the grave and we born again through his Easter Resurrection. Because he has already conquered sin and death, he gives us the power to do so to. As citizens of his Kingdom, living under his victorious reign we live the new life that he gives – we overcome the world. The bringer of life is Christ. Look at verse 6: This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. Christ came by water and by blood. First, he came to cleanse us from our sins by the washing of water. The baptism that he commanded is the outward sign of the remission of our sins and his relieving us of our guilt and punishment. In him every sin we have ever committed is washed away. Because of Christ’s cleansing us, we can stand before a holy and just God and not be condemned. Jesus received our condemnation. He is our life. Because of that, every remission of sins after our baptism is only the renewal of the grace that has been given to us. St. Paul also wrote to Titus about baptism being the washing of regeneration the means by which we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, which then works in us to renew our hearts and minds and make us fit servants of God(Titus 3:5. Baptism incorporates us into the living Body of Christ. It grafts us into the living Vine and makes old dead wood that could produce nothing to be alive with the Spirit so that it can bear new fruit. We are taken into a new covenant with God, being baptised into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because Christ died for us – he took our punishment on himself – we have a new standing before God. When the soldier pierced Jesus side as he was hanging on the cross “there came out blood and water,” to signify the cleansing power of his blood. Secondly, St. John emphatically adds: “Not with water only but with water and the blood.” The blood is the life. Remember all the way back to Genesis: God warned Noah “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:4). God taught his people over and over that blood is life. The old sacrificial system taught that blood – life – had to be shed to cover sins. When a sacrifice was made in the Tabernacle of the Temple, the point wasn’t to symbolise an offering of death. The shedding of blood on the altar was a symbolic offering of life to atone for sin. The whole point of the Old Testament sacrificial system was to teach God’s people that innocent blood must be shed to cover sins. Those imperfect sacrifices of dumb animals pointed to the perfect sacrifice that Christ made for us in his own death. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). He gives us that abundant life through is blood. Jesus also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever” (John 6:53-58). We are grafted into his Body and we receive our nourishment from him. The Holy Communion is the outward sign and seal of that grace. Through his blood we abide in the living Christ and he abides in us. Finally, look at verses 7-12: And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life. St. John’s train of thought is plain. The life given by the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood is the ongoing and perpetual witness to the Son of God. The Holy Spirit creates new life in us, which is seen outwardly in our baptism, and then the Spirit feeds and strengths that life through our communion with Christ as we receive his body and blood, our heavenly food. The very fact that we live – and when we’re all gathered together, that the Church lives – is the evidence of the claim that Jesus has made to be our Lord. This isn’t the testimony or witness of men; it’s the witness of God the Holy Spirit living in men. It might come through men and women, but that’s because each believer lives again in Christ and can witness him. Life comes from life, and the risen Christian proves a risen Christ to be the source of our Christianity. In fact, the growth of the Church – of the Body of Christ – is the ongoing growing and strengthening witness to Christ in the world. St. John Chrysostom wrote: The Chruch consisteth of these two together, and those who are initiated know this, being regenerated by water and nourished by the Blood and Flesh. Hence the Sacraments take their beginning” (Homily 85). The Church fulfils her mission and grows as she abides in Christ and he abides in her. To be the Church means that we stress this new life above all else. In our Gospel lesson this morning we see Jesus giving his divine commission to the disciples. They were laying low and hiding out from the authorities when Jesus appeared in the room before them. And yet Jesus gave these men calm assurance. He came into the room and simply said, “Peace be with you.” They saw his pierced hands and his feet and that was all they needed. St. John says that they were glad to see their risen Lord. But notice that Jesus didn’t just come to give a little bit of reassurance to a group of men who feared that the authorities might come for them next – to crucify them the same way their Lord had been. No, Jesus reassured them and gave them a commission: Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Think about it. Those disciples were scared. When Jesus was before the Sanhedrin Peter had been identified as one of his followers. They were afraid to show their faces in Jerusalem. Jesus came to give them reassurance, but that’s not all – he and call them to go out and boldly proclaim that the Kingdom of God had come, just as he had spent the last three years proclaiming that same Kingdom. They just wanted to hide and Jesus said, “No! God out and boldly proclaim the message I gave you!” You see, too often we as Christian are happy to receive Christ’s comfort. We’re happy that we’ve been saved from our sins. We’re happy to leave sin behind and live our lives, by the help of the Spirit, in ways that are pleasing to God. But does that involve actually going out into the world to use those Spirit-given gifts to proclaim the Kingdom of God? The Father didn’t send the Spirit just to make us feel warm and fuzzy. He sent the Spirit to empower his people for service and ministry. Pentecost wasn’t about feeling warm and fuzzy or about having nice feelings about God. It was about boldly proclaiming a message of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The early Christians understood what it meant to be Easter people – to be people united with Christ in his Resurrection. But Jesus breathes on each of us too. To swim in your baptism, as Luther used to put it, means to live the Spirit-filled life. God fills each of us with his Spirit just as he did those disciples he breathed on as he commissioned them. Jesus empowered his disciples and said to them, “I send you.” And he does the same to each of us. Take those words in our Gospel lesson as if they were spoken to you. This is where we start. We find our risen life in our risen Saviour. We have been joined with him and we find our spiritual food in him. When Christ died and rose from the dead he crushed the head of the Serpent. St. John described in his vision, how the angel chained that old Serpent, the Devil, and threw him into the pit. On the cross, Christ bought not only his victory, but our own, and now he sits in heaven at the right hand of the Father where he reigns over his Kingdom. His disciples huddled fearfully in that room with the doors and windows shut, fearing the world outside and what might happen to them if they showed their faces in Jerusalem. They didn’t realize that they had nothing to fear. Our Lord and Master is ruler over all and has won the victory for us. Too often we’re just like the disciples. Jesus says to each of us, “I send you,” but we’re afraid. We just need to remember that he reigns and that we have nothing to fear when we go out in his name. That was what drove those early Christians, even when they suffered martyrdom. They understood what it meant to be an Easter people. They understood what it meant to be citizens of God’s Kingdom. They knew what it meant for their Lord to have already won the victory. I’m reminded of the chorus of a popular hymn – it’s not a typical Anglican hymn – but I think the words really sum up the life we find in our risen Saviour: O victory in Jesus, My saviour forever, He sought me and he bought me With his redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew him, And all my love is due him, He plunged me to victory, Beneath the cleansing flood.
Bible Text: 1 John 5:4-12; John 20:19-23 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon for the First Sunday after Easter 1 St. John 5:4-12 & St. John 20:19-23 by William Klock When we were here together last week to celebrate the great Feast of the Resurrection, I stressed the point that as Christians we’re called not to be just Good Friday people, but to be Easter people.  There are a lot of people who are happy to claim the salvation Jesus offers at the cross on Good Friday and to then call it all good.  “I’m saved now. Thanks Jesus.  Don’t mind me while I keep doing my own thing.”  I’ve met more people I can count who approach Jesus that way and then go through their lives with a false assurance that when Judgement Day arrives, everything’s going to be just fine for them.  As I said last week, real faith doesn’t work that way.  Real saving faith only begins on Good Friday.  Real saving faith only begins at the cross.  Real saving faith comes to full fruit on Easter as Jesus rises to life again and he takes all those who truly accepted his death on the cross and raises them—raises us—to new life with him.  We need to remember that the Gospel isn’t just that Jesus saves us from the penalty of our sins.  The Gospel is also just as much that Jesus saves us from our sins themselves.  In rising to life again he conquered sin and death and because of that, everyone who is in him and living his resurrection life, will be dead to sin too. Think of it this way.  In the Church’s calendar, Good Friday is one day.  Easter lasts for forty.  It began last week, but we’ll continue to celebrate Easter for five more Sundays—taking us up to the Ascension and to Pentecost.  And on each of these Sundays, the lessons point us to what it means to life out new life in Christ. The ancient Church made this lesson even more visible.  We celebrate the Easter season for forty days, but Easter itself is just one day in our calendar.  The ancient Church celebrated Easter for a whole week.  And even though Easter is the most important of all our feast days, it was probably even more so in those times.  The church calendar started with Easter.  That was the feast of the Early Church.  It was only over the coming decades and centuries that the other holy days and feasts were added.  And the focus of their week-long Easter celebration was on those who were newly baptised at the Easter Vigil.  Those new Christians would wear white baptismal robes through that whole week, and their brothers and sisters would sort of vicariously live through them—remembering their own baptism and the joy of being newly in Christ.  And then at the end of that Easter week, the new Christians would be gathered together with the Church and they’d take off the white robes—they’d be back in their everyday street clothes.  But the priest or the bishop would exhort them, using St. Paul’s words, “All you that are baptised in Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).  The point was to remind them that even though they were taking off those white robes and going back to their normal workaday lives, even though the great festival of Easter was over, they were to continue to be an Easter people—they were to be faithful in living out their new life in Christ.  And brothers and sisters, those are words that should inspire us to do the same. It was on this first Sunday after Easter that the newly baptised took their place side-by-side with their brothers and sisters who were mature in the faith.  They were fully initiated now and were expected to pull their weight as members of the Church—as members of Christ’s Body.  It was as if they had graduated from school and were now equipped and pledged to living out their new life in Christ—to persevere in the face of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  But that’s not just something for new Christians.  We all need to be reminded of the pledge that we all took, the commitment we all made in our baptism.  This is why in our collect this morning we prayed: “Almighty Father, you have given your only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant that we may put away the old leaven of corruption and wickedness, and always serve you in sincerity and truth; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.”  That’s a prayer that we would truly be an Easter people—truly be a Resurrection people.  The great feast of Easter may be over when it comes to the calendar, but it never ends when it comes to our lives.  I like the way Fr. Parsch put it: “The high feasts of the Church should be more than occasions for religious emotionalism. Every feast-day celebration should have a lasting influence, and Easter above all ought to effect in us rebirth of Christian fervour and zeal.”  Consider how excited we feel about celebrations like Christmas and Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, and how, once the day is passed—maybe as quickly as once we’ve left the church building that day—the excitement passes and we all but forget about the great Gospel truths we were just celebrating.  Instead, we need to let the celebrations of the Church sink deeply into our lives, to let them grow our faith, and to let them lead us to better serve our Lord. This is something that the Easter Vigil gets at directly.  The Great Vigil is the central celebration of the Easter season; it’s what leads us from Good Friday into Easter Sunday and it does that in part by taking us back to our baptism.  As part of the Vigil, we read through the Old Testament to recall God’s bringing about our redemption and then from there we gather at the font and renew the vows we took when we were baptised.  When we were baptised we were asked—or our sponsors were asked on our behalf, “Do you renounce the devil and all his works, the empty display and false values of the world, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that you will not follow nor be led by them?”  And each of us answered, “I renounce them all.”  And last Saturday night as we prepared for Easter we were asked again, “Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil and renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?”  And we each answered, “I do.” That’s not a vow to take lightly, because it’s a vow that is at the core of the Christian life—if you’re going to follow Christ, you have to make good on it.  Sixteen-hundred years ago St. Augustine preached this same message to the people in his care—people that were just as prone as we are to forgetting the vow we once took.  He said: “You did not renounce the devil in the presence of men, but in sight of God and the angels.  Nor do you renounce the devil merely by words but by the works you perform.  Never forget that you are at warfare with a sly and ancient enemy.  One minute you are uttering long prayers in church; the next minute you are shouting shameless words along with the other spectators at the circus.  What right have you to be enamoured of the pomps of the devil, whom you have renounced?” How many of us sing songs of praise on Sunday, come to the Lord’s Table to partake of his Body and Blood, committing ourselves to him, and then walk out those doors and go back to living unregenerate lives?  Brothers and sisters, that’s not what Christ has called us to. In our Epistle St. John tells us very plainly: Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5) Our baptismal vows express the reality of the new life Jesus has given us and if we would remember those vows, if we would live by them, trusting in the work Jesus did at the cross to give us new life, we would truly be an Easter people—we would truly be different and we’d have a bright light to hold up when we’re out in that dark world. This is why our custom when someone is baptised here is to give them a candle.  That candle is lit from the Paschal Candle—from the Easter flame that presents the light of Christ in our midst—and it’s delivered with the words, “Receive this lighted candle and keep your Baptism above reproach.”  This was one the practices of the ancient Church and one that has been revived in the last century or so.  We take that candle and let it burn for a minute or two and then blow it out as we go back to our seats as the service continues.  When we get home we put it in a drawer and forget about it.  We might even lose it over time.  But friends, that candle is a symbol of the grace we receive in our baptism.  It’s a symbol of Christ-in-us and it’s a symbol of the light of Christ that we should be taking out into the dark to draw others to Jesus.  It’s something we can light annually on the anniversary of our baptism as a tangible reminder that we’ve been called to be lights to the world.  Even though we can’t keep that physical candle burning forever, it’s a symbol of God’s grace in us that we should never extinguish.  And yet so many of us come and celebrate Easter here in the church and then go back to our old rut of sin on Easter Monday and get stuck there until Easter comes around the next year. So St. John goes on in today’s Epistle, exhorting us and affirming the reality of  the new life Jesus offers.  Maybe we fail to live as Easter people for the rest of the year because we doubt.  It’s not always easy to have faith in something you can’t see or in something that happened two thousand year ago.  But John goes on and says: God has given us witnesses to the reality of his grace. This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. (1 John 5:6-8) The Sacraments: Baptism, in which Christ comes to us through the water, and the Lord’s Supper, in which he comes to us through his blood, are signs and seals of God’s grace. They’re tangible reminders.  But even more importantly, his most important means of grace is his own Holy Spirit, whom he pours into us in Baptism and who gives us understanding, witnesses the Truth to us, and transforms our lives.  Our faith isn’t a blind faith.  We’re not jumping off a cliff when we can’t see the bottom and just blindly hoping that it’s a short drop.  When we step out in Christian faith, we have the full witness of God showing us the way forward. Think about that.  We have the full witness, the full testimony of God.  How many things do accept simply because someone has told you about them?  We accept the authority of people who are knowledgeable.  We accept the statements of people who have been direct witnesses to events.  And St. John goes on and tells us: When it comes to our faith—on which our eternal life or death depends—we have much more than the mere witness of men.  We have that, but we also have the witness of God himself.  He says: If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.  And this is the testimony, [this is what the water, the blood, and the Spirit witness to us] that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12) If we are in Christ Jesus, we have new life.  Period.  That’s the Easter message.  But, again, Easter reminds us as I said last Sunday, not to live that life passively.  Pursue it actively!  Don’t squander the grace of God.  That’s the point of the ancient Easter Epistle.  We only read it anymore if we have two services on Easter Sunday, but listen to what St. Paul says there to the Corinthians: Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6b-8 NASB) Every year as the feast approached the Jews cleaned their house of leaven—a thing that became a symbol of sin.  As Paul says here, it only takes a little bit of leaven to work its way through a whole lump of dough.  It multiplies and grows and spreads.  Sin tends to work the same way.  I notice in my own life that all it takes is one little sin—often something I’m on guard for and step into deliberately and wilfully—and suddenly a host of sins cascades into my life without my even really realising it until it’s too late.  We’re all like that.  Passover reminded the Jews that God is the gracious Redeemer, but that redemption means a putting away of sin—a cleansing of our lives. Easter is the fulfilment of that Old Testament type and shadow that was given to the people in the Passover.  Jesus redeemed us at the cross.  Jesus has washed us clean and because he’s given us his grace—as we hear his Word, as we receive his Sacraments, as we are united with and in fellowship with his Body, and most of all as his Spirit works in us to make us actually holy—he expects us to get rid of the leaven of sin, to get rid of the things that drag us down, that cause us to stumble, and instead to learn to be obedient.  Easter is the cleaning out of sin’s leaven—and it shouldn’t be something we do for a day each Spring, but something we do every day. Think of it this way: When the Jews sacrificed that Passover lamb, they had to remove the leaven from their houses for a week.  Jesus, the true Passover Lamb has now been sacrificed for us—a once-for-all-time sacrifice.  Therefore let us keep the feast—the eternal Passover—not by living lives full of malice and wickedness, but by living in the grace of God every day so that we can feed and nourish ourselves on sincerity and truth.  As we read in last Sunday’s Epistle: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2) The Easter message is the Gospel—the Good News—itself, and so Easter is the dividing line between the old man of the flesh and the new man of the Spirit.  The man or woman of the flesh lives with his or her mind focused on the things of this world.  He lives for today.  As Pauls say in Philippians, “their god is their belly,” and his life is marked by covetousness, the lust of the flesh, and pride.  In contrast the Christian who has received the Gospel message—the man or woman who lives as an Easter person—might live in this world, but his or her focus is on God’s kingdom and on eternity.  That’s why Paul warns us: Examine your lives.  If you find that your focus is centred on making money, hoarding up worldly possessions, or seeking after pleasure, then you know that Easter isn’t having a lasting impact on your life.  And the fact is that we all have room for improvement. So let me close with this: We all need to make some renovations in our lives.  And as we start pulling things down so that we can build them back up on the grace of Easter, there are two things we should keep in mind: we need to lay a strong foundation and we need to take advantage of the means of grace that God gives so that we can persevere. The foundation is faith.  Again, St. John said in the Epistle: “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”  If we continued reading where our Gospel lesson today leaves off, we’d read Jesus telling St. Thomas: “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).  And brothers and sisters, the Church tells us the same thing in our baptism: Treasure your faith, but not a faith that just accepts as true whatever God has revealed, but a faith that governs all your actions—your whole lives; not a faith that hides away in a church, but a faith that shows itself to the whole world.  Think about it.  What kind of faith is going to overcome the world?  We all know Christians who don’t practice their faith—it’s just head knowledge with little or no impact on how they live.  Some of us are like that.  And yet we just accept it as if it’s okay.  It shouldn’t be okay!  A Christian who doesn’t live his faith will never overcome a world—in fact, he or she becomes a scandal to the world and is him- or herself overcome by the world.  They turn Easter upside-down. How can faith overcome the world?  It happens as each of us lets Easter—lets the Gospel—continually influence our life—as we daily renounce the devil, set our hearts on the things of heaven, love our brothers and sisters, and as we hide our lives away in God.  That’s how Christians live their faith and overcome the world.  If, on the other hand, we imitate the methods and ways of the world, if we share the desires of the world, we’ll never be the victors—instead, we’ll be the vanquished—we’ll be conquered by the world, instead of being an influence for good. The problem is that we’re all fickle.  We’re all prone to stumbling and falling back into our old ways.  The good news is, as St. John tells us today, that the same God who has given us Easter grace at the baptismal font—who witnesses himself in the water—makes sure that we have the grace to persevere in our faith as he comes to us in the blood as well—as he invites us to his Table.  In our baptism Jesus unites us to himself, to share his life, as he pours his Spirit into us, but every Sunday as we gather here at his Table, he reminds us again that it’s his Body and Blood that give us life, that we partake of as living members of his Body.  So friends, let us walk as overcomers, be refreshed here as Jesus witnesses his saving grace and exhorts us to live new lives through the water, through the blood, and through the Spirit, so that we can go out in confidence to carry the light of the Gospel to the world. Let us pray: “Almighty Father, you have given your only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant that we may put away the old leaven of corruption and wickedness, and always serve you in sincerity and truth; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”