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Posted: April 23, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Grace Notes: Why is attendance higher on Easter?

Happy Easter. Yes, we’re still celebrating Easter. Let me tell you why that is so important. A couple weeks ago, we saw the angels telling those women at the tomb to "remember" what Jesus had said and "remember" what that meant. That week, my article probably used the word "remember" 20 times. Then, last week, the word was "believe" as Thomas got his doubts smashed by the absolute facts of the truth that Christ is risen.

You’d think that would be enough of this Easter stuff, right? Remember what he did and believe it. Good enough, right?

Open up your Bibles to John 21:1-14, and you’ll see that what we’ve covered so far isn’t close to enough. Exploring the benefits of this resurrection is a task we won’t soon be done with. In fact, we’ll never be done with it as we celebrate it into eternity.

So on this early morning some time after Easter recorded by John, Jesus appears to his disciples again, a third time, we’re told. He came to demonstrate to them what we hear John tell Peter in verse 7: "It is the Lord." He appears to show them what that means for them and for us. And they needed it.

Think about it. Those disciples probably had pretty good reason to doubt their relationship with the Lord. They had fallen asleep on him when he needed them in Gethsemane, had abandoned him at the betrayal, Peter denied him three times, Thomas doubted him, all of them were scared and confused when he had clearly said what was happening. Why should he want anything to do with them?

That’s the thing that makes this "third" appearance so important, and the 4th and the 5th, and on and on. Our sin doesn’t seem to give up. Our sin doesn’t seem to get tired by the third repetition. No, instead, it just keeps gaining momentum, whether it is our returning to that sin and getting more and more comfortable because we’ve come up with a better and better list of excuses for it, or on the flip side, it is our guilt reminding us more and more of what we’ve done. Sin doesn’t give up. We need our Easter not to give up either. We need Easter way more than just once a year.

Think of what that means for those people that get interested in church just around Easter or Christmas? Two weeks ago, we had double the amount of people at church celebrating the victory, declaring how important the resurrection is for our lives. Does that mean that this Sunday, it’s only half as important? Or when you don’t make time for Bible Study, or your daily reading of the word, does Easter not quite matter as much? That’s what we’re saying, but that is not the truth.

The sin that enters our eyes on the TV or in the movies trying to get us to think that promiscuity and vulgarity and dishonesty are kosher, the temptation that enters our ears through the music we hear hardening our consciences to figure that the sanctity of our speech doesn’t matter, the peer pressure we feel from the world we live in, the impulses our sinful nature pulses through us — when’s the last time any of those skipped a week, or even a day, even an hour?

And the more time we give them, the more they take over our lives until we forget what we were supposed to remember, we doubt what right now we so clearly believe. We live like he isn’t the Lord. Let me tell you, in this spiritual battlefield of a world we live in, we need every Sunday of this Easter season. We need every appearance of our risen Savior; we need to see him again and again in his word. We need Easter every moment.

So yes, even a third time, this is huge that our Savior takes his time and appears to his disciples. Next week we’ll look at all the little things in the details of this text, but right now, I want to focus just on the fact that he came and sought them out, alive.

Just by his presence, he proved his love. This one, the one John called, "the Lord," is the one they had fallen asleep on; this is the one they had abandoned; this is the one they had failed — and this one is the one that had taken all of those sins to the cross and cried out "Father, forgive them." And here he is, alive.

God did forgive them, and us — for all the times we picked sleep over our time remembering Easter, for all the times we abandon our savior and live for this world, for all the times we’ve failed. This Lord took all of those sins and paid them in full.

And on this day he comes to his disciples in their everyday lives at that lake just like he comes to you through the power of the Word.

Realize what this means: "It is the Lord."

The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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