Seven weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday, we started our Lenten journey. And we started this series, “Our Lord’s Prayer in our Lord’s Passion.” Each week we’ve taken one step further in that journey and in that prayer until we finished it on Good Friday. Which is why today, Easter Sunday, the day that is the whole point of taking this journey, we come full circle back to where we started, with the very first words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father.” We consider that Jesus taught us to call God “Father” in light of the words of the Easter angel:
“Our Father who art in heaven”
“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he is risen, just as he said.’”
In the midst of all this celebration and music and loudness, I proclaim to you something very quiet. I proclaim to you a quiet miracle. Three quiet miracles, actually. One that happened 2000 years ago. One that will happen today. And one that is yet to be. Three quiet miracles, so quiet, you might miss them; and that would be a terrible thing, indeed.
Let’s begin with the quiet miracle that happened 2000 years ago. At dawn on a Sunday morning, a dead body suddenly became warm and pink and strong and pulsing and vital and very much alive, as the Easter angel said, “I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he is risen, just as he said.’”
The body of Jesus Christ who just three days earlier had died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. Then three days later he was raised from the dead to prove he had paid for every last sin. That body that had been cold and dead just a minute ago was now alive, fully alive! And guess who saw that happen? Nobody. Nobody. It was a quiet miracle. An astounding miracle, yes, the most important miracle ever to happen, in fact. But also a quiet miracle. So quiet nobody saw or heard it happen. No trumpets. No angels singing. Nothing. A quiet miracle.
Shortly after Jesus came back to life, he would descend into hell, as we say in the Apostles Creed, to take his victory lap in front of Satan and all the demons. A little later, Jesus would show himself to the women who came to the tomb, and to Mary, and the Emmaus disciples. But that all was well after the miracle had happened. An astounding, quiet miracle. This miracle which gives us victory over death itself! Wouldn’t be a terrible thing if we missed it, or worse, dismissed it, simply because it was such a quiet miracle?
We sing hymn #150 v.2
Now consider the quiet miracle that is going to happen today, the astounding, quiet miracle. It will happen when Miley is baptized. But to catch this miracle, you will need to reflect on the difference between creating and giving birth. A woman can create a work of art and she can give birth to a child. But creating and giving birth are not the same thing. A woman can create a painting that looks exactly like that child, but what she gives birth to actually is the child. A woman can create a sculpture of that child made out of marble, but she gives birth to a child who is made of the same stuff she and her husband are made of. There is a great difference between creating and giving birth.
God created you, as he did me, as he did everyone in our world. But you messed it all up, same as me, same as everyone, by causing people pain, by not being completely honest, by hurting your family, but most of all by thinking that your life is about you and trying somehow to be happy without God’s Word sticking his nose into things. So you are going to die. Because if you sin, you die. No escaping it. The death rate is the same the world over—one per person. And when a person who has sinned dies, well, what it means is that you are fit only to get thrown into the garbage heap of hell, where the stench never stops and the crying never ends. People can act like that isn’t true. But that’s like stepping off the top of a tall building and acting as if gravity is not true.
But the God who creates us does not want us to end up in that place where the stench never stops and the crying never ends. Nor does he want us to be like paintings or sculptures. He wants children, real children, children who are made of the same stuff that he is. So he found a way to give birth to us (there’s a difference between creating and giving birth). Not physically—that was our first birth (thanks, mom!)– but a second birth, a rebirth, giving birth to a new way of thinking and willing and handling life…and death. His way of doing this is called baptism. That moment when God adopts you into his family, makes you as clean and holy as he is, promises that heaven is your home, and says, “From now on, call me Father.” “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
That’s how the Bible describes baptism, “a rebirth and renewal by the HS”, it says in Titus. Christ said to Nicodemus that famous evening, “Unless a man is born again by water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” Or as we’re going to hear from Romans in the Service of Baptism after the offering, “We were buried with Christ by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
And that is a miracle. I mean, you can’t go running up to just anyone and say, “Hi, Father! Hi, Daddy!” That word has implications, doesn’t it. But that’s exactly what the quiet miracle called baptism allows us to do, to run up to God himself in our prayers and say, “Hi, Father!” Or, as Jesus taught us, “Our Father, our Father, who art in heaven.”
An astounding miracle that connects us to Christ’s death and resurrection, as we celebrate today. And a decidedly quiet miracle, as well, as we will see in Miley’s baptism. No trumpets will go off. We won’t hear any angels singing. But it is a miracle nevertheless. If we sometimes call the physical birth of a child a “miracle,” how much more this rebirth that lets us call God, “Father”? An astounding, quiet miracle. And wouldn’t be a terrible thing if we missed it, or worse, dismissed it, simply because it is such a quiet miracle?
We sing hymn #150 v.3
Which brings us to the quiet miracle that is yet to be.
There is a thin, thin veil that separates our world from the eternal world. Paper thin. Sometimes that veil gets suddenly, violently ripped apart by a car accident or a heart attack or a bullet.
But more often that thin veil gets pushed aside in prosaic ways. At night, death comes, taking a person in their sleep. Or maybe tickling them awake, leading them to the bathroom with a splitting headache before pouncing and flooding their brain with an aneurysm. Or at the end of some unpleasant disease, while the person is surrounded by people around in antiseptic white and the machines are beeping, death slips quietly into the room. And the thin, thin veil separating this world from the eternal one gets taken away.
And then…what? You see God. And for those thought they had done enough good things to get into heaven, or who thought that God was Allah, or maybe didn’t think he existed at all, the sheer terror of that moment cannot be described. For it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31) who is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).
Won’t it be a terrible thing for each person who misses out on the miracle of heaven, or simply dismissed it, just because it so a quiet miracle?
Quiet on our end, I mean. Not quiet, of course, for you who trust in Christ’s forgiveness and who are baptized into his name. Not quiet for you at all. When you see God, you will be ushered in to a place of such music and feasting and the beauty of eternal life. And you will be able to look up into the face of God and say, truly say, “I’m home, Father.” And that will be music to his ears, as he distinctly remembers the day he became your Father, the day of your baptism.
But who will see you stepping into the eternal light, having Christ throw his arms around you, angels singing? No one. No one, at least, on earth. We will see a casket, a funeral, a headstone. In this way, it is a quiet miracle. At least on our end. But when you who believe and are baptized die, you will be experiencing every flavor of happiness. Wouldn’t it be a terrible thing if you missed out on that?
So stay close to the Word and his Sacraments. Worship every Sunday, remember your baptism regularly, receive the Lord’s Supper frequently, the tools the Holy Spirit uses to do his work in you, his quiet work, as quiet as yeast working in bread dough, or a seed growing in the ground. Because our Lord, the Lord of the astounding, quiet miracles, has not stopped being the Lord of astounding, quiet miracles. He means to be the Lord of astounding, quiet miracles your whole life long. And what a way to live…and die! Amen.
We sing hymn #150 v.4