St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Easter 2 2013 Sermon
Rev. Bonnie Campbell

Well, we have made it through another Lent and Easter Sunday--now things can get back to normal!  Except, we are now in the 50 days of Easter and today’s Gospel reading tells us the journey has just begun.
I feel bad for St. Thomas--I think he is misunderstood.  For, there were eleven of the male disciples left and ten of them were huddled in a locked room too frightened to go out.  Women told them that Jesus was risen from the grave but it was just too crazy a story to believe.  I don’t know what sent Thomas out of the locked room--maybe he was looking for the risen Jesus or maybe he took the short straw and had to go out on some errand they were all too afraid to do.  But, hey, he wasn’t hiding from the world in a locked room and I think he deserves some credit for that.
When you know for a fact that someone is dead with no chance for revival--I mean, if someone is executed, the executioner assures the person is really dead so you can count on that.  If you have seen someone pass on, you know they are gone--you don’t expect to see them rise up alive.  Now, you may find one day that you forget they are gone and you think you hear them come in the door or you think you saw them across the room, or you even almost forget and ask someone how they are if you haven’t seen them for a long time.  I almost did that one time.  But, when you are thinking in a non-magical way, you are fully aware that the person is not alive and you will not be seeing them.
So when someone says the body is gone and they have talked to the person you start “do do do do”--the theme to The Twilight Zone.  And in all fairness to Thomas, when Jesus appeared among the ten, the first thing John says Jesus did is he SHOWED them his wounds so they could see it was really him!  Of course, they believed--they had seen him!
But, when Jesus left, they went back to locking themselves into rooms and hiding.  Though Jesus had lived among them in the flesh and though he had apparently walked through walls to be with them in the flesh again; they were still withholding their own presence from the world.
Yes, I think Thomas gets a bad rap.  I mean, really, in the first century world, people didn’t generally live all that long and death was common.  Death was something they all knew on an intimate basis.  Thomas couldn’t believe, just as they didn’t believe Mary, that Jesus was back from the dead.  After all, there was no Jesus to raise him.  All their hopes had been dashed with his death.
So when Jesus comes in to the locked room again and immediately goes to Thomas, it is because Jesus wants him to know that it is okay to want to hold onto reality.  And the reality is that Jesus is alive--with a real body and with real wounds.  And Thomas says something outrageous for a first century Jew--well, for a 21st century Jew.  “My Lord and my God!”  Thomas redefines who God is, what God is and where God is.  God is here, God is now, and somehow Jesus is part of it.  Mind blowing--all of it!
So, are we huddled here together hiding from the world, or are we out there in the flesh touching others and being Christ in the world?  Jesus is here, Jesus is now and we can be part of God’s kingdom.  I really wish I knew what Thomas was doing out there in scary Jerusalem when Jesus dropped in the first time, and I would really like to know why it took Jesus so long to return to them a second time.
And, I wonder what this story tells us about our lives in the kingdom of God.  We know from the other gospels that Jesus was a bit disappointed to find them still frightened and trying to figure out what to do.  So, they lost their leader--but he had told them what to do, how to do it, and why.
Jesus had considered the cost to what he would do, and he chose to do it anyhow.  These 11 men had done some bold things while he was with them--healing the sick, feeding the poor, and teaching people about the Kingdom of God.  Now they were hiding in a locked room because they were afraid of the temple authorities.  Except for Thomas!
This story is about incarnation.  Jesus came to the disciples to breathe the Holy Spirit into them so they could go out and do outrageous things.  The Holy Spirit is good but we are all practiced at stifling it.  Can you imagine receiving the fresh fire of the spirit and then staying behind closed doors?  But, it happens.
So we are here in this church--our doors are unlocked, anyone at any time could walk in and we would welcome them.  And, we do.  We offer a home to 12-step groups and others who occasionally use our space.  I’m sure for many of you, you have the same experience I do when I walk in any of the doors of this building--it is much like walking into my own home.  I know where everything is, I usually have something I need to do, and I am comfortable being here.  But I usually keep the doors locked here just like at home.  I am trying to be safe.
But, out in the world we can touch others, see others, listen to others and offer hope to others.  We can be Christ in the world.  We know what to do because we have the stories about Jesus and what he did--his instructions to the disciples he sent out.  Visit the sick and the imprisoned, feed the hungry, care for the widows and orphans and aliens, offer hospitality, and proclaim good news to the poor. We, too, have the indwelling Holy Spirit.
So what are we doing with this Good News?
We can care for the world around us with our own hands.  We all desire real relationships with real people.  I’m not saying we can’t do good things by communicating electronically, or by dropping someone a note of encouragement. We can do it by incarnational living--washing peoples’ real feet, listening to their stories, drying their tears, holding their hands, and placing ourselves even in danger to be with them.  We can offer them love and understanding--that is bringing Christ into the world and it is what people most crave.  To be heard and to be seen and perhaps, even, to be curious enough to meet the Risen Christ themselves entirely, because they can see this is where our energy and our love comes from.  Let’s unlock our doors, especially the doors to our hearts, and let’s do some outrageous things in the name of Christ.