GLORY TO YOU FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS THE CHRIST!
CHRIST IS RISEN!--HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Today's Gospel lesson tells us of the fear that the Disciples felt after Jesus was crucified. They were in doubt as to what they were supposed to do and also in fear that they might be put to death. They were all gathered, in a locked room, except for Thomas. He seems to have made a serious mistake by isolating himself from the other Disciples in their time of great need. They were hurting, but a least they were together. Then, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace Be With You!" "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, There I am also." But Thomas was not there with the others. And he missed that Resurrection Appearance.
Many people tend to follow Thomas' example; for a variety of reasons, they tend to withdraw from the community of Christ. We hear a lot of people saying these days, "I no longer go to Church. I no longer support the Church."
One man wrote a "Letter to the Editor" in which he said, "My church is nothing but a hymn-singing Rotary Club." Now there is nothing wrong with a Rotary Club as such, but a Church is more than a Rotary Club. And I think we can learn from Thomas that it is a tragic mistake to give up on it for the same reasons we would give up on a social or political organization. It is in the community that God's love is given in a special kind of way.
When the Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was in solitary confinement in a Nazi concentration camp, he said he appreciated, as never before, the gift of just being with Christian brothers and sisters; just being together. He said he had a hunger for it that was greater than his intense hunger for food. We need to be in community. It is a serious mistake to withdraw from the community of faith because, in so doing, we may miss the Resurrection gift of new life in Christ--the gift we need most of all.
Thomas' second mistake was that he demanded the gift to be given to him on his terms before he would accept it. "I will never believe it," he said, "without touching his hands where the nail prints are in his hands, without putting my finger into the nail marks and my hand into his side.” No wonder he was called "Doubting Thomas".
Jesus does reappear on Thomas' terms. And after he had felt the wounds with his hands, Thomas does affirm that this is the true Jesus and replies with, "My Lord and my God!" But Jesus probably would like to reprimand him by saying "You believe in me now Thomas? Big Deal! Anybody would believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
The journey to Easter is one filled with questioning and reconciliation as we follow the story that brings us to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. These stories provide many examples of what God would have us do and be through the living example of his son, Jesus. We even experience through Jesus the mystery of belief complete with its companions--questioning, doubt and obedience.
Aside from the miracle of creation, for which there were no witnesses, most of the stories in scripture invite us into believing through the relationships of others. Take for example the mystery shrouding Mary's conception or the miracle for Elizabeth, both as she recognizes the child Mary bears to be Jesus and as her own unborn child leaps--already going ahead, announcing Jesus. Or consider the miracle of Lazarus or the window's child being raised up from death. Or the healing of the lepers, the blind, or people otherwise afflicted. Or the faith of the Syrophoenician woman that her child could be healed if only Jesus would acknowledge her. Or the Samaritan woman at the well whose only task was to draw water but gained new life instead.
All of these are fine examples of what we might want to explain away with reasoning, but in reality they require our belief, a much greater task. Just ask Thomas, who, unlike the rest of the apostles, was not given the opportunity to see Jesus when he first appeared showing them his wounds and acknowledging their disbelief and wonder. Or ask the two apostles in the gospel of Mark who traveled on a road and ate with Jesus before they recognized their teacher. And what about "the disciple whom Jesus loved," who went into the tomb following Peter and saw and believed? Thomas had been known for so much more but somehow all anyone remembers him for now is being the one who doubted.
What would people say about you? What do you need to "see" to believe? And do people you encounter know by your actions what you believe? Who am I to question the accounts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. I really don't like hearing about the Scientific theory on the Bible. Why don't they just believe and let it alone.
We are tempted to believe that these readings are about faith and doubt, but we must not forget the rest of the story the commissioning. Blessed are we who believe without seeing and receive the Holy Spirit. Blessed are we who rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, sharing these gifts with everyone we encounter. Together with the apostles we are captured by God's living presence, imagining the infinite possibilities in creating a world that believes even without seeing.
In this season of Easter let us all come together as companions in resurrection, approaching our doubts as an invitation on our faith journey to believe without seeing. AMEN
References used: Sunday Sermons, 1987, April 26th, and Worship that Works, Rev. Debbie Royals--March 30, 2008
I have to put a post script on the end of this sermon. It doesn't relate to the scripture but it was an important time in my life when I was a pre-teen. Always on May 1st my girl friend and I would make May Day baskets and fill them with flowers, from our yards, and take them to people's front door and hang them on the door knob. Knock & then run. That was so much fun then. We made our baskets out of old wall paper books, and folded them to make a basket. I suppose that today the girls would probably think we were nuts to do that, but then we didn't have cell phones--heck, we didn't even have a phone in the house.
We even had May Day tea's here at St Mark's. On year we had a fashion show of the dresses the ladies wore when they got married. I don't know what has happened, but we don't do anything fun like that anymore. Guess, we are just getting too busy with other things.
Anyway, I just wish you all a very Happy May Day!