April 16, 2023
Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
1 Peter 1:3-9
Alleluia Christ is Risen!
Christ is risen indeed alleluia!
Christ is risen,
the tomb is empty
the messengers from God have appeared,
and Mary has proclaimed to the disciples
that she has seen the Lord.
Christ is risen,
It’s a question both for the disciples and us.
When we join them today
The disciples still don’t know
what exactly is going on
except that three days ago
they witnessed the brutal execution of their leader
and now they have reports that he is alive again
or at least not in the tomb where they laid him
so they decide the best course of action
is to lay low for awhile
and that Sunday evening
finds them gathered together in fear and uncertainty
behind locked doors.
And into the midst of their fear and uncertainty,
saying ‘peace’ to the startled disciples
I imagine them all sitting there in shock,
the doors are still locked after all,
and while they might have a guess
they’re still not completely sure who it is
until Jesus shows them his hands and his side,
marked with scars from being nailed to the cross
and pierced with a sword.
And then the disciples rejoice,
Jesus is among them!
But the question still hovers,
now that the disciples recognize him
Jesus is able to answer this question,
he gives them the gift of peace,
saying “As the Father has sent me so I send you”
and breathing on them,
just as God breathed into Adam at creation,
Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit
and tells them that they are to continue his work,
the work of bearing witness to the possible relationship between humans and God,
a relationship Jesus showed them with his life,
a relationship they are to now show others with their lives.
So now the disciples know what they are supposed to do next
and it’s not too long
before they get to try out their new role of bearing witness.
It turns out that Thomas,
one of their own
was not with them when Jesus came to them,
but he was a follower of Jesus
he should be an easy sell right?
So echoing Mary that morning
they proclaim to him
“We have seen the Lord”
and Thomas responds
“unless I see the marks in his hand for myself, I will not believe”
Now we don’t get the disciples’ reaction to this pronouncement
but I’ve got to think that it took the wind right out of their sails
because the next time we see the disciples
where are they?
Out the in the world continuing Jesus’ work?
No, a week later
they are in that same house
in the same room
with the doors shut.
The only difference is that Thomas is with them this time
and once again Jesus appears among
and them greets them with peace.
Then he turns and offers himself to Thomas,
saying “put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side, do not be unbelieving but believing.”
When we hear these words
we sometimes add a mocking tone to them,
indeed we’ve added the epithet Doubting to Thomas’ name,
but there is no reason to interpret Jesus’ words and actions
as anything but filled with grace.
Jesus is offering Thomas what he needs,
encouraging him farther down the path of faith.
Each of us has different needs when it comes to faith,
Peter and the other disciple
all they needed was to see the linen wrappings lying in the tomb,
Mary needed to hear her name spoken by Jesus,
some of the disciples believed
when Mary announced to them that she had seen the Lord,
he needed to put his finger in Jesus hands, and his hand in his side.
And having been given what he needs
he proclaims “My Lord and my God.”
and with that goes a step further
than the rest of the disciples in his belief,
he grasps the nature of the special relationship between Jesus and his abba
the relationship that John the author of the gospel
has been conveying from the very beginning
Thomas gets it.
“Have you believed because you have seen me?” Jesus asks,
knowing full well that it was what Thomas requested,
but then goes on,
turning it seems to us
saying “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Again I don’t think there is judgment in those words,
Thomas is blessed with his faith through sight
and those who believe without seeing Jesus are also blessed,
we are blessed by our belief
not how we come to it,
there is no greater blessing than being in relationship with Jesus, with God
And having recorded Jesus’ benediction,
John turns once again to us,
the readers throughout the ages
and says: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
And once again the ball is back in our court,
the tomb is empty,
Mary has delivered her message to the skeptical disciples,
Jesus has appeared to the disciples through locked doors,
given them the gift of the holy spirit and ascended to his abba.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen,
The end of Jesus’ story
is just the beginning of ours,
at our baptisms
we were given the gift of the holy spirit
and commissioned to continue his work in the world
just as Jesus gave the disciple the gift of the holy spirit
and commissioned them
to continue his work in the world,
so too are we
to witness to the life-giving nature of relationship with God,
all while walking our own path from unbelief to belief.
Simple enough right?
because no sooner than we’ve excitedly proclaimed
we’ve seen the lord!
We will meet a Thomas,
who demands proof that we ourselves cannot offer
and before we know it we’re back in that room
with the others who are just like us,
with the doors shut
wondering what to do.
And that’s when Jesus comes to us in grace
offering himself to us once again,
and gathered with fellow disciples
we listen to the stories of the signs that Jesus did
stories that point to a truth greater than the stories themselves,
a truth greater than us.
And together we share our own experiences with the risen lord,
They might not be as dramatic
as witnessing Jesus move through locked doors
or touching the scars on his body
but we have had encounters with the Holy,
whether it be through the community showing up at a hard time,
or circumstances all lining up in a way
that only God could have managed
or even something else,
and maybe some of us are still like Thomas,
waiting for what we need to believe,
but in the meantime
the community holds our faith in trust.
We come together wondering what to do
We share stories, sing songs, offer prayers
And then we gather as a community around the table
And Jesus comes to us proclaiming “peace be with you”
And offering us his body and blood
giving us what we need
and we reach out and receive that which was given for us,
Then, Blessing us
Jesus sends us back out
Back out into the world to share the gift of the Holy Spirit
To forgive and receive forgiveness
To live fully in Jesus’ name.
To excitedly proclaim We have seen the Lord! Amen