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April 7, 2024

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:32-35

Psalm 133

1 John 1:1-2:2

John 20:19-31

Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

 grace and peace to you

from the one who comes to us in community. Amen


I had a professor in college

 once make the provocative statement

that the beloved children’s song “Jesus Loves Me”

 is wrong.


 You know the song

Jesus loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to him belong

They are weak but he is strong

Yes Jesus loves me

Yes Jesus loves me

Yes Jesus loves me

The Bible tells me so.


Now his quibble was not with the assertion

 that Jesus loves children

but with how the children come to know the love of Jesus.

Through the Bible.


 His point was that children

 first experience the love of Jesus through the community,

by first being loved

and having experienced this love

it makes sense to them when the community teaches them

 that this love comes from Jesus,

that Jesus loves them,


a truth found in the Bible yes,

which a loving community

 will place in children’s hands eventually,

 but not as the primary way of knowing Jesus’ love,

that comes through community.


Today we hear reinforced in our readings

that for better or worse,

 the way Jesus has decided to come to us,


 to continue the relationship with us post resurrection

 is through community,


 namely the community of disciples

that gathers in Jesus’ name,

or as we sometimes call it ‘the Church’ with a capital ‘C’


We see Jesus come to the disciples in community this morning

However, Thomas was absent

And didn’t believe the others when they told him

So spreading the word through the community got off to a bit of a rocky start


But all Thomas wanted

is what the other disciples first received,

 to see Jesus,


and when he is with the community the next week

Jesus comes again

and Thomas has his chance

and exclaims “My Lord and my God.’

 Out of Thomas’ questioning

comes deep faith,


Then the gospel writer

takes the opportunity to offer a blessing

for all of us who have believed

without placing our hands on the resurrected Jesus


And while We may not have placed our finger

 in the spot on Jesus’ hands

where the nails when in,

 nor have we place our hand in his side

 where the soldier’s sword pierced him

 we have all encountered the body of Christ on earth,


we would not be here today

had we not come into contact at some point with that body

 and members who make up that body,

who brought Jesus to us and into our lives,


 because that is how the gospel message is spread,

 through the community.


We heard in Acts,

the history book of the early church,

how the church formed and spread

after the ascension of Jesus,


 how the believers were of one heart and soul,

how they gathered together to hear the testimony of the apostles

and how each member of the community was as valued as the next,


Now I don’t know about you,

but to me that sounds like a pretty good community to be a part of.


Other places in Acts

tell how this community attracted more and more believers every day.

Not just the message but the character of the community

had a lot to do with the success of the early church,


and this is still the case

 how church members and communities act

can make or break how the message of Christ is spread,

whether or not people want to take part in the community,


And if the community is like the one described in Acts,

 that’s great,


but we don’t have to think very hard

to find an example of when a community

did not live in a way that made people want to take part in the community


in fact I think it might almost be easier

 to think of negative examples,

 the times of exclusion, hate,

petty bickering and power dynamics


 and all of a sudden

what sounded like gospel

the proclamation that Jesus comes to us in community,

starts to sound like law,


 because we are intimately aware of the fact

that the church is not perfect,

nor are the people that make up the church perfect


 and yet we’re the primary way

 that Jesus uses to build relationships with people?


 That’s a lot of pressure,

there is a lot riding on our imperfect selves

and the imperfect community we make up.


But lest our despair at our imperfections

cause us to give up on the community

as so many have done,

there is a word of grace,


that when we sin we have an advocate in Jesus Christ.


John, in our second reading

 addresses the reality of the Christian community,

both the good and the bad,


his description of how the community works is beautiful,

 how the older community members share their experiences

 and build relationships with new community members

so that in these relationships,

relationship with God is built,


 and then John acknowledges the reality

 that communities don’t always practice what they preach,

oddly enough

John doesn’t seem too concerned

about the particulars of the sin

 present in the community,


 he acknowledges that it’s better not to sin

but if anyone does

there is forgiveness in Christ Jesus,


what John seems more concerned about

is the failure to acknowledge our sin,

our imperfections,


from this passage

we get the line that is used in confession and forgiveness

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, if we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The key then to the Christian community

At least according to John

 is authenticity rather than perfection,


I mean which community would you rather belong to?

 one that pretends it’s perfect

 and points out others’ imperfections


or one that acknowledges its faults,

 asks for forgiveness

and moves forward with the intent

of not repeating those past mistakes or harmful actions.


 I know which one I choose,

and strive to create.


 and perhaps that’s the genius

 of God working through an imperfect community

 and imperfect people,

it acknowledges the reality of life


this is the essence of Jesus,

as Immanuel, God with us,

 who has experienced everything we do,

 even death

and who lives and loves us still,


we imperfect humans are able to connect to Jesus,

because while he is perfect

has experienced how hard it is to be a human,

he even has the scars to prove it.


When Jesus came to the disciples in the locked room

after being crucified and risen from the dead,

 he came with scars,

his resurrection healed and transformed his wounds

but it didn’t erase them


And this is what Jesus does for us,

 he heals and transforms our wounds into scars

 and then sends us out as the body of Christ in the world

to hold out our hands and side and hearts

 to those who are questioning like Thomas,


who want who need tangible proof

in their quest for belief,

 to these folks we hold out our scars

 not as witness to our perfection

but of the power of God to transform

that which is broken into something whole.


Now of course faith, transformation, healing, takes time,

the disciples needed Jesus

to come to them offering peace a couple of times,

 Thomas needed to see the scars,

and Jesus gave them what they needed.


Jesus knew that the community

 would need his presence again and again and again,

which is why he gave us the gift of Holy Communion,

his coming to us in with and under the bread and wine

his body and blood.


It’s why we as a community

 strive to be with people throughout their lives,

 at baptism, and confirmation, and other life passages

 in times of joy and sorrow,

witnessing to the presence of God with us

 as our needs and questions change,

as our faith requires healing and transformation,

as we witness the healing and transformation of others.


Jesus comes to us in community,

through community,

and keeps coming to us until we can truthfully sing


Yes Jesus loves me

Yes Jesus loves me

Yes Jesus loves me

The community tells me so. Amen






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