EASTER 2 C

DATE OF SERMON: 
Sunday, April 3, 2016

EASTER 2 C RCL

IF I WERE TO ASK ANYONE OF YOU TODAY WHAT YOU REMEMBER

ABOUT THOMAS AS A DISCIPLE OF JESUS,

MOST PEOPLE WOULD IMMEDIATELY THINK OF THIS TEXT.

THE THING THEY WOULD REMEMBER MOST ABOUT HIM

IS THAT HE IS THE ONE WHO DOUBTED THE RESURRECTION

WHEN HE WAS TOLD THAT JESUS WAS RISEN.

 

VERY FEW WOULD REMEMBER THAT HERE,

IN THE SAME TEXT WHERE HE EXPRESSES SUCH DOUBT,

HE ALSO MAKES ONE OF THE BOLDEST CONFESSIONS OF

FAITH IN THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT.

 

WHEN JESUS APPEARS TO THOMAS,

THOMAS NOT ONLY ACCEPTS THE FACT OF THE

RESURRECTION—HE MAKES A BOLD AND DARING

DECLARATION OF FAITH:

“MY LORD AND MY GOD!”

 

IN FACT, THIS STATEMENT IS THE ONLY PLACE

IN ALL OF SCRIPTURE WHERE JESUS IS CLEARLY

REFERRED TO AS GOD.

 

THOMAS DOESN’T SAY MESSIAH, HE DOESN’T CALL JESUS LORD,

HE DOESN’T REFER TO HIM AS TEACHER—

HE NAMES JESUS AS GOD.

 

FEW PEOPLE REMEMBER THAT IT WAS THOMAS WHO,

WHEN JESUS SAID HE WAS GOING UP TO JERUSALEM TO DIE,

SAID, THEN LET US GO WITH HIM THAT WE TOO MAY DIE.

 

AND IN JOHN’S GOSPEL, THOMAS IS THE ONE WHO AGAIN

WANTS TO BE SHOWN IN CLEAR REALITY WHAT JESUS IS ABOUT.

“SHOW US THE FATHER LORD, THAT IS ALL WE NEED.”

 

THIS OBSCURE DISCIPLE, WHO ONLY APPEARS IN JOHN’S GOSPEL—

AND WHO HAS A GRAND TOTAL OF 155 WORDS WRITTEN ABOUT HIM

IN THE NEW TESTAMENT,

BECOMES A POWERFUL WITNESS TO US ABOUT THE JOURNEY OF FAITH: 

AND ABOUT THE STRUGGLE THAT IS ALWAYS A PART OF THAT JOURNEY.

 

THOMAS HAS BEEN ASKED BY THE OTHER DISCIPLES

TO ACCEPT AN INCREDIBLE—AN IMPOSSIBLE STORY—

JESUS WHO WAS CRUCIFIED IS NOT SIMPLY ALIVE—

HE DIDN’T SIMPLY SURVIVE THE CRUCIFIXION—

HE REALLY DIED—AND HE ROSE TO LIFE FROM DEATH.

 

WHY WOULD THOMAS BELIEVE THE STORY OF THE DISCIPLES?

AFTER ALL, THEY WERE THE ONES WHO ABANDONED JESUS.

PETER HAD DENIED HIM,

AND ALL THE OTHERS HAVE FLED IN FEAR—

AND EVEN AFTER EXPERIENCING HIM RISEN FROM THE DEAD,

THEY ARE STILL HIDDEN IN FEAR BEHIND LOCKED DOORS.

WHY SHOULD THOMAS BELIEVE THEM?

 

NO, THOMAS STILL NEEDS TO SEE—TO TOUCH—

TO ENCOUNTER JESUS ALIVE FOR HIMSELF—

TO PLACE HIS HANDS IN THE WOUNDS AND KNOW

THAT IT’S NOT A PARLOR TRICK.

 

WHO OF US CAN BLAME HIM?

HE HAS THE COURAGE TO STATE HIS DOUBT—

TO DEMAND PROOF—PROOF HE CAN TRUST—

PROOF HE CAN SEE.

THERE IS A REFRESHING HONESTY IN THOMAS

THAT WE CAN ALL RESPECT.

 

WHEN JESUS APPEARS BEFORE THOMAS, A STRANGE THING

HAPPENS:
HE NO LONGER NEEDS TO PROVE THE REALITY—

HE DOESN’T NEED TO TOUCH THE WOUNDS,

HE BELIEVES WHEN HE ENCOUNTERS THE PRESENCE OF JESUS—

AND NOT ONLY DOES HE BELIEVE HE IS ALIVE—RISEN FROM THE DEAD—HE BOLDLY CONFESSES THAT JESUS IS

HIS LORD AND HIS GOD.

 

WHAT DOES THIS STORY HAVE TO DO WITH US?

HOW DOES IT SPEAK TO OUR LIFE OF FAITH?

JESUS IS NO LONGER PRESENT IN PHYSICAL FORM.

WE CAN’T ENCOUNTER HIM AS THOMAS DID—IN THE FLESH.

ALL WE HAVE ARE THE STORIES.

HOW THEN ARE WE TO ENCOUNTER THE REALITY OF

THE RISEN LORD IN OUR LIVES?

 

IT IS A QUESTION THAT GROWS MORE CHALLENGING THAN EVER

IN THIS WORLD OF INCREASING DIVERSITY

AND THE ESCALATING TENSIONS AND CONFLICTS

BETWEEN DIFFERENT RELIGIONS ON THE WORLD STAGE—

AND THE EXPANDING SECULAR NATURE OF LIFE IN AMERICA.

 

THOMAS WAS LUCKY.

HE HAD A DIRECT EXPERIENCE OF THE RISEN LORD.

WE DON’T ENJOY THOSE KINDS OF ENCOUNTERS.

WE HAVE TO TRY TO MAKE SENSE OF THE STORIES

WITHOUT SEEING.

FOR US, SEEING CANNOT BE BELIEVING.

 

BUT NEITHER CAN WE COME TO BELIEF BY SIMPLY REASONING

OUR WAY THERE.

AS SAINT AUGUSTINE REMINDS US:
“UNDERSTANDING IS THE REWARD OF FAITH.

THEREFORE, DON’T SEEK TO UNDERSTAND SO THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE, BUT BELIEVE SO THAT YOU MAY UNDERSTAND.”

 

AUGUSTINE REMINDS US THAT BELIEVING IS POSSIBLE

ONLY FOR THOSE WHO ARE WILLING TO OPEN THEMSELVES

TO A REALITY THAT IS BEYOND REASON.

 

SO WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE IN ALL OF THIS FOR US?

I THINK IT IS THE RECOGNITION THAT BELIEF IN THE RISEN CHRIST

STILL COMES TO US THROUGH ENCOUNTERING HIM ALIVE.

BUT HOW ARE WE TO DO THIS?

 

I THINK WE HAVE TO MEET THE RISEN CHRIST IN

OUR STRUGGLES TO MAKE SENSE OF IF ALL—

AND THAT THIS HAPPENS FOR US FINALLY IN THE MIDST

OF THE STRUGGLING COMMUNITY OF FAITH WE CALL THE CHURCH.

THE CHURCH WHICH, LIKE THE FIRST DISCIPLES,

IS OFTEN WEAK AND FEARFUL.

FAITH LIVES EVEN IN THIS COMMUNITY OF IMPERFECTION

THAT OFTEN SEEMS TO DENY ITS LORD IN ITS ACTIONS,

AND FREQUENTLY HIDES BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.

 

BUT IT IS PRECISELY INTO SUCH A PLACE THAT OUR LORD COMES

TO BE PRESENT, TO SPEAK THE WORD OF PEACE,

AND BID US BE NOT DOUBTING BUT BELIEVING.

 

HE COMES NOW IN THIS HOLY SUPPER—

HE STANDS IN OUR MIDST AND FEEDS US THE BREAD OF LIFE.

AND IF WE OPEN OUR HEARTS—

IF WE LET HIM LIVE WITHIN US—

WE WILL BEGIN TO SEE THAT WE ARE, LIKE THOMAS,

GRASPED BY HIS PRESENCE IN A WAY THAT DEFIES ALL LOGIC

AND REASON—

WE EXPERIENCE THE RISEN CHRIST LIVING WITHIN US—

AND WE CONFESS THAT HE IS OUR LORD AND GOD—

AND THAT THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED.  AMEN.