Sunday, April 8, 2018
Second Sunday of Easter
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection. By the grace of Christ among us, enable us to show the power of the resurrection in all that we say and do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Acts 4:32-35 – The believers’ common life
1 John 1:1–2:2 – Walking in the light
John 20:19-31 – Beholding the wounds of the risen Christ
Title: The Resurrected Community
So here comes Thomas again. Just as he always does every Sunday that follows Easter. Absent from the gathering of disciples that experience the risen Christ. Then doubting what the witnesses tell him. And demanding a full sight and touch encounter himself. And, of course, Jesus obliges.
Some will see Thomas as a proverbial wet blanket to their joyful Easter celebration. Others, as I have done in past years, will thank Thomas for bringing doubt into the resurrection faith experience, reminding us that doubt is a part of faith, not its antithesis. And Thomas’ demands give Jesus an opportunity to satisfy them and display compassion and consolation in the face of doubt, not condemnation and expulsion.
However you receive him, it’s all Thomas all the time on this second Sunday of Easter. (There are seven Sundays of Easter. A week of Sundays. 50 days of rejoicing before we get blown out into the world by the blessed winds of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.)
But today, inspired by the conversation at Bible Study this past Wednesday, I would like to pick up on another theme that it is all over these readings and that we are wise not to let Thomas and his doubts eclipse. For in the face of doubt and fear, this morning’s readings offer us faith-filled expressions of community birthed and growing in the light of Jesus’ glorious resurrection. Our eyes, our minds, and our hearts are opened just like the tomb to the new understanding that new life in Christ is not just an individual gift given to us by the grace of God in Christ’s victory of death, but it is also the gift given to all creation, for the re-creation of all that God has made. It is resurrection in relationship. Not only ours to God, but ours to one another, and to the world that God has made.
And to guide us through this exploration of renewed, resurrected, and re-created community, we employ the four W’s. No, not who, what, where and why. But rather wounds, wonderings, wrongs, and witness.
Wounds – In this well-known, well-worn, gospel passage from St. John, is a story that begins on the evening of that first Easter day, and wounds abound. The disciples, sans Thomas, are gathered in a room behind locked doors. Maybe it was even the room where they had shared that last supper with Jesus, before all hell broke loose. After all, John writes that they are in the room in which the disciples “had met.” He seems to be pointing to some significant past event. What was more significant than that night? Unaware of what was going to happen that Thursday evening, the disciples marveled as Jesus washed their feet, spoke of love and unity, of God-connectedness and blessed abiding. He transformed their traditional Seder meal into a new covenant feast of promised presence. But now all seemed lost. That night, and the past three years were shrouded in clouds of confusion and regret. They sat there not daring to believe these early reports from the women of Jesus’ resurrection. And they were scared to death that they could be the next to die. But, in all their doubt and fear, their regret and wounded pride, they are there together. Not off alone to figure it out and then come together with the answers. No, they are there to share with one another the pain and the heart break and the disappointment.
This gathering is the model of our gathering every Sunday. It is the model that 12-step programs have wisely employed. People coming together. Baring wounds. Telling stories of heart-break. And there is truth spoken and shared. We love to talk about speaking truth to power with images of the little person speaking to the mighty ruler. But speaking truth to power is also an internal occurrence. We are called to speak truth to the power in our wounds that seek to dominate us with feelings of failure. We speak the truth of acknowledgement and suffering, and there is healing.
Even Jesus shows up displaying the truth of his woundedness. It is by his wounds we know it is him. The wounds that are overcome and healed in the power of the resurrection. It is this overcoming, healing power that Christ shares with us. Wounds are part of our community of faith; not easy to sit with, but essential none the less.
The wonderings that we bring into the community is faith is a reframing of that featured word of the day: doubts. Maybe if we talk about wonderings in the face of the great mysteries that we can never perfectly explain or embrace, if we speak of wonderings rather than doubts, we won’t feel so embarrassed or weak. We won’t feel an unnecessary need to hide them from one another, from ourselves. For the community is only made richer by the wonderings that encourage us to dig deeper, examine more fully. What wonderings do you have that we could learn about together? I wonder how baptism waters do all that we are told they do? I wonder what it means that Christ is present in the meal? I wonder why there is suffering in the world? But a warning about wonderings to those who have all the answers (or think they do) – wonderings are best left to be explored rather than silenced with simple explanations. Let wonderings be a part of our life together, not for answering, but for enriching the journey together.
Next, we have wrongs as part of our life together in the community of faith. For this I am not pointing the finger at Thomas or anyone in that gospel story. Rather we can be comforted by the passage from 1 John. As Luther expressed it, we are saints and sinners simultaneously. In this life, we sin. Perfection is not obtainable. We come into the community of faith as forgiven children of God. We live in the community forgiven children of God. We are strengthened, and the community is strengthened, when we embrace that forgiveness (rather than hang our head in shame and obsess how bad we are). And both, the individual and the community are strengthened when we share that forgiveness with one another.
The final W is witness. In light of the resurrection we are called to tell our story, even when it is met with doubt. We are called to live our story as that first reading from Acts gives witness to. Imagine the reaction of folks watching that first resurrection community as they shared all things in common, and by sharing, there was no need within the community. What a witness to the abundance of God that must have been. What an inviting witness to those watching from the outside. And first John reminds us that the witness is not just aimed and aiding the outsider with an invitation to enter, our witness is also to one another within the faith community for the strengthening of fellow members. We share with each other what we have heard and are hearing, what we have seen and are seeing, we share for the sake of the community how God through the work of the Holy Spirit is touching our lives and increasing our faith.
Certainly, this community has been blessed by the witness of Marisol over these months that she has been with us. We have grown with you and because of you. And today we wish you, with all faith and encouragement, Godspeed as you move to Florida and begin a new chapter.
Let’s spend this week of Sundays we call the Easter season not just celebrating an event, but putting into practice resurrection life. As a community of faith, let us walk with the wounded Christ showing our own wounds that speak our truth. Let us learn from our own wonderings and the wonderings of each other. Let us boldly confess our wrongs knowing that God’s forgiveness is sure and perfect, and let us show the same forgiveness to others. And through all these things, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be a living witness that we are the body of the risen Christ in the world. Use these 50 days to live into the good news that…
Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!
The Rev. Mark Erson,