Sunday, April 19, 2020
Second Sunday of Easter, Year A
Prayer of the Day
Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Acts 2:14a, 22-32 Christ’s resurrection: the fulfillment of God’s promise to David
1 Peter 1:3-9 New birth to a living hope through the resurrection
John 20:19-31 Beholding the wounds of the risen Christ
Title: Deep Doubt, Deep Hope
Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
He’s back. With the same assurance that Jesus will show up on Easter morning conquering death, restoring life, and lifting us up be restored into the fullness of relationship with God, Yes, with that same assurance, we can count on Thomas showing up on this Second Sunday of Easter. Every year, like clockwork, Thomas is here with his doubts and his demands. “Where is Jesus? I want to see Jesus. If I don’t see Jesus, wounds and all. Then I won’t believe what you are telling me. I won’t believe that he has risen from the dead.”
Interesting, that in demanding to see Jesus’ wounds in his risen body, Thomas was demanding to see that not only that Jesus had risen, but he also wanted to affirm that Jesus had died. Was he not at the crucifixion? When he ran from the garden on Thursday night at the time of the arrest, had he run so far that he was not around to see what had happened on Friday? Had he high tailed it back to Galilee? We typically focus on Thomas doubting the resurrection. But maybe Thomas was doubting the crucifixion as well. Had he imagined the cruelest April Fools prank was being attempted on him? With his demands of seeing wounded and resurrected Jesus, was he saying to his fellow disciples that he was doubting their whole account, their entire witness? Did he not believe that Jesus was condemned and was handed over to be crucified, that he died horrifically on the cross, and now had risen from the dead? If he had not seen any of it, it is a lot to take in. How deep were his doubts?
Typically, I am grateful to see Thomas show up each year on this Sunday after the glorious Easter announcement is shouted anew. He always arrives as sort of a reality check. Easter was great. (Okay, this year, a bit challenged. But the message has not lost its power.) Saying alleluia again, after the long Lenten fast, is sweet to our voices. But then along comes Thomas to remind us that living this new life that is ours through baptism into the resurrected Christ is not always easy. It is certainly not all joy-filled alleluias and fragrant lilies. It is a given that the journey of faith has doubt as co-traveler.
And as we consider Thomas’ welcome this year, I’m thinking it can be a bit more robust than usual. Perhaps Thomas has a bit more company this year. Perhaps our own doubts are a bit deeper this year. How many are joining with Thomas and asking: Where is Jesus in all this? How many are demanding in one way or another: I want to see Jesus in the midst of all this suffering and death. Are you glad to see Thomas today? Are you standing with him, encouraging him? Electing him the spokesperson for the faith-shaken ones? Good to see you Thomas. Welcome, once again. Glad to have you with us, especially now.
Welcome also those wounds that he demands to see. Good for you, Thomas, that you are not just looking for the glory, like so many are want to do. Too many voices, especially in days like these, want to associate suffering with blame and divine punishment; and make empty and self-centered promises of deliverance coming as reward. Good for you, Thomas, you are a true theologian of the Cross. You see that in Jesus we have a savior and friend, a God and creator who knows what it means to suffer in this broken world of sin and struggle. As we hear from Hebrews each Good Friday: in Jesus we have one who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness, one who has gone through the trials and tribulations that we know all too well. Where is Jesus? He is right here with us. Wounds and all. Suffering with us. Showing compassion for us. Bringing the life and hope that conquers all our foes, even despair and doubt, disease and death. He is here encouraging us to believe so that our joy might be complete.
The resurrection that we continue to celebrate through these 50 days of Easter, that is ours through baptism and that we continue to live into throughout every day of our lives and throughout all eternality, this resurrection brings new life, but as the wounded Jesus shows, it does not simply eradicate the world of all its wounds or its wounding power. Our hope rests in the faith that the final victory is God’s through Jesus Christ. The ultimate power and mercy, grace and peace are indeed God’s. And we have been blessed with the gift of a foretaste of what is to come in the fulness of God’s reign.
Peter writes in his letter that we read from this morning: 8Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:8-9) Too often we hear “salvation” and we think afterlife. But what of the salvation that is ours today, in this life? The salvation that the Holy Spirit, breathed on the disciples, breathed in us, works in us through the grace of God. Salvation that is ours today because we live with the hope that is ours in the risen Christ. Salvation is ours today because we live with the comfort that Christ is with us. Salvation is ours today because we live with the compassion of Christ who is suffering with us. Salvation is ours in the peace that is ours for we have nothing to fear. Salvation is ours in the confidence that we can have in the mercy of our loving, forgiving, and renewing God. Like Thomas, we see salvation in both the wounds and the resurrected body of Jesus the Christ.
And as Peter said in his sermon quoted in the first reading: We are witnesses of this salvation that is ours in the crucified and risen Jesus. As much as we may be feeling bombarded by news, and so much of it overwhelming these days, I am thankful for those news outlets that are highlighting the acts of heroics, and service, and compassion, and selfless-giving, and sacrifice, and generosity, and mercy, and joy. Whether the person performing the admired and celebrated act believes in Jesus or not, whether they know of the resurrection or the story of the fearful disciples or not, whether they say the creed with us or not, I believe that in them and in their random acts of kindness and their brave displays of love, I am witnessing the power of the resurrected Jesus. We are witnesses of this salvation. In Christ’s name, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we know to see Jesus in all things, wounds and resurrections alike.
In these challenging days, may the Holy Spirit keep our eyes open, beyond our doubts and our fears, to witness the presence of Jesus – the crucified and resurrected one. So that we are renewed in our witness to the salvation that is ours in the one we greet with “My Lord and my God.” As we continue to hold fast and be strengthened to the greatest news that
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
For those at home, I would invite you to share a comment celebrating something that you have witnessed this past week that testifies to the presence of Christ in the actions of someone. Does not need to be a long-detailed account. Just a brief description. So that we might encourage and witness to one another in hope. Feel free to add a comment while we sing the next hymn.
The Rev. Mark Erson, Pastor