Sunday Sermon :: April 12, 2015

GOSPEL John 20:19–31

The story of Easter continues as the risen Lord appears to his disciples. His words to Thomas offer a blessing to all who entrust themselves in faith to the risen Lord.

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But 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.

 

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Grace and peace to you, people of God, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Can you point to a life changing event in your past? Maybe it was an event you took part in or maybe it happened to you. Maybe it was a new birth or an unexpected death. Maybe you did something, made a decision, that changed the course of your life or maybe something happened to you. During the moment, there’s this feeling that nothing will ever be the same again. How could the world possibly be the same after this thing happened? I can remember coming back to work after Maren, our first child, was born. “How could the world possibly be the same after such a miracle entered the world?” I found myself thinking. Yet, when I did get back to work, pretty much everything was where I had left it. My messy desk was the same, the people I worked with were the same, and the problems I was dealing with before she was born was the same.

Sometimes, I feel the same way about Easter. We have just finished celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus, who, in this act, gave us new life and new meaning. No longer are we under the burden of sin and death. He is risen! (He is risen indeed!) But, when we go back to work on Monday, the only things that have risen are our blood sugar counts from candy and our fatigue levels after traveling or entertaining family all weekend. In the midst of this miracle, this gift from God, how could life go on the same as before? The answer – it just does!

In our gospel reading, we get to see a bit of the disciples struggle with this, too. Their lives had been changed forever, although not in a good way, as far as they could tell. They had just watched their teacher, the lord, their master be betrayed by one of their own friends, killed, and buried. They were hiding in fear. And who could blame them? We already saw Peter being recognized as one of his followers. Don’t you think they all would be too?

But then something happens that turns their world around. Jesus comes to them! The rumors started by Mary Magdalene were true. Jesus is alive! But, as he comes to them, he’s not some crazy, glowing angel. There’s not the sound of victorious trumpets like we heard last week, following him wherever he went. In fact, it seems they didn’t even recognize him. That is, until, he comes to them in their fear and says, “Peace to with you.” In the midst of fear, Jesus brings peace. He blows on them giving them the Holy Spirit. He invites them, Thomas especially, to touch his hands and side, pierced for their salvation and forgiveness.

But, again, in the midst of this life changing event, this may seem a bit underwhelming for us. Surely, the disciples were overjoyed. They must have hugged and shouted in excitement, but where does that leave us? We aren’t there to experience this momentary joy and, even if we were, it’s just one moment. Just one life changing moment. Jesus is alive, surely, but the scars and fears are still there. The same problems of unbelief and decay are still there. We sort of need to ask ourselves, when it’s all done, when we’ve gone back to work and our routines have returned, “Is this it? Isn’t there more than this?”

I feel like this unassumingness, this averageness, and everydayness of this encounter tells us something important. The disciples weren’t swept up in a cloud of angels and taken from earth. The story doesn’t end with Jesus giving a knockout punch to sin and a fade away shot of his fist in the air like something out of a Rocky movie. Instead, life is certainly changed, but it maybe doesn’t look much different on the surface. So maybe we need to reexamine the physical nature of Jesus, here, and conclude that this says something important about God.

The fact that Jesus was touched and spoke and heard and ate and drank maybe says that those things are valuable. God doesn’t want us to just disconnect from the everyday events of our lives. God doesn’t call us to escape from the world. Instead, the world is a new creation, too. It’s not just us who is part of the resurrection, the rebirth and new life offered in Christ, but the whole physical beautiful world is made new. And what we do with and in that physical world is important. What we can sense, feel, taste, touch, hear, and smell is important. God made it to be beautiful and God is still doing that. Jesus was physical, both before and after his death and resurrection. If we truly believe that Jesus was the perfect lamb, sacrificed to make us holy and give us God’s grace, then we have to believe that his physicalness shows that it is important.

Christ became one of us, not in order to give us an escape route, but so that we could fully live. His example is evidence of how a God-centered life looks and his death and resurrection secures for us eternal life. But that life doesn’t start in a faraway “then”, but now. New life, new beginning, new birth starts now. The way we live says a lot about what we believe. We live as a response to Christ’s living, loving, and dying for us. We participate in God’s continued recreation of the world because we have be recreated and reformed.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is a life changing event. In this process of grace, forgiveness, and healing, we can get a glimpse of our best response. On Maundy Thursday, we washed feet and took part in the Christ’s last supper. These things have been done for us and so we do for others. Christ’s death and resurrection is not based on our deserving it, but in God’s love for us. So, we share God’s love, here and now, with other people.

Christ held out his hands, let his disciples feel that he was, in fact, alive. In this time after Easter, we get a chance to do the same. We get the chance to spread this life changing event, holding out our hands to show that Christ is alive. We have the opportunity to participate in God’s renewing and recreating the world because we have been renewed. Because we are forgiven, made whole, and healed, so get to live in a new way. Life, going on as it always has been, is okay, because God isn’t done yet and we still have the chance to be a part of it, made clean and whole again and again. Amen.

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