"It is one of the cosmos' most mysterious unsolved cases: dark matter. It is supposedly what holds the universe together. We can't see it, but scientists are pretty sure it's out there." I read that in the Rapid City Journal on Thursday this week. It came from the Associated Press, so it must be true. And earlier in Lent, I read or heard, can't remember which, that we know about 3% of all there is to know. We want to know so desperately, don't we? We want certainty, we want proof, we want it all. And yet, in faith as in science, the story we tell really only touches the mystery of the universe every once in a while. And yet the story we tell, whether it is the story of faith, or the story of science, does a darn good job of pointing us in the right direction, describing the reality in which we live. The story of faith, and the story of science, are not mutually exclusive stories, they are stories that describe different things, and yet, they dance together.
Jesus died, didn't he? And yet we claim resurrection, we claim that God entered time and space and did something absolutely new, something so amazing that all we can do is sing and dance and shout alleluia! All we can do is try to describe it, draw pictures and make music, we can't come close to knowing it. And that amazing thing that God continues to do changes us, transforms us, like Jesus, we are made into something completely new and different. The doors of the house where the disciples met in fear were locked, and Jesus came and stood among them. Jesus came and stood among them, but until Jesus said, Peace be with you, they did not even recognize him. Well would you? He was dead, why on earth would Jesus be standing among them. Remember the women who came running back from the tomb? The disciples didn't believe them, they didn't believe even Jesus himself until Jesus said these familiar words, Peace be with you. Only then did the disciples realize this was Jesus in their midst. How could this be?
You see, this story about Jesus appearing to the disciples after the crucifixion and resurrection, this story about Jesus coming back to appear to Thomas, who missed it the first time around, serves to try to show us what resurrection looks like. It tries to show us what this amazing thing that God does, looks like.
Imagine yourself there. You are in that room, it is hot and smelly and so close, the doors are locked, the windows are barred. You are so frightened, the same people that just killed Jesus are after you. You can't eat, you can't sleep, your stomach is in knots. And then, all of a sudden, without any warning, this man shows up in the room. How did that happen? There's no way he could have gotten in, you locked those doors yourself. Everyone is shaking in their sandals. And then he speaks. "Peace be with you." His hands and his feet were torn from the nails driven into them, his side was pierced. You knew it was him when he spoke again of peace, and forgiveness, when he breathed on you and you felt his spirit.
Thomas wasn't there that day, and just like you, couldn't believe it until he saw it. So a week later, when Thomas was there, Jesus showed up again. The hands, the feet, the side. You knew you had to tell this story, you knew that God had done something so amazing you just had to tell everyone.
Here you are, on this day, the Sunday after Easter, your 60th Easter, your 45th Easter, your 20th Easter, your 10th Easter. We gather together here, in this place. Our doors are wide open, we hope and pray each time we gather that God will show up, that God will send us people to whom we may introduce God. The reality is that God is here, God is showing up. The question is do we recognize God? Do we recognize Jesus in our midst? This story we hear today points us to the ways we recognize Jesus in our midst. Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit, forgive the sins of any, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. This is the way we recognize Jesus, this is the way we serve Jesus, this is the way we follow Jesus. We listen to those around us, we listen to their stories, we listen to who they are, and when we do, Jesus shows up.
When people tell the story about Thomas they tend to end with the admonition to believe without seeing. Somehow, believing without seeing gets equated with certainty and faith. But I think one of the mistakes that is made in Christian talk is that belief and certainty become synonymous. Certainty is never a pre-requisite for belief, and certainty is not a product of belief. There is a place for all of our doubt and uncertainty. Even Thomas shows us that. Certainty actually is not really very important at all. The reality in which we live, and the place I began all of this today, is that reality in which we see and experience very little of the total that is possible in human experience. We place our faith in the story that is true. The story of life, joy, pain, suffering, death, and resurrection, and the God who walks with us in the midst of it all. The God who collects all of humanity's pain, fear, and hate, and takes it into Godself through love. That is not about certainty, but it is about love.
We practice love and God shows up. That is what this life and this faith is all about. We practice peace and Jesus shows up. That is what serving others is all about. We practice silence and the spirit shows up. That is what prayer is all about. Open the doors, let all who would enter come in. Love wins. Amen.
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