2 Easter Yr A Ap 23 2017 Audio
Last week we left off with Mary Magdalene running from the empty tomb early in the day and announcing to the disciples, "I have seen The Lord." Today we pick up the very same story, on the evening of the day of Resurrection, with the disciples in a house with the doors locked, and Jesus came and stood among them. But Thomas was not there. Later, when the other disciples saw Thomas, they proclaimed the very same words that Mary Magdalene used, "We have seen The Lord."
When was the last time you missed some really big news? Do you ever claim, "why am I always the last to know?" Imagine Thomas, wherever he was, clearly not with the others. Maybe he was picking up the beer and snacks, it looked like they were going to spend some time in that house locked up, they were fearful of those who put Jesus to death. So Thomas, unaware of what was going on, finally shows up only to find out that he missed the big deal. He missed this alleged appearance of Jesus. And, he's not taking the word of the rest of his friends on this, he wants to see for himself. It's not that he doubts Jesus, he doesn't believe his friends. Thomas wants to see The Lord, he wants to see and even touch the wounds, he wants all the gory details.
But what's even more important is that Thomas does something for us in this story. Thomas, through this experience of seeing and believing, joins us to the beloved community that will never see the person of Jesus in this life. So it is not so much about believing without seeing, as it is about being made part of this relationship with Jesus through the community that is forming. The community of the beloved disciple, as Raymond Brown, a New Testament scholar calls it. We, like Thomas, claim the resurrection. Jesus is talking to all of us, not just Thomas, not just those gathered in the room, but to all of us. And in this relationship, in resurrection, all of us have a different sort of life, a life of mystery and craziness, a life transformed. The gospel writer, John, calls this eternal life. I call it, being Easter People.
So, the story continues with the disciples locked in this room, afraid. Jesus came among them and said, "Peace be with you." And I'm sure they replied with "and also with you" because they were all good Episcopalians. And then they rejoiced. Resurrection is about choosing love over fear. Love transforms us, fear strangles us, love creates community, fear isolates us, love wins, fear kills. This amazing occurrence, this truth that death does not win, this truth that even in joy there is pain, is what Easter is about.
We have walked the forty days of Lent, we buried our alleluias, we confessed our sins, we have been engaged in our spiritual disciplines, whatever they were, and here we are. Singing and proclaiming the alleluias, rejoicing and sharing God's peace, as Jesus first did with us. The sorrow and pain of our lives is no less, you know that, I know that. We live in a world filled with the sadness of lives ended too young, the horror of children across the world dieing because they don’t have enough to eat, the pain of depression, anxiety, and addiction. This sorrow and pain is no different for the truth of the resurrection, but what is different is that we are joined to Jesus and to one another as we walk the way. Jesus says to us, with and through Thomas and the others, believing is not seeing, believing is the gift of finding me in one another, believing is the gift of doing this life together, believing is my body broken for you, so you may be whole and holy. Be not afraid. Fear prevents people from seeing, fear prevents you from seeing, from shedding our old self to take on the new real self. Fear moves us to grasp for the safe and secure rather than reach for the real.
This story, of Thomas who says he wants to touch Jesus' wounds, and then doesn't do it in the end, shows us what is real. Jesus' presence is real. Jesus' wounds are real. Jesus' peace is real. And Jesus leaves us with the real presence of the Spirit. Do not be afraid, we hear at the incarnation, and we hear in this room, do not be afraid, instead, be filled with the spirit. The spirit that teaches us about grace, and forgiveness, and love.
This Easter story, being written into each of our lives is the real story. With Thomas each of us gets to see, to feel, to touch, what is real, and what is real is the amazing love that God has for us, what is real is that this love brings us into relationship with God and with one another, a relationship we call the body of Christ. Sometimes we succumb to the lie that this life is about getting as much as we want, or doing as we please, without any thought on the effect that has on those around us, or even on the living, moving, breathing earth upon which we live. But that is not reality. Reality is that we are all connected. We are all related. Reality is that what I do, what you do, affects the web that surrounds us. That is what this story tells us, we are part of the community of faith, and the communion of saints. That is what Jesus is telling Thomas, the rest of the disciples, and us.
And this is how resurrection matters. This is how what God does in Jesus matters. We do indeed encounter Jesus at every turn. You show forth the reality that Love wins. You show forth the reality that death does not have the final word. What you do matters to the world and to the kingdom. What you do, what we do has an effect on the world about us, what we do has an effect on the people around us. Like Thomas, we see, feel, touch the pain and suffering of Jesus in our midst. We see our brothers and sisters suffering as the result of natural disasters, tornados and snow storms. We witness the pain and suffering in our community as the result of poverty. We accompany our friends as they sit with family in hospital and in homes and await death and await healing. We are accompanied by friends who sit in vigil with us. We may be afraid, but instead of being immobilized by that fear, we proclaim by word and example that Jesus is in our midst and that Love wins, that new life is possible now. That's the story we write. That's the story that's true.
Love wins. God brings wholeness and healing to all of creation, including Thomas, and you, and me.
God re-members us. God puts us back together. God reconciles us. God restores us. Even when it looks like and feels like everything is falling apart, even when it looks like and feels like failure. Peace be with you is what Jesus says to those gathered in that room. Peace be with you, you are now reconciled, you have new life.
The Easter story we write is the story that says yes to God. Because, when we say yes to God, when we open ourselves to Jesus' living, giving action the cross, we enter into a way of life. God is the source, the strength, the example, and the assurance that the story of death and rebirth, new life, is the way into the only kind of life that actually sustains and inspires. Loose your life to find it.
Let your life, let your Easter story show the world that Love wins. Each time you put your finger into the wound of another, be the agent of resurrection, be the bringer of hope, of new life. Each time you see the pain in the world, be the one who responds with mercy, compassion, and love. Each time you hear words of derision, words that bully and hurt, speak instead words of mercy, of compassion and of love. Each time you encounter fear, fear of death, fear of change, fear of the other, fear of not having enough, remember that Love wins over fear every time.