Second Sunday of Easter- Sermon
4/27/14- Year A
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
I will not go to Alabama! I will not marry Ian and move to Iowa with him! I will not not live in California! I will not will not will not eat green eggs and ham! I will not believe. It is often said, that if one wants to make God laugh we need only to tell Him our plans. And in life that seems to be the truth of it. I went on Internship to Alabama kicking and screaming and a few other things, yet ended up loving it. Alicia could not resist the my foolish charm, ended up saying “yes” and later blissfully married me and made her home with the yankees in Iowa. The lanky character from Dr Seuss loves Green Eggs and Ham to the knowing delight of Sam-I-Am. The one about California? Well, standing here before you this Sunday morning you know how well that one went. Hearing from the Lord, once again, oh yes you will…. So often have we head these words from the Lord throughout our life in spite of our objections, you might over hear us say every now and again… “I’ll never live in Hawaii. I’ll never live in Hawaii.” In a cadence not unlike Dorothy’s incantation over her ruby slippers. And Thomas? Well Thomas, believes and confesses, “My Lord and My God” to the ever-knowing delight of Christ.
Rejoining his brethren in the locked room where they had been hiding out, Thomas is told an unbelievable thing by the disciples. That not only is Christ risen from the dead, but they have SEEN Him! Gladness and peace filled their hearts as Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into them, giving them life in the midst of fearing their death. In their gladness and joy they shared with the absent Thomas their encounter with the risen Lord. To which Thomas, perhaps thinking them at the least stir-crazy or at the most mad, replies, “I will not believe.” Where fear had been overcome by the peace of Christ for the ten, for Thomas that fear still remained. What his eyes had beheld just a few days before, could not comprehend what his ears were now hearing. His own knowledge and trusting his own insight over and above the apostolic word blocked his ability to believe. He could not comprehend the apostolic joy he found upon his return. Relying on his own word made sure that he would continue to be bound in fear for his life. Trusting in his own wisdom he made sure that he would not believe. Though the disciples were locked in a building, Thomas was locked inside himself held captive by fear. Just as it was fear that gave Alicia, Myself, and the man from Dr. Seuss to confess with absolute certainty, “I will not!”
As we know from our own lives, faith and trust can be a most difficult thing at times to grasp. Though the Church has often given St. Thomas the short end of the stick by referring to him as Doubting Thomas, we know his story isn’t all that simple. The mocks that we might make of him by our own pride are quickly undone when we look seriously at our own lives and the times that we too have been trapped and locked for fear. At least St. Thomas feared for his life, more often than not our own fears that keep us inside of ourselves are more about fearing the loss of status, pride, our own claims to omnipotency or the luxury of comfort. Whether trapped by pain and grief, or by the constant barrage from the world telling us that what we believe is false, or by trusting in our own wisdom of knowing better than God and His word, we along with St. Thomas have uttered similar words, “I will not. I can not”, because it easy to let fear over take us. Indeed I would say it is in our very nature. Hearing the good news from the Apostolic Word we still fear what that means for our lives, we fear being different from the world. We fear actually believing and losing our grip of control. We fear losing popularity by having our life changed and transformed from what ‘we’ want it to be. We fear actually trusting the Word to do its work in our life and the life of the congregation. These are the realties, the struggles against our flesh that we all face daily. This life of faith at times is difficult, because we live it without the benefit of sight. Or do we?
In great mercy, Christ comes to Thomas. Jesus appears before his eyes and confronts him with the full reality of His bodily resurrection: put your finger into my hands, stretch out your hand and place it in my side. Feel the wounds which I have suffered for your sake, Thomas. Place your fear in them. Place your own bondage to yourself, your wisdom and your strength. Place your grief in them. Place all your doubts and misgivings in them. Place yourself, your very life in the wounds which I have born for you and for all. Peace be with you, Thomas. My peace is with you! Do not disbelieve, but believe. And to the all-knowing delight of Christ, He does. He confess the faith, the faith of his brothers and sisters, the faith of the Church. Jesus is Lord and God. Jesus is our Lord and our God.
In even greater mercy, Christ Jesus comes to us who did not physically see the resurrection 2000 years ago, but who are still met by the risen Christ. Jesus says to us, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!” We are blessed for He does not give us up to the doubting taunts of the world nor to the fear of our souls, thus He gave us sacraments by which to see His presence and His Word to hear, read, and know. In His Resurrection He speeds His way to us, to confront us with the Truth of His life and to give us peace. True peace which the world cannot give, by liberating us from the tempts of the world, the darts of the devil, and the failings of our own flesh our sin.
Jesus Christ comes to us and breathed into us the Lord and Giver of Life, given at Baptism. He comes into our very presence, in the closed doors of this sanctuary, truly present in Bread and wine, with words of promise and life, “This Is my Body. This Is My Blood.” Reach out your hand take it, touch it, eat and drink from it. Do not doubt, but believe! Here I am, He says to us. Hide yourself in my presence, in the meal of the remembrance of my sacrifice for you, take your life your worries and your fears and hide them in me. Christ is present with us this morning and every time we partake of the means of grace, those places where Christ is truly and really present to show us, as He showed Thomas the glory and splendor of His resurrected life. These are the places where He liberates us again and again and bestows on us His Holy Spirit. This is why, the Church and being active in the life of her worship, is so necessary for us, if we wish to be Christians, because it is only under the presence of Christ, under the shadow of His wings that we are brought from disbelief and doubt to faith. It is the reason we make parents, all parents, who seek baptism for their children to make vows to raise them in the Church: to live among God’s faithful people, to bring them to the Word of God and the Holy Supper, to teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, to place in their hands the holy Scriptures, and to nurture them in faith and prayer. For these are the placed where they will encounter the risen Lord.
These are the same places where we encounter the Risen Lord. In them Christ comes to us, to cast away our doubt and our fears, just as he did for St. Thomas. He comes to silence the anxiety of our hearts and minds and to fill us with His peace. To strengthen us, “do not disbelieve, but believe” He says to us in Word and in Sacrament. To laugh at our plans and disarm the certainty of our fears. All of this He does for us and gives to us, Just as St. John in his gospel describes, so that we might believe He is Lord and God. And that believing we may have life, everlasting life, in His name.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!