Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

May 1, 2011
Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a-22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

Please pray with me,
May the word of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!  (He is risen indeed!)
Happy Easter!   I love that the season of Easter is 50 days!  We celebrate and walk in the glow of the empty tomb and promise of new life given to us through the resurrection of Jesus for a whole 50 days!  
And today, we see and hear about those first appearances that Jesus made after he was raised from the dead.  We hear about actual appearances that he made to his disciples in those first weeks following that first Easter day. 
Every year, the week after Easter, we hear this text.  Poor Thomas, talk about getting a bad rap… so often when we think of Thomas, we think of Doubting Thomas. 
This is probably Thomas’s most well-known moment.  That he must see the marks on Jesus’ hands and put his hands in the hole in his side.  Poor Thomas, seen as a doubter, one who is not so sure that Jesus is risen from the dead until he sees living proof. 
Yet, is he asking for more than the other disciples?  Yes, they were present when Jesus visited with them…saying peace be with you.  Yet, they were in hiding.  So how did they receive the news from Mary?  She had seen the risen Lord and told others about it, but they still hid.  They seemed to not believe either, until they saw the risen Christ. 
Poor Thomas…given a bad rap, and often his deep words of insight that we heard just three weeks ago have faded from our memories.  Do you remember the story of how Jesus went to raise Lazarus from the dead?  When Jesus talks about going to Judea where Lazarus is dead, Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Poor Thomas…he knows what is coming, he knows what the future holds for Jesus, yet he is willing to go with him, into Judea, into the place where people wish him harm, knowing that is where Jesus is called to be. 
So, if Thomas knew what was coming…if he had an idea of what was to come...when Jesus first came to see the disciples, where was Thomas?  Some theologians have said that perhaps he was out looking for Jesus.  That would definitely make sense, right?  That Thomas’ actions were driven by this knowledge or this desire to seek out the risen Lord.  So maybe is truly out there seeking proof of the risen Lord, but perhaps it is because he already knows that Jesus has been raised from the dead. 
How often are we taken captive by our faith…and driven to look for the resurrected Christ in our midst? 
I read this week that, ‘Faith is not really about what we believe, but what difference it makes in our lives that we believe.’  (Brian Stoffregen)
‘Faith is not really about what we believe, but what difference it makes in our lives that we believe.’

My friend Mindy is a nurse at an elementary school.  This week in her office a 7 year old child said to an autistic 7 year old, "Are you autistic, because my cousin is and you act just like him."
Mindy and the other adult in the room, felt horrified for a second, "oh no...what do we say?"
With no hesitation the autistic child responded, "You mean like THIS?!" She proceeded to do a wild, happy dance in the nursing office. 
Instead of feeling embarrassed, she owned that moment and made it positive.
‘Faith is not really about what we believe, but what difference it makes in our lives that we believe.’

Think about it…how we live our lives, the words that we speak, the actions we take, they all begin with our belief in God and that we know God raised Christ from the dead.  And that makes all the difference!  Think about waking up every day, knowing that you have died to sin each day, you are born again and again and again through the waters of baptism.  In essence, you have nothing to worry about.  God has got this…really and truly! 
But then we have our own doubts, just like Mindy and her friend did, worrying about how to react in a situation, or what to say to a child when they ask a question.  Sometimes, it’s bigger than that, it could be that something happens in our daily lives, the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one, the reality of life threatening diseases that hit far too close to home, the impact of a changing economy, failing an exam that you felt prepared for, a friend getting injured in the midst of a sporting event, you name it…something happens that makes us wonder about the true presence of the risen Christ in our lives and in our world. 
We, like Thomas, are eager to see that presence…we look for the risen Christ within our midst, we want to believe…and sometimes we want to see Christ in our midst here and now.  We desire that reminder and that promise of new life in the midst of this hostile and sometimes crappy life. 
It is in the midst of the muck and the mire that God is revealed to us through the risen Christ.  It is in the midst of struggles, challenges, loss and grief that God comes to us.  We know God’s love for us because God sent Jesus to die for us! 
Mindy and her friend saw the dancing, resurrected Christ in the presence of that autistic child.  Their doubt was washed away, as they saw the joy and love in that child. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  (He is risen indeed!)
Easter is not just one day...Easter is not just coming to a wonderful, inspiring worship service, picking up your flowers and being on your merry way.  Easter is coming into worship, being immersed in God’s word, joining in the fellowship at the Lord’s table, sharing in this holy meal, only to be sent back into the hostile world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to the identity of God as revealed in Jesus and given the experience of Mary and her witness and the disciples and their witness to Thomas, we could expect that people will not believe us. 
And that’s the challenge, isn’t it…sharing the joy in this place, looking around and seeing that people who squished into pews with us last week, aren’t here this week.  Seeing that those who celebrated that joy of the empty tomb last week have gone back to their everyday lives missing the joy and the strength and the support that is felt in this place week after week after week. 
I pray that those who were gathered for worship together throughout this past week have the opportunity to gather again and again and again.  I pray that the community in Christ we feel in this place is what drives us out to tell others about the new life in Christ.  I pray that this community continues to reach out and welcome all to hear the good news that Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!
And while I hold this in prayer, it is that old camp song that goes…and they’ll know we are Christians by our love…not just our prayers…and I would say not just our love but our actions in our day to day lives. 
How you live your life, do your job, are active on a sports team or musical group….that shows the world around you your faith and God’s love active in the world. 
How you show your family, co-workers and community members that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead is the message that the world is longing to hear. 
In Bishop Mark Hanson’s Easter message he states, “The world aches to hear the message we have to tell.” 
What we hear and the meal we share in this place…strengthens us for the rest of our lives.  We know we can handle the roughest of days because death has been conquered.  And it is in that knowledge, that we long for others to hear this good news, to know of God’s amazing grace, and to be surrounded by the amazing community that is gathered in this space week after week. 
We know this amazing news as we will sing/just sang in one of my favorite Easter hymns…
Christ is Risen! Earth and heaven nevermore shall be the same.
Bread the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain. 
Tell its grim demonic chorus: “Christ is risen! Get you gone!”
God the First and Last is with us.  Sing Hosanna everyone! 
We are here, breaking the bread of the new creation…where, yes, the world is still in pain, but we are able to do so because God has conquered death.
How wonderful is that news?!?! 
It’s the news that Mary rushed to tell the disciples.
It’s the news that the disciples eagerly told Thomas. 
It’s the news that we are called to share outside the walls of this place to a world that is still in pain….and longs to hear this joyful message of forgiveness, love and amazing grace. 

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
So go…and tell…and may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, Amen!

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