Sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, April 23, 2017

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year A
April 23, 2017
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Oh, it sounds like Peter got the message that Thomas heard – “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy…”

The Quakers ask, “When did God/Jesus become more than a name to you?”  We might ask, “How did God/Jesus become more than a name to you?”[1]

We know what happened to Peter.  He was one of the first from Galilee, called to follow this man Jesus, who traveled around the countryside teaching and healing and announcing the Kingdom of God is among humankind; and at the end – as he thought – of this intriguing, puzzling, exciting, frightening adventure, the one who denied his friend three times.

But three days later…he meets the risen Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of Man now revealed as Son of God, whose tomb he found empty just that morning, but who has gathered with other followers in one room, himself and most of them still afraid, feeling unsure, and still not understanding the news that Mary Magdalene brought – that she had seen the Lord, when suddenly, there he was among them.

Imagine the shock of that moment.

Can you see the room?  Can you see the other disciples?  The eleven, the others, the women?  Can you see the dark room, the candlelight, the closed door, breathe the air, smell the sweat, sense the worry?

And then, like doors and windows thrown open on a beautiful spring morning, their friend among them again – against all sense and against all experience – offering them peace, showing them his hands and his side, and somehow, in breathing on them, they were filled with that peace that the world cannot give, that only God can give, that the Holy Spirit pours out upon them.

And they rejoiced.

As well they might.  God had become more than a name to them – God had become the source of peace and joy.

How has God become more than a name to you?

So that’s Peter – he’s been to the mountain top – again – and this time it ‘takes’ – he gets it.  Jesus isn’t just that prophet – teacher – rabbi – medic – rubber of elbows with the outcasts of society – interesting and compelling guy he thought he knew up till now; no, now he gets it – Jesus is, somehow, God Incarnate, dead and resurrected and real.

But now, think about our friend Thomas, who was not present that first night. 

Maybe because yesterday was the March for Science and Earth Day, it occurs to me that Thomas was like a scientist.  He’s not going to take anything on “faith.”  No, no.  Thomas wants evidence.  He wants verifiable, testable, objective, incontrovertible evidence

This is not a bad thing.  It’s just a Thomas thing.  And a lot of people would agree with him.  That’s why a particular branch of Christianity tries to provide proofs of the existence, miracles, life, death and resurrection of Christ.  I used to be like Thomas, and I found those so-called proofs completely inadequate, and unscientific.  I heard circular reasoning: the Bible says it, and the Bible is the word of God … but if you don’t accept the Bible, it doesn’t matter what it says.

If you’re a non-believer, saying that the Bible says something is not sufficient; it just isn’t.

For Thomas, even what his friends told him, was not sufficient.  It just wasn’t.  Thomas needed more.

So did I.

Maybe you did, too.  Maybe you still do.  And maybe you don’t even want to … because until I did get more, I didn’t want to believe; there was nothing to believe in.

This may sound like a silly analogy – but until you’ve eaten a morel, you have no idea what you’re missing.  So why should you even care?

Well, we might care because all our friends are talking about it; at least we might have a little curiosity.  And maybe, because our friends are talking about it, we actually try a morel.  And, maybe, we find we like it after all.  Even a lot!

But until that moment, the morel meant nothing to us.

Thomas didn’t know what the resurrection meant – Scripture doesn’t tell us what he thought of his friends’ story; it only tells us what Thomas said he needed in order to accept it – to see Jesus himself, to put his hands in the holes in Jesus’ body, to examine the evidence personally.

And do you know what?  That’s exactly what he was given. 

Just what he needed. 

Before I became a believer, I was a lot like Thomas – I had no reason to believe what my friends were telling me; no reason to think it was real – and serious doubts about their gullibility….

But one day my curiosity got the better of me, and then I experienced something I can still remember – 24 years later - as if it were just yesterday: a glimpse of living light filled with a sense of presence – just a flash, a moment, a titillation of promise, more quickly gone than described, but still resonating deep inside me.

So that would be “When God became more than just a name” to me.

The how is still working itself out.  I’m a part of that experiment – and it is difficult to be objective about a subjective process like this.

So maybe the evidence we should look for or the evidence that satisfies is found in paying attention to how we – or another person – lives their lives after claiming the name of Christian.

Do they – do we – do what Jesus asked?  Do we – do they – love one another as he has loved us, with all we have within us, and do we love our neighbors as ourselves?

Do we live as though we had received the peace and joy that Jesus offered the disciples?

Because it’s offered to us as well; it’s offered to all; it’s offered freely and without limit.

How has God - how has Jesus - become more than just a name to you?



[1] Kathleen Long Bostrom, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol 2. 

  January 2018  
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