Today's Sermon by Deacon Maggie:
Second Sunday of Easter April 19, 2020 St. John’s Franklin
"Peace be with you."
Those words of Jesus from our gospel this morning are a greeting to the disciples who, in the shadow of the crucifixion, were hiding “behind closed doors”, confused, amazed and afraid for their future, for their lives. It was (and is) a greeting- a very important greeting, one we use in our service each week to welcome each other before coming together in communion. But it was (and is) so much more than that… it is also a reassurance that, whatever our present circumstance, in the happiest of times, the most normal of times, and even in a time of danger and loss and fear for the future, we are not in this alone... we are, in fact, never truly alone.
In the second appearance of Jesus, after Thomas saw proof that the risen Christ was before him, after needing and receiving the reassurance of proof:
Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
Thomas was not a bad guy. He just doubted something pretty unbelievable… and that can, at times, be a good thing… a reality check if you will. We can all be like Thomas at times. For the longest time, I read this passage as Thomas being gently rebuked by Jesus-for needing physical proof, for needing to see, with his own eyes, the wounds of the crucifixion, for possibly a lack of faith. But actually I think, rather than being a rebuke, it was and is a blessing… a blessing for all of us…for all of creation… that as we navigate this world around us, as we are constantly faced with choices and decisions… that we notice the love and hope that exists every day-if we can only stop, take a breath and see- and we make the right choices because we know, we have come to believe.
As Peter, preaching and teaching about this new reality, said to the group gathered:
“You who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials”…
I admit I was a bit taken aback at these words… In this challenging, even frightening time, it seems to be making light of the “various trials” we are all facing. Like all disciples, in this present time of uncertainty, we may, at times, find ourselves overcome with fear and doubt-worried about those we love and hold dear, and worried for ourselves. And this fear can manifest in very personal and individual ways… some of us might get quiet and withdrawn, some of us might find ourselves full of energy that needs to be released, some might feel overwhelmed with anxiety or anger. Some of us are mourning real, heartbreaking loss. I find my eyes welling up with tears at odd moments…many moments… over the day, for no apparent reason. Maybe one way we can exercise our faith is to respect the various ways we react to this uncertainty. We have been forced, for now, into a different way of being. And I really miss you! Even before this coronavirus crisis, we are learning that there will be many different ways to experience our faith. It is growing and evolving…using social media for connecting and sharing online, new members arriving and faithful members trying on new roles, kids becoming part of the worship… active and excited and having fun…and the amazing teachers… creativity that apparently knows no bounds. Worship is changing, church is changing and our world is changing… and maybe we are being invited to change and to grow too.
What if, YOU write a sermon! What if you were challenged, in this very difficult time, to look around and see the face of God- in the big picture and in the tiniest, most precious moments- and share it with others. Where would you find the evidence that is all around us, all the time, of the love of God in this world? What words would you use to share and inspire others? What actions could you take to be a balm, to warm a heart?
This is hard...it’s easy to get discouraged and to wonder what will happen…but doubt is OK-doubt is part of faith- and God sends us signs…signs of hope and love and sustenance, for this very difficult journey… and he has already given us such precious gifts…beloved creation- from vast expanse to the tiniest detail- family, things we love, thing that make our hearts happy…pay attention to those things...things that you may have rejoiced in for years… but also things that you may be noticing for the very first time…pay attention. Easter is not just a remembrance of the sacrifice and glorious resurrection of our Lord...it is also an opportunity to taste and see and have our spirits renewed.