Sermon for 27 April
2014 ~ 2nd Sunday of Easter (Bishop Ray)
it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the
house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came
and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said
this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when
they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the
Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on
them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins
of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are
Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other
disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them,
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the
mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.
Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said,
"Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger
here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt
but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 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."
Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not
written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may
have life in his name.
friends at the men's breakfast like to tease me because I take such an analytic
approach to the scriptures. I use doubt as a starting point for inquiry. I am
skeptical of opinion not backed up by demonstration. They all laughed when they
heard that I would be preaching a sermon about the man who has become known as Doubting
Thomas. However, I find a kinship with Thomas, not because he supports my modern
academic skepticism, but because Thomas wants to know whether this is the real
Jesus, or just the same wish dreams as those of the rest of the world.
Friday I read Rebecca's call to worship.
Look at you there
dying, a spectacle of suffering
when we were looking
for hope and goodness to prevail
when we wanted the
world to stop and take notice…
O God, we thought you
had a different plan
we really thought you
had things under control.
(Rebecca Garber, 18
today, there were lots of religious groups who dreamed that one day their
vision and their leader would be supreme. Then they would see their dreams
dashed the same way Jesus was.
poetry has captured the mood of that let-down. They had hoped for more. They
had hoped that he would lead them to some kind of victory. But he didn't. Instead,
he was executed like a common thug without any dignity or respect. That was to
scare off anyone else who thought they could buck the system. So they were
stunned and hunkered down. But Thomas wasn't with them in their huddled
disorientation. Thomas had always understood Jesus and what Jesus taught.
that God's reign was not something that started by toppling the big guys, but
at the bottom, among the most defenceless. Jesus taught Thomas that God is the
creator of all life:
all life is connected;
all life is shared;
life thrives on hope;
the most fragile must be most valued and cared for.
the most evil also need God's love and grace.
was the least surprised at what happened to Jesus. He knew that anxious humans are
driven by a desire for dominance. Thomas knew that it didn't matter whether
those kingdoms were secular or religious. There was corruption, manipulation
and double dealing in Thomas' religious community. There were those who compromised
their religious principles in order to make a shekel or take advantage of
trusted God. He knew that God suffers too - at the hands of evil people - who
disrespect God's beautiful gift of life. Evil disdains love and grace and
prefers to promote fear and division. The whole creation suffers as God sheds
tears over the desecration of the good earth and its people.
Bonhoeffer wrote in 1932 that Jesus chose the way of the cross from the very
outset. Here's the quote:
It is the way of
obedience and the way of freedom, for it is the way of God. And for that reason
it is also the way of love for human beings. Any other path—be it ever so
pleasing to people—would be a way of hatred and contempt toward human beings,
for it would not be the way of God. And this is why here, then, Jesus rejects
the devil. He chooses from the very outset the way to the cross [Because it is
the way of God through the world,]. And we are going with him, as individuals
and as the church. We are the church beneath the cross, that is, in disguise.
Yet here as well, all we can is realize that our kingdom, too, is not of this
you think Thomas expected to see? What he got to see were: nail holes in Jesus'
wrists and ankles, a spear hole in Jesus' side. This Jesus who appears is the
Jesus who Thomas signed up with. This is the Real Thing! When Thomas
sees those signs, he knows God is there working the miracle of new life from
the ground up. Thomas knows that the world likes strong-willed leaders who
articulate a vision and go after it. But Thomas believes that there is only One
Will—God's will. And God will choose to suffer along with us rather than leave
us abandoned. Not everyone who is exalted is more worthy. Not everyone who
suffers or fails is less worthy.
God created the world it was a world from which life sprang. No one knows this
planet's enthusiasm for producing life more than those of us who live here by
the ocean. We don't own life. Life happens because God wills it. It is an
unqualified gift—what we call a gift of grace.
evil story has existed from the beginning of time that says we shouldn't trust
the grace. That's sin—the failure to trust God's goodness. We lose our trust
because the world isn't fair. Good people also suffer loss and evil people
often gain the most. Jesus ends up being crucified while his persecutors enjoy
Charlie Brown's baseball games are an example: "Winners ride, goats
truth is God doesn't have a preference for people who accomplish the most. Nor
is God prejudiced toward the most sinful. Eternal life isn't about points
created a world in which history is playing itself out. Within that history God
is sometimes full of joy, and at other times, full of suffering. But God
doesn't choose on the basis of pleasure. There are no scores. God acts out of
love for the worth of each person.
life is not about achievement. Eternal life is about how we treat each other
aside from likes and dislikes, aside from anger and fear, aside from status or
life is the gift of looking at any other person and seeing God's presence in
that particular life:
of us in equal measure.
not alone whether we suffer or prevail. God suffers and prevails in the midst
Tomas saw the signs of Jesus, he said: "My Lord and my God." Blessed are we
when we also can believe what he believed.