Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
1 Peter 1:3-9
Alleluia Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen Indeed Alleluia!
Christ is risen
and today we hear about the disciples
starting to come to terms
with the news of Easter morning
the news brought to them of course
by Mary Magdalene
whose early morning trip to the tomb
was full of the unexpected,
the tomb was empty
and the gardener was the risen Jesus,
who sent her to tell the other disciples
which she did, announcing
“ I have seen the Lord”
Now John doesn’t tell us about the immediate reactions of the disciples,
whether they scoffed at Mary’s tale
or rejoiced with her,
by the time we see the disciples,
in our gospel for today,
the news that something has happened
is starting to sink in
and the disciples are afraid.
They have gathered together
and locked the doors out of fear,
they are wondering, what comes next?
And Jesus comes and stands in the midst of them
and says “Peace be with you”
Jesus comes into the midst of their fear and uncertainty,
despite the measures they’d taken
to keep everyone else out
and offers them peace.
Then just so they know that it’s him
(although who else could it have been?)
he shows them the marks on his hands
from the nails that fixed him to the cross
and his side where the soldier’s sword had pierced him,
and the disciples rejoice.
Then “Jesus said to them again,
‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’”
And with the gift of the Holy Spirit,
the disciples are sent out to spread the good news.
And they make it as far as Thomas.
One of their own
who was not with them
and they excitedly tell him “we have seen the Lord”
and Thomas says
‘no’ I don’t believe you,
I need the same experience you had,
to see Jesus and the marks in his hand and side.
Now I think this must have taken the wind out of the disciples’ sails,
they were all excited to share the news just as Jesus had instructed
and when they do,
with someone who knew Jesus,
who heard his passion predictions,
who has the best chance of anyone at believing them
and Thomas says no,
they realize that this is a harder job than they thought,
and as the reality sets it
we find them once again,
a week later,
gathered together in fear
behind locked doors
only this time Thomas is with them.
And once again
Jesus comes into the midst of them saying
“Peace be with you”
and offers Thomas what he needs,
showing him his hands and side
and Thomas not only believes that Jesus is risen
but he goes a step further and confesses
“My Lord and my God”
understanding and proclaiming the full truth of who Jesus is.
Then with the truth proclaimed
Jesus turns to the rest of us
those who have read the story of Thomas throughout the ages
and looking right at us says
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
And yes We may not have seen Jesus
in the same way as the disciples
but Jesus has come to us,
in water and word, bread and wine,
the community of believers,
in other ways that we only realize well after the fact.
Again and again,
Jesus appears among us
offering peace in the midst of fear and uncertainty,
knowing that our moments of joy
will be tempered by the reality of rejection
and the fear of the unknown future,
again and again
Jesus appears among us offering peace
because unbelief in one moment
doesn’t prevent faith in another,
indeed Jesus comes again and again
because faith is a gift from God,
a gift that Jesus keeps offering
even though we’re sometimes reluctant to accept the gift,
even though at times we misplace it,
buried at the back of a closet
or lock it behind closed doors out of fear
and then Jesus comes once again
and stands in the midst of our fear
and says ‘peace be with you’
We are in a time of fear and uncertainty,
and like the disciples
the novelty of the situation is starting to wear off
and we’re left wondering,
what comes next?
How will we continue to live out Jesus’ call to us
when we are physically separate?
And even when we try new things
the reaction might take the wind out of our sails
and then what will we do?
I don’t know the detailed answers to all of these questions,
we will uncover them as we go,
what I do know,
is that God will be with us,
renewing our faith as we figure it out,
because that’s what God does in these situations,
we are not the first Christians
to have our faith and way of being challenged
nor will we be the last
and all along the way
Jesus will come to us,
offering peace and faith.
We hear that promise
in our second reading for today,
the author of 1 Peter writing to communities
wondering what is next?
Hear those words again:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for 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, so that the genuineness of your faith-being more precious than gold, that though perishable, is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
God’s mercy has already been acted out for us
through Jesus’ resurrection.
God has already given us salvation
and is keeping it safe for us.
And the difference that makes in our lives?
It gives us a living hope,
hope that is able to adapt to the changing circumstances around us,
hope that takes disappointment in stride,
hope that continues on even as our faith is refined.
It's a romantic image,
the process of purifying gold,
we tend to focus on the end result
but what we forget in the romanticism
is that on the way to pure gold
things are lost,
the unnecessary parts burned away.
And that’s the moment we are in right now,
the uncomfortable part of the process
where we are finding out what is gold
and what is just pretending,
what is faith and what is just pretending
and like the disciples on that first Easter evening,
we will first gather around what is familiar,
we will lock the doors against the outside world,
and Jesus will appear among us
in the midst of our fear
and offer us peace
and with Thomas
once we have realized who is among us,
what is true
we will proclaim “My Lord and my God”
our hope as alive as the risen Christ. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.