I hope that your Easter was joyful. Rosie and I had our kids, grandkids and our two great grandkids at our place for a wonderful dinner created by all of them. Rosie made the sweet potatoes!
That is such a day of celebration. We have not only our Lord’s resurrection, but also the beginning of Spring, with great weather and the promise of more. I am certainly ready for it. Winter and cold are not my favorite things. I love sitting on the patio and reading under the awning and feeling the breeze in my face.
What I love about our lessons as we get into the Easter season is that this season certainly isn’t over. In the lesson from John today, Jesus’ disciples are all gathered in one room when all of a sudden, Jesus appears to them. They are astonished. Notice how the passage begins: When it was evening, the first day of the week and the doors of the house where the disciples met were all locked for fear of the Jews… Here they are in their fear, waiting for who knows what. Their Lord has been crucified and they are afraid. But all of a sudden, their Lord is present. He showed them his hands and his side and the disciples rejoiced. He said to them: Peace be with you! And as the Father has sent me, so I send you. This is the beginning of the church. He breathes on them and says Receive the Holy Spirit. And he sends them out to forgive the sins that they find.
Thomas isn’t with them. When he came back to them, they told him, “we have seen the Lord!” Thomas. told them “unless I see the marks of the nails on his hand and put my finger in them and put my hand in the wound in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later, they were all gathered again and Thomas was present. Jesus again appeared to them and spoke to Thomas: Here, put your finger in the wounds in my hand and your hand in the wound in my side. Do not doubt, but believe! Thomas said, “my Lord and my God.” Then Jesus says the most meaningful thing of all. Do you believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen me, yet believe! That is you and me that Jesus is talking about.. We have only our faith to show us the presence of our Lord in our lives. We haven’t seen his wounds or his body lying in the tomb. All that we have are the scriptures that tell the story and the testimony of the followers of his who so firmly believed. That faith is what we take with us into our lives to help us to deal with all of the things that happen to us; to celebrate our joy and to dry our tears because of our distress. The truth is that our Lord is at our side and we are blessed when we believe that.
We hear a lot these days about fake news and alternative facts. This story about Jesus’ resurrection isn’t about either of these things. It is about faith. Faith is belief without necessarily having any facts to prove what we believe. When I consider all of Holy Scripture, there are many places where facts are obscure and I’m not really sure what it is that happened. What I hear in the stories is always helpful. The stories in the bible tell us truth. Most often, the facts of the story don’t really matter.
When we were in Jerusalem, we got into a taxi and the driver asked us if we wanted to go to the home of the Prodigal Son. We thanked him, but declined his offer. He didn’t know where the Prodigal Son lived, nobody knows that. It is simply a wonderful story in the Gospel that tells the truth about how it is that God receives the lost back into his care. There have been many prodigal sons. I’ve been one. Some of you have been one! The beauty of that story is that God’s love is eternal and applies to us all. Where those people lived or if they really lived is not important. What matters is the truth of what that story tells us all.
We all struggle with faith from time to time. When things in our lives go sour, sometimes it is hard to believe that our God loves us. We blame God when we ought to be looking at other causes. We humans don’t always treat each other very well. The other thing that we experience these days is fear. Fear that North Korea will unleash nuclear weapons; fear that the things that have made our lives better, such as affordable health care may vanish. But God never promised us a perfect ride; only that His Love will remain constant no matter what it is that happens to us in our lives. Our faith is a solution to our fear. Faith connects us to the only thing that matters: the great God who loves us completely. Our church is a collection of people of faith. Each of us is here to help the other. That is the beauty of community.
Those disciples of Jesus, who witnessed his resurrection and saw the wounds in his hands and in his side were sent into the world by our Lord to forgive sin and to make the world a better place for the people whom they met along the way. That is the same thing that Jesus did during his whole ministry. You and I are the descendants of those disciples. Our mission is to do what we can to help those whom we meet in this world. When we love others, we spread the Love of God farther into this world. What keeps us going is our faith. Believe in the Lord with all of your heart, soul and your mind. When you do that, all will be well.