He is Risen! Our April 11 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The April 18 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. We will still be wearing masks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizer, but we will be open.
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April 11 Sermon
Acts 4:32-35 | Psalm 133
John 1:1-2:2 | John 20:19-31
“Left Out Thomas,” “Johnny Come Lately Thomas,” that is whose story we have today. You know how I feel about his usual moniker. Thomas in John’s Gospel shares the trait, like Peter, of often saying what the others are thinking. And, I do wonder if this story may have something to do with where we get the saying, “Seeing is believing,” comes from. Or, we’re in Missouri, “Show me.” This story is one of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, and the first time, occurs on the evening of Easter Day, then a week later. You know, today!
The disciples are hiding away in a locked room, with the windows barred. Why? Because they are afraid that they will be the next ones to be crucified, that the Romans now having executed their leader, they will come for the followers. That makes you wonder about the saying, “Take up your cross and follow me.” They would rather be “a light hiding under a basket.” Regardless of their fears at the time, Jesus appears among them, and immediately says, Peace be with you.” Words, which the disciples desperately need to hear. They are scared, and for a number of reasons if you think about the events of the last couple of weeks. They probably also need to hear the words “Peace be with you” because Jesus who they saw crucified and buried is now suddenly standing among them, alive. If anyone needs peace, it is the disciples. In fact, Jesus says “Peace be with you” three times in the Gospel lesson this morning. They really do need to hear those words.
“Peace be with you.” In Christ, there is peace itself. He himself says, “My peace I give to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give.” Peace comes only from beyond. That is true peace, not that fleeting peace which we too often accept as peace for lack of anything else – like when the TV is off, and the phone isn’t ringing, and for a brief moment, all seems to be at peace in our lives. That isn’t it. That is just a peaceful moment. In Christ, there is peace. Christ is peace. For in Christ, we are given peace with God. And as I was inadvertently reminded of the other night, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Who is the Son of God, and who is the greatest peacemaker? Jesus!
Peace with God is freedom. Freedom from the enemies we are born with; sin, death and evil. Freedom from them. Freedom from the Law which condemns us because of them. Freedom, because Christ has claimed us as his own. He has delivered us into the hands of the Father, from whom no one can take us. Through Christ, we have become children of God as well, and are to be peacemakers. We have freedom through forgiveness.
But, poor Thomas isn’t there to hear nor experience this peace. Maybe we should call him Absent Thomas, or Tardy Thomas. Or better yet, Brave Thomas. Of all of the disciples, he alone has ventured out in the streets from the locked room. He would be braver than the others. But, he is not at peace. He is in anguish, as well as we may say doubt. But, many people have doubts. In the faith, the resurrection is probably the most difficult part to accept. Although the more liberal theologians of the present time are usually willing to give up the virgin birth as “unreasonable,” let’s face it, the resurrection is really irrational! They are both well outside out of our earthly experience. But, they are both matters of faith, not reason! The resurrection is central to Christianity, the sine qua non. Thomas doubts, even though the others, his friends and colleagues tell him that they have seen, and touched, and heard the Lord (as John writes about in his epistle today: again to make the same point as the Gospel lesson today). But, Thomas has no peace in himself.
A week later, (that is a week after the Resurrection, or for us, today!), Jesus appears again. “Peace be with you,” and turns to Thomas (who is almost certainly stunned and speechless now). And it seems from the way that the story reads, that this is done specifically for Thomas and his problems, his lack of peace and belief. But, this is what Thomas needs. Thomas now, has peace, and believes. He doesn’t have to fulfill the demands which he had made a week earlier. We’re not told whether he actually had to touch Jesus’ wounds. I seriously doubt that he did. He is in the presence of the Risen Christ. He cannot not believe. Christ is raised victorious over the grave! He is standing right there! The only thing that Thomas can do, or say now is to cry out, “My Lord and my God!” There simply is nothing else to say. That says it all.
We have in the Gospel text today what I consider two of the most poignant verses in the Bible. And, they reemphasize the Doubting Thomas episode. They reinforce it. John literally tells us why he wrote his Gospel. They are the last two verses in John, “Jesus did many other signs…” which John did not write down. He tells us that he only recorded the important things that Jesus did. And the purpose of him recording what he did, “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,” like Thomas did. So that following generations, and that includes us, too may cry out with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” There is nothing else to say or believe. That is the Gospel.