April 12, 2015 – To be continued…

Easter 2 April 12, 2015 (Psalm 133, 1 John 1:1-4, Acts 4:32-37) John 20:19-31
To be continued…
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One morning last week, as I sat in the kitchen trying to get started on this sermon… I noticed our daughter Rohi, singing hymns. (Nothing unusual there; she does that nearly every morning.) But here we are now in the season of Easter – and she was singing hymns from Lent and Holy Week, singing – Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days for us didst fast and pray… (and) Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?… (and) When I Survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died…

I’d just been thinking how, after Easter, probably Jesus sits down in heaven at a grand banquet with God the Father and the angels – a huge, many-course meal with all the trimmings…And all the angels sing as the heavenly orchestra plays…And surely nobody’s thinking about Good Friday in heaven now – are they? So what’s with our daughter, singing songs of Lent and Good Friday… when we’re now in Eastertide?

But maybe Rohi understands intuitively better than I… How, according to the gospel.. Later that same first Easter Sunday – Jesus appears again, this time to disciples, gathered in an upper room, behind locked doors for fear of the religious authorities.
And Jesus walks in without knocking and greets them, saying “Peace be with you.” Sharing what was, in that culture, in those days, the most ordinary of everyday greetings. He shows them his hands and side – still bearing the marks of the cross and the spear that pierced him. (Almost as if this too might be an everyday kind of thing for him to do.) He says again, “Peace be with you.” Adding now, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit…”

And he breathes on them, as God the Father breathes life into adam. (The Hebrew word adam means human.) And just as God’s breath causes the first human to become alive, in the beginning, in the garden…
Now Jesus, whom Mary Magdalene mistook for the gardener earlier that same first Easter morning (last week, our time) – is revealed as The Gardener (capital G), who was with God in the beginning – as Jesus does what his Father does – Giving life without end to all who believe – (And–)
Commissioning his followers now to continue the work of new creation God began in him – saying, “If you forgive the sins of any they’re forgiven. If you retain them, they’re retained.” (That’s where we get the hymn we’ve just sung:) “Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew…that I may love what thou dost love – and do what thou wouldst do…”

But Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, wasn’t there when Jesus came. The others tell him “We have seen the Lord.” Earlier that morning, remember, Mary Magdalene met Jesus at the tomb in the garden, and spoke with him, and told the others “I have seen the Lord.” Now those disciples have seen the Lord for themselves. Now they say to Thomas what Mary said to them, “We have seen the Lord.”

But Thomas gives his famous one-liner: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my hand in his side (where the soldier pierced him with the spear) – I will not believe.”

For this, he gets to be called “doubting Thomas.’ Though, remembering how all the male disciples fled from Jesus after the last supper… And how they didn’t believe the women who first visited the tomb and returned with news of his rising… Maybe it’s not fair to single out Thomas as more of a disbeliever than the others? When Thomas just seems to want to see for himself what the other disciples have now seen for themselves. Anyway–

A few days after Easter, here I was, thinking of the signs of the cross again, still embedded in the hands of the risen Jesus… Thinking along these lines all the more, as a series of situations, including the weather, kept me close to home and struggling to start this sermon… instead of starting out on my scheduled fishing retreat… (Time away with God and trout…)
Now I was projecting my own small difficulties onto the Lord – thinking it must have been about this time when Jesus finally got away for a few days in heaven… Catching up on sleep and reading…Maybe even doing a little fishing… (Since Main Street, New Jerusalem, remember, is a river.) But it’s not like Jesus has checked out and left the world behind forever…Since scripture tells us – even if he has perhaps taken a few days off – now again –

A week later, Jesus comes to call again. The doors again are tightly shut. Jesus again comes in without knocking or ringing the bell – stands among disciples, saying now a third time, “Peace be with you.” Speaking to Thomas, says “put your finger here, see my hands. Reach out your hand, put it in my side. Don’t disbelieve – but believe.”
And as he shows himself to disciples – we notice again – The wounds of the cross and spear – still so very visible – close enough to touch.
Which must be exactly what Thomas needed to be assured of. He’s seen Jesus, his friend and teacher, whipped and beaten, crucified, bleeding, dead and buried… He’s witnessed the very worst the world can do to Jesus… He knows he has seen Jesus, thoroughly dead. Now he needs to know that what the others say that they’ve seen – Jesus alive – is not an apparition, a dream, or a ghost…

And when he sees Jesus and hears his invitation to touch – now Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” (Bible scholars point out this is the strongest affirmation of Jesus’ divinity spoken by anyone anywhere in the gospels.)

Yet Jesus doesn’t sound the slightest bit impressed, as he says “Do you believe because you’ve seen me? Blessed are those who haven’t seen, yet have come to believe.”

Jesus blesses now those who believe without having to see or touch. And we should remember that Jesus, especially in John’s gospel, often uses the same words differently, for different situations.
And seeing and believing aren’t always opposites. Back in our reading from the First Letter of John today, the apostle says ‘we have seen and heard and touched the word of life.’ We’ve known Jesus by sight, hearing and touch. This up-close-and-intimately-personal-first-hand-knowing-of-Jesus was in fact, a big part of the evidence for the early church that John and other disciples were true apostles. They’d lived with Jesus, knew his voice and appearance intimately. They had even known the touch of his hands, washing their feet.
But all through John’s gospel, especially in the story of the man born blind who now can see (John 9), Jesus also makes it clear that the seeing that really matters has nothing to do with eyesight – and everything to do with seeing with insight into who Jesus really is.
And now, Jesus says, a different kind of evidence is needed. Another kind of believing is required. As from now on, we walk by faith and not by sight. Believing the word of God. Receiving the Holy Spirit. Believing through the daily practice together of the art of resurrection life that Jesus is still teaching us…

Remembering him always (as he said to). Remembering he still bears the marks of the cross and spear… (As we will often, also, as we follow…)

Remembering that his resurrection robs death and sin of power over our lives… Even though until Christ comes in fullness of glory, death and sin will still be with us. Yet now, already, in his resurrection – all of life and death and even the cross are transformed, as we believe…

And now, because Jesus has risen and breathed his Spirit into us, his breath of the breath of God… Because Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit and commissioned us, sending us as he was sent, to continue his story…

Now we too, with and through his Word and Spirit, become for the world evidence of Christ, alive and risen… And

Now I’m remembering (along with a few leftover aches and minor pains of Lent and Good Friday)… Remembering mostly Christ Alive…
As I remember Easter afternoon, holding a five-month old infant (Irene/Eunsook and Ryong Jae/Isaac’s daughter Eveline Yewon)… who, like me, was pretty tired…and getting just a little bit cranky, holding her, singing Easter hymns…
And as we sang Up from the grave he arose… she began to beam a beautiful smile… Then smile upon smile…Turning on joy that spread around the table… till we were all smiling together.
Reminding us that…Even as we still bear the marks of his cross… the scars that come from living in this world…
Now we share all the more in the transformed life… of love and joy and peace forever that Jesus gives… As we go, as he sends us, in his name…
(And now –)
May the same prayer we prayed together on Good Friday
Become for us our Easter prayer: (Please pray in his Spirit with me–)

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet
Walk with us on the road –
May the Christ who serves with wounded hands
Stretch out our hands to serve –
May the Christ who loves with wounded heart
Open our hearts to love.
May we see the face of Christ in everyone we meet –
And may everyone we meet see Christ in us.
Amen.

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1 John 1:1-4

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Acts 4:32-37

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

John 20:19-31

When 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 retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), 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.”

A 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.”

Now 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.