Sermon – April 11, 2021
Based on John 20:19-31
What do we look for when we read scriptures like the one, we read today?
Are we seeking advice or guidance or is there something else? Perhaps reassurance?
What is there in this story for us to hold on to? Because as I have wrestled with a passage, I have read many times in the past, what I am left with is not so much a challenge, or some for of instruction, but a reassurance of God’s presence and God’s encouragement in the person of Jesus the Christ.
We are told that Jesus, the Jesus risen from the grave comes to the disciples as they hide behind locked doors to reassure them, he is alive; to give them hope and to move forward.
That is not enough for Thomas who misses that first encounter for some reason. He needs to see Jesus and to touch him; to feel the wounds from the crucifixion.
And thus, we get a second encounter which is enough for Thomas to believe.
We can fixate on Thomas’s doubt and the assurance that those who believe without such evidence are blessed; or we can look at what Jesus and God are willing to do; what Jesus and God in fact do.
In the midst of their fear and doubt; when the disciples, despite the initial message from Mary, seem incapable of action, Jesus comes to them; passing through locked doors and offering them hope and encouragement and a purpose.
It is of note that Jesus still bears the wounds of his execution. Perhaps those details are needed to point to the fact Jesus is and was human. He was indeed beaten and killed. He did truly suffer.
But even so, Jesus comes to where the disciples are. He responds to their needs, where they are.
It has been over a year since we were able to gather together in one place to worship. We had two Sundays when we had in person worship, but another outbreak brought that to an end.
That is difficult. That is painful and it can be incredibly discouraging. I have no doubt we could put together a remarkable list of things we miss from in-person worship. Those reasons are valid.
But when we are being cautious about the health of our community; when we are taking measures to care for one another and preserve life; we should be wary of saying being together in that way is necessary for God being with us.
Jesus comes to us where we. I am assured God is with us as we gather on-line; when we find ways to gather in prayer and in song and in reflection. Jesus is not stopped by a locked door or the fear of the disciples, and Jesus is not stopped by the doubts and skepticism of Thomas. Jesus comes to them in love and offers his blessing.
And so, as I said, I am assured Jesus comes to us in our loneliness, in our caution and our own fear. As we experience the anxiety of and the anger and doubt about how much longer this pandemic and the restrictions necessary to protect the well being of wider community might last; Jesus visits us; offering us love and encouragement and purpose.
How we experience that presence, and that encouragement may be very personal. But I am assured there are signs of Jesus presence.
Opportunities to serve others. The care and attention provided for and to you by others in the community. For me, the evidence of the coming spring in so much green grass and fields this week is another sign of new life springing forth.
It is natural to doubt; to question what we are doing or not doing. It is natural to demand some evidence that we are not abandoned. We are told in this story that Jesus does not turn his back on the fears and the doubts of Thomas and the other disciples. He responds, he comes to them and reassures them.
Now, one of the challenging points in sermons is what is often referred to as the “So What?” Yes, God loves us unconditionally. God comes to us offering us blessing, even when we feel completely unworthy. So what?
Well perhaps with that assurance of God’s love, of knowing God sees us as capable of being part of God’s vision for this world we can shed our doubts and our fears and live and love with real conviction without concern for the perceived repercussions.
This does not mean disregarding people’s health or health concerns. This does not mean ignoring science and medicine. It means loving fully. It means exploring new ways of being community and living in loving relationship. It means asking new questions about our world and how to work together to create a world of compassion and justice.
May we be open to Christ’s presence and the love and reassurance he offers in this time of fear and anger and doubt.
Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789