2 Easter – April 12, 2015
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; I John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
Homily preached by the Rev. Canon Linda S. Taylor
This is our 23rd Sunday together. It’s hard to believe, but it’s the truth. I looked it up. The calendar doesn’t lie. This is twenty-three times we’ve gathered together—at least—plus all those other times in the middle. On that first Sunday that I was with you, I made you three promises. I promised that I would be present to you to the best of my ability and I asked that you be present to me, and I believe that has happened. I promised that if we were present to each other—in all truth and honesty—that there would be conflict and that together we would weather that conflict, and I believe that’s what’s happening. And I also promised you that I would love you, and I have. You may not have always felt it, but I’ve always been loving you.
And now, here we are, and I’ve been thinking this last week about all the things I’ve said—because I’ve talked a lot in these long months. I’ve talked a lot about those promises that we make: our baptismal covenant promises that we make and that we renew at least four times a year. I’ve talked a lot particularly about that promise we make to seek the face of the Christ in all the people we meet. Not just the people we meet at the grocery store and or who try to run us down on the freeway, but in each other and in ourselves. I’ve talked a lot about the Body of Christ that we are part of—that we are. We are the Body of Christ in this place—in this time. In the last days of his life on Earth, Jesus said to his disciples: this is the new commandment I give you: that you love one another as I have loved you. He asked them to continue his work in the world. He asked them to be the Body of Christ in this world. So I want to to read this gospel to you again. I’m going to read it with a difference, and I want you—I invite you to listen in a different sort of way. Listen from the perspective of the incarnate risen Christ standing in the room that day with his disciples. Listen to them. See them from his perspective. And, if you will, don’t read along. Just listen. If it’s comfortable to close your eyes, close your eyes; you can hear a little bit better that way.
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, we came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After we said this, we showed them our hands and our side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw us. We said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent us, so we send you.” When we had said this, we 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 we 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 our disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, we came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then we said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in our side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered us, “My Lord and my God!” We said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen us? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now we did many other signs in the presence of the 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.
What did you hear? What did you see in that room?
What struck me as I read was the fear that the disciples were experiencing. Everything they had believed to be true about the Messiah had proven not to be true. They were left alone. The unexpected had happened—the unimagined had happened, and they didn’t know what was going to happen on the road. They’d lost the one they loved—they felt abandoned. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And we came in that moment of fear, and we said: Look at my hands. Look at my side. And we offered our peace, and we told them that the only thing that stands between sin and forgiveness is their willingness to let go of the sin—to put it down—to put it away. And then we breathed the Holy Spirit onto them.
One of the disciples wasn’t there. Thomas was not there. Thomas—the one we call the doubter. Thomas—who never let Jesus go. Thomas—who when Jesus says he goes to Jerusalem to die says we will go with you and we will die with you. Thomas was not there. So they told him—the disciples told him what had happened, and he could not believe it. He did not believe it. He said, Not until I put my finger in his hands and put my hand in his side will I believe—because he had lost the center of his life. And we know what that’s like—when we have such a loss that trust is impossible for us again. We know what that’s like—when the core of what we had counted on has disappeared. This man who has been so faithful couldn’t bring himself to believe—couldn’t bring himself to open to another disappointment. He couldn’t begin to hope—or even to hope for hope.
And the next week, we came back into that room. The disciples were there—the door was still locked. We came into that room—into that moment—and Thomas is there. And we show him our hands, and we said: Put your finger in the wound–put your hand in my side. Do what you need to do in order to believe that this is real—that this is true. Touch me in the way you need to touch me in order to know that the God who loves you loves more than you can imagine—loves past death into new life—loves with a love that makes anything possible. And Thomas looked at us and said, “My Lord and my God.”
It may seem very inappropriate for us to presume to take on the Body of Christ—to stand in this world as the Body of Christ, but that is exactly what we are called to do. We are called to be the Body of Christ in this place and in this time. To show people our wounds and to show people our healing. To tell the Good News as we walk through this life. To be the Good News. We are called to give evidence of God’s love in every single day of our lives.
As we gather today to celebrate these last months that we’ve spent together, I have more invitations for you. I invite you to remember—to re-member—to keep in your own flesh and bone and skin that you are the Body of Christ—that you are God’s beloved—that you are God’s gift for the people of God.
You have been such a gift to me in these last months, and I will always be grateful for this time with you and for the gift of God that you have been.
Thanks be to God.