1 John 1:1-2:2
Second Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2022
Hey, I Know That Guy
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Contrary to what the world might think or say, it is still Easter. Easter cannot be contained to a day—it is a season, it is a way of living. What we all experienced last week does not stay in the past. The joyous worship. The excitement. The hope. You can't go back to the way things use to before last week. Do you like feeling miserable? I mean, don’t get me wrong…I love Lent, but I got my limits.
Do you like the way your sin makes you feel?
If we go back to the way things use to be, it will mean death.
If we go back, it means that the hope of Easter is mute and the resurrection is meaningless.
If we go back, It means you let Satan and all the forces that defy God win.
If we go back, It means you give up on your baptism and on your chance of resurrection.
You can't go back to life before the resurrection, but evil will constantly try to pull us back. Satan and all his little demons will constantly try to get us to wallow in our sin and not live in the joyous hope we find in the resurrection.
But it is easy to forget the joy of Easter when the church is not filled to capacity like it was last week. It is easy to forget the great joy we felt last week when attendance goes “back to normal.” It is much easier to Ask introspective questions like, “Why do we exist as a church? Is it just for two major events—Christmas and Easter? Are we more than just a entertainment venue?” It is easy to lose the joy, to think negatively on the second Sunday of Easter. Why can’t every Sunday be like Easter Morning especially when we confess and believe that we celebrate the paschal mystery every Sunday?
You know, I don’t have the answer to any of these questions. I feel discouraged too, at times, as a pastor—like all the work that I do is in vain? It is a whole lot easier to believe when things are all working in your favor. Right? And it is at moments like this that i am glad to have this reading as our gospel for today. There is a reason that the church always reads John 20:19-31 the second Sunday after Easter. There is the obvious reason: It details the event of the second Sunday after the original Easter. Last week, we heard what happened on the first Sunday of Easter. Now we hear the second week. But one of the more subtle reasons for reading John 20 is that we need to be reminded that doubt and questions about the possibility of the resurrection is just as much a part of the Easter Story as the actual resurrection of Jesus.
There are a lot of Christians who believe and teach that the only way to gain salvation is through an unquestionable faith in Jesus. Unless you believe, you are not welcome to the font. Which I typically respond to that form of teaching and doctrine by saying, “Well, if its all about you, why do we need Jesus? Why do we need the cross? If its all about you, why bring in Jesus? Or go to church? Is Thomas or Peter worthy of baptism even after they denied and questioned the resurrection? Are any of the disciples worthy because they all doubted and didn’t believe the words of Mary or the other women of the group?” Decision theology works until you get to John 20 because in John 20, Thomas demands exactly what the other disciples received. Thomas demands a sign, physical proof. He doesn’t just go on the words of his friend. Some call that doubt. I think it is more than doubt. I think it is Thomas demanding equal treatment. And he gets that treatment. A week later, as the disciples gather, Jesus comes into their midst and makes good on his disciple’s demand/request. “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your (apistos) doubt/unbelief/lack trust, but (pistos) believe/trust.” “The Greek root behind the English “believe” is pistos. While overwhelmingly rendered as faith (for the noun) or believe (for the verb) in English NT translations, its lexical range fully includes the concept of “trust”. John employs the verb rather than the noun and has a range of possible translation possibilities from trusting in something (or someone), relying on something (or someone), to believing something is true.”1 The English verb “believe” has a predominantly cognitive emphasis—on our “brain”... Trust, on the other hand, is more relational and exists on a spectrum—often encompassing the feelings that influence our thoughts and actions. Hence, we often associate believing with our “heads” and trusting with our “hearts”. Re-reading John 20:27-31 and embracing the nuance of trust inherent in pistos, notice how differently Jesus’ words to Thomas sound: “Do not be distrusting but trusting” and “Are you trusting because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to trust.’” I think that Thomas’ is having some trust issues, but even in the midst of Thomas’ distrust, Thomas does two things:
He shows up the next week despite missing his chance to witness what the others witness. He didn’t give up on the group, but this time he shows up on time.
And immediately upon hearing these words from Jesus, Thomas doesn’t respond by putting his hand in wounds of Jesus, but instead responds by saying, “My Lord and my God.”
None of the other disciples make this kind of faith claim after seeing the resurrected Jesus. Yet Thomas, who had some trust issues, comes around and makes one of the profound, faith-filled claims of any of the disciples: My Lord and my God. A lack of trust led Thomas to faith.
Thomas reminds us, as well as all of the disciples, that the resurrection, even though it was predicted by Jesus numerous times, was still filled with confusion, questions, and doubts, but it still happened and Jesus found a way into their locked room, into their room which was filled with confusions, questions and doubts and brings peace to our troubled hearts. If the first resurrection was filled with doubt, confusion, question, and distrust—why would it be any different today? Last week was exciting. Kids using their noise makers, a congregation full of people singing and rejoicing—that makes believing easy. This week is tough. Perhaps your doubt/your distrust, has set in. Perhaps you are questioning if God is truly doing something new here. Perhaps you are like Thomas and just want to see the risen Christ. On this week, this second week after Easter, let us remember that there isn’t a place that God won’t go, won’t figure out a way to break in despite us locking the door to breath peace in the midst of confusion, doubt, and distrust.
Jesus’ exhortation Thomas to trust is made possible because of the relationship that was fostered by Jesus. Relationship building takes time. You may have questions, doubts, and maybe even some trust issues with Jesus—and that is okay. The church is the place where you nurture your relationship with God. You don’t have to have all the answers today. Instead, be sure to show up on time, come with your doubts, come with your questions, come with your trust issues and experience the peace which was first experienced in that locked, upper room that is stilled shared here each and every week here in this place, a peace which surpasses all our human understanding. Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.