|Posted by jeffdoucette on April 10, 2018 at 9:50 AM|
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 authorities, 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.
(John chapter 20: verses 19-31)
So I need to ask us a question to start out my sermon today. Does this Easter story matter any more? If we just stopped telling it would it matter? If we just stopped coming to church, would that matter? If we just went on with our lives, would the Easter story fade into our book cases and become another book to be filled with dust? Words the disciples might have asked themselves I am sure after the events of the story from last week…words I ask myself by times to be honest.
Who could blame the disciples if they had walked away and let the story fade away? Who could blame them for not being entirely sure what to believe, who to believe, who to trust. The time of Jesus was not pretty or safe. It was dominated by cruel rulers who made the lives of people a living hell…physically, mentally, spiritually. Could the body have been stolen? Who could blame Thomas in the gospel, for showing up to be with those gathered, only to hear a wild story and told he had to believe. It was only when he saw Jesus and could physically touch him that he believed.
But what about us, some 2000 years later? With the state of our world, with some of its leaders, with what is going on…does this Easter story have any relevance? Does it matter if we believe anymore? Does it make a difference? What is our level of belief in the Easter story? What do we hold dear about this Easter story? Does it matter in our lives anymore? Is it the story only of our parents and grandparents? Or have we made room for it in our lives and made it our own? Or have we just moved on saying “Eh! Easter is done…what’s next on the church calendar? Now what have you got to show us?”
So often over the past nearly seven years I have heard, “Our church is hidden and do people know that we are here? If there was more ways to become known, to become more visible…it would help.” But does that mean putting a 20 foot lit cross on the building? A fancy electronic sign outside the church? A billboard out at Kingston Road with out name and street address or a catchy glitzy slogan?”
Have we reduced our faith to how full our church is? How balanced our budget is? Or is it more than that? What does the gospel story have to say to us today and our faith life some two thousand years later after the resurrection?
There is a huge difference between the gospel story of two thousand years ago and today I agree. The disciples were scared, frightened, disoriented, emotionally drained and confused. The week’s events had taken the wind out their sail and then all of a sudden they had to make sense of what was essentially for them a ghost in their midst in the form of Jesus. But what about us? Who does not get scared, frightened, disoriented, emotionally drained and confused with what we live by times. The question then for the disciples and for us today is how as followers of the Risen one, do we respond.
The gospel says the disciples gathered the first day of the week. Could you imagine being in that room? Can you hear the conversations? Can you hear the excited breathless recounting of the morning and the stories of Mary, Peter and John and the other disciple at the tomb? Or the story of the two on the road to Emmaus. Everyone talking at the same time over one another trying to be heard. Everyone except Thomas who for some reason got delayed. We could say “How could he not believe the other disciples saying they had seen Jesus?” But easy for us some 2000 years later…but if we are honest…we do not always get it, or buy into it any more than Thomas did. Or maybe Thomas was just too exhausted emotionally and struggled in the fog of his own grief.
But something changed in that room when Jesus entered. The words “Peace be with you” can do that to change the climate in a room. That peace we share as we begin our service…because as we gather, we are all those disciples in that room. That “Peace be with you!” was a divine embrace or “Shalom” around each of the disciples breathing into them and around them, this Spirit of Resurrection, this taste of God’s life over death. This gathering that makes sense when life throws us a curve and tries to rob of us what we know, deep in our faith…that God has never and will never abandon us. And the story that has followed our ancestors for two thousand years has never and will never abandon us. In the midst of our grieving in the fog, we will catch glimpses of resurrection, of that Peace of Christ, of that promise of God. I know this deep in my heart because I have seen those glimpses of resurrection in the midst of us as church when we gather and respond to our faith. I have seen those glimpses of resurrection in the faith filled actions you have been part of.
I have seen it in the little child from Footprints on a Saturday running excitedly with great joy the length of our hallway and the parents who have benefited from a bit of respite to look after themselves.
I have seen it when we welcomed a transgendered woman during the Affirming process and listened to her story of pain and isolation from her Anglican church.
I have seen it as we hugged the Muslim moms of Durham when they came to thank us for supporting them with love by giving us roses after church.
I have seen it in the numerous car loads of clothing taken to the backdoor mission or car loads of food to the local food bank.
I have seen it in the times of sock it to me Sunday when you generously whipped socks at me to give comfort to the weary feet of those with no home to go to at Joanne’s house this past December.
I have seen it as we have collected coats, school supplies and miscellaneous items and have sent them to Kasabonika First Nations or raised funds for Pikangikum first nation to refit water in houses.
I have seen it as we have listened to the story of a residential school survivor speak in our midst, or my Tobique first nation cousin Trent as he spoke about his Maliseet culture and worries and concerns.
I have seen it in the faces of people like the Muslim Welfare home or Durham Rape Crisis center or the Special Olympics or the many Gifts with vision or other charities as we have donated to our Advent or Lenten boxes.
I have seen Resurrection in how we have done the backpacks for the young people of the Durham Family Court Clinic.
I have seen it in the faces of Judy from Affirm United as she presented us with our Affirming Congregation certificate.
I have seen it in the stories of the many people who have received prayer shawls or sock monkeys or superhero blankets or teddy bears from us as we passed them around our worship praying with them.
I have seen it in the faces of those at Fred Victor or Massey Center or Horizon House or Denise House when items have been delivered by our UCW ladies.
I have seen it in the stories of people living with addictions who use our space for Alcoholics Anonymous twice a week.
I have seen resurrection in how many here have cared for creation through 10,000 trees for the Rouge, or the annual clean up at the Lake.
I have seen it in the voices and excited young people as they share their faith with us and race off to church school.
I have seen it the faces of family members who have gathered here to bury their loved ones and how we have ministered to them.
I have seen it last Sunday in the voices of our young people who were confirmed and have taken their place as full members of our church family.
I have seen it in the musical voices of our music ministry helping us to sing the songs which nurture our faith, which make us wipe tears, which make us want to stomp our feet and clap our hands.
I have seen it in the giftedness of our artists who share their love of painting for our Sunday celebrations throughout the year.
I have seen it in our welcome of people who come through our doors for our annual Bazaar.
I have seen it in the faces of Rev. Roberta and the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement as we have given them space to begin a new church community which embraces women’s ordination.
I have seen Resurrection in the shocked faces of members of the LGBTQ community when we have brought our Confirmation group to listen to their stories on Coffee night.
I have seen it when we have made space for Elizabeth and other members of our congregation who live with developmental disabilities.
I have seen it when we have welcomed The Spirit movers dance troupe or Tom Krysiak from L’Arche Daybreak who made our communion vessels putting a big “S” for Superman on Jesus’ chest.
I have seen it on the shocked then thankful faces of members of the LGBTQ community when we have helped put on a church service on Pride grounds and then marched in the Pride parade as allies along side them.
I have seen it in our own faces as we welcomed guests and visitors who have come to worship with us, maybe to check us out looking for a new faith family.
I saw it in the faces of Presbytery gathering here with members of the Muslim community to dialogue in friendship and support and have some claim it was the best Presbytery meeting ever.
I have seen it as we have gathered each Sunday as disciples on this common faith journey, to be nourished and strengthened. I have seen it especially when we quietly encouraged one another in those after church conversations when things were rough in our lives.
I have seen these resurrection moments of the Risen One among you and so much more.
Resurrection is all around us, the Risen one walks among us and through us. There are those Thomas’ in our midst who doubt but the Risen One walks with us and quietly whispers our name (N.) like he did the name Mary that first Easter morning. We might not use the word Resurrection, or the Risen one, or faith…but it is there. It runs through us, and around us and back out of us. It reminds us that “We are not alone”. This is the meaning of the words “Peace Be With You”, that God’s Spirit is with this church family and always will be in the story of Jesus, Risen and walking along side us. You are never alone, trust the Spirit of the Risen One will guide you and this congregation when things get tough. For remember…”We are not alone, we live in God’s world…” and that is not the world of death…but but that sweet Spirit of resurrection and those tangible moments of the Risen One in our midst. May it always blow through us!