Where is Everybody?

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Easter – April 12, 2015
The Reverend Linda Hollis, Deacon

So where is Everybody this morning?
This is Easter Sunday # 2. There are seven Sundays of Easter. BUT where is the crowd that was here to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus from the tomb this week? Is Resurrection a onetime event on our calendar?

Even at the Giant grocery store up the road the lilies are on sale and the chocolate eggs, left over egg dye and jellybeans are on the discount rack. There might even be unfound, moldering, plastic eggs in our garden presently. Sadly you cannot stock up on Easter Stuff for next Easter, like you can with Christmas Cards and wrapping paper. Easter just seems to end, period, full stop! Resurrection Sunday or Easter Sunday seems to be a onetime event.

But that is not how it was when Jesus rose from the dead. It took 40 days to convince, convict and convert his disciples that he was alive before Jesus ascended to his father in heaven and before sending the Holy Spirit on Pentecost 10 days later to empower them.

I think we all struggle with Jesus’ resurrection even now.
So on this Second Resurrection / Easter Sunday we hear about “Doubting Thomas”. Thomas wants proof that Jesus is alive – resurrected from the dead –Thomas will not take the word of his friends who saw Jesus last Sunday. He has to see and touch Jesus for himself.

I love Thomas. He is my kind of person. Perhaps our proper church-going, religious selves wag a knowing finger at Thomas. “Shame on you! And you call yourself one of Jesus’ disciples!” But I think another part of all of us agrees with Thomas: “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.” (John 20:25). Yes! Yes! We want to see. We want to touch. We want to be there.

If only we had been with Peter in John’s Gospel when he entered the tomb and found it empty except for what? The linen head-wrappings neatly fold and laid aside. What an intriguing detail, in John’s Gospel. Who was the mysterious “neat nick”? If only we could have been on the Road to Emmaus in Luke’s gospel and heard Jesus’ phenomenal Bible History Class that explained God’s intent from Creation to the present time. If only we could have been in the Emmaus Inn when Jesus revealed himself by the breaking the bread at the table. If only, if only…………..

In short, we really understand Thomas perfectly. We too wanted to be there. We want proof. A part of us cheers Thomas on when he sets his terms for belief: “Not unless I see… not unless I touch.” Hurray for Thomas!
So here we are: Doubt vs. Faith.

This desire for “hands on proof” is completely normal. The longing for evidence is not the special burden of us believers living in the 21st Century. And Thomas is not the only disciple who wouldn’t take someone else’s word for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. According to today’s Gospel, later last Sunday in John’s Gospel, after Mary announced the good news of resurrection, on that same evening the disciples were found by Jesus locked behind doors in fear, and Jesus offered to each of those present the same signs that Thomas would later demand a week later. (vs. 20) So why the bad rap for Thomas?

Maybe Thomas needed more time to stew on his questions of doubt. Stewing can be good at times. Stewing can certainly transform tough meat like chuck into a delicious rib sticking beef stew. Stewing maybe softened Thomas so he was ready to believe a week later.

And “Jesus is willing to assist Thomas in working through his doubts. Jesus didn’t leave Thomas to suffer without the blessing of faith and confidence; he gave him the evidence he required. Typical of Jesus, he helped Thomas move from doubt to faith.” (Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness)

Proof is what everyone prefers. But we must come to terms with our place in history. God, in God’s manifold wisdom, has not ordained that we should “be there” – 2000 years age ago – no matter how sincerely and audaciously we wish it. We live in an age of wonders, no doubt, but when it comes to resurrection faith, ours is not the dispensation of sight.
Oddly enough, it seems that Doubt and Faith go together like love and marriage – ying to the yang. You can’t have one without the other. “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” (Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

Without the partnership of doubt and faith none of us would get married, have children, start a businesses, explore the unknown, move to a new location, recover from addiction, surrender a love one to God at the time of death, risk driving in the rain in the dark, see our children off to pre-school or college, give away a daughter in marriage, be a social worker, nurse, doctor or a teacher, see a son or daughter off into the military, chance a career change; the list is endless.
More importantly we would not forgive one another, and we certainly would not reach out to help others without the partnership of doubt and faith.

Without this partnership none of us would be vulnerable enough to LOVE. There is a threshold between Doubt and Faith. It is here we step over our FEAR, Let go and Let God. LIFE!

By Jesus’ Resurrection, God has given us the chance to be blessed according to the last of Jesus’ beatitudes. “Blessed are they who can’t be absolutely sure. Blessed are they who believe the hearsay. Blessed are the eyes of faith that continue in hope despite the frustrations and ambiguities. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have to believe.” (John 20:29)

Doubt – Faith – Resurrection. We are Resurrection People.

Be on the lookout for Resurrection proof everywhere you go for the next 50 days at least because, “Resurrection is constantly surprising, constantly full of hope, constantly coming to us from God’s future to shape us into the people through whom God can carry out his work in the world.” N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
Alleluia, Christ is risen! And we answer: The Lord is risen indeed, Alleliua! Amen.