Second Sunday of Easter Homily
Homily – Church of Gethsemane – Second Sunday of Easter – April 27, 2014Rev. Sandy Obarski – Deacon Gospel – John 20: 19-31
Faith is a mystery of the heart that our minds want to solve. To admit that we take certain things with faith is to say that we are willing, in limited circumstances, for things not to make perfect sense. Still, we want faith to be backed up by certain evidence, so that the leap of faith is a manageable one. In the season of Easter we celebrate the biggest mystery of faith: that Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world and that he rose from the grave.
This fact of faith, compared to all the other fantastic stories about Jesus’ ministry, such as healing miracles, walking on water, knowing people he has never met, is the hardest one for the human mind to understand. Nothing in life is more certain than death. It is easy to determine, as inevitable as taxes, and above all, permanent. For Jesus to be raised from the dead runs counter to every instinct of the mind. According to our minds, it can not happen.
In the Gospel of John, John provides a clear message that helps us see the truth. He gives evidence so that people will know with certainty. In the last verse of today’s gospel we read these words, “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”.
The story of skeptical Thomas is the most typical example of how the Gospel of John is written. Jesus has risen and has appeared to his followers. When Thomas hears of this extraordinary event, he is unconvinced. He is like us. If something sounds too good to be true, it is almost certainly untrue. Such things are hard to believe. They demand evidence. The mind cannot make the leap of faith based merely on the testimony of friends. What makes greater sense is that the disciples, from their recent emotional experience, are speaking of things they imagine, things they wish could be true.
When Jesus appears eight days later, Thomas is with them. He demands proof. His mind searches for clarity. Jesus knows that belief depends on some evidence. He lets Thomas probe his fresh wounds. Thomas’s finger comes away with blood on its tip. This is real. This is the truth. Jesus was crucified – and he is risen. He is risen indeed! Perhaps it was Thomas himself who said the Easter cry that we still use with astonishment today.
When did Jesus become more than just a name to you? The name, Jesus, may be one you grew up hearing as part of your daily life or perhaps it was only mentioned in the midst of the secular festivities of Christmas and Easter. Whether by gradual understanding or a lightning – bolt moment, somewhere along the way our spirit awakened to the truth that Jesus is more than the name of someone who lived two thousand years ago.
I was raised in a Christian home after being baptized as an infant. The stories I heard at home and in Sunday school taught me about Jesus. As I grew older I remained active in church activities as a member of the youth group and singing in the senior high choir. But, it wasn’t until my early twenties that I felt a strong feeling of guidance from the Holy Spirit. At the time I didn’t know it was the Holy Spirit and it frightened me a little. But, I followed it which guided me and Marv to the Episcopal Church. We were church shopping during our engagement period before marriage. When the reemergence of that feeling reoccurs, I have learned to follow wherever it guides me. I am very thankful it guided me to the Church of Gethsemane.
Though we latter-days disciples may be blessed for believing though not having actually seen those wounds of Jesus ourselves, as Thomas did, we are disciples capable of greater faith and courage because we trust that Thomas and the others saw them on our behalf. Therefore we are assured that the risen Lord is indeed the crucified one. Sometimes, like Thomas, we need a sign and then other times, we rest in the mystery of believing without proof.
If anyone in our congregation today needs something else, something beyond the words you are hearing, beyond the telling of the story, something that looks and feels more like life, than that is OK. Jesus gives all of us what we need. We are all invited to come to the Lord’s Table, to open our empty hands, to touch and taste for ourselves. On this Sunday, whether we experience it as Low Sunday or approach it as the Second Sunday of Easter, Jesus has the power to give us what we need. Jesus will help us receive the gift of His risen power
As the women left the tomb, they were called to bear witness to the other followers of Jesus. Through the generations, many have been called in all sorts of ways to share their resurrection faith with others, including us. Now, in this time in our own culture and context, we are being called to be those who share our resurrection faith.
There is no prescribed way of doing so. Opportunities to live a resurrected faith come our way every day in our daily living. During his weekly blog, Bishop Prior shared the Easter message he received from a childhood friend on Easter Sunday afternoon. His friend told the bishop he had proclaimed his Easter faith through using the gifts that God had given him. He is a cardiologist and was on call on Easter Sunday morning. He texted – “on call… 2 grandpas alive this morning after cardiac arrests and had arteries stented by me…God blessed my hands on a beautiful Easter Sunday. Cheers.
Then our Bishop continued in his blog saying: “Opportunities to live a resurrected faith come our way every day. Sometimes they occur in truly life saving situations and others in smaller yet just as important possibilities. May this Easter season be a time for all of us to become aware of the opportunities, and become responsive to the invitations to use our gifts to bring the new life of our resurrection faith to others.”
The One who has hardwired our brains to seek understanding also holds the key to our hearts. We ask God to help us breathe peace and live with joy, in the celebration of Jesus’ life and love for all. AMEN.