Easter Part 2 2018

Alleluia.  The Lord is risen.

Our gospel reading this morning with the words “on that day”immediately makes it clear that in spite of our calendar tracking through a week, in the gospel we are on the same day as we were on Easter morning when the resurrected Jesus comes to Mary in the garden, calling her by name, into new life and new relationship.  Creation in some sense is being reborn in  this  garden just as it began in a garden in the early verses of Genesis.  Gardens are still so often sacred places, spiritual places. Perhaps it is in their lineage from these earlier gardens….

Now in spite of Mary telling the other disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to her, they are in hiding out of fear for their own lives…and maybe because they didn’t actually believe Mary anyway….she was only a woman after all…and to give them their due they might have had every reason to be afraid.  Romans in cahoots with some of the collaborating temple leaders might well be searching for them too….the scene of Jesus crucifixion would be seared in their minds and hearts for ever.  So there they are in hiding, behind a locked door when suddenly Jesus is among them….again a place to ask not how was that possible but what does it mean…..though I do love Rolheiser’s quote on our bulletin’s this morning…when he says ” The resurrection rearranged hearts and minds but it also rearranged atoms”…..the new physicists tell us nothing is as it seems….but what is real in this instance is that Jesus is among them.  Can you begin to imagine their eyes popping and their hearts pounding!  No wonder he says Peace be with you…so back to meaning…

Well first of all it says clearly to me that Jesus the Christ came among them and can come to us too regardless of where we have locked ourselves in or out through fear, scepticism or, despair.  And then notice what Jesus  says ” Peace be with you.” Peace be with you….peace instead of fear and terror…peace that unites rather than separates…which is why we exchange the same peace before we come to communion….And then the text says the disciples recognize him and rejoice…I wonder if Mary is saying to herself…” Well I told them this morning that Jesus was here”….

And then there is this wonderful image of Jesus breathing on them and saying ” receive the Holy Spirit”..Receive the Holy Spirit…

Remember we started on what we now call Easter morning in a garden where Jesus had been buried  but was now alive for Mary…and now we have the Christ breathing new life into his followers hopefully reminiscent of another garden where God is described as breathing life into the creatures God made of clay….God’s breath….Jesus breath….new life for Adam and Eve…new life for the disciples and by extension us too….but notice Jesus gives them a task, a ministry of forgiveness and so we too are called to be people of forgiveness in the world…

And then there is Thomas…..skeptical, refusing to believe, I think afraid to believe that this amazing thing has happened which will change his life forever.  For centuries Thomas has embodied, symbolized whatever skeptical, super rational science or philosophy that happens to be in vogue at the moment. And as  I, named Thomasin, I’ve  certainly felt like I’ve experienced my share of doubt…doubt in God’s presence, doubt in my own worth…which I suspect haunts our gospel Thomas…and all the other doubts that haunt our human condition.  Thomas has left a huge mark on the imagination of Western Christianity….he is the incredulous non believer that haunts our own beliefs as we thoroughly modern people want more proof….but Rabbi Sachs would say…..you are asking the wrong question again….you need to ask what does it mean?

And what it means seems to me to to be that God in Christ can find us, will find us wherever we are hiding, whatever walls we may have erected to keep back the things that scare us.  In this gospel John tells us first, that Jesus walks through a closed locked door to get to Thomas.  And it is not that Thomas’s doubt drives him to demand answers from Jesus.  It is Jesus who refuses to let dead bolts ( no pun intended) block the movement of love toward the one who lacks faith…

But there is another thing that strikes me.  When Jesus walks right up to Thomas the disciples aren’t really clear who he is…which is a bit odd given that he apparently had the wounds in his hands and feet and side..think of our expression ” I can’t believe it” for something we absolutely did not expect to see….What this suggests to me is that when Jesus comes to find us in our doubt filled wanderings or even in our daily lives we, like Thomas, may not initially recognize him.  How often do we say ” Oh my God” when we experience something profound and unexpected….and so Thomas says…”my Lord and my God!”  my Lord and my God.

So where are we with these resurrection appearances where Christ has made himself known……and says Peace…what does all this tell us about faith?  Perhaps it is this.  That when God comes, we will recognize God’s presence in those moments when peace is offered, in spite of whatever brutal violence is raging all around us and that we will know that we are not alone but have in fact been already found. And Jesus instructions to his disciples tell us too that we are to be forgiving, compassionate people. Ultimately the disciples are sent out to preach, and teach and heal…..and so are we. I said a few weeks ago describing Jesus’ ministry…teaching and healing.  Healing and teaching.  What he was…what he did and still does in and through us.  I also said we may be the closest thing to Jesus people see….

Finally I am reminded of the Papa Popov story I sometimes tell at Christmas.  Jesus was there for Popov in ways he could never have imagined or expected.  And so it was for Mary, and the disciples in the locked room and so it was for Thomas and so it is for us.

 

Alleluia!  the Lord is risen.  Alleluia!