Sunday, April 7, 2024
The Second Sunday of Easter

Christ knows what we need to believe

The Rev. Mark Wilkinson, Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Katy TX 77450

Click here to watch sermon

I showed the vestry a video by the Rev. Les Carpenter who is a priest in our diocese at St. Aidan’s up in Spring if I remember correctly. Today’s gospel is one of his favorite stories, but he really hates how most people take it. He said, “People think, Thomas is a doubter, doubting is bad, don’t be like Thomas,” end of story. He goes on to say that this is the story of all of us, because all of the disciples doubted, it wasn’t just Thomas! And he’s absolutely right.

What most people forget is that regardless of the gospel, NONE of the disciples believed at first. This week in reading daily morning prayer we heard all the gospel accounts of the resurrection. In the longer ending of Mark the disciples see Jesus and he is upset because they doubt.  In Luke when the women come back from the tomb, they are not believed because, “They thought it an idle tail and did not believe them.” In the Matthew’s account where the disciples are gathered on a mountain in Galilee and Jesus gives the great commission to preach the gospel in all the world, baptizing in the name of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yet just before that verse, Matthew says, “and some did not believe,” yet Jesus was standing there in front of them! Last week in John, Mary comes back and proclaimed that she had seen the Lord and told the disciples what he had said, yet later that day in the passage we read today, they are all behind locked doors, frightened and confused. Yet poor Thomas is the one we all call doubting Thomas, it really isn’t fair or accurate.

Focusing on doubt is the wrong place to focus. We need to focus on belief and how Jesus helps our doubt become belief. Let’s go through the story again but this time with a different focus.

Jesus appears to the disciples, shows them his wounds, breathes on them and says “Receive the Holy Spirit (please not this is given to them on the evening of Easter not at Pentecost according to John). Not Thomas isn’t there and says, “unless I see the wounds and put my finger in the nail holes and my hand in his side I will not believe.” Then the next week Jesus comes to him and gives him exactly what he thought he needed. But he didn’t need to touch Jesus, seeing him was all he really needed.

Now what I find fascinating is how all the different accounts differ in how Jesus appears. Stop and think about this. In John Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in outside the tomb. She mistakes him for the gardener until he speaks to her. She recognizes him when he calls her by name. That’s what she needed. Yet think about this. She turns and sees him and mistakes him for the gardener. To me that means there were no wounds visible on him. I mean really if he had a wound in his side and holes in his hands and feet wouldn’t she have noticed that immediately? But Mary doesn’t need to see those for her to believe, she just needed to hear him call her by name. Yet later that night he appears to the disciples in the passage we read today and there are the wounds, because that is what they needed to see.

Wednesday the reading for the Eucharist was the road to Emmaus from Luke. Again the two disciples Cleopas and I am assuming the other unnamed one is his wife Mary (who is named in John’s gospel as one of the women at the foot of the cross) do not recognize Jesus on the road. So how do the recognize him? When he takes, blesses breaks and gives them the bread. Then their eyes are opened, and he disappears. They say were not our hearts warmed as he opened the scripture to us.

When they get back to the other disciples they tell them what has happened and they are told Jesus has appeared to Peter as well. Then Jesus appears to all the disciples and guess what. He shows them his hands and his feet. He eats a piece of fish to prove he isn’t a ghost.

The point that I am trying to make here is that Jesus in all his appearances in the gospels appears to the disciples, male and female, in whatever form they needed in order to believe. Christ, for that is who appeared to them, freed from his human flesh now appears to each one as they needed in order to believe. There is one of the powerful messages of the Cosmic Christ, the Eternal Christ. The Christ who appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. He certainly didn’t believe until that moment, but Christ knew what he needed to do to convert Paul. Sometimes Christ needs a larger 2×4 to whack us up side of the head to get our attention. I have certainly experienced the holy 2×4 in my life.

The point I’m trying to make this morning is that we need to pay attention because Christ may be trying to tell us something at any time. As we look for Christ in the world we can find him. As messed up as the world is, as flawed as we are, Christ is always reaching out to us, inviting us to be his hands and feet. Because not only are we to look for Christ in the world and in our community we are called to act in Christ’s name.

We and I will say we are working on a new ministry opportunity that I want to begin to talk about because we are at the point where we need to start looking for people to help. Many of you will remember that Gill was very involved with Christ Clinic. We have continued to send them some money and refer people to them, but now we have in invitation to partner with them. This ministry is called the 25 35 ministry. This is from Matthew 25:35 which says, “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…I was sick and you looked after me.”

I have had several meetings with them and next week when I am at Camp Allen I will be talking with diocesan staff because this ministry will need diocesan approval.

Christ Clinic serves a population that for the most part are all working but their jobs do not provide health care. We have a huge adult population that is uninsured or underinsured and that is their target population. How big is the problem? I visited a clinic at Fellowship church at Westheimer and S. Peek. The pastor there told me that within a 5 mile circle of that parish 55,000 people fall into that category. Jim Witt who some of you may know is the representative from Christ Clinic we are working with estimates the need is even greater up here and is why our parish along with Powerhouse Church have been identified as possible sites.  The hope is that between the two parishes there will be one evening or Saturday a week that a pop up clinic will be open here in Old Katy. I have talked with the Guidance counselor at Hutsel and while this is not a clinic for kids she’s knows many parents or grandparents that need these services and she is very excited about this program.

What they are asking is that we open our doors twice a month.  This would be from 5-8 in the evening. Their clinic isn’t open in the evenings and there is a part of the population that is working and cannot get time off to go to the doctor without losing pay. These evening clinics are one answer. Dr. Kate Berger has already volunteered to be our lead clinician which is a huge first step. The clinics usually have two doctors and the other would be supplied by Christ Clinic. Upfront expenses are very reasonable, a cabinet to store meds and a couple of exam tables. Ongoing expenses to us are minimal.

Signups for appointments are all handled by the Clinic. What they need from us are volunteers to check people in and out. Take blood pressure and other simple tasks which are all automated. There is another church who does not have a building but is willing to partner with us so they will also help with volunteers. The other component that excites me is that this is a Christ centered clinic and we are encouraged to offer prayers with the people before they leave. So if you feel called to do that you can be a part as well. Of special importance is we will need people who speak Spanish.

I will have more details, but I want you to begin to consider if you would be willing to be part of this. Volunteers can be as young as 16, even younger if a parent is willing to also volunteer. The vestry has discussed this and wants to move forward. I think this is a spectacular opportunity to make a real difference in our immediate community.

What I’m saying is Christ appears to us in many ways. Wounded and bleeding, homeless and hungry, sick in need of healing, wearing a doctor’s coat or just praying with someone who is ill. As Jesus said, “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.’