Second Sunday of Easter- Deacon Gill- April 8, 2018

Scripture readings: http://www.lectionarypage.net/

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Last week we heard from Mark about the women approaching the tomb where Jesus had been laid and how they were worried how they were going to roll the heavy stone away from the entrance. But  the stone has been rolled away and they are suddenly afraid and are told to tell no one.  And that is where Mark leaves the story. Afraid. None of the other gospel writers leaves us in fear and silence. And over the years as the Gospel of Mark has been copied, writers have given us an alternative ending to Mark’s. They have given us the full story, like Matthew, Luke and John. Fear and silence may have been fleeting emotions but resurrection is the good news. Jesus Christ is risen.

This second Sunday of Easter builds on the good news we celebrated last Sunday – Jesus was dead, but is now alive; the women come to the tomb in despair then leave the tomb happy. Quite a story. Lots of questions, but the bottom line, is what this season of Easter is all about. CHRIST IS RISEN. For the next 50 days until Pentecost we will tell stories of faith and believing. We will live into the reality of the resurrection. We will hear about the reality of life victorious over death.

Today we hear of the disciples, in a locked room…plastic film, duct tape, dead-bolts, locks, whatever it took.  Scared that the same fate that took their master on Calvary might be awaiting them as well. They were afraid of the Jews. They had heard the story of the women and the empty tomb and that made them afraid.

But no door will keep the risen Christ out. Suddenly, here is Jesus saying “Peace be with you,” Jesus came and stood among them. Then and only then did the disciples rejoice when they saw the Lord. But not all were there.

“Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came” And when he was told what had happened he refused to believe, saying, “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”. They try to convince Thomas that Jesus is alive. Thomas couldn’t believe it. He had been there when Jesus died on that cross. He believed what he saw.

However when Jesus appeared the next time Thomas was there, and proclaimed, “Peace be with you,” It was that encounter with the risen Lord that empowered Thomas to publicly proclaim the good news, that over time would turn the world upside down. Now all the disciples understood the miracle of Easter. Now they were all believers in the resurrection.

We label Thomas “doubting” but in truth, I may have been making the same demand he did. He wanted visual proof and when he has it he doesn’t even bother to check the wounds before he responds, “My Lord and my God!” He believed without having to touch. Thomas is the disciple who we have all related to at some time in our lives. He is the incredulous non believer who hides inside every believing Christian. He wants proof, he wants to see for himself, he will not take others word for what has happened.

Jesus knows we have questions as well and that at times we falter. We have to have faith that not even a locked door will stand in his way, or block his love. When we doubt then Jesus will come to us wherever we may be and will meet us where we are. And take heart because there is a good chance that when he comes to us we will still doubt and will not recognize him. When Jesus said, “peace be with you,” he was giving Thomas, the disciples, and even us, the hope we so desperately need in our continuing journey with Christ. Hope that because He lives, we too will live.

The disciples had spent three years walking with Jesus, listening to and observing the miracles, yet they still had problems with their faith. At times they were unconvinced by who He was. It was not until after the resurrection that the disciples fully grasped who Jesus was, and then nothing would stop them. They then knew what their mission would be. They were ready to give their testimony. Their fear and uncertainty became trust when they REALLY KNEW who Jesus was. They were in no doubt.

The First Epistle of John is the first of John’s letters of the New Testament. Whereas the Gospel of John, was written to unbelievers, John’s 1st epistle was written to those who were already believers

This letter was written years after the death of Jesus, so the scribe, and the people in Ephesus to whom he’s writing, would not have been physically present when Jesus was on the earth. They could not have seen him and touched him with their hands. But they were believers who needed  encouragement.

Part of our charge as Christians is to receive the good news and to pass it on to the next generation. We need to tell our story of our belief so that others may believe. Our belief has to be rooted in our own experience. Our witness has to be something authentic and real and not  simply based on the tradition and teaching that we’ve received. It has to be rooted in our lives and has to be real and tangible.

And so, I invite you today to consider what  your witness may be? What is your testimony? What is your first-hand experience? How has being in relationship with Jesus changed your life. How can you encourage others by your witness? I am sure many of you have friends and relatives who would believe in Jesus if he were to appear to them and speak with them or if you told them of your encounter.

Then the question becomes is it possible to get to know someone without seeing them? Can you develop a relationship without a face to face encounter? The answer is yes. People do it all the time through the internet. We watch a tv series or movie and feel a part of it and see ourselves in it. We experience all the emotions of relationships. Warmth, anger, frustration, sympathy, hope, disappointment all without ever meeting and touching the characters face to face. We don’t always need a personal face to face encounter to get the feeling that we know someone.

The Catechism, an outline of our faith, is found on p. 845 in our prayer books. It describes what we say we believe. One possible definition of sacrament is Christ touching us through sacred signs. Our life as Christians is very sensory. We are comfortable communicating with others through hearing, sight, touch, scent, taste. The sacraments are designed to promote that kind of communication with God. So John begins his first letter by writing “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” And that is what Christ does here, in this place, in this church. He touches our hearts and minds with word and food. We hear, we see, we touch, we taste.

We understand and see God’s power and nature in all created things around us. But we also see and touch the risen Lord in the sacramental life of the Church. The Eucharist is the setting in which Christ is present as the community gathers, present as scripture is read and preached, present in prayer and the exchange of peace, present in bread placed in hands and wine that is drunk.

Many of us have events that we could relate when we know beyond doubt that we have seen and been in the presence of Jesus. Times when we are 100% certain that an event would not have taken place without Jesus being there alongside us. And each time we are in church we acknowledge our faith in the risen Lord.

May each of us this Easter season come to know the Risen Christ in a new way. The peace that Jesus declares today means that we can get from behind the closed doors. The disciples now have an additional status as apostles. This additional role is the message for us to get from behind our closed doors and to go into the world.

When God comes to us have confidence that we will recognize his presence in those moments when peace is offered.  Like Thomas we do not actually need to touch the wounds. We may not always know Him in the moment. Sometimes he will be a Dr, or a teacher or a homeless person or a child or a loving family member.

It is in the peace that passes all understanding that we will know him. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist

Address

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
(281) 391-2785
Website:http://www.stpaulskaty.org
Email:info@stpaulskaty.org

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