Second Sunday in Easter- Fr. Chris- April 23, 2017

Easter 2

April 23, 2017

David Sedaris is an American humorist known for his works in the New Yorker as well as his numerous books. In one short story in his novel, Me Talk Pretty One Day, David amusingly tells of his struggles as a 41-year-old returning to school to learn French while living in Paris. His classmates are people from all over the world from different cultures, backgrounds, and languages. Here is an excerpt from the chapter “Jesus Shaves”:

It was my second month of French class, and the teacher was leading us in an exercise…Printed in our textbooks was a list of major holidays alongside a scattered arrangement of photos depicting French people in the act of celebration. The object was to match the holiday with the corresponding picture. Normally, when working from the book, it was my habit to tune out my fellow students and scout ahead, concentrating on the question I’d calculated might fall to me, but this afternoon, we were veering from the usual format. Questions were answered on a volunteer basis, and I was able to sit back, confident that the same few students would do the talking. Today’s discussion was dominated by an Italian nanny, two chatty Poles, and a pouty… Moroccan woman who had grown up speaking French and had enrolled in the class to improve her spelling.

“And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?”

The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, “Excuse me, but what’s an Easter?”

Despite her having grown up in a Muslim country, it seemed she might have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. “I mean it,” she said. “I have no idea what you people are talking about.”

The teacher then called upon the rest of us to explain.

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. “It is,” said one, “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and . . . oh, [well]…” She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.

“He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber.” The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

“He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father.”

“He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.”

“He nice, the Jesus.”

“He make the good things, and on the Easter, we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.”

Part of the problem had to do with grammar.

Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as “To give of yourself your only begotten son.” Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.

David Sedaris’ story reminds me of the great struggle of this whole Easter celebration… That is that resurrection is not a normal part of our day to day lives. Explaining food or games or even bunnies is so much easier to talk about because they are such a regular part of our experiences. However, resurrection… That is something completely different. We simply cry out in faith “Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.” But we call the whole thing a “Paschal Mystery” because in the end our words leave us short.

Upon seeing the Lord, Thomas said, “My Lord and My God!”

We find ourselves once more on the Second Sunday of our Easter celebration and we hear the familiar story of poor old “Doubting Thomas.” In fact, we hear this same story all three years of our lectionary cycle… year in and year out. And today I am here to defend poor Thomas for he should not be known as “the doubting disciple”, but rather as honest or believing. In fact, we don’t call Peter “Denying Peter” nor do we call Mark “Run Away Naked Mark.” As for Thomas, his struggle with the news of the risen Lord is no different than the other disciples’ or even our own.

Remember last Sunday, when we heard about the women that went to the tomb and how even Mary Magdalene experienced the Risen Lord. Well immediately before today’s lesson, the Gospel of John shares a similar version in which Peter and John see the empty tomb for themselves and Mary is sent by Jesus to share the good news of his resurrection with the other disciples. As Jaime Clark-Soles, a professor at Perkins School of Theology at SMU, once pondered, “Presumably ‘the disciples’ we meet in verse 19 heard her… and what do the disciples do in response to Mary Magdalene’s proclamation of the risen Jesus, of abundant life, of a world forever changed and open with possibility? They hide in fear behind locked doors.”[i]

Then Jesus appears in their midst, shows his hands and his side, and offers peace. The disciples sat in darkness until the light which was Christ himself entered the room and thus entered their hearts. They had experienced the risen Christ and they could not help but tell Thomas who missed the whole thing.

Now, when remembering Thomas, we should also not forget that in the 11th chapter of John it is Thomas that responds after hearing Jesus predict his death by saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” You see, Thomas does not in the end ask for anything that the other disciples have not already witnessed and experienced. Thomas is someone one who wrestles with his faith and seeks deeper answers… deeper encounters. Because everything he is hearing sounds a little too much like a crazy interpretation from a beginner’s French class… “He nice the Jesus… He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello…” And so, eight days after making his pronouncement, Thomas’ wish comes true and all he can say in the sheer sight of Christ is “My Lord and my God” for he too experienced the Risen Lord.

“In Thomas, we see the pattern of Christian discipleship established from the beginning of John 1. One person encounters Jesus. Then they share their experience with the next person, who may express some reluctance. Then that person experiences Jesus on their own, directly, and becomes convinced about him and then shares the news about Jesus with the next person. Andrew tells Peter. Philip tells Nathanael. The Samaritan woman tells the townspeople. ‘Come and See’ is their refrain. With respect to the witness of the resurrected Jesus, Mary Magdalene starts it off. She encounters Jesus, shares the news; the others don’t really buy it until they have their own experiences so that they can own the experience. They become convinced and then share it with Thomas. Like the other disciples, Thomas doesn’t come to the fullest faith until he has his own experience.”[ii]

And so now the story moves to us… We are next. The text says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But 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.” Those of us that live in the light of the resurrection and with this great Paschal Mystery are now invited to encounter the risen Lord within our lives so that we too can say to others, “Come and see.”

And so today is not about “Doubting Thomas”, but rather an honest and believing Thomas. We are encouraged to dive into the mystery of our faith until we are awestruck and encounter Christ. And then in those moments in our lives, we too will proclaim in wonderment with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

[i] www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3222

[ii] Ibid

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9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
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