The Second Sunday of Easter; Year C (4/3/2016)

Lessons:Acts 5:27-32 Psalm 118:14-29 (28) or Psalm 150 (6) Revelation 1:4-8 St. John 20:19-31

Prayer of the Day: Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 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.

St. John 20:19-31 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America

 

That You May Come to Believe

We always set up extra chairs for Easter Sunday. The assembly may not be as large as on Christmas Eve, but it is almost aways our busiest Sunday. This makes sense, of course, because the resurrection of Jesus stands at the very heart of our faith. It is God’s proclamation that death will not have the final say. That grace is God’s way. That love finally wins out. That, in the words of St. Paul, “we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:4-5)

So we always set up extra chairs for Easter Sunday. The question for this week is: how many chairs should we move back to the storage room? The Second Sunday of Easter doesn’t always draw the smallest crowd of the year (that honor is usually reserved for Labor Day weekend or the Sunday after Christmas). But compared to Easter Sunday, there are precious few of us at worship.

It’s a shame, because this Gospel lesson has much to say to those who might miss worship this weekend. It is story of peace, forgiveness, patience and ultimately: faith.

It tells the story of Thomas, one of Jesus’ closest followers. History has labelled him the doubter, but truth be told: his story is not much different from the other ten. The story begins with ten of them huddled in fear, on the evening of the day Jesus was raised from the dead. (Thomas is not with them.) Jesus appears to them, blesses them, shows them his wounds, and they respond with joy. When they try to describe this to Thomas, it is more than he can comprehend.

The next week, Thomas is in the same state of mind they were in seven days before, only this time he is with them. Jesus appears to them, blesses them, and shows his wounds to Thomas, who then replies, “My Lord and my God!” (Arguably a stronger, more faithful response than that of his fellow disciples a week earlier…)

What is this story about? It is nothing less than an illustration of the central point of St. John’s Gospel; an account that was “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.”

Jesus is willing to do anything to help them come to believe. He does so on that first Easter evening with the ten. He does so a week later with Thomas. He continues to do so with us today. The disciples exhibit faithfulness in trying to help Thomas to come to faith, but the most important thing they do is to keep Thomas in the fold until he has his own chance to meet Jesus. They don’t despise him, shame him, or reject him, even though he refuses to believe what they are sharing with him. But they hold him close, and eventually Jesus touches him.

In doing so they show their love for him, and model for us what faithfulness looks like.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does Jesus do to help the ten disciples believe in his resurrection?
  2. How do they treat Thomas when he returns to them?
  3. What might have happened if they had separated themselves from him?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has God enabled us to become people of faith? People who trust Christ?
  2. How do we treat those who disagree with us about faith? Or values? Or morals?
  3. How do we stay connected with those who don’t yet believe in Jesus?