Monthly Sermon Series: Sermon Offering for Sunday, April 19, the Sunday After Easter

February 28, 2020
The Rev. Canon Michelle I Walker, Associate Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering; Missioner for Administration and Communication, Diocese of Northern Indiana

Please note: The sermon for April is for the third Sunday of the month because of Easter on the second Sunday. You can find all of the sermons, including some generic ones that can be adapted to any week of the lectionary, here. If you’d like to write a sermon for others to use, please email Heather and she’ll help get you started.

John 20:19-31

Alleluia! Christ has Risen!

The Lord has Risen Indeed. Alleluia!

Isn’t it glorious to have our “Alleluias” back? Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate the amazing gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for us with song, joy, flowers, candies, and more? After our Easter celebrations, both in our congregations and around our family tables, it might feel as if we are now living happily ever after. The long dark days of Lent are behind us. Spring is here, mostly. Let us rejoice and be glad.

It is true, we can rejoice and be glad. And yet, our Gospel passage for this Sunday reminds us that the first followers of Jesus didn’t simply continue their resurrection celebrations. They were confused, frightened, and even skeptical. They locked themselves in the Upper Room in an attempt to feel safe and to talk freely about the mysterious events they’d witnessed. It wasn’t exactly a celebration. They weren’t running through the streets proclaiming the Good News.

In the midst of their contemplations, Jesus appears. Through a locked door, he appears. While the Gospel of John doesn’t mention this part, Luke’s version tells us: “They [the disciples] were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost” (Luke 24:37). I enjoy imagining what it must have been like for them. I wonder what I might have believed or felt in that moment.

Both John and Luke tell us that Jesus, in his compassion, calms them. He shows them the nail marks in his hands and the piercing in his side. He proves he is human. And through this interaction, he strengthens them in their belief, in their faith, in their willingness and ability to bear witness to the truth of the resurrection.

Thomas wasn’t there, however. We don’t know where he was. We only know he was absent. He missed out on the intimate and reassuring scene with Jesus. And he had the courage to request a “do over” for himself.

“Thomas the Twin” has been referred to as “Doubting Thomas” so often we barely remember him any other way. His “doubting” label is in reference to his disbelief in the story of Jesus’ appearance as told to him by the disciples. Maybe he did doubt. Can you blame him? We don’t know for sure why he requested his “do over.” Maybe he simply knew he’d missed an amazing story told by the storyteller and teacher, and he desperately wanted to hear it himself. It’s a tiny bit like knowing the story of a friend’s great wedding, vacation, or work experience while at the same time wanting to hear it told by that friend directly. Thomas, like us, wanted to hear it directly from the source.

Regardless of Thomas’ intention, I think we can be immensely grateful to Thomas in his asking for what he needed, in his request to verify the truth of the resurrection, not only for himself but for the disciples that were “startled and terrified” the first time, as well as for ourselves and the myriad people who have read this story over the years.

Thomas’ request of Jesus to “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” is a reassurance to us. I believe he asked the question the disciples themselves wanted to ask again. I know he asked the question that I, and most likely you, would want to ask as well.

God presents us with people in our lives, in our Christian journeys, that ask those questions. They see things we haven’t yet discovered, and they ask about it. They are less fearful of hurting someone with their questions, and they ask about it. It happens almost daily in our lives. Our recognition and gratitude for this fearless approach to their faith journey can be priceless in our lives, in our own faith journeys.

On this second Sunday of Easter, we can indeed be delighted with the return of our Alleluias. We can be thankful for the witness of the first disciples, and specifically of Thomas. And we can also be grateful to those people around us that challenge and strengthen us with their questions and support. Through it all, we find the assurance to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ Risen in the world. Amen.

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