Easter 2

I want to go ahead and get this out of the way.

Raise your hand if you have ever doubted;

If you’ve ever felt a feeling of uncertainty or a lack of conviction.

My hand is up.

I think everybody’s hand is up.

Here amidst the great could of witnesses I think I see Mother Teresa, ope, there’s Dr. King. And there is Thomas with two hands up.

Wow, it seems as though we are in good company.

Every Christian knows the feeling of being far from God.

One needn’t look far to find something that might make you think that God is far from his hurting creation.

I didn’t know last week that when I said, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen,” that at that very moment the news was coming in of devastating execution of Christians in Sri Lanka.

Had I known I might have been tempted to just cancelled Easter.

Hundreds, more Christians than our church could hold were slayed in cold blood.

And this is just a convenient example.

During this season where we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and the powers of hell and evil many other atrocities will happen.

People will continue to experience evil.

Folks will know death.

So why do we have Easter if the same types of things keep happening?

Are we just supposed to pretend that these things do not matter;

That the pain we know now is somehow an illusion;

That we should put on a happy face because all of our problems pale in comparison to the joy we should take in the resurrection?

Easter Sunday does not mean good Friday didn’t happen.

In fact, we need Good Friday for Easter Sunday to make any sense.

Some of you may remember me talking about Jesus being a sign that God is not afraid to get into our mess with us.

Jesus is in absolute solidarity with our human experience.

He was not pretending to suffer.

He was not any less tempted as a human man.

He did not play life on easy mode.

He lived like one of us and died like one of us.

He was willing to know not just the best but the worst life had to offer.

The apostle who knew this best was Thomas.

Thomas is a ride or die Apostle.

At one point in this Gospel he says, “let us also go that we may die with him.”

Thomas was not only conscious that Jesus would die but willing to die with him.

Now on the other side of Good Friday, we come to a scene with the other apostles.

They are scared to death or maybe of death.

They are locked in an upper room.

And Jesus comes in, somehow, and shows them his scars so they can see for themselves it’s really him.

Only then to they receive the Holy Spirit and are sent forth.

But while these boys were hiding, Thomas is somewhere else.

Thomas is still living in the shadow of Good Friday.

The one who was willing to die with Jesus is not with the others.

Perhaps he was looking for the body of his friend, presuming that if it were not in the tomb it had been stolen.

 

Whatever the case, he was not among the scared, he was looking for the scarred.

He was looking for the man who had been done in by Good Friday.

So, when he meets up with those whom he had left quivering and hears that Jesus had been raised from the dead, he can’t believe it.

Too much bad had happened to celebrate.

The first Easter should be cancelled.

Then a week later, on the Sunday like this one, he waswith the Apostles.

Jesus came and showed him his side.

 

Thomas was willing to believe that Jesus would die for him.

 

Thomas was willing to believe that Jesus would know the worst of life.

 

But that’s not the point.

 

And that is what Jesus’ scar teach Thomas.

 

The wounds he kept are a gospel in themselves.

 

The resurrection doesn’t erase them.

 

Remember on Good Friday when Jesus’ side was pierced.

 

That was supposed to be the nail in the coffin.

 

In Medieval paintings, the wound on Christ’s side is depicted as being a womb of new life.

 

Like a womb, John’s Gospel tells us that water and blood flowed forth from it.

 

And what was supposed to be a period on Jesus’ life and made an ellipsis for ours.

 

God took the worst of what the world had to offer and returned to it the best gift of all.

 

Faith is not the belief that God will not allow bad things to happen.

 

Faith is the belief that God will bring life from the most barren places in life.

In what is perhaps the craziest hymn in our hymnal, have Elizabeth play it for you sometime, the text underscores this resurrection reality.

 

Look there! the Christ,
our Brother,
comes resplendent from
the gallows tree
and what he brings in
his hurt hands
is life on life for you and me.

Good Jesus Christ inside his pain
looked down Golgotha’s stony slope
and let the blood flow from his flesh
to fill the springs of living hope.

Good Jesus Christ, our Brother died
in darkest hurt upon the tree
to offer us the worlds of light
that live inside the Trinity. 

The hymn doesn’t hide the darkness of Good Friday.

 

We hear about the gallows tree or the execution tree

Christ’s hurt hands and pain

The hardness of Golgotha.

 

There is no denial of these events and their severity.

 

And yet from these terrible things God pulls out

Life, light, hope and a place in the very love of God.

 

Acknowledging the hardest parts of life is not doubt.

 

Actually, pretending that they are not real and hurtful is the greater foul.

 

The faith Thomas came to have and the one the resurrection inspires comes not from the best of life but the very worst.

 

It comes from those moments that caused our hands to go up.

 

And yet I pray you may know that even now the power of the resurrection is shining on those moments. I pray that you know that Christ is redeeming those dark parts of life.

 

Because what he brings in his hurt hands is life on life for you and me.

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