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Second Sunday of Easter – April 11, 2010

Easter 2C RCL April 11, 2010
Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 150
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31
 

 

Jesus comes right through locked doors, through their fear, through their discouragement, through everything. There he stands. The wounds are there, and he is alive. “Peace be with you,” he says. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathes on them, the breath of the same Spirit that brooded over the face of the waters at creation. He gives them peace, shalom, and he gives them the ministry of reconciliation.
Thomas was not there. They tell him they have seen the risen Lord, but he cannot believe it. He says he is going to have to see the marks of the nails in Jesus’ hands, that he is actually going to have to touch those wounds—before he can believe.

A week later, Jesus comes back. Again he says “Shalom.” He gives them his peace. He invites Thomas to touch his wounds. It is not clear from the text whether Thomas actually touched those wounds or not. He bursts forth in that powerful prayer of adoration: “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas has seen Jesus, and Jesus is very much alive. That’s enough for Thomas. But our Lord gives another wonderful blessing. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” I suppose that would mean us.

We have not actually stood in that room with the disciples and seen Jesus. Yet somehow we believe. I think that is because each of us has encountered our risen Lord in many ways, sometimes in corporate worship, sometimes in personal prayer, sometimes out in nature, where the presence of God is so clearly revealed in the beauty of creation, sometimes in conversation with another person, in which the love and forgiveness of Christ is clearly expressed.

And this story is so powerful it is easy to feel as if we are actually there. I think we can identify with Thomas. We like to see things for ourselves. We don’t necessarily like to take someone else’s word for something until we have the facts before us. We live in a scientific age.

And there he is, clearly himself, with the wounds and all, most definitely alive, and somehow looking indefinably different, but—alive. So we have seen, and we have not literally seen, with them, in that room, or on the road to Emmaus, or on the beach, and yet we know that he is alive. We believe in him, along with millions of people who have believed over the years.

He has given us this ministry of reconciliation. This ministry comes out of his peace, his shalom, his kingdom of harmony. Shalom and reconciliation involve the bringing together of opposites, the bringing together of the whole creation into harmony and health and wholeness. That’s the ministry he has given us. A very tall order.

The ministry of reconciliation is, I think, deeply connected to the idea of touching our Lord’s wounds, for, when we realize that he has taken into himself every wound ever inflicted, infinitely into the past and infinitely into the future, from the murder of Abel to the martyrdom of Stephen to Auschwitz and beyond, and that he has brought all of that death and pain together into his loving and healing self and has transformed that and healed that and forgiven that and turned it into new life and has called us to share that reconciliation with everyone and with the whole creation, it is a staggering thought.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “By entering into the experience of the cross, God took the [humanly]-made wreckage of the world inside [Godself] and labored with it—a long labor, almost three days—and [God] did not let go of it until [God] could transform it and return it to us as life. That is the power of a suffering God, not to prevent pain but to redeem it, by going through it with us.” (God in Pain, p. 118)

The wise and revered Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “To reconcile conflicting parties, we must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides. If we take sides, it is impossible to do the work of reconciliation. And humans want to take sides. That is why the situation gets worse and worse. Are there people who are still available to both sides? They need not do much. They need do only one thing: go to one side and tell about the suffering endured by the other side, and go to the other side and tell about the suffering endured by this side. This is our chance for peace. That can change the situation. But how many of us are able to do that?

Touching the wounds of Christ helps us to walk in the shoes of the person on the other side, helps us to live in the skin of the person we see as an adversary. And, when we do this, when we hear how it is for the other person, then we begin to understand, then we begin to walk down the road of forgiveness, then we become one in Christ.

May we, with God’s grace, be faithful to the ministry of reconciliation.

Amen.

 
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