Thursday, April 09, 2015

Easter 2B, Faithful Thomas

Easter 2B, April 12, 2015

John 20:19-31
19When 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.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.25So 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.”
Caravaggio - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.jpg
26A 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.” 27Then 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.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But 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.

Earlier this week, a guy stopped by asking for help, which happens now and again at a church. Thankfully, through our ministry together, I have the ability to help people out in small ways. I’m grateful for that most of the time, but sometimes, I admit that I get a bit judgmental. I think, “Why can’t you have your life together?”  After some internal grumbling, I am usually able to snap out of it, to remember that stretching out your hands to ask for help is not an easy thing to do. It’s humbling and uncomfortable and vulnerable. It takes guts to be that vulnerable, to admit you can’t do it by yourself.

Image result for locked roomRecently I listened to a story from the public radio show This American Life. In this episode, there was a guy who was failing college, but he was too embarrassed to ask for help. People wanted to help him, but he was afraid to admit that he was needed help, that he was desperate.  So he didn’t reach out. He ended up failing out of college, even though there were lots of resources that were offered to him. He couldn’t make it happen because he was afraid to admit that didn’t have it all together. It was like he was locked in a prison of his own making because he couldn’t ask for help.

Image result for disciples locked roomIn our gospel today, the disciples are in a locked room when Jesus comes to visit them, all the disciples except for Thomas, who was called the Twin, but who we mostly call Doubting Thomas.  Everyone was there, but poor Thomas was out, maybe getting a sandwich or some fresh air, and he missed being there when Jesus stopped by.  So he gets back and the disciples say, “We have seen the Lord! He really is alive. The women weren’t kidding.”

Instead of rejoicing, Thomas insists on seeing for himself. But he doesn’t insist on just seeing Jesus. He wants to see and touch his wounds.  He will know Jesus by his wounds.

My gospels professor Robert H. Smith wrote a book through the lens of this passage, which he finds to be the crux of the gospel of John, and Dr. Smith writes this: ‘Jesus turns to Thomas and without any scolding or censure invites Thomas to “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.” Jesus does not ridicule Thomas’ request and call it ill-informed or unreasonable. Nor does Jesus tell Thomas that he, Jesus is now in a state of perfection and has neither wounds, nor scars, nor bodily blemishes of any kind. Jesus speaks as though Thomas has made a perfectly reasonable request. And Jesus adds words ot the effect that it is exactly the sight and touch of these wounds that will enable Thomas to stop being “faithless” and to start being “faithful”.’ (page 190 of Wounded Lord by Robert H. Smith)

It’s a totally reasonable request, and it probably shows that Thomas trusted in a Jesus who knew vulnerability, who knew what it was like to not be perfect. Thomas wanted to see the wounds.
Why is that?

Image result for zacchaeus dan erlander
by Dan Erlander
Jesus loves the screw-ups. Jesus loves everyone, but especially people who have made mistakes like Peter and people who have trust issues like Thomas and people who have stolen from everyone like Zaccheus and people who have let everyone else do the work like Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

We are now the Body of Christ, present in the world. And folks, we have some wounds in our midst.  The church, which is the Body of Christ, is not just for people who are perfect or people who can dress up.  It’s not even just for people who can act right. It’s for everyone, and it’s especially for people who need grace and compassion and God.

In the scripture reading from Acts this morning, we heard about the Body of Christ in the early Christian Church shared a life together, how they held everything in common and how they shared everything. That meant that the rich sold what they had and that meant that the poor got what they needed to have enough. Here’s one of the Biblical reasons as to why I include that phrase, "We give so that everyone might have enough and no one might have too much."
Image result for jesus with woundsThat system only works if those of us who don’t have enough come forward to admit our need. And it only works if those of us who have too much let go not only of our excess stuff, but also of our judgment.

No one is perfect, all of us have needs.  Thomas with his questions and Jesus with his wounds- they invite us to be honest about all the parts of our own lives that are wounded, fragile, broken, or confused.  Because Jesus doesn’t just leave us alone with our woundedness, he sends the whole Body of Christ to be with us in our vulnerability.

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