Monday, April 24, 2006

That we, who do not see, might believe. 2nd Easter B

David Dubay+
St. Thomas, North Charleston
(I supplied so Fr. Jim could get some R&R)

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I find it a little disconcerting that the first sermon I get to preach at your fair church is one dealing with your namesake saint. Good St. Thomas. How much more nice sounding it is to call him “St. Thomas” instead of “Doubting Thomas”.
Especially because as I read the Gospels, Thomas was no more enlightened about who Jesus was and what he meant and means to the world than any of the other disciples… until they themselves saw him in his resurrected form. You see, they had to have proof too.

A great many of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry are object lessons given specifically for the disciples so that they might begin to grasp the reality of Jesus, the deity of Jesus, the eternal-ness and the immenseness of Jesus the Messiah, who was not just Jesus the Rabbi.
The feeding of the 5000, the parable of the sower and the seeds, the healing of the blind man, the resurrection of Lazarus…all object lessons for the disciples and then…many years later… for us. And they watched and they learned and the participated and the watched the actual miracles unfold in front of them and still Judas betrayed him, and still Peter denied him, and still Thomas waited for tangible proof… all until the resurrection actually happened and then, (all except for Judas) they said…in Thomas’ words, “My Lord and My Master”.

Before the other disciples met the risen Lord, they cowered in the upper room full of self pity…what would they do now? How could this be? But what about what He told us? Doubters, all… Thomas was in good company.

So what is it that separates us from the upper room disciples? What makes us different from them? Why are we so faithful and they so doubtful? After all they had SEEN the miracles….
It seems like enough to convince anyone…he raised the dead for crying out loud….that should have made a lasting impression on them…it would me!

Well for one thing…we know…the rest of the story. We look at the Crucified Christ knowing that he rose again. They didn’t’ have that right away.

We go through lent with Easter Eyes! They lost their way, their teacher, their friend…they had not yet seen the Son rise…

But still we Christians do, like the disciples, sometimes, find ourselves doubting…even if we don’t admit it.

Science and Psychology swing us in one direction and doubt seeps in about the healing and creative work if God in the world…

Compassion and empathy (both good qualities) swing us in another direction and some of the difficult guidelines God has given us for living life seem so…rigid…so easily pushed aside…and doubt seeps in and breaks down our resolve…to (as they early church said) follow the way.

But then we sit down with our Bibles or we go back to church…sing the hymns, pray the prayers…confess, give thanks…and come to the table and for a little while…our doubts become insignificant….like mist instead of a wall…. like a whisper instead of a shout…
That’s the mustard seed faith vs. the mountain of faith that Jesus spoke to us about….
He knows that we are imperfect… I have given him tons of proof throughout my life that while perfection is a worthy goal…I not qualified for it… And I allow myself to be made perfect in Christ Jesus. So that when God looks on me…he doesn’t see the narcissist, the brute, and the braggart….He sees only Jesus…the risen Jesus…the Jesus that let Thomas touch his wounds so that he might believe and the one Jesus who rejoices when we believe without having such dramatic, tangible, physical proof of his reality.

And we believe….we believe without seeing…we believe without having ever been in that little room in Jerusalem or with those men and those women mourning the loss of their friend, their hope for the future.

Many of us believe because we have seen the Lord’s work in our own lives, even in retrospect. We look back on a long life and the footprints of God are clear to us. The working of God is revealed in hindsight.

Many of us believe because of a sudden and miraculous change of life that occurred when we called upon the name of the Lord to resurrect us.
Those people usually have the best testimonies.

Many of us believe in Jesus because it is the faith of our fathers and mothers and Good people who loved us and Loved God. The people who taught us all that they knew, had us baptized, confirmed, and walked the path of faith with us as we grew. No sudden change…no striking miracles…just what I call... a slow burn….a loving walk into the places of light…
There are many ways to get to Jesus…but He is the only way to reach God the Father and creator.

Whatever your path to belief in the risen Lord there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Are said for us to hear….

God says you get it…you understand what I did and why I did it. You know Jesus. Be blessed.

…it is clear that the disciples were profoundly affected by their encounter with the risen Lord. So affected that they slowly left their home land and headed off to countries far and wide to bring the news of the Living God made man, killed, and resurrected so that we all might live and not die once our time on earth is completed.

And they went forth boldly, Peter to Rome, Matthew to Syria and South of the Galilee... and Thomas may have traveled as far as northern India…and what makes a man work that hard to get a message across?

Was it a nice Rabbi who said many wonderful things and had really fabulous people skills?
Was it a fellow whom God picked out of a crowd to bring His message to Israel again…like Isaiah, Jeremiah, like Jonah?

No…it was the Son of God…the second person of the Trinity…our only window to the Father….our advocate and mediator with eternity.

No wonder Thomas needed a little proof….I understand him….this was more shocking, more devastating, more empowering, bigger than anything he had ever experienced before…and if he was going to get closer to God than he had ever been in his life…He just wanted to be sure! And God bless him for it…and God did bless him for it…
Jesus showed him what was real. And Jesus looks at us and says…I know…I know this sounds crazy…but it’s real. I am real. I am here with you right now. And if you really believe in me without my wounds to touch and physical voice to hear than what a blessing I have in store for you all…. What a blessing is yours.

For in me you will have what others seek. You will have a life worth living. You will have a life that is bigger than life. You will have a life that is powered by the Spirit of God almighty and not just battered about by the winds and whims of societal pressures, expectations, and worldly standards…

If you believe in me, says Jesus… I can do in you what was done for me…I can resurrect you.
And Thomas cries…My Lord and My God… and shouldn’t we all….cry My Lord and My God…

Near the end of the Morning Prayer service in the Book of Common Prayer there is a prayer written long ago by John Chrysostom who was born in 347 AD and who died on the 14 September, 407AD. For a time he was the Bishop of Constantinople
His last name is really a title given to him by a long ago Pope... Chrysostomos means Mouth of Gold because He was a great preacher.

He suffered and died for this faith ….because John C. knew the risen Lord…and that relationship is what led him to persevere through difficult times with Joy in his heart.
I’m going to conclude my sermon by reading you his Easter Sermon… don’t’s not long… but what I receive when I hear these words…is the understanding that the Risen Lord Jesus….whether standing in front of me with wounds to touch or present in my life through the invisible Holy Spirit….that resurrection life that is promised to me and you… through faith in Him is real. John Chrysostom…knew this….he felt the blessedness and the blessing of believing without seeing and it comes bursting forth in his writing….

Click here for J. Chrysostom's Easter Sermon

Jesus is right here…with us now!, in our doubts in our beliefe, in our failure and in our triumphs
our situation may change but Jesus is constant…Yesterday, today, and forever.
So close your eyes and doubt… when you open them to belief Jesus will still be there visible or invisible, touchable or untouchable...righ there to meet your gaze.

John Chrysostom. "Internet Medieval Sourcebook: John Chrysostom: The Easter Sermon." [Online], 1996
. Cited 4-23-2006. Available from .

[1] John Chrysostom, "Internet Medieval Sourcebook: John Chrysostom: The Easter Sermon," [online], 1996
, cited 4-23-2006, available from .

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom
Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication unto thee; and hast promised through thy well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name thou wilt be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

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