Second Sunday of Easter (Easter 2)

Show your resurrection

Let us pray:
You come into our midst, Lord Jesus;
you hold out your scarred hands
and surprise us with hope.
Help us to receive your word and your Spirit,
that in our woundedness
we may know you as our Life,
now and for ever. Amen.

John 20.19-31

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!

It’s the Sunday after Easter, and we’re getting reacquainted with the Apostle Thomas. ‘Doubting’ Thomas to his friends. Jesus has appeared to the frightened huddle of disciples on the evening of the first Easter Day, but Tom wasn’t there.

We don’t know why he wasn’t there. We only get a few tantalising glimpses of Thomas, but he seems to me like an all-or-nothing kind of bloke. When Jesus says he’s going to Jerusalem, Tom says Let’s go with him and die. Now, Jesus is dead and everything has gone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were down the Jerusalem Arms or the King David pub drowning his sorrows and crying into his thirteenth beer.

Of course, Thomas didn’t believe what the others told him. How could it be true? Thomas would have known his Bible, and he would know that Deuteronomy 21.23 says

anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.

And a ‘tree’ included a cross. Jesus was under a curse from God. The dream turned out to be a nightmare. It was all over.

Mind you, Thomas wasn’t the only one who had a hard time believing. There was a verse we read last week in Luke 24, just in passing. When the women returned from the empty tomb and told the apostles,

these words seemed to [the apostles] an idle tale, and they did not believe [the women].

And in Matthew 28, the disciples see the risen Lord in Galilee, and it says:

When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.

The people of the ancient world were sophisticated people. They weren’t gullible idiots who’d believe anything a snake oil salesman told them.

They knew dead meant dead.

But they had in front of them a risen Lord, and that changed everything.

These people believed that at the end of time there would be a general resurrection of the dead, and people would be judged for what they had done. What they had to come to terms with was that this Resurrection had already happened—at least to Jesus.

He wasn’t under God’s curse after all. God had judged him in advance, and found him not guilty. Innocent. Righteous! More than that, God had exalted Jesus all the way up  to his right hand.

What was supposed to wait until the end of time has already happened. Christ is risen and he is Lord. And Doubting Thomas is the first to proclaim, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Thomas now believes.

We’ve baptised H and A today. And we asked K and G and the godmothers this question:

Will you, by word and example,
teach them the way of Christ
until the Spirit draws them
to make their own response in faith and love?

And they responded—you responded—

With God’s help, I will.

Baptising H and A isn’t an end in itself. It doesn’t stop here. We want them to respond to God’s grace in faith and love.

In the language of John’s Gospel, the one that tells the story of Doubting Thomas, we want them to believe just as Thomas did. In fact, John says that this is the very reason he wrote:

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.

It is crucial that we are sure what we’re hoping for H and A here. We want them to believe in Jesus. What does it mean to believe in Jesus?

Thomas believed in the Jesus who was there in the midst of the group of believers. Thomas believed in the Jesus who still wore the scars from the nails in his hands and feet, and of the lance in his side. Thomas believed in the Jesus who had gone to the lowest place possible—to the hell of the cross, and a cold stone tomb—and now radiated life in all its fullness. This belief didn’t just mean that Thomas held certain opinions about Jesus. It meant that Thomas trusted in Jesus. It meant that he was committed to the life of personal and social renewal that is being a Christian.

Last Sunday, we talked about the Christian who was at a Buddhist retreat.

Those who were here on Easter Sunday may remember that as part of the retreat, this Christian met privately with a Buddhist teacher. At this meeting, the teacher sat there before him smiling from ear to ear and rocking gleefully back and forth. Finally the teacher said: ‘I like Christianity. But I would not like Christianity without the resurrection. I want to see your resurrection!’

We need to show ‘our’ resurrection. We need to show that the resurrection is real in us. That the life of Jesus flows through our veins.

The seed of the Spirit has been planted in H and A. How will it grow? It will grow as the people in their lives show that the life of Jesus in within them.

It’s not about being happy all the time. It’s not about Jesus being our boyfriend. It’s about what convinced Thomas.

And what was that? Thomas saw the scars.

We have scars and wounds from all sorts of things. Losses. Deaths. Failures. Ill health. If we are to show the resurrection life within us, we don’t have to hide the scars. We don’t need to pretend it’s all ok. We can offer our pain to Jesus, and ask him to use it to make us more like him.

Do we want H and A and the other children in our congregation to believe? Don’t hide the scars. But don’t brood on them either. Don’t become bitter. Offer them to Jesus. Know that he walks the path with you.

Then we can become people whose lives radiate grace. We can say with Jesus, ‘Peace be with you’—and we’ll mean it, because we know peace too.

Do we want H and A and the other children in our congregation to believe, to trust Jesus Christ? Don’t be like the disciples, staying in a locked room, fearful of what will happen when they get out there. Go and smell the roses. Look at the sunsets. Smile at children. Be good news. Radiate life.

Resurrection life is about what we do with the scars, and how we live in the light of Jesus Christ.

Remember what that Buddhist teacher said: ‘I like Christianity. But I would not like Christianity without the resurrection. I want to see your resurrection!’

H and A will want to see our resurrection too. We owe it to them to be people of resurrection life.

G and K: this clearly has something to do with you, and how you parent your adorable children. The greatest gift you can give isn’t anything material. The greatest gift is a Christian home in which the resurrection of Jesus is a reality. I know you’re doing that already.

Godmothers: the greatest gift you can give to H and A is to show them your resurrection. Seek to know Jesus Christ more and more. Pay attention to the life of the Spirit within you.

People of God in this congregation: guess what? The greatest gift you can give to A and H is to show how Jesus Christ is risen in you. Let his life well up within you. Allow the Spirit to blow wherever it will, and allow the Spirit to blow you where it wants you to be.

Show your resurrection. Don’t be reluctant to show your joy in the way the Lord has changed your life; but don’t be afraid to show how Jesus is transforming your sorrows and failures, how he is turning your mourning into dancing. Amen.

Friends, we can do this because of this one thing:

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!

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