This is the Sunday when we look back to the original followers of Jesus huddled together in that room where Jesus ate His last meal with them, we feeling their gloom, updated to our reminiscing over the old days when, with one service on Easter Sunday, we sometimes had to put up chairs;
now it’s the “low” Sunday – referring to the count;
now, it’s back to what has become the norm;
now it’s back to getting stuck in the mindset that makes Easter a once-a-year event,
followed by a need to decompress, to recoup from having done the Easter thing at church.
Now it’s time for us to pay particular attention to the reason for the disciples huddled together in that upper room.
Even though they are hearing reports of Jesus having risen from the dead, with a few being eyewitnesses to the amazing truth, they feared the world outside their locked doors. Like them, our world may be filling us with fear, and to make it worse, we may be buying into predictions of gloom and doom for today’s church, which is all the more reason for us to watch what happened to Jesus’ followers hiding in a room behind closed doors.
Now it’s time for us to listen to the Easter Gospel for today, and pay particular attention to the words of the Risen Christ addressed to the questioning, analytically-minded (to be noted as being a good quality of the) disciple named Thomas, who, when urged to run his fingers over Jesus’ nail-pierced hands (really wrists for that’s where the nails were driven in) and touch Jesus’ wounded side, exclaims without touching, just looking, My Lord and my God!” “My God!” “GOD!”
The other disciples name Jesus “Teacher, Lord, Messiah,” but Thomas goes all the way, like 2+2=4, saying “Jesus is God!” (Sermons.com Apr.23’17)
And Paul will write, “the visible likeness of the invisible God.”
and fourth-century Christians, meeting at Nicaea to work out a confession of faith to overcome schisms and cultish corruptions to God’s Good News in Jesus, will author the Nicene declaration that Jesus is: “very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.” …
Thomas’s confession given on that eighth day after the women reported Jesus’ tomb was empty and Mary Magdalene announced, “I have seen the Lord!”
Now it’s time to pay particular attention to that little gathering of Jesus’ original followers, and how typical they were of many of our churches, who like them are small after-Easter-morning gatherings.
Now It’s time to let Jesus’ words to Thomas, spoken after he made his confession, “My Lord and my God!” echo through time to us: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now it’s time to hear Jesus addressing us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now it’s time to let the resurrection of Jesus Christ be a life-changing moment for us, as we keep the signs –
the color white of the paraments (the coverings for altar table, pulpit, and gold of the pastor’s stole), the resounding “Alleluias,” an Easter egg hunt, and most of all, living into the story heard in the ongoing Gospel readings; now is the time to immerse ourselves in Easter as a season of seven Sundays,
as happened when a teenager who had been brutally beaten by a heartless man, lived with hate for his attacker, until he later saw him, aged and dying alone and abandoned.
Then he stayed by his side through his last breath, forgiving him and letting himself be healed of hate.
Now it’s time to let the resurrection of Christ be a life-changing moment for us, as we let the Risen Christ take up residence in us, to minister to us, and then extend His ministry and teachings, and living presence through us.
Now it’s time to let the resurrection of Jesus Christ be a life-changing moment for us, as we let those who were eyewitnesses motivate us to dare to think with an Easter mind in the midst of horrible world news, which seems to get worse with each day, and to dare to resist despairing over the report that churches’ best years were in by-gone years, and the only option is to give up and close up.
Now is the time to wake up and think like an Easter people who remember the first Christians didn’t run on the statistics about their being too small a group to ever survive; now is the time to run on the Easter faith that lets Christ use us as we submit our church to being His Church that commits to believing it’s never too late for Easter.
Now is the time to pull a story from our denomination’s past, when in an earlier a merger, we became the Evangelical and Reformed Church, (for some that name was reason enough to go on to become the United Church of Christ).
Rev. Mark Zimmerman relates the story of being preoccupied in the first weeks of the spring of 1954 with the future of small, struggling-to-survive churches in Monroe County along the Ohio River across from Wheeling, WV. called the Appalachia of Ohio; (Destiny and Decision: Te Molding of a Minister in the Twentieth Century, Fred. R. Zimmerman, Hamilton Press, 2013)
He and others spoke at the spring meeting of clergy and delegates, reporting on their Rural Life Pilgrimage and their plans to work together to serve those people in southeastern Ohio, who felt like “distant cousins of the ‘upper-class’ northern churches.” A feeling that ended with the vote to endorse the report and support it with financial assistance.
Thus the first mission to struggling churches where four right-out-of-seminary graduates volunteered to settle and serve in what became the Pioneer Larger Parish, doing together what they could never do alone, counting not the smallness of each church, but the greatness of the need for ministry.
Dr. James E. Wagner then President of the church, declared, “This is what the church can do and must do to bear faithful witness to Christ in this generation.”
John’s Gospel reporting Thomas’ confession and Jesus’ blessing for all who live beyond that moment,
also hopes future readers may come to know the living Jesus, because it is never too late for Easter;
and right now, is that time. AMEN.