Last Sunday was a wonderful time filled with all the glorious sounds of “Alleluia” which reached the pinnacle of praise in the 10:45 service when our chancel was filled with people who gathered to sing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” Now a week later, we come to the Second Sunday of Easter (note: “Second Sunday” in a count of Seven) which is a “back-to-normal Sunday,” that has become typical Sunday after Sunday,
and – according to research, will be a decreasing count of worshipers on into the future.
The reason being: Millennials – youth in their teens and up through adults in their early 30’s, with 6 out of 10
dropping out or never in the church, or professing a religious faith of any kind. Being the group soon to out-number the Baby Boomers (who are now reaching retirement age), they are the subject for studies as to how to get them into the church, or how to keep them in the church, and so, researchers are interviewing them, and writers are publishing the findings. What absent teens through young adults are saying is: *
-They are seekers on a journey;
-They long for face-to-face dialogue, not digital conversations; thus, the re-surging interest in a TV series like “Friends,” and the disinterest in video-casting with projections on large screens strategically placed to wrap viewers in images and sound.
-They want a group to be small; not a crowd in a massive arena.
-They are looking for a religious community that is open to and welcomes hearing their doubts, where older people will admit to having the same concerns, and work together in finding a genuine faith; thus, they are open to a community of Christians that is inter generational.
-They will engage in protesting injustices, they will commit to serving the poor and all the other ministries,
but it is as a living out of an allegiance to Christ Who ate with the disgraced, fed the hungry, and died on a cross, as the ultimate proof of how much God loves all that God has made.
They will be a part of a congregation that authentically lives out loving others as God in Jesus loves us.
Look back and see the interviewers’ findings dramatized in today’s Gospel scene:
But Thomas (who was called the Twin]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came…
Thomas, a first-century millennial, not in the Easter Sunday night count of Jesus’ disciples.
Thomas, absent because, as he told the others:
“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.”
Thomas, a first-century millennial, thinking with a scientifically oriented mind, questioning and probing, thus, his doubt – which, in the Greek word used to describe him, is better translated “faithless.” Lacking faith, not able to have faith.
Thomas, a first-century millennial searching for proof to turn him
from a non-believer into a believer,
from being absent to being present,
from confessing doubt to professing faith,
which he did (Jesus 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.”
and Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!”
Thomas, mentor for millennials – and the rest of us, all of us who may be drop-outs after Confirmation, or just walks-outs – walking away because a secular society is more attractive, because no religion is better than any religion…until we meet Thomas and – with his probing mind, know we are free to question,
until we meet Thomas and – with his passion for action, seek to commit to a cause,
until we meet Thomas and let his confession become our profession made without seeing the Christ he saw.
Thomas who mentors us into following him and look beyond him to the congregations of the first and second-century Christians, to see their new-found life in the Easter Jesus empowering them to share with others to the point of suffering and dying, rather than renouncing the One Who moved Thomas to exclaim:
“My Lord and my God!”
Even before Thomas made his confession, Jesus had given him and all the others His blessing:
“Peace be with you.”
“Peace,” what millennials, and all the rest of us, long to receive, “Not a peaceful evening by the fire, not even peace of mind, not the absence of conflict—peace. Peace be with you: it’s peace as reconciliation, …Whatever has separated us in the past no longer separates us—… a peace that crosses boundaries, languages, fears, suspicion…” (Quoted from Diane Roth, “Living by the Word,” Christian Century posting for Mach 7, 2018)
Diane Roth who wrote those words tells of a friend’s visit to Spain where as a tourist she was told to watch out for anyone begging for money and be on guard for people who steal all they can get. In the cathedral a woman approached her, holding out her hand and saying words in Spanish which she did not understand. She recoiled in fear.
Later she learned the woman was holding out her hand, not to demand something from her, but to give her the same blessing Jesus gave to His disciples; she was saying “Peace be with you.” – the peace that comes through Christ -within us, uniting us to serve one another as He served us; His blessing given with nail-pierced hands.
The gift the Easter Christ waits to give to millennials and the rest of us, who become a community through receiving and passing on the blessing:
“The Peace of Christ be with you.” AMEN.
*Reference: Jana Riess, February 19, 2018 review of The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church, Paperback