April 16, 2015

Walking in the light - John 20:19-31, 1 John 1:1-2:2

 Today is the second Sunday of Easter, sometimes known as "little Easter" and every year we read this story of Thomas who is late to understand what has happened with Jesus. It would be easy to point a finger at him as being a good example of how not to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but that is not where I want to go. Instead, I thought I would talk about nudist colonies.

Well, now that I have your attention, I had better explain that I happened to see an interview on the internet or else CBC TV one day where the topic was a congregation in the states somewhere that was part of a nudist colony, and everyone went to worship in their birthday suits, which they thought was perfectly natural. They went on and on about it in an attempt to justify their activities. I couldn't help but notice that the camera blurred out some parts of the participants. Yup, you guessed it, these brave souls would bare everything but their faces. They didn't want their families or colleagues know how they celebrated their Sunday worship.  They weren't going to let the world know what they were doing.  Even though they believed in what they were doing, they didn't believe enough to be open and honest about it.  

One might say that they were hiding behind closed doors, feeling unsure what kind of reaction they would get if they revealed their true selves.  Or that they were walking in darkness while they said that they walked in the light.

The same can be said about the disciples. According to John, they were hiding behind closed doors. Despite the experience of Easter Sunday, they are wanting to play it safe, to keep the message to themselves. They are not even sure what the message is.  

They certainly are not going out to tell every one of the event of the past few days. So the question this raises is "who really counts in this story?  Maybe Thomas is just saying out loud what everyone else was thinking, he is just a few days later than the rest of them.  And the most honest person, too.

Honesty is a hallmark of followers of the Way, according to the first letter of John. The resurrection is not some crazy p.r. scheme or mass conspiracy, on the contrary, it leads to a bold declaration of faith, that despite our faults and failings, our errors and flaws, we are washed clean. In baptism, as one United Church theologian said, "we are bathed in God's love, we enter into a community that hopes to live in the light, we walk together in a pilgrim journey, we are anointed and recruited by God to heal a broken world, we respond to God by choosing to enter into a relationship where we might have to risk getting wet, drowning to our small secret selves for a partnership in building a new and just world.

Our Song of Faith says that “Before conscious thought or action on our part, we are born into the brokenness of this world. Before conscious thought or action on our part, we are surrounded by God’s redeeming love. Baptism by water in the name of the Holy Trinity   is the means by which we are received, at any age, into the covenanted community of the church. It is the ritual that signifies our rebirth in faith and cleansing by the power of God. Baptism signifies the nurturing, sustaining, and transforming power of God’s love and our grateful response to that grace.
You see, baptism is when we all recognize that we are living naked in a locked room, trying to stay safe and rational.  Despite our best efforts, our deepest questions and fears, Jesus comes into our lives, turning our understanding of life upside down and asking us to trust that there is a better way, that we can live in the bold light of day.  And Jesus comes to community; Jesus didn’t come to Thomas in a private moment like Mary Magdalene experienced in the garden that first Easter; Jesus came when he was with his friends.  And the community he was with wasn’t perfect, or else they wouldn’t have been hiding behind closed doors. 

Thomas, despite his questions, was the first of the disciples to boldly proclaim that Jesus was the anointed one, the messenger, the example, the bringer of hope and love. Despite our flaws, our doubts and our questions, Easter keeps happening in our midst. Let us remember and be grateful for the amazing love and grace that didn’t come only once centuries ago, but continues to come to us in simple things like the breaking of bread, the sharing of wine, and the boldness of our public witness.  May we all experience Jesus breaking into our naked places and helping us walk boldly in the light.

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