Sermon for Second Sunday of Easter – Revd May Laban
In the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN
These are a few extracts from David Heller’s book entitled : CHILDREN’S LETTERS TO GOD:
Dear God, What do you do with families that don’t have much faith? There’s a family next to me like that. I don’t want to get them into trouble, so I can’t say who they are. See you in church on Sunday, from Alexis (age 10)
Dear God, I have doubts about you sometimes. Sometimes I really believe in You. Like when I was four and I hurt my leg and you healed it up so fast.
But my question is ‑ if you could do this/ why don’t you stop all the bad things in the world? Like war. Like diseases. Like famine. Like drugs. And there are problems in other people’s homes too. I will try to believe more, from Ian (age 10)
Children aren’t afraid to ask questions or even to express their doubts.
In a Peanuts comic strip,/Charlie Brown is talking with Lucy/ as they walk home on the last day of school. Charlie Brown says to Lucy: “Lucy/ I got 6 A’s. Isn’t that great!”
Lucy/ in her typical fashion/ says:
I don’t believe you Charlie Brown.
Unless you show me your report card, I cannot believe you.”
Can you relate to Lucy? Seeing is believing, isn’t it?
Today’s Gospel reading is about a man whose name was Thomas. Most of us know him as “Doubting Thomas.”
All we know about him comes from the Gospel of St. John and there Thomas makes his own voice heard /only three times — all towards the very end of Jesus’ life on earth.
The first time Thomas is mentioned /is in the story of the raising of Lazarus. Mary and Martha had sent Jesus word that their brother Lazarus was very sick.
. “Teacher,” the disciples answered, “just a short time ago -the people there wanted to stone you and are you planning to go back?”
But then Thomas speaks out: “Let us go along with the Teacher/ so that we may die with him!”
Thomas rallied the wavering disciples/ convincing them to go with Jesus/ to Jerusalem.
The second time we hear about Thomas/is when Jesus tells his disciples/ that he’s going away to prepare them a room/ in His Father’s house. “You know the way that leads to the place/ where I am going,”
But notice what Thomas says :we do not know where you are going;/ so how can we know the way/ to get there?” Jesus replied : I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The third time we learn about Thomas is on the first Easter Sunday. That evening the 10 disciples were gathered in a house behind locked doors. But Thomas was not with them.
The disciples’ world had been turned upside down. They were afraid of the religious and political authorities/ who had crucified Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.”
The Risen Christ blows away the fog of the fear and confusion of his disciples with his words, “Peace be with you,” and in saying this/ he gives the disciples a new sense/ of purpose/ for the future.
The excited disciples rushed out to find Thomas. They used the very same words that Mary and the other women had used that morning, “We have seen the Lord!”
And Thomas responded : Unless /I see the scars of the nails /in his hands /and put my finger/ on those scars and my hand in his side,/I will NOT believe”
When we are hurt or in deep distress like Thomas,/we have a tendency to do one of two things – we withdraw and suffer in silence / or we reach out and embrace our family and friends.
Thomas chose to withdraw. And because he did /he missed out on the one thing/ that would have turned his sorrow/ into joy ‑ the presence of the Risen Christ!
And as Thomas discovered/ it is only /within that fellowship/ that we begin to have our questions/ and doubts/ resolved.
Look at how Jesus appears to Thomas. “Eight days later the disciples were together again behind locked doors,/and this time Thomas was with them.”
And Jesus turned straight to Thomas and said. Put your finger here/ and see my hands/ and put out your hand/ and place it in my side/ stop doubting and believe.”
Jesus knew the heart of Thomas because/ He offered him exactly/ what he was asking for/ and Jesus gave him the proof he needed.
It is important to note that Jesus was not offended/ or angered /by the request that Thomas made. Instead Jesus responded with love and kindness.
Jesus met Thomas/ right where he was. And offered himself to Thomas: “Here, touch me, and believe.”
Instead of prodding Jesus /in the side/Thomas falls at Jesus’ feet/ and utters that ultimate/ declaration of faith: “My Lord and my God.”Notice something absolutely crucial here. Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!”
This makes him the first person in the New Testament/- even the first person in all of history, to confess Jesus not only as Lord/ but also as God.
For the first time in the Bible/Jesus is called God. He had been called: Lord,/Teacher/ Messiah/ Son of David, and even the Son of God/ but now/ the one who had doubted/ gave the greatest witness of all. Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and My God!”
Thomas’ faith was restored, and his feelings of despair/ were replaced/ by feelings of joy.
It is to Thomas/ that Jesus gives his final Beatitude, “Blessed are those who have not seen/ and yet have come to believe.“
This is a word of encouragement/ for us. Although we haven’t seen Jesus- we still believe/ and therefore we are blessed.
We too can walk away today with renewed peace, joy, hope and a firm sense of mission,/which can affect our entire outlook on life. We become purpose-driven/ to win our world for Jesus.
When the first Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagaran went into space on 12 April 1961 he said, “I didn’t see God anywhere.”
Then on 24 December 1968/ American – cosmonaut/ Alan Shepherd/ went up and said, “I saw God everywhere.”
Jesus is with us now/ by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He is waiting for us /to turn from our lack of faith /to proclaim Him as our Lord /and our God.
It is this same Holy Spirit who has empowered Christians /to serve and to love /through every crisis—from pandemics/ to natural disasters/ and world wars.
Thomas made a personal declaration of trust in Jesus. Where are you in that process? Have you made your declaration/ of Jesus being your Lord and your God?
I do not know what it is that you need this morning but Jesus does.
Just as He knew what Thomas needed/ so long ago, He knows today/ what you need/ and He is waiting to meet that need
Peace is hard obtain when we strive to balance the world on our own backs/ but when we heed Jesus’ invitation/ to give Him our burdens/ the weight of our world /becomes effortless/ for our risen Lord.
Every crisis is a call to seek God! As we are going through the first pandemic/ of the 21st Century/ this Covid 19 crisis- /fear and anxiety are at/ an all-time/ high. Lockdowns and economic depression causes us great fear.
On 5th Avenue in New York City/ there is a visual reminder of the Source of true peace.
At the entrance of the RCA Building is a huge statue of Atlas /from Greek mythology- struggling to keep the world on his shoulders.
On the other side of the street/ is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
Behind the altar/ is a small statue of Jesus/ effortlessly /holding the whole world in one hand.
An uncertain future leaves us stranded/ with nothing to do but wait.” We hear the words of Moses to Joshua : It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
And Jesus stands in our midst today and says: PEACE BE WITH YOU.
When Charles Wesley was converted he had been sick in bed for some time, and the fear of death had often come into his mind.
On Sunday, 21 May 1738, his brother and some friends came in and sang a hymn. After they went out he prayed alone for some time.
In his journal we read: “I was composing myself to sleep in quietness and peace when I heard one come in and say, In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise, and believe, and thou shalt be healed of all thine infirmities. The words struck me to the heart. I lay trembling.
With a strange palpitation of the heart, I said I believe, I believe ! ”
Charles Wesley has included this memory into the third verse of the Hymn “ O for a thousand tongues to sing.
Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
Tis life, and health, and peace. AMEN.