The Second Sunday of Easter (4/15/2012)

Lessons:Acts  4:32-35 Psalm 133 1st John 1:1-2:2 St. John 20:19-31

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection. By the grace of Christ among us, enable us to show the power of the resurrection in all that we say and do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so 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.

St. John 20:19-31, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

All Are Welcome Here

Let us build a house where love can dwell, and all can safely live, A place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive. Built of hopes and dreams and visions; rock of faith and vault of grace; Here the love of all shall end divisions: all are welcome, all are welcome, All are welcome in this place. [Marty Haugen, ©2005]

I have found myself humming Marty Haugen’s hymn, “Let Us Build a House” during the past couple of days, as the Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday has been rolling around in my mind. Haugen envisions a community of faith where love rules, where all can live in safety, where forgiveness is shared, where visions are encouraged, where faith and grace are the norm, and where there is no division. All are welcome in such a community, and we pray that all might be welcome in ours today.

The disciples of Jesus generally take a pretty good beating in the Gospels, but this week they give us a positive glimpse of what it means to be the church. On the evening of that first Easter Sunday, they are gathered in fear (sans Thomas) behind locked doors. Suddenly, Jesus appears in their midst, shares his peace with them (twice!), breathes the Holy Spirit on them, and commissions them to be about the work of forgiveness. It is, evidently, a life-changing experience for them. They “rejoice” to know that death couldn’t hold their Lord, and the instant their friend Thomas returns, they begin to tell Thomas about their experience, no doubt hoping he will come to believe the same amazing truth that they have come to believe.

Thomas objects, of course. Without the benefit of the same experience his friends have had, he says, he refuses to believe that it can be true. That doesn’t surprise us. The unwillingness to believe solely on someone’s word has become synonymous with his name. Yet what should surprise us is this: a week later, Thomas is still with them. What are the odds of that?

Sadly, in our day, that is much less likely to happen. It seems that people now are much less willing to tolerate differences — to tolerate doubts — to tolerate other beliefs — than was the case back then. Thomas: you don’t believe the same set of doctrines that we do? You’re out of here!

Yet the disciples do just the opposite. I can imagine that there are some heated arguments as to whether or not Thomas should believe what they have to say. There may even have been a barb or two from Thomas about how they were hiding away behind a locked door in fear, when he had the courage to be out and about on that first Sunday.

But all that aside, the disciples are gracious enough to continue welcoming Thomas into their midst, and Thomas is gracious enough to continue listening to the story of what had taken place in his absence. One imagines a circle of friendship where love rules, where all can live in safety, where forgiveness is shared, where visions are encouraged, where faith and grace are the norm, and where there is no division.

Come Holy Spirit! May we too enjoy that kind of community today. Amen.

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did Thomas refuse to believe what his friends were telling him?
  2. What does the hospitality of his friends say about the character of their group?
  3. Do the words and actions of Jesus emphasize the same commitment to hospitality?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who might be most likely to feel out-of-place or unwelcome in my circles?
  2. How might I demonstrate the same radical commitment to acceptance, that the disciples had?
  3. What does my commitment to hospitality have to say about my relationship with God?