the one about Jesus showing up...
April 29, 2019, 7:55 AM

Sermon from April 28, 2019

Text: John 20:19-31

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our risen Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer – amen!

So, this is one of my favorite stories of grace and wonder that we get to read in the entirety of the church year. Mostly because I can see myself right in the mix of those disciples. We know this story, don’t we? Of course, we affectionately call this part of John’s Gospel – the story of Doubting Thomas. Truthfully, I think Thomas gets a pretty bad wrap here. Mostly because I think we can all do the same things that Thomas does here.

But, that’s not why I enjoy this story so much.

I want you to think about a time in your life when you did something pretty dumb. You did exactly the opposite of what you were told – whether it be at the behest of your parents, a spouse, or teachers, a boss, even friends. No matter who told you not to do something, even when you agreed that you wouldn’t do it – you still did it. Now, remember when those individuals you went against found out?

What were your thoughts? How did you feel? How did they act?

I remember when I was younger and lived in Italy – my brother, sister, and I were pretty mischievous in finding things that we weren’t supposed to find. We tended to be homebodies while living there; perhaps a combination of not knowing the primary language outside and being introverts contributed a lot to our ability to cause mischief. We were especially ‘sneaky’ when it came to finding Christmas presents. It was one of our favorite pastimes. We had a running habit of trying to find those presents before Christmas day, mostly because we couldn’t wait.

One year in particular stands out. One day a huge box appeared in our garage. Naturally, we were curious. My parents went out with some friends and my siblings and I went to work almost as soon as the car left the garage. We got what we needed – scissors and a few flashlights; our adventure could begin. We cut a small hole at the bottom of the box. But, it was too small. So, we cut it a bit bigger, and a bit bigger. We saw the goodness that was inside. However, we wanted to know all of what was in there, so we came up with a foolproof plan – we threw my sister in the box. Of course, we didn’t realize how long we’d been at this spy job – and my parents got home. We dropped everything – somehow got my sister out of their quickly and rushed upstairs.

My parents came to us and wanted to know what was up. I remember being a nervous wreck and feeling an immense amount of guilt and fear. My parents found out that we did something wrong. The evidence of what we did, and our tools were left right there; the flashlight conveniently pointed and lit their way to our destruction. They were understandably disappointed with us, even a bit angry.

That’s the kind of reaction that we’d expect right?

We did something wrong, someone finds out, now we get punished. That’s how its supposed to be.

How do you think those disciples felt just the night of the resurrection?

They’d denied knowing Jesus, they fled, they’re scared, and they are in hiding – all those things they said they wouldn’t do. Even though they had been told all that was going to happen, they were still in shock by what had happened.

Jesus appears before them within their locked doors – Jesus comes to them in their fear. Imagine yourself in this place – how do you think you’d be feeling and acting? Would you be jumping for joy and running to cling to Christ? The guy who was dead three days ago, but is standing among you now? No, you’d be scared out of your mind, wouldn’t you? Especially knowing that you did the opposite of all that you said you would do.

I’ll be right here Lord! But, I ran away.

I’ll speak up for you Jesus! But, I denied you.

I’ll tell the world about you! But, I’m hiding from the world in fear.

You can understand why these friends of Jesus might be a little hesitant when their formerly dead friend is standing next to them. I can imagine Peter thinking, “Oh man… I’m going to get it – we’re up the creek now and we don’t have a paddle at all…”

But, but – Jesus surprises them and even surprises us in his action and response towards them. The first words to his friends – to us – during this time of anxiety and fear is “Peace be with you.” It is so important for them to hear that Jesus says it twice.

Even though Jesus would be well within his right to chastise and admonish his friends – to bring punishment of some sort. Jesus doesn’t. Jesus operates in a way that we wouldn’t expect. Jesus comes to bring peace. Not only that – but, Jesus still has a mission for them.

That’s pretty incredible right? Here Jesus’ closest friends have failed – miserably – at being faithful friends. How’s that joke go? You know your true friends because if you find yourself in jail, they’re the ones next to you saying – that was crazy right?

So, Jesus comes to his friends, he gives them his peace, and then he sends them out into the world to proclaim that peace to the world.

What I love most about this story is that it reminds us that we’re going to screw up. That we do screw up. That we have screwed up. We didn’t, we don’t, and we probably at times won’t do all the things that we promise to do.

Last week we had a great worship service. I’ve talked to a number of folks this past week who were there, and we all agreed – something felt different about this past Easter service. It was great. The Spirit was alive! I’m confident that many of you feel the same way. Perhaps within that service and immediately afterwards you felt a call to live into the proclamation that those first women – those first preachers of the resurrection – shared with their friends and the world. That call to proclaim and live out that gospel story of the resurrection, to shout from the rooftops that Jesus Christ is risen! Come and see what God is doing here in this place – in my life – in the world!

And then what happened? Mondays, right? You get busy, you forget, you might’ve lost your nerve to proclaim. In many ways we can get the sense that we’ve failed our Lord. We have such high aspirations and we didn’t and we don’t meet those goals. There are times when we very much act like the disciples. We fall from the even ‘bare minimum’ goals that we set.

And we can come to worship this Sunday, or any Sunday really, and be a little dejected as we pull up in our cars. A little sad because we haven’t lived up to what our expectations are.

And what do we hear at the beginning and throughout this service and all services. You. Are. Forgiven.

Or, as Jesus states to his friends and to us this morning – Peace. Be. With. You.

We expect – in many ways – to be punished for those things that we don’t do. But, Christ tends to act in ways that we don’t expect.

We come to worship, and we hear that we are forgiven – of everything. We hear and know and taste that Christ is present with us this morning. That Christ is present in the Words that we speak and hear. That Christ is present in the waters of baptism that we touch. Christ is present in the wine and the bread in which we will soon eat.

Christ is present – in spite of our habit of not being present. Our habit of not living fully into what we are called to do. Our habit of not following through with what we want to do and what say we will do.

Christ shows up. Christ is present in our lives and says, “peace be with you.”

And it is in that knowledge of peace that we are sent. We aren’t sent so that we might obtain peace with God. No – only after Christ gives us his peace are we sent. God in Christ Jesus has said – it’s ‘OK.’ I’m here. Have peace – let’s get to work now.

In all the ways that we board ourselves up from living the life that God has set up for us – those blocks and obstacles that we place on ourselves or even the ones that others place upon us – Jesus shows up, offers us peace, and sends us out.

I love this story from John’s Gospel. Here I am – here we are – reminded that Jesus has forgiven us, offers us peace, and sends us out to live that peace-filled life.

Now we can go out and serve. Amen.

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