Hello and welcome to worship this 2nd Sunday of Easter, April 11, 2021! You are a blessing to our community!
The worship bulletin can be found here. The bulletin of course will have the full order of worship, all the words of the liturgy, the hymn numbers corresponding with the ELW and page numbers corresponding to the Now the Feast and Celebration booklet, and the sermon in full. The sermon can also be found below the embedded video. And if you want to borrow a copy of the Now the Feast and Celebration booklet, contact the church and we’ll see what we can do.
For a fuller at home worship experience, you may have a few things in your space to help with that. The first is a candle which can be lit at the beginning of the service and extinguished near the end during the Sending Hymn, when the candles on the altar are extinguished. You can also have a bowl of water nearby to help make the Thanksgiving for Baptism more tangible. And as always, you may have something small to eat and drink for communion should you wish to participate.
May God’s blessing be upon you this day and forevermore!
O God, in our doubts and in our beliefs, transform us by your Spirit, that we might hear, see, and touch your blessing in our lives, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen.
“Opinions are like… elbows. Everyone has one, and they all stink.” This is a saying that you might have heard before, albeit I cleaned up the language a bit to make it more church-service-friendly. I’ll let you guess what it’s supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately… people having opinions, that is, not the other thing. It just seems like lately, everyone needs to voice their opinion especially around this pandemic that we’re still in and how they might not agree with it, or might not agree with those who might not agree with it. And I get it, it’s been a long year and our lives have been disrupted to a scale hitherto undreamt of. So of course people are going to be uneasy with the situation. Of course people are going to push back and others push back against those who push back. Of course there will be misinformation and rumours and perhaps even conspiracy theories floating around because people just want to make sense of this whole thing, and they want someone to blame.
Now, let me be clear, I’m being intentionally vague about which side I’m talking about. I’m simply talking about the principle of these varying opinions and those who follow them. In my travels around the internet, I see this confusion between opinions and fact to be very present and apparent on all sides. It’s like for every opinion published out there, there are at least a half a dozen different ones that directly oppose it. So if you think I’m not talking about you, think again, I am specifically talking about you.
But all this got me thinking, what makes someone’s opinion more credible to us over another opinion? What kind of credentials, or education, or background would give their opinion more authority? Or is it even a matter of credentials? Could it just be that we can only agree with those that we already agree with and everyone else who doesn’t is just bonkers?
Simple logic tells us that the experts would know more than the non-experts and thus are worthy of being those trusted authorities in whatever subject they are experts in. That’s why we call them experts. But somehow instinct might tell us different. Instinct might get us to follow our gut, agree with just what we feel good about agreeing with, or perhaps just side with those who we, for whatever reason, have an affinity for.
Any one of those could be true for us. The fact is that we will believe what we believe when we believe, and usually we’d lean more toward that which is familiar, those that we trust, and opinions that speak to us the most.
So why didn’t Thomas believe in today’s gospel story? This is the passage we get every 2nd Sunday in Easter, regardless of lectionary year. “Doubting Thomas” as we all know him, has his doubts. Pretty characteristic, I guess. The other disciples tell him that they saw Jesus at that exact time that he wasn’t around. We don’t know why he wasn’t there or how long he was gone for, but he just can’t believe them, not without empirical evidence anyway. For some reason, the eye witness accounts from his disciple colleagues and friends weren’t enough.
But shouldn’t they be? These are the opinions and stories from guys Thomas has no reason not to trust. They’ve hung out together all day every day for like 3 years, and they’ve been through a lot. I would imagine that this kind of fraternity or society level community would just demand them to trust and believe each other, especially when it comes to something like this. The disciples are the last remaining authorities of who Jesus is and what Jesus is about. Their testimony should be valid. But yet Thomas doubted.
And so, Doubting Thomas is coined. And I guess it makes unfortunate sense. He doubted his friends, he doubted Jesus’ words, he maybe even doubted himself for hanging out with these weirdos. But if you remember what I’ve said in the past about this nickname, you’d know that I actually don’t think that it’s fair. It’s not fair to single him out for not believing something that is so unbelievable. It’s not fair to label someone as a doubter when the story itself is so doubtful. It’s not fair that my man Thomas got this reputation when really, it was the other disciples that were the ones who didn’t believe and doubted and thus made their opinions a lot less credible.
Wait. They didn’t believe? Weren’t they the ones telling the story? How could they not believe what they’re saying?
Well, in their defence it is kind of an unbelievable and doubtful story, but that isn’t why I think they didn’t believe. Rather, it was their reaction to what happened that leads me to think that, and also perhaps led Thomas to not believe either. Their reaction to seeing the risen Christ was a bit unbelievable. Their reaction the peace given to them by Jesus stirs some doubt in me. Their reaction to the Spirit breathed on them by their Lord and God was possibly a bit too much for Thomas to really be convinced that what they said was true.
In that… there was no reaction.
Nothing. Nada. They didn’t even leave the room.
They just saw their mentor, teacher, and friend, who just days before was hanging dead on a cross, now standing in front of them in the flesh with the wounds still fresh in his hand and side, just as he told them would happen, and it was like they treated it like any other Sunday night. Thomas gets back and is like, “hey sup guys” and they’re like, “hey, not much. We saw Jesus though” as they locked the door back up behind Thomas as he entered. Does that sounds like the actions of people who believed? Does it sound at all like they were free of doubt? Does it sound like these men were at all transformed by the grace and peace of the Spirit?
I get it though, it’s still a lot. In those days, before the centuries and centuries of interpretation and explanation of the resurrection, it was probably still really confusing for them. In those days, before they even really understood what Jesus meant about wheat and tares let alone “destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up again,” the disciples were probably baffled in what just happened. In those days, the concepts of forgiveness and redemption on this scale was still way over their heads and not at all part of their culture that the transformation in them just didn’t happen right away.
But it eventually does happen. They are transformed to be God’s people in the world because he is risen. They are able to declare and proclaim our Lord and God because they have the Spirit breathed upon them and they are blessed with peace. They end up unlocking those doors and going out into the world to preach and teach because Jesus shows up not just this one time, but again and again throughout their lives giving them strength, confidence, and hope.
And as with us, as we live in a world so divided, in such pain, and so broken, we too are transformed by the Spirit breathed upon us, filling us with the strength to care for each other, the confidence to live as Easter people, and the hope in knowing that even as we continue in this raging pandemic, that God continues to love us, appear in and around our lives, and give us peace. No amount of unbelief or doubt can change this, as God has promised this, God wills this, and God continually gives this as the ultimate authority on all things good.
As we navigate the opinions of the world, this transformation becomes our authority. We look for the alignment to God’s principles of love, compassion, and community to inform us of our actions. We put away the unbelief and doubt, and lean on the gracious change within us, reforming us as God’s own children, beckoning us out of the darkness and into the light where we might fellowship with one another and with Christ.
I know, it’s a crazy world and there are many times when it seems like it just isn’t worth it. But if Jesus saw this world worthy of dying for and saving, then we too can be transformed to care for it, care for others, and live in the peace that has been breathed upon us through the Spirit, allowing us to live in unity with God and all the saints, both now and forever.
And so as we move into this season of Easter, may we continually live as an Easter people, resurrected and transformed in the light of Christ, empowered to love and care for others in fellowship, community, and peace. Thanks be to God. Amen.