At long last the video is ready for our worship service! I had a few technical difficulties putting this one together, but it’s finally ready! The worship bulletin for this service is found here.
We’re having communion in this service, and if you haven’t joined with communion before, I ask that those who want to participate have a small something to eat and drink handy and nearby, and when it comes time in the service, we will eat and drink together. It is our way of remembering that we are still connected as a body of Christ, even over great distances!
And without further ado, here is the service, followed by the manuscript for the sermon:
Glorious God, may we be enlightened by the Holy Spirit, that we be led into your presence through the path of life, where there is fullness of joy through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wrong place at the wrong time.
Ever happen to you? I know it has for me, especially in these times when I’m recording these services in a building that wasn’t designed for any kind of video recording and I am subject to the natural light and traffic volume levels outside. I get here too early or too late, and the whole video needs to be done again simply because it was the wrong time to provide sufficient light or it was too noisy outside. Maybe you felt the wrong place at the wrong time when you’re driving on a road that is blocked because of construction or an accident or something. Or you got in a lineup for something exactly when the lineup was at its longest. Or maybe you decided that you’d take advantage of everyone staying home these days and so it’d be a good idea to go get some grocery shopping done. And how did that work out for you? In fact, it seems like during this time of pandemic, basically anywhere but safe in your home seems like it is the wrong place and the wrong time.
Or being in the wrong place at the wrong time could also mean that you missed out on being in the right place at the right time. Like maybe you missed catching that foul ball off the third baseline because you were getting a hot dog, or you missed being the 95th caller to the radio station to win that money because you were busy driving or in a class, or you missed running into that modelling agent and so you were never “discovered” so you have to continue your career as a pastor… I mean how else would you explain it?
But it has happened to us all, maybe not those exact things, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which have led us into experiences that we otherwise would not have had we been in the right place at the right time.
The more I read this story in today’s gospel lesson and its surrounding context, the more I see that Thomas isn’t as much a victim of doubt, as we’re taught so often, but rather he is perhaps just a victim of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I mean if we think about it and see Thomas’ very brief appearances in the gospels, he doesn’t seem to be one of weak faith. Again, he doesn’t have the most lines of the disciples, but those few times he sounds like he is quite devout to Jesus and his mission and he is willing to follow Jesus wherever he would go even into death, faithfully and without question (except for “what is the way?”). So for Thomas to end up with the reputation as “doubter” isn’t fair for a guy who didn’t really show any more doubt than anyone else. It’s just that he seems to be singled out because he wasn’t there when Jesus first showed up. So that’s why I think he was just a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So you want to know where I think Thomas was during this time? There’d be no way to know for sure, so I’d be willing to bet a small amount of money against those odds. Don’t forget that this is the guy who said he’ll follow Jesus anywhere, told the rest of the disciples that they should together go with Jesus so they could die with Jesus, and was the recipient of Jesus’ eloquent revelation and I AM statement of being the way, truth, and the life. This Thomas guy was no slouch when it came to disciple standards. So where could he be so shortly after the disciples just caught word that Jesus’ tomb was empty? The women said they couldn’t find the body and in some accounts that they even saw Jesus, and the disciples just freak out and locked themselves away, perhaps in fear that the body snatchers would come after them next. So where was Thomas?
Well, from what I know of the guy, which isn’t much, I think that while the other disciples were hiding out, Thomas was out there actively looking for Jesus.
I have a feeling that he knew that Jesus was out there somewhere. I think he trusted that the corpse wasn’t lost to theft. I believe that Thomas, known throughout history as the doubter, had faith that Jesus is risen, and he left the other disciples, who were afraid and in hiding behind locked doors, to go and see just where Jesus could be found.
This doesn’t sound like the actions of one with little faith. Rather, this informs me of something we can do to actively live out our faith, to seek out God alive in our world. Instead of being taught that we should be less like “Doubting Thomas”, maybe we should look to Thomas as an example of how to be faithful in the here and now in spite of fear and trepidation. Rather than this being a lesson on how doubt could be the enemy of faith, we can see this story teaching us how Jesus appears, whether we are looking for him or not, breathes into us the Spirit and invigorates us into new life and the fullness of joy.
See, even in his active searching, Thomas didn’t find Jesus. In their active avoiding, the other disciples couldn’t avoid Jesus. Even in being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Jesus found them, lifted them out of their fear, and granted them the peace of the Spirit.
And this speaks deeply to our current situation of pandemic and social distancing, that when God seems to have abandoned us in our fear and anxiety, when the world is gripped by this path we never took before, when we are hiding behind our locked doors to our homes and into our hearts, God enters into our lives in surprising and unexpected ways, God greets us with the breath of the Spirit, and God reveals to us God’s presence in the wounds, the pain, and the brokenness with a word of peace and comfort in knowing that while life seems to be in a state of disarray, we are held onto, lifted up, and saved with a love redeeming us all into God’s kingdom.
And it might be that we are in the wrong place at the wrong time and we miss it. Or maybe we are in the right place at the right time but we are blinded by our own preconceived notions of how God would appear and so we miss it. Whatever the case, believe that God is here, God is now, God is in this place and giving us the fullness of joy, reminding us that we are not alone but connected with each other and all the saints, and saving our souls with a love that created the universe.
Earlier this week I asked you to send me pictures of the surprising way you have seen God throughout your lives, and in hopes that everything worked out, here are your submissions for that photo challenge:
Maybe we didn’t see God in our own lives in this past week. Maybe we didn’t recognise God at work around us throughout this pandemic. Maybe we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But hopefully together as a congregation we were able to see how God was indeed present not only in the lives of others, but also with us, in our community, and in our homes behind our locked doors. This will then show us that where we are, is in fact the right place. For God is not bound by place or by time, but rather God is with us through the person of Jesus Christ, risen, alive, and active in us and our communities.
In this Easter season of life and resurrection, may we live as Easter people in spite of pandemic, seeing God present in the surprising areas of our lives. Thanks be to God. Amen.