Resurrection, Doubt and Fear John 20:19-31

A week has now passed since we celebrated Easter behind the closed doors in fear of Covid-19.  Easter was different this year.  It was more introspective.  Without the usual activities surrounding the day and filled churches, we were left to wonder what does the resurrection say to us behind the closed doors?  If we are willing to allow the Spirit to speak in our wondering, we just might discover a greater depth to what we believe and a hope that goes far beyond hurrying to open up the economy and get life back to normal.

On that first day of the resurrection, the Gospel of John tells of the disciples hiding in fear behind closed doors.  They had good reason with fear of Roman soldiers wandering in the streets making sure peace was being kept along with the fear of what will the future hold with Jesus’ crucifixion.  However, earlier in the day Mary Magdalene had told them that she had seen the Lord and passed on the risen Jesus’ words to them.  Perhaps their greatest fear was facing Jesus whom they had abandoned and denied.  Then he appeared, wounds and all.  Their fear was suddenly changed to celebration with Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you!”  The Lord who beat death and was ushering in the reign of God with the start of a new creation appeared to them, not for revenge or to judge but to forgive.  The disciples were sent out by Jesus with the Spirit and a message of forgiveness.

On that first day, Thomas was missing.  Even though he got the news, he wouldn’t believe until he had proof – he wanted to physically inspect the wounds for himself.  A week later he was present when Jesus appeared and this time Jesus gave Thomas the invitation to go ahead and even stick his fingers in the wounds.  Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!”  I think that we would all like the opportunity for our doubts and fears to be replaced by physical proof and to have God stand before us and announce “Peace.”  What we do have in these days is the witness of others, the belief of parents and friends.  They tell us that God has not abandoned us and this world but has taken on its wounds and death giving forgiveness and life instead.  They show us that the statement “My Lord and my God” is more than a formula to be recited but an intense hope of healing as a new creation is brought into being.

Now we still huddle behind doors for fear of the pandemic.  Now our hopes may be on returning to normal and reopening the economy.  Now we worry about toilet paper shortages, masks and social distancing.  What Easter tells us is that God has shown up in this world and taken on our sickness to bring forgiveness and life instead.  What Easter instills in us is a hope of a new creation healed in Jesus Christ risen.

As Jesus said, “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Peace.

Now What? Revelation 1:4-8

A week has now passed since we sang the “Alleluias” celebrating Christ’s resurrection.  Pastors, worship committees and music leaders are taking a rest from the many Holy Week and Easter services.  So as we move on down the calendar from Easter Sunday, the question comes up “Now What?”  What do we do and where do we go from here?

Part of the assigned readings for the next couple weeks will be from the book of Revelation.  I plan to be concentrating on these.  Today we begin from the first chapter of Revelation.  Revelation means “revealing.”  The book is the revealing of Jesus Christ as the Alpha and the Omega, the first born from the dead.  John, the recipient of this revelation has been exiled to the Island of Patmos which was a Roman penal colony.  He was there likely for his missionary work and refusing to submit to the rising tide of emperor worship.  This revelation was for the church to remain faithful to Christ who will return as the great victorious Lamb.

The book of Revelation was recorded about sixty years after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  Sixty years is a long time in human terms.  Over sixty years we lose focus.  We get busy with other things.  Our exuberance fades away.  We begin to question the level of our commitment.  Whether sixty years or two thousand years, the challenge for the church is to always remain faithful.  Last Sunday worshipers in Sri Lanka were victims of bombings while they celebrated Christ’s victory.  For others in the church, the challenge is far more subtle to turn allegiance over for political influence or cultural power.  The pull from the world around us is strong and never gives up.  Yet we are reminded that Christ’s rule extends over the defiant kings of the earth.

Last week was Easter.  This week we might be asking, “Now what?”  The answer from Revelation is to remain faithful witnesses to the One who we’ll see coming in glory with the clouds… the One “who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Peace.

An idle tale? Luke 24:1-12

We have come to Easter and we know what that means for the day.  We gather with the family and enjoy lots of food.  The couple pounds lost from denying ourselves chocolate will be replaced with a couple pounds more to spare as we devour the Easter candy.  Sometime during the day, we need to contend with the message of Easter.  Is the resurrection an idle tale?  Or, has the resurrection of Christ set creation on a new path to be made new?

On the first day of the week, women went to the tomb of Jesus.  They went there like we all do when going to a cemetery.  We go to tell stories.  We weep.  We grieve.  We seek to find a new normal without the person we loved.  However on this morning, the tomb was empty and two men in dazzling appearance asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  The two men reminded the women of Jesus’ words of being crucified and raised on the third day.  The women ran to tell the disciples who considered their words nothing more than an idle tale.

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s judgment against the darkness of the world.  The likes of Herod and Pilate denying justice to the innocent and who give in to mob rule for political peace are judged.  The chief priests and the mob crying for the death of Jesus while preferring the release of a criminal are judged.  Our world where Jesus walked among the outcast and poor was judged.  Our world where death is granted ultimate power is judged as a fraud.  The real power is in God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus happened on the first day of the week.  The first day which goes back to the start of creation when God spoke and light shined in the darkness.  The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of a new creation.  All creation is now to be set free from sin and the darkness.  Light is shining.

The women were asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  Why are they still looking for the old ways of death when a new creation has now begun in Christ risen?  The disciples called the message delivered an ‘idle tale’ because their thoughts were still on the old ways.  This Easter the message confronts us as well.

If we are content with leadership that allows injustice to reign, where the innocent are allowed to suffer, where political peace is preferred over the truth then the resurrection is an idle tale.

If we are content with the hungry not being fed, the sick refused care and the outcast to be shunned and condemned as unworthy, then the resurrection is an idle tale.

If we are content with creation being exploited for profit rather than protected and cared for, then we are pushing the darkness upon it and the resurrection is an idle tale.

The message for this Sunday is, “Christ is Risen!”  Will we receive it as the good news it is for all creation?  Will we treat it as an idle tale?  The difference is to be in the past’s darkness or live in the light of God who raises the dead to a new life.

Peace.