02 April 2008

Homily - Easter 2 - Midweek DS

Gathered Around His Words and His Wounds
John 20:19-31

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Did you catch the pattern? Sunday. Disciples gathered. Doors shut. Jesus. The sight of His wounds in a living body. Overflowing joy. A commission to carry forgiveness out into the world.

But Thomas missed the gathering. Perhaps he was golfing. Perhaps he was fishing. Perhaps he was shopping at the after-Easter sales. Maybe he was home moping. Maybe his siesta lasted a bit longer than usual. We’re not told why he wasn’t there, and there’s a reason for that.

Because it doesn’t matter WHY he wasn’t there. What matters is that he wasn’t there; he missed out. And notice what happened because he missed out on that special gathering: Thomas refuses to believe.

So, in his unbelief Thomas lays down his conditions. Unbelief will do that to you. It makes you lay down conditions for God to meet before you’ll trust Him. Thomas says he must see the wounds with his own eyes and touch them with his own hands. Then he’ll see about believing.

The Lord could have appeared to Thomas by himself on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, or on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Any of them would have done. But the Lord didn’t do that. He let Thomas stew in his unbelief for a whole week. And then see what happened. Deja vu!

Sunday. Disciples gathered. Doors shut. Jesus. The sight of His wounds. Overflowing joy. This time truant Thomas was present. And the presence of Jesus among the gathered disciples brings Thomas from unbelief to full-blast confession: “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus responds to that. Thomas had been brought to faith by seeing. When he saw the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side, he came to confess that his Lord and his God had been raised from the dead just as He had promised. But Jesus is setting a pattern now, and He’s thinking of more than Thomas on that second Sunday of Easter. He’s thinking of you. And so he says to Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

But if seeing does not bring you to faith, what does? The Gospel holds the answer. It’s all about what happens on the First Day of the week, which is also the 8th day. It’s the day that goes beyond our seven-day, regular week. On the First and 8th Day, we have a miracle. The disciples of Jesus gather. The Risen Lord comes into their midst. He comes with His wounds, His Spirit, His breath, AND His words. “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

When Jesus’ people gather, on Sundays or Wednesdays, the miracle happens again and again. Yes, there’s more Jesus than can ever fit into a book, however, Jesus has given His people a book around which to gather. A book where the breath of Jesus—the breath that IS the Spirit of God—still blows and calls from unbelief to faith. A book that is opened and read. Words are heard—concrete words; words about Jesus; Jesus’ own words. The Spirit breathed them all. They come from Jesus, and they’re all about Him. We read them, and when we do, we don’t just remember our Lord. No. We confess that Jesus is with us in His words. He still speaks to us! That’s why we stand. That’s why we sing out “Alleluia!” as we greet the One who comes to us in His words. That’s why we sometimes turn and face the Word as it marches down the aisle and stands in our midst. After all, He has promised: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (Jn. 14:23).

Now the One who comes to us in His words is also the One who comes to show His wounds and speak peace and bring joy. So when the words of Jesus are spoken over bread and wine, we have what those words promise: “This is my body, given for you. This is My blood, shed for you. For the forgiveness of sins.” Thomas was invited to touch and believe. We are invited to taste and believe. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Body and blood remind us of the wounds. After all, you only get body and blood separated from one another when there’s a wound. So every time we gather at this holy Table we proclaim His death and His resurrection, and the Resurrected One feeds us with His Body and His Blood.

You can’t see it from where you sit, but the top of the altar reminds us of this. Five little crosses are carved into the tabletop—two on each end and one in the middle. What are they there for? Just to be pretty? Hardly! They are a confession of faith. What gets placed upon this altar is the very Body and Blood wounded and flowing from five Jesus’ wounds—two in the hands, two in the feet, and one in the side. These five little crosses confess that on this altar we have the very Body and Blood that hung upon the cross for us. That’s what our Risen Lord gives us to eat and to drink. And when we see and taste of the wounds, we also receive the word of peace: “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” And then the joy: “Thank the Lord and sing His praise; tell ev’ry one what He has done!”

When? On the Lord’s Day. When Jesus comes into the midst of His gathered disciples and speaks His peace and brings the joy of sins forgiven and calls from unbelief to faith. But the joy does not end here.

The disciples go out and announce—as they did to Thomas. “We have seen the Lord.” So we are sent out from this gathering where Jesus has come to be with us, where we have known Him in His words and in His wounds, in His Body and Blood.

We are sent forth to tell people like Thomas—people who wallow in the sadness of thinking that death is the end of the road—that there is One who went farther. We are sent to tell people like Thomas—people who think that their sins still hang around their own necks—that there is One who Himself lifted that burden and carried it long ago to give them peace and joy. We are sent to tell one and all. And not just that there is such a One, and that there is such a forgiveness, and that there is such an eternal life. But we are also sent to tell them WHERE this Risen One can be found, where faith is given, and where forgiveness and joy and peace may be had by all who come. We are sent to tell them the great meaning of the First day and 8th day. After all, it’s the Lord’s Day when our Savior Jesus still comes to be with us as we gather together in His name, and around His words and His wounds. Amen.

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