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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
April 24 2022
Grace and peace to you from our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
On the Sunday after Easter every year we hear the story of how the disciples first dealt with Christ’s resurrection. We know what the women thought and that they told the disciples, but today we start to hear how the story continued to unfold.
On the night of that first Easter – ten-ish hours after the women had gone to the tomb – most of the disciples were locked in a room. Instead of rejoicing and going out to share the news, Peter and the others locked themselves in – and locked the world out.
We know that they were scared – a lot had happened in a very short period of time, so emotions were still running high. But as they sat in that room, all of the sudden Jesus appeared and they knew that the women’s testimony was true. And the only one who wasn’t there to see Jesus was Thomas.
So it’s no wonder that he responded the way he did. Thomas has been labeled as a “doubter” for centuries, but that really isn’t fair. He simply wanted to see the Lord; everyone else had seen Jesus by that point, and Thomas wanted that same experience. Who wouldn’t?
None of the other disciples had believed at first, either. It wasn’t until Jesus came into the locked room and spoke peace to them and showed them his wounds that they recognized him and began to understand what was going on.
When the writer of John’s gospel recorded these accounts, they were written in Greek. And the root word that we translate as “belief” also includes the concept of trust. In English, “believe” or “belief” is something that usually happens on a cognitive level; we either believe or we don’t, or have a belief or not.
But trust is different. It’s on a spectrum and usually includes the feelings that influence our thoughts and actions. And if we shift our understanding of the disciples’ experience with the resurrection from belief to trust, it opens doors – in a manner of speaking. It continues the relationship that they had with Jesus, it strengthens it and allows them to embody it.
Jesus didn’t appear to the disciples so that they would know God raised him from the dead and then go back to their lives before. Jesus met them where they were and then sent them out to bear witness to what had happened.
But Jesus sent them out to do more than just tell the story, he sent them out to live the resurrection. To continue his ministry and teachings. To continue sharing the story by inviting other people into it. And when they did, they encountered the risen Christ in the world.
It wasn’t without risk. We know that some of the disciples were arrested, and that many of the early Christians were persecuted for their faith. And we know, too, that not everyone accepted the story of the resurrection.
For the disciples to go out as Jesus did and proclaim the risen Christ, it put them into a vulnerable position. They couldn’t have done what they did without their trust in him. But because they did more than believe Jesus on an intellectual level, because they trusted him, Christ’s resurrection was proclaimed – and continues to be proclaimed today.
When we think about all of this 2000+ years later, it’s easy for us to say, “Yeah, I believe that Christ is risen” because we have the benefit of the disciples’ witness and testimony. So, we know how the story ends. But if we simply say, “Yes, I believe” and that’s it, it’s too easy to keep the resurrection at arms’ length and not do anything more with it.
But Jesus sends us out, too. Whatever doors we might have locked – in our lives, in our hearts, in our ministry – Jesus shows up there. He assures us that he is risen, shows us that we can trust that it’s true, and then he sends us out.
And when we go, we share the story. And unlike the first disciples, the greatest risk to us in our society is our pride. Getting over the fear of what people might think when we proclaim the risen Christ and invite them to be part of the story.
Remembering that it’s about more than words, that it’s about how we embody it because it’s about how we live. Because when we live the resurrection, we experience the risen Christ in our world. And it’s an experience that needs to be lifted up.
At sundown on Wednesday this week, Yam Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – begins. It was instituted by Israel’s parliament in 1951 and formally enacted as a law in 1959 to remember the Jewish people who perished in WWII, and also the people who resisted the atrocities that were being committed.
We know that the Holocaust isn’t the only genocide to take place in our world’s history – it isn’t even the most current genocide to have happened. And it’s hard to not see parallels between it and what’s going on in Ukraine and other countries right now.
Last Friday marked Earth Day – the day set aside to emphasize the need for environmental protection and care. For more than half a century, there has been a day dedicated to this. But the pleas to change how we live have been shouted for much longer.
And in one of the news clips I read about Earth day, someone commented that they’re looking forward to the time when we don’t need a special day to think about our planet because we’ll finally understand that we’re part of it and it’s part of us.
It can be hard to proclaim resurrection in the midst of war and human-caused climate disaster. It can be hard to see the risen Christ in all of this, let alone experience his presence. But as people of faith, we trust that the story isn’t over yet. And that it and his ministry continue in us – that’s what we proclaim. That’s what we embody.
And when we do, we look for resurrection in places where we least expect it and trust that it’ll be there. Like the people who are receiving refugees and who are speaking out against what’s going on in Ukraine. We point it out so that others know it’s there and begin to look for it in other places on their own.
When we embody Christ’s resurrection, we stop beating each other up over what we’re doing to our planet and commit to figuring out how to live sustainably not just for ourselves, but for everyone else we share this planet with – and the planet itself – and make it possible for others to do the same.
Living the resurrection, experiencing the risen Christ, takes courage. It means trusting that when we’ve locked ourselves in somewhere, Jesus will show up in our midst. Wherever we happen to be physically or emotionally, he will meet us there. He will assure us of his presence, and then he will send us out.
Because the story isn’t over yet – Jesus’ ministry isn’t over yet. It’s part of who we are, and Jesus sends us out to participate in it. To proclaim it, to invite others into it, and to experience it. Alleluia! Amen.
 Spirituality of Conflict, commentary for Second Sunday of Easter, 2022.