When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the religious leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20:19-31
I suspect most of us who gathered here on Easter morning have not lived with a trumpet-choir and Hallelujah-Chorus faith, nor met experiences of death and loss or struggle and disappointment with a sudden reversal that made everything back to the way we wanted. But, like Thomas, we had some pretty honest and real questions. Perhaps some anger and doubt. From our own places of woundedness, maybe we were looking for a superhero bathed in supernatural light, and what we got was a Savior who put His hands on our wounds. And when new life began to emerge or we started to see it unfolding, it was most likely a solitary candle of hope and a whisper of grace that grew over time. I have shared about my own doubts and skepticism growing up and how grateful I was to be in a faith community that did not fear or shame my questioning, did not attack or denigrate my doubts. But a faith community that had a God big enough and a Jesus real enough and which understood that doubts and questions are most often faith seeking understanding, faith seeking to find its way amidst uncertainties and wounds too deep to be brushed aside with dime store theology and religious arrogance.
So let’s do this. Let’s bring our questions, struggles, doubts and questions along….because it isn’t by eliminating them that we have found faith…it’s by owning them, being humbled by them, and each-and-every day of our lives CHOOSING to follow Jesus and invite Him into our hearts and our work. Let’s look carefully when we think we’ve got this Jesus relationship all nailed down, because that’s been tried before. He doesn’t stay there. He’s gone on ahead of us. On ahead where there are more questions, more needs and sorrows and hungers, more doubts that crawl in alongside your faith at night. On ahead where there are more joys, epiphanies, discoveries and huge hopes. More places where we plant the Cross of Jesus as the signpost showing that we fully intend to make of it a place of hope and life. It’s what disciples do. It’s what Thomas, doubts and all….Peter, fears and all…..Paul, thorn-in-the-flesh and heartaches and all….did…and the world is changed. Not perfect, not yet showing God’s power in every place…but changed and stirring and alive with the Spirit of Jesus. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! (excerpted from Easter Sunday sermon)
As Jesus rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” Luke 19:36-40
There is word that the streets of Jerusalem are abuzz with talk of Jesus being their new king. Finally, after three years of toiling and teaching among the sick and the wounded, the needy and the nosy in the small towns of Galilee—it’s time for Jerusalem—the City of Kings. The City of Peace.
Jesus is out ahead several yards riding on the back of a young donkey. He is looking quietly at this city on a hill, just as many had looked on it with awe as they made their Passover pilgrimages for hundreds of years. “If only you knew,” he says to no one in particular. “If only you knew, Jerusalem, the things that make for peace. If only you knew that this was the time for your visitation from God.” And looking back at his disciples, primping and posturing for their triumphant entrance, he says again, “If only you knew.”
You and I already know that Jesus is not about to live happily ever after, and that no one in power is about to yield their throne. We know that teeming below the surface of this joyful celebration there is a poisonous mass of political and religious intrigue. The powers that be are scared senseless by the power of Jesus and the wheels have been set in motion for his betrayal and death. For a few moments, Jerusalem is a little bit of heaven as it welcomes Jesus and his primping disciples with open arms. But in a few short days, all hell will break loose and the powers of darkness will burst forth from beneath the surface to take his life. Gone will be the palms and the pageantry. Gone will be the adoring crowds. Gone will be even the disciples and his closest friends. He will die alone among strangers and enemies. Something is terribly, terribly wrong in God’s world, and only an act of God could change it. That act of God is humanity’s greatest hope.
The awesome thing about hope is that no matter what it encounters in and around us—it digs deeper, stretches higher, and surrounds any challenge with the strong, welcoming embrace of Christ’s love. It is ours to keep, to nourish, cherish and share. It is what Jesus knows as he rides at the head of that parade into Jerusalem. It is what makes Him our King. It is what makes Him our Savior. It is what makes us God’s own.
Thank you 8th Graders and parents for an excellent service day at our partner congregation, Gethsemane Lutheran, this past weekend!
Families Moving Forward has had a great start to their week at Mount Calvary. The setup crews and Mount Calvary quilters made the rooms for the families look amazing!