Fear or faith

28 April 2019
Second Sunday of Easter
Easter 2C (RCL)

Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 150
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

What strikes me this time reading the story of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in John’s Gospel is that they are inside the room with the doors locked for fear. We have just seen Church bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Day. We live in an age characterized by fear. Everyone is afraid that what they have is slipping (or being taken) away, so we have settled into so many silos.

But Thomas is not there in the room with the disciples that first evening. Was he not afraid? Was he already out in the world doing what Jesus had commissioned the disciples to do? When they tell him they have seen the Lord, he refuses to believe (or better, to trust). He refuses to trust them. He demands to see the wounds of Christ, and to touch them, before he will trust their testimony.k

I think our fear comes from a refusal to acknowledge loss. Things are changing, and we would like them to stay the same. The Church is shrinking, and we are afraid. Society is changing, and we are afraid. There is loss to grieve. But, if we don’t grieve the loss (like Mary did in last week’s Gospel), we can’t encounter the risen Jesus.

So, Jesus shows up again when Thomas is in the room, and invites Thomas to touch the wounds. When he does, Thomas recognizes Jesus as Dominus et Deus, the title that Domitian was insisting on. Thomas is making it clear that this wounded Jesus is Lord and God, and calling into question the mythology of the Roman state. If we think that the Church can remain static and unchanging, we don’t really believe in the risen Christ.

When Jesus appears to the disciples, he breathes on them, and says “Receive Holy Breath. The sins of whoever you release to them are released. The sins of whoever you hold on to are held on to.” What an awesome responsibility. It is the forgiving of sins that heals the wounds and makes them revelatory. All of the readings today speak of the forgiveness of sins. To forgive sins, we have to listen to the other, know where they are coming from, and then decide that the damage done will not define us forever. The Revelation passage tells us that we are a kingdom of priests to God. We are the intercessors for the world, working for the healing of all that is broken.

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