It would be nice, after a Resurrection of cosmic and all-time historic proportion, that all would be well with the world after Jesus walked out of the tomb: that there would be no more violence, no more evil; that things would just drastically change. But if that couldn't happen, then at least hopefully all would be will with the church: that there would be no disagreements, disputes, or arguments after the Lord and Savior blessed us with the blueprint of ministry for the sake of the still-broken world. Well, it hasn't worked out quite like that.
Even with the first reading this morning, churches all over this country will only hear it with anger as it describes the first apostles' obsession with sharing wealth. Americans can't even have an open, honest, Bible study-driven discussion about all possessions being held in common, because it will only lead to name-calling, profanity-laced remarks under our breath, and an igniting of political hatred. We would just end up calling the men who followed our Lord and Savior for years, like Peter, James, and John, nothing short of narrow-minded naïve Communists. So no, the Resurrection did not put everything on the same page for the church for centuries to come. Nevertheless, even if we can't handle the first reading, we cannot overlook the Gospel.
After all, if there was ever a time for name-calling and boiling-over frustration, it was Jesus walking, basically, into the first council meeting in church history with that one member who just had to be difficult. But this wasn't about budgets or carpet selections. This was about the very foundation of the church's existence; this was about the event that determines whether or not there will be any church to begin with. Evidently, in due time, the rest of the council-like disciple members were convinced Jesus had indeed risen from the tomb of death, but there was still that one holding everybody back. Jesus could have railed against Thomas in a divine anger that we can't even imagine. The Messiah had told Thomas time and time again that it was going to happen: he was going to be crucified, He would die, and on the third day rise again. Mary Magdalene had told the rest of disciples she had seen Jesus right outside the tomb. And yet stubborn Thomas had to be that difficult one.
However, Jesus, instead of unleashing a fit of furious frustration, walks up to Thomas with the same loving care as He showed on the cross, and meets Thomas right where he needed His Savior. Jesus doesn't scold, doesn't call him names, doesn't make him feel small in faith in comparison to the rest of them; instead Jesus guides Thomas' hand to witness first-hand the compassion, the sacrifice, the ministry Jesus gave Him, His fellow disciple council-like members, and the whole world.
In the end, no matter how much the first reading may drive Americans nuts this morning, we cannot overlook the Gospel, because in that very first council-like meeting in history is how the church is supposed to act. God did not give birth to the church through the empty tomb so that we would call people names, or make people feel they don't belong or don't have enough faith in comparison to the rest of us. The church is here to meet people right where they are, driven with the same compassion as our Risen Savior, no matter how much they doubt, or even flat-out don't believe. The church is here for the sake of the whole world, not just for ones most like us.
Nevertheless, let's avoid the mindset that we have never had our moments of doubt or disbelief, shall we? Let us not act as if all of us in here have this good enough faith, and everyone out there doesn't have enough. Let us confess we've had our Thomas-like moments after it felt as if God didn't listen to our prayers, and things in our life turned horribly wrong; leading us to question, even just a little, what this God was up to, if anything at all. Let us agree that we disagree on many things in the Bible and how the church should be run and what we think Jesus would do in certain situations in this life.
However, let us also agree that Jesus died and rose for us all, that He will meet us on our faith journey every step of the way, never letting us leave His divine reach in order to grab our hands just like He did to Thomas and guide us to holy moments of compassion, including yet again today to His body and blood. No matter how much we doubt, no matter how much we question if it's really possible that He did all this for us, no matter how much we wonder how He pulled it off: "This is my body [still] given for you! This is my blood [still] shed for you!" No matter what, it is all for you, and I would do it all over again...for you! And so on this day as we continue the refrain of Christ is Risen indeed, we give thanks to God for the relentless love that goes on for us all from death to life forevermore. Thanks be to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon