St Barnabas, Norwich VT
Sermon by Rev Jennie M Anderson
Lord, make us stewards of ourselves, that we may be servants of others. Take my words and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, take our hearts and set them on fire, for Jesus’ sake. Amen. Good morning! Welcome! Christ is risen!!! The Lord is Risen Indeed Alleluia!!!
Doubting Thomas Sunday
Will we escape suffering in this world? No. Can we bring this suffering to God? Absolutely. And the God who loves us more than we can ever love ourselves, will take and use this suffering for our greater good, and use it to bless us and the world. “Do not be afraid,” God says to us. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” We are blessed!
-Br. David Vryhof
God chooses to love us precisely when we are least deserving of it, when we are least lovable. When we come dragging home in our lowest, most unattractive, most undeserving state, God runs to meet us. This is the beauty of the gospel – that God loves us, without the least regard to what we deserve. We are forgiven. So come home! -Br. David Vryhof
“Nuh Uhhh! No way! It didn’t happen… It couldn’t have happened that way! You say it but I won’t believe it until I see it for myself!” What was really going on in Thomas’ mind and heart? What goes on in our own minds when we hear the fantastic and unreal? We first think the story teller is maybe a little off, or a little bit stressed to the point of being a little touched in the head. The second thing we think, when we realize that the stress has been very heavy on several of our friends at once, and so we think, well perhaps there is some kind of mass delusion. Then the third thing we think is that, even if we see and hear what they did, we won’t believe it until some kind of truth authority confers that it happened… like, for us today, it might be that if the scientists say it, then it’s probably true.
But, when we get past that, and we are trying to reconnect with our everyday lives after our dearest friend and teacher was murdered by the Empire, we are trying to do the next right thing, it is hard to imagine that something so fantastic can be true, that even though our dear one was killed, he isn’t dead anymore. I mentioned that incredible and hard to take truth about our Christian story in my Easter sermon, about how hard it is to tell the story of the risen Christ, even and maybe especially, in our own time.
What is it that finally does it for Thomas? What is it that finally brings the truth of something crazy like resurrection into our hearts? Jesus knew that just to see him and make a connection that way, see his body which he told Mary not to touch, or hug, or even kiss, Jesus knew that no touching wouldn’t be enough for Thomas. Thomas, he needed the invitation to touch, the invitation to step out of his doubt and listen to his Rabbouni, his teacher, to connect to his love for the man in a way, with understanding and compassion, that would change his doubting heart. And so he did and Thomas knew him and Thomas new hope, love and new life.
I spent the better part of this past week with my mom. As many of you know, she has small cell lung cancer, and although her lungs are clear today, she has tumors that have metastasized to her brain. She has an amazing attitude and hope and love, and over flowing amount of gratitude, but she doesn’t now know what day, or what time it may be at any given moment anymore. She has lost in her mind all of her passwords to access her computer, her bank accounts and her connections with her regular daily routines. She can still work her cell phone (when she can find it) and she can watch the TV, she can have a conversation and she can do all kinds of things still, but she has lost quite a bit of her mind too. She likes to keep up with the political dramas that go on… but, much of the time in my visit with her this past week, she would look at me after reading her date book for the 30th time in 20 minutes, she would look up at me and say, “Its Thursday right?” I would say to her, “No mom, it’s Wednesday. I fly back to VT on Thursday.”
She would look at me with that question and doubt in her mind and the trust and vulnerability in her expression I imagine might have been on Thomas’ face just as he truly saw Christ, his teacher, his Rabbouni, the one he loves with all his heart. It makes such a difference to be with someone who has a lifelong connection (which sometimes doesn’t take a life to make at all) who we recognize and know and love with all our being and know that we are loved by that person. It can make all the difference in the world to know that love and that connection! To know the mercy that comes through that doubt to the trust and the vulnerability. It takes work to form those connections though, and that is the work Christ calls us to do in this world. To love one another, to show mercy and kindness and to forgive, and forgive and forgive again and again and again!
Richard Rohr said in his meditations this week about mercy, “Jesus said, "Those who show mercy will have mercy shown to them" (Matthew 5:7). For the flow to happen, there must be a full opening on both ends, receiving and giving, giving and receiving, just like the Trinity. When you do not know you need mercy and forgiveness yourself, you invariably become stingy in sharing it with others. So make sure you are always waiting with hands widely cupped under the waterfall of mercy.
Why does the Bible, and why does Jesus, tell us to care for the poor and the outsider? Is it first of all because people need help? Maybe, but I believe it has a much deeper genius. We are the ones who need to move into the worlds of powerlessness for our own conversion! We need to meet people whose faith, patience, and forgiveness tell us we are still in the kindergarten of love. We need to be influenced by people who are happy without having all the things we think are essential to happiness.
When we are too smug and content, we really have little need for the Gospel, so we make Christianity into pious devotions that ask nothing of us and do nothing for the world. We are never in need of forgiveness because we have constructed a world that allows us to always be right and "normal." We are highly insulated from the human situation. When we are self-sufficient, our religion will be corrupt because it doesn't understand the Mystery of how divine life is transferred, how people change, how life flows, how we become something more, and how we fall into the great compassion.
Only vulnerable people change. Only vulnerable people change others. Jesus presented us with an icon of absolute vulnerability, and said, "Gaze on this until you get the point. Gaze on this until you know what God is like!" That demanded too much of us, so we made the cross instead into something else that is like making a deal of a justice or an economic nature.
To be vulnerable and to have faith in something that is kind of unbelievable is like believing in love. It’s like being in love with your favorite teacher and knowing that you are her love and her favorite student… always; your favorite and most special child, your most cherished grandparent and your most beloved and dearest friend. It’s not very scientifically provable, but love heals, love brings peace and comfort to another person, love and mercy are also the gift of the other. Love reaches right past all of your appearance into your heart and recognizes you for who exactly you are and knows you deeply.
God chooses to love us precisely when we are least deserving of it, when we are least lovable. When we come dragging home in our lowest, most unattractive, most undeserving state, God runs to meet us. This is the beauty of the gospel – that God loves us, without the least regard to what we deserve. God is merciful and we are forgiven. So come home. -Br. David Vryhof
Let us pray. We exult in your love, O God of the living, for you made the tomb of death the womb from which you brought forth your Son, the first-born of a new creation, and you anointed the universe with the fragrant Spirit of his resurrection. Make us joyful witness to this good news, that all humanity may one day gather at the feast of new life in the kingdom where you reign for ever and ever. Amen.