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Seeing Jesus-Sermon on John 20:19-31

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We see Jesus in each other, we see Jesus in the wine and bread. Have we truly come to believe because we haven't seen him? 

 This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

April 23 - 2nd Sunday in Easter

"Seeing Jesus".  Text is from John 20:19-31 

LCC Palm Sunday 2017.jpg

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God. 

Easter, at least the season of it, has only just begun. Even though we're a week after the Sunday of the Resurrection, we're only now beginning to talk about Jesus's post resurrection appearances and how he is beginning to live into this amazing gift he's given to us, first to the women at the tomb, and then to those they'd met, the disciples. Here in the upper room. And although there were on 10 of the remaining twelve  there, frightened about who might be coming for them, Jesus nevertheless appeared and ate with them and showed them his wounds and blessed them and gave the holy spirit to take with them to bless others. 

We don't know where Thomas was that first night that Jesus came to visit. There are so many possibilities. It had been a frightening time for the disciples who felt as if they must go into hiding, and perhaps, of all of them, Thomas had some place else to go. Maybe Thomas had made a friend ijn Jerusalem and hadn't told anyone about them. What remains with us, though, throughout this set of passages, is that Thomas did not see and therefore, did not believe until Jesus showed his face once more. 

So we know how this next part goes. Thomas tells the others when they recount what happened that he refuses to believe what took place, that Jesus actually broke bread with, and blessed his fellow disciples; and will not believe unless he places his hand within the wound at Jesus' side. So they all got together the next week in the upper room, and this time Thomas was with them. And of course, Jesus appears already knowing that Thomas has openly doubted his other disciples, telling him to touch his hands with his fingers and to put his hand right here in his side where the spear had touched him. That is enough for Thomas, he believes saying, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus asks Thomas (and what we may consider, the rest of them) if they believe because they have seen him? Well, blessings on those who have not seen and who have come to believe, Jesus adds. 

So we have the gospel reading. A reminder that those who have come to believe who have not actually been first-hand witnesses to the miracles following the resurrection, the appearances of Jesus after he had risen are truly the ones who this mission is aimed at.  Or maybe it's a bit different. There's a fairly interesting textual variation that happens here in verse 29 that makes a little bit of a difference in the reading of this text. Our translation reads ,  "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." There I a common variation that reads, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet continue to believe," that I just as common in the old text as the one which reads, "come to believe." 

The thing about the old texts and the ones we use for modern texts I that we have absolutely no way of knowing what version was meant to be in the original. Whether it be a scrivener's mistake or someone turning around and correcting what they clearly believed to be a mistake in the previous version, differences in readings of old texts about, and some are granted more authenticity because of things like how old the texts are that use it, how reliable is the source text, how common I the variation. In this case, it seems that either "come to believe" or "continue believing is just as common.

But is there anything wrong with that? Are you someone who needs to find a way to believe better, to relieve your own personal doubts? Or are you someone who has a measure of faith and need to be reassured of it on a regular basis, like an affirmation that your believing in the risen Christ is the decision that God wants you to have? 

I do know, my sisters and brother that faith is, indeed, a gift, and tat new have been given this gift from the hands of God without reservation. But there can always be circumstances within our lives that test that faith. We know that we'll lose people close to us, that happens to everyone. But when it finally does happen to us, we wonder where God's plan is in all that. We may get frustrated because we know that God loves us and wants the best for us but we may struggle to make ends meet, or find employment that keeps us happy and well maintained. We may have difficulty looking for adequate housing and want to give up frustrated, but still aren't sure whether God wants us to give up or if that new place I just right around the next corner. 

Our faith gets tested over and over again, and it's in the miracle of that believing that we find the depth of how much God cares for us. We shouldn't really uplifting Thomas as some object lesson in doubt, because he simply voiced the fact that without the benefit of these signs, how could he have believed what the others were saying? But he did show up at the next gathering, the next eucharist, despite his skepticism, despite his misgivings that the other disciples had been trying to trick him into a believe, he loved his community and what Christ taught them enough to be there again. And when Jesus does appear and tells him to put his hand in the wound, what does Thomas do? Simply declare "My Lord and my God." He doesn't need to touch Jesus to believe that he is there. No more than any of the other disciples.

First Mary and Mary, and the others, and then Thomas, all get to sit within his presence a few last time, and all of them had the possibility to doubt that Jesus returned, without having seen him first. But they were fortunate enough to believe as a result of seeing.

Do we do the same? We see Jesus in one another. We see Jesus in the work of the church. We see Jesus in the eucharist that we celebrate at the table here. I don't know how to not see Jesus. And so am I blessed? IN seeing Jesus in all those places, I am fortunate enough to be able to believe; even if I have not shaken hands with him or touched his wounds.

The good news, my sisters and brothers is that there is nothing wrong with doubt. That when we feel doubtful, those are times that we can take to see what our lives would be without God in them, and whether it would be worth it to us to lose our faith. For me, the love of a community of God is worth keeping it and praying about it during those moments of doubt that I inevitably have. It is at those times I find Jesus, and continue to believe, and quite possibly coming to believe with a renewed faith. 

We give glory to God, and praise the risen Christ with Halleluias. God sends the holy spirit upon us that we may have tronger faith and be more able to engage with his work in the world. And that gift of faith that we earned on Christ's death and resurrection empowers us to proclaim the good news in the world for him. 


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