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Show Up Anyway - Sermon, 4/30/19
April 29, 2019, 12:00 AM

Before diving into today’s readings, I need to get something out first. Two of today’s readings form part of the roots of Christian anti-Semitism. Throughout Christian history, Christians have falsely heaped blame upon blame upon blame upon the Jewish people, falsely accusing them of killing Jesus. Often referring to today’s readings as explanations, these Christians make the terrible, dangerous, and damaging error of blaming Jewish people for Jesus’ death. Speaking out against anti-Semitism is the responsibility of every Christian. Phew. Now that that’s off my chest, I want to speak about showing up.

 

There are two stories of showing up in today’s Gospel. The first person to show up is, obviously, Jesus. The disciples have locked themselves in their house out of fear. By this point in the story, the faithful women have already encountered the risen Jesus. The faithful women have already proclaimed to the scaredy cat disciples that Christ’s body was missing from the tomb. The faithful women have already seen the angels who told of Jesus’ resurrection.

 

Instead of finding the disciples rejoicing in the street or proclaiming Christ’s return from the dead on the rooftops, today’s story finds them hiding in a locked house. But Jesus shows up anyway. Despite the locked doors, Jesus shows up anyway. Despite the disciples’ fear, Jesus shows up anyway. The resurrected Jesus comes, stands among his friends, and bids them peace.

 

Peace be with you.” Still amazed and probably still scared, I imagine the disciples standing in silence as Jesus shows them his hands and his side. It’s only at that point that the disciples rejoice. They, too, see the risen Christ. They, too, know that Jesus is alive. They, too, receive confirmation that the faithful women’s story is true.

 

Peace be with you,” Jesus says again, breathes on them, and fills the disciples with an amazing power and responsibility. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. 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.” Jesus is sharing one of his powers and one of his great responsibilities – the forgiveness of others’ sins.

We don’t know, really, what happens at that point in the story. I imagine that Jesus disappears as quickly and as mysteriously as he shows up the first place. It’s then that we find out that Thomas missed the party. We don’t know why, really, that Thomas wasn’t present during Jesus’ first appearance. All we know is that Thomas, one of Jesus’ twelve faithful friends, was not with them when Jesus came.

 

Thomas, poor Thomas who will forever be known as Doubting Thomas, Thomas was probably sad to have missed the Jesus party. He then makes the statement that condemns him as Doubting Thomas: “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.”

 

I wonder how the other disciples react to Thomas’ statement. We don’t hear about it, but I wonder. After all, the disciples had seen the mark of the nails and the mark of the spear. Were they frustrated by Thomas’ seeming doubt? Were they annoyed that Thomas didn’t believe the story?

 

I imagine that the disciples try hard to convince Thomas to come to the house. We hear that, “a week later his disciples were again in the house AND Thomas was with them.” Maybe not sure whether the resurrected Christ will appear again, Thomas shows up anyway. Maybe not fully believing the disciples’ story, Thomas shows up anyway. Thomas shows up anyway.

 

And Jesus shows up, too. He shows Thomas his hands and his side. Jesus compels Thomas not to doubt, but to believe. And Thomas does what he is told! Not only does Thomas believe his eyes and his heart that he is in the presence of the risen Christ, Thomas proclaims his belief out loud.

 

My Lord and my God!” By calling Jesus his Lord and his God, Thomas is the first to recognize and proclaim his belief in the risen Christ. No longer Doubting Thomas, he becomes Believing Thomas and Proclaiming Thomas.

 

Thomas takes a risk to show up. Thomas shows up with his friends and fellow disciples and waits in a locked house. There is no promise that Jesus will appear again, but Thomas shows up anyway. Thomas takes a risk and shows up anyway.

 

Jesus shows up, even in the face of the disciples’ fear. Jesus shows up, unsure of the reception he will receive. Jesus shows up and shares his mission with the disciples. Jesus shows up anyway.

 

Thomas shows up, not sure if Jesus will appear again. Thomas shows up, full of doubt. Thomas shows up and receives the amazing experience of encountering the risen Christ. Thomas shows up anyway.

 

How are we meant to show up on our own journey with Christ? What are we willing to risk for Jesus? We might find ourselves locked away from the world. We might find ourselves hiding in fear. We might find ourselves filled with doubt. Today’s story compels us to show up anyway. How are we called as a congregation to show up anyway? How are we called as individual Christians to show up anyway?

 

We pray today – and every day – that God will share the courage we need to show up anyway for Jesus. Amen.

 
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