A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

God’s people love a party and a story John 20: 19-31 April 27, 2014 April 27, 2014

Filed under: sermon,Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 4:21 pm
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As people we love a good party and a good story, don’t we? We mark important milestones and events in our lives with parties. Last night the Moss and Meyer families celebrated the marriage of Ross and Emily, graduation celebrations will crank up soon, we throw baby showers to welcome little ones, we have retirement parties, baptism parties, and birthday parties. In the Church, certain Sundays or special days get a different kind of worship celebration, like Christmas or Easter last week. Today’s worship, while technically also a celebration of Easter (every Sunday is), doesn’t have the same hoopla around it does it? That’s ok because maybe not every day can be a party (well maybe it should!).
We mark these milestones with celebrations for so many reasons. One reason is to invite friends to witness our joy. Historically, in wedding ceremonies, witnesses were important so that one family or the other couldn’t claim that the marriage was illegitimate. Today at many types of celebrations, we take pictures, have memorabilia to give guests, save invitations or programs, flowers or whatever we think will help us to remember the importance of what we have experienced on this day. It also helps us to retell the story of these special days. It’s kind of a protection of these special days and of our involvement in them. And we love to share these stories of the memories from those events. And we do this not just for happy occasions but less joyous times, such as funerals, as well. We want to remember that person and their life and hang on to those things that help us recall that those special days you shared with them were real. Because Sometimes it’s hard to believe these occasions have really happened.
I can remember when I graduated from seminary two years ago and we had a party to celebrate. BUT my actual degree didn’t come until later. I spent that time waiting on it with the irrational fear that even though Luther said that I was done, that maybe I really hadn’t graduated. Seeing and touching that diploma was the only thing that allayed my fears. We all know what it is to think that something wonderful has happened or will happen, only to find out that it’s not true. We like to protect ourselves from that disappointment and that broken heart. It might be that the life we planned with a partner doesn’t work out through death or divorce, or serious disease strikes and we can’t attend our grandchild’s graduation, or all the other ways that the chaos of this world sneaks in to interrupt our joy and breaks our hearts wide open.
I think about that with our text from John today. We have dubbed this text the “doubting Thomas” story but I don’t think that’s accurate at all. The disciples were afraid, because Jesus had died, and the Passover celebration that is supposed to be meaningful and joyous turned into torture, death and profound sorrow. Then Mary Magdalene comes running in to tell the disciples that Jesus is not in the tomb. He is risen as he said he would! This should be the best news ever, and it is, but they don’t know what to do with this information. Jesus being alive is wonderful, but throws them into a state of chaos.
They were huddled in the locked room, protecting themselves, unsure of what the religious authorities would do with them now that it was getting out that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. Would they be arrested? Would they be killed? But into that fear and locked room and hearts, Jesus walks in. Jesus walks in, declares Shalom-reconciliation and peace- and blows life into them. Life giving spirit, that for the moment anyway, calms their fears. This spirit from God also sends them into the world to proclaim that in the community of God, bondage to sin and death are no more. We read that the disciples were joyous-probably a bit of a celebration happened here.
But Thomas missed the party. He didn’t see Jesus and wasn’t able to have his fears calmed by the one who walks into locked rooms and uncertainty. The disciples were eager to share their story of their encounter of Jesus with Thomas. They told him what he had missed and that the story was still for him. But Thomas’ heart had already been shattered by the death of Jesus just a few days before. What if he just couldn’t possibly think that he could survive another disappointment? What if his questions and demands to see for himself were a way of protecting his already broken heart?
We do this too, to protect ourselves from breaking wide open in times of uncertainty and vulnerability. Thomas’ honesty of what he needed is refreshing and resonates with many of us. And what happens next reveals the kind of God we have. Jesus once again, a week later, walks through locked doors and walks right into Thomas’ broken heart. Jesus enters into Thomas’ grief and offers wholeness, relationship and understanding. Jesus doesn’t condemn Thomas or ridicule him but is compassionate and loving. We have a God who isn’t afraid or annoyed with our questions, pain and brokenness. We have a God who will offer us ways to remember and witness that indeed this good news of sin and death never separating us from the Shalom-peace and love of God- DID happen and happens over and over and over each and everyday.
God gives us community-the great cloud of witnesses past, present and future to help us remember the story. Today we are celebrating all of the ways that this community at LCM tells that story in the neighborhood around us. Each of these tables for the Ministry Celebration is a piece of the story. Another piece of the story is water, bread and wine-tangible and earthy ways we share Gods story and our story-of great love and mercy. We have ancient words such as the Sunday school families learned in the words of the Apostle’s Creed. Words that we may not fully understand or even believe every single word every time we say it, but we know that someone gathered with us in community believes it for us and we believe other pieces of those words for them. Thomas’ cry of “My Lord and My God” were not just his proclamation but were words for the disciples and for us all when we feel like maybe we missed the party and need to be caught up and told what has been experienced by others.
John even writes that there are many other experiences that can’t all be captured by him in this little book. But John is confident that the living God who walks into locked rooms, fear, uncertainty and broken hearts will walk into your brokenness, offering an unconditional loving relationship with God and a caring community and new life. We gather each week to celebrate, share and protect our experiences of that story with the risen Christ, in order to share this good news with other people around us. This story is also for them. We don’t want them to miss the celebration. After all, we love a good party and a good story. We have both. Thanks be to God.