Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B, April 23, 2006

In the name of the God the Creator, Jesus the Liberator, and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer. AMEN.

As I read all the stories of the followers of Jesus it seems you can divide them into two groups. The skeptics and the non-skeptics. The apostles always seemed to be skeptics. The women around Jesus always seemed to be non-skeptics.

Skepticism can be a good thing in moderation. It is very healthy for us to ask questions. It is one of the reasons God gave each of us a brain. When I was reading the insert for this lesson last week, I immediately became skeptical. If you happened to be reading along when the Gospel was read today, perhaps you can see why. The very first line in your insert for the Gospel reading says “When it was evening of Easter day…” I read that and immediately though that something was wrong. I thought something was wrong for two reasons. First, I didn’t believe that Easter was a term we found used in the New Testament. And second, I thought that even if I was wrong about my first belief, certainly Easter would not be a term used so soon after the Resurrection.

So I pulled out a number of different translations and sure enough, the word Easter is not in that passage. So I assume that it must be a typo from the publisher. But it is a very interesting typo. It is a word that if we are not critical fits in well with our expectations as Easter people today.

That same critical attitude appears in today’s Gospel narrative as well. In the story we find the disciples hiding away in fear and suddenly Jesus appears before them. But then something we often seem to miss happens. Rather than recording a joyful reunion the narrative immediately tells us that Jesus showed them his hands and his side and then the disciples rejoiced. Too often lone Thomas, not present at the event takes head for stating that he will not believe until he sees exactly what the other disciples have seen. They were all doubting. They were all skeptical of the idea of a resurrected Jesus until they had seen the proof.

Since I am a skeptic myself I can appreciate this. We see in the death and resurrection of Jesus a certain mixture of faith and skepticism. It was faith that kept the faithful, primarily women, at the foot of cross and it was also faith that brought them to the tomb where they had their first encounter with the risen Jesus. It was skepticism that made all of the disciples, not just Thomas, want to see the wounds of Jesus.

The best part of all of this is that God works through both. God understands our skepticism in life just as God understood the skepticism of the apostles. Jesus didn’t refuse them what they needed in their faith journey, Jesus gave it to them freely.

As we live our own lives there will be times when we are skeptics. Perhaps during times of crisis in our lives. Or perhaps just during times of questioning and growth. Most of us I’m sure hope to be like those faithful women following Jesus who never seemed to have a doubt in their minds about following Jesus and believing in Jesus. But perhaps in practice you, like me, find yourself much more in the model of the apostles. Always seeming to have questions, doubts, and fears. I’m grateful that Jesus never gave up on those men following him. I could not have faulted Jesus had he decided that perhaps the women were a better bet for loyal followers. For they proved themselves time after time. But Jesus never gave up on those questioning and skeptical men. He showed all of the disciples his hands and his side. Jesus did not abandon anyone.

For me this is great news. Because quite frankly my faith is not always perfect. Sometimes I have doubts. And for any of you who have had these experiences with me, the truth of the Gospel today is that God does not give up on us for that.

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