Second Sunday of Easter Lectionary Reflection, Year A
April 27, 2014
But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. — John 20:31
One thing’s for sure about the life of faith: it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Just as each one of us is a uniquely created child of God, so too are our faith journeys unique. Yes, we share the same basic fabric of faith–one Lord, one baptism–and we are all part of the Body of Christ, but the cut and style of our faith vary greatly. And that’s perfectly fine because Jesus meets folks where they are. This week’s gospel reading makes that abundantly clear.
Instead of looking at this snapshot from John’s gospel as merely Thomas’ encounter with the risen Christ, maybe we need to explore it from our Lord’s perspective of relationship, of reaching out and clothing us in his love and with his own name and identity.
Think about it: The disciples are devastated after the crucifixion. They’re terrified on so many levels: they have lost their beloved teacher, they may be implicated as his followers, his body is missing, and their lives are changed forever in the span of a few days. Things are bleak, yet Jesus comes. He brings peace. He brings the breath of the Spirit. He commissions them for service, equipping them to witness. And he loves them.
Thomas, one of the twelve, is not there to see Jesus the first time he visits. No matter. Jesus comes again and meets Thomas at his own point of need. It’s custom-tailored ministry with a blessing for all future disciples stitched right in. That’s how our Lord works. No one is left out. There’s a place for all of us. That’s the beauty of life in Christ.
Peter understood that as a firsthand witness to the resurrection, and commissioned by Jesus himself, he went out and shared this good news so that those who had not seen might believe by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the faithful witness of others. His words in the epistle lesson remind us, “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribably and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:8-9).
This “hand-me-down” or vintage or classic faith (depending on how you prefer to spin it), is tried and true, tested and worn well throughout the centuries. There’s a size and a fit for everyone, and Jesus, the master tailor of salvation, ensures that we are all clothed in him, given life abundant both now and eternally.
Yes, living life in his name, wearing the name of Christian, is both corporate and personal, part uniform and part original creation. It is a both/and reality, both Christian and as such member of the Body of Christ and also Christian and beloved child of God. Wherever and whenever Jesus meets you or me or anyone, we are clothed in Christ and able to proclaim with Thomas and countless others throughout the ages, “My Lord and my God!”
Helping people to see both the unique cut and fit of their faith and the corporate nature of being “cut from the same cloth” requires creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Consider inviting worshipers to think of their favorite article of clothing. Maybe it’s a dress that was made of really fine material and that fit like a glove. Perhaps it is a faded denim jacket that’s been around for a quarter century. It might be a Harris tweed sports jacket that’s been handed down from father to son. Then invite them to share the story of that item with someone sitting close to them–to tell the story of why they love this article of clothing so and why it is their very favorite. Now make the case for a faith that’s as comfortable as those jeans, or as perfect a fit as that dress, or as meaningful and well-loved as that hand-me-down sports jacket. Can they share the story of their faith as easily as the story of an article of clothing? What does a life dressed in Christ really look like? Hopefully it isn’t like some one-size-fits-most caftan or rain poncho that doesn’t really fit anyone well. When we are clothed in Christ, we are truly wearing the very best, and we are both alike and unique in how we model and share our Christian identity
What does it mean to be a witness? If one is called to court to testify as a witness to a crime, one swears to “tell the whole truth, so help me God.” If one witnesses a monumental sporting event, like a play-off game come-from-behind win, one has the sense of truly having been a part of something special. If one witnesses an automobile accident, one has the obligation to recount what happened when the police come. So just what does it mean for us to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ? We weren’t actually there to see any of it. We don’t have pictures or video. In this week’s gospel lesson Thomas misses Jesus’ first visit to the room where the disciples are hiding, and he says he won’t believe until he can see and even touch Jesus’ wounds. Well, he gets just what he needs, and he does see Jesus and offers a bold and simple confession: “My Lord and my God!”
Instead of eye witnesses, we are called to be heart and faith witnesses. We believe that even our belief is a gracious gift, and in this believing we have real, abundant life in Christ’s name. We can share the story, but we need to help people come and see so that they can experience faith for themselves. By seeing Christ in us and in our lives, all have the opportunity to come to know the Lord of the Universe.
The Path of Life
In today’s psalm, the psalmist concludes “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right had are pleasures forevermore.” We all need to be shown the right way to go. The “old school” way was to stop and ask folks, who would then give you directions using landmarks. Another way is to have someone draw you a map or to use a purchased map. Other ways include relying on the stars at night or a compass. Now we often rely on directions from the Internet or from our GPS devices. Our phones even give us voice command instructions. All of these different ways can help us get to our destination.
Give the children paper and crayons and ask them to draw you a map to help you get to a destination on the church property. Maybe it’s your car in the parking lot, your office, or the church kitchen. Chances are that all the maps will look a little bit different, but they’ll all be pointing you to the same place.
God is the one who shows us how to live a really amazing life. But God uses others to help guide us. We use scripture. We have pastors and teachers and parents to guide us. We have examples of faithful Christians and their witness to guide us. And we have prayer, Word, and the Sacraments. All of these tools point to God, the one who ultimately gives us life and guides us to joyful abundance. End with a simple prayer for God to help the children stay on the path of life in Christ.
Photos: Mark Morgan, Mickey Aldridge, and Lee Ruk, Creative Commons