First Lesson: Acts 4: 32-53
Responsive Reading: Psalm 148
Second Lesson: 1 John 1:1 - 2:2
Gospel Lesson: John 20: 19-31
Have you had an encounter that changed your life? Maybe you remember the moment that you saw the love of your life for the first time. It was just an ordinary day at the office but as I came walking in, I caught a glimpse of our new technician for the first time. Laurie had big -almost Texas big -hair – it was bright reddish blond. She had a white long sleeve blouse with a wide black elastic belt that hugged her skinny little waist. She had a long red skirt and black high heels. Her big eyes and broad smile were captivating.
As you can tell I remember the moment well. Mel Schlatter told me that the first time he saw Irene it was like a jolt of electricity. Maybe you’ve had similar life changing encounters too.
Encountering Laurie changed my life –. I was headed in one direction and then I encountered Laurie and my life took a whole new path.
The first encounter that the disciples had with Jesus way back at the beginning of his ministry they had been going about their usual day - and then all of a sudden their ordinary day became extraordinary -Jesus came walking into their day and called to them – come follow me. By His Word Jesus commanded and they left their work and their homes and followed this extraordinary rabbi named Jesus. They encountered Jesus and their lives were never the same.
They had extraordinary moments – amazing teachings – witnessed miracles – and then Jesus began to talk about leaving them and then it happened - all their hopes and dreams had come crashing down with Jesus’ crucifixion? Maybe some of them were wondering why Jesus had them leave their old life behind in the first place.
Now here they were huddled together frightened over what might happen to them – when Jesus breaks into their lives again. This time his message is peace be with you.
Earlier in John’s gospel Jesus explained to the disciples that he would be leaving them but that he would not leave them alone that he would send the Holy Spirit who would teach them and remind them of everything that Jesus had said to them. And then Jesus said 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
And then a little later Jesus said to his disciples ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 ….You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy……. then Jesus goes on to explain “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus had prepared them – he had given them his peace – he explained things to them so that in HIM they might have peace. And yet here they are huddled together in a room the door is shut and all of a sudden Christ comes to them – in the midst of their troubled hearts - in the midst of their fear - Jesus meets them.
They have an encounter with the living Christ, and they are never the same. He breathes the Spirit into them. Just as God breathed the breath of life into Adam in Gen 2. Jesus breathes new life into the disciples, and they become new creations.
All the disciples were there except my favorite – Thomas. The Bible doesn’t give us any idea about why he wasn’t there or where he was. Can you imagine the excitement when the other disciples were shouting to him, we have seen the Lord?
But despite all their excitement Thomas says, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Can you relate to Thomas at all? Don’t you wish sometimes that the resurrected Lord would just appear and let us see him, poke him and feel him? Jesus comes to Thomas and Thomas falls to his knees “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Blessed are we who have not seen and yet believed. Sometimes I think I would rather be blessed to see and believe. But faith enables us to see.
The Bible seems strange sometimes the way it talks about things that happened so long ago – it was a completely different time and place. As strange as it can seem it is a record of God’s action in history and particularly among his people. God’s action and humanity’s reaction. Over and over, we see how the actions of God and the actions of people reveal the nature of humans and the nature of God.
God loves creation and from his creation he chose to reveal himself to a particular people – the Hebrew word that God used for his people –is segula – which means his treasured possession. God looked after His people – he gave them commandments - boundaries so that they might enjoy life – so that their relationships might be special and sacred. And throughout the Bible we see how life goes when His people listen to him and trust him and what happens when they did not.
Over and over, we see that people are stubborn rebellious self-centered unforgiving unmerciful. And all the while God is righteous, just, holy and yet patient and merciful.
We have not seen and yet we believe and by believing we come to see. We see creation differently – pounding surf, majestic mountains, breathtaking sunsets and cloud formations, new life in springtime – they all become God’s handprints and evidence of God’s grace through the eyes of faith.
We see people differently – each life becomes a precious creation - one of God’s segulas. And at the same time, we see the brokenness of a fallen world in each person as well. But with eyes of faith our gaze becomes more compassionate more loving and less judgmental.
And by believing we come to see the truth of God’s upside kingdom. A kingdom that is so different than this world – a kingdom where service, forgiveness, and love rule. With eyes of faith, we come to see Christ coming to us by way of the Word by way of the bread and wine as well as by way of one another.
And each time we encounter Christ we are never the same. Our life becomes less and less our own. Somehow our agenda seems less and less important and we are more and more caught up in the things of God.
The first time the disciples are encountered by Jesus, he compels them with His Word - follow me – but now when they meet the resurrected Lord His first message is Peace and the second is GO. Did you catch that? Jesus says to them “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into them – empowers them making them new creations and then he sends them – as the Father has sent me, I also send you.
And so each time we read or hear God’s Word – Jesus comes to us, gives us forgiveness and His very self. Now that we are forgiven. Now that we are nourished, now that we are strengthened, He sends us – back into our homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods with new vision to see creation and others in a new way. It is not seeing to believe - it is believing so that we might see. Amen