16 April, 2023: Second Sunday in Easter

Faithful Conversations #9
Readings FOR the 2nd sunday of easter:
acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 peter 1:3-9
john 20:19-31 (Below)

** Note:  We have experienced the climactic events of Holy Week and the dust has settled. The readings from Acts and 1 Peter both provide a summary and commentary of the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, while the Gospel picks up the post-resurrection story.   

Sunday’s Gospel: John 20: 19-31
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Today’s Reflection (focusing on the Gospel)

Thomas Jefferson at age 80

Thomas Jefferson has been on my mind this week. Arguably one of the most brilliant Presidents in our history, the highly educated Jefferson was a complex individual. Among other things, the man who penned those stirring words in the Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” — was a lifelong slaveowner, a puzzling contradiction. Jefferson’s religious views were controversial during his time in public life and remain so yet today. Raised in the Anglican Christian tradition, he believed in God but could never accept the divinity of Jesus Christ, nor the other miracles recounted in scripture. In fact, he literally “clipped” the miracles from the New Testament, creating what has been termed the “Jefferson Bible.” He admired Christ and studied him as a moral exemplar and nothing more. His rational and intelligent mind simply could not get past his doubts about Jesus as God.

In today’s Gospel, we resume the post-resurrection story and are offered an example of doubt. It’s Sunday night and the disciples have gathered in secret and are afraid for their own lives. As followers of Christ, perhaps they too felt threatened by the power of the Jewish religious authorities. And suddenly, Jesus appears to them. He shows them the marks of the nails in his hands and the wound in his side. He then breathes his Spirit into them, granting them the power of forgiveness. What must they have been thinking?

“Doubting Thomas” (1620s) Giovanni Serodine, (Swiss-Italian Painter)

We are then introduced to Thomas who was not with them in the initial Sunday meeting (no explanation is given as to why he was not there). A week has passed and they inform him they have seen Jesus, but he is not convinced. He tells them that unless he can see Jesus and those wounds, he cannot accept the resurrection. Once again, Jesus appears and confronts Thomas, shows him the wounds and tells him to believe. What a moment that must have been!  Thomas then utters those five powerful words, “My Lord and my God!”

Curiously, the compelling story of “Doubting Thomas” is only found in John’s Gospel. I suspect he is there for a reason. Note Christ’s statement to him in verse 29. He does not scold or denigrate Thomas, but he makes the point that those that have NOT seen, yet believe, are blessed. That’s us! And this sentiment is voiced in the reading from 1 Peter today as well: “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 indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” That’s us again! As Pastor Jen said in her Easter Sermon, as we look forward to the coming of God’s Kingdom, we are also assured that the Kingdom is already here. May we continue to journey forward in the light of that great and powerful gift of faith.

God’s Peace.

Prayer (inspired, in part, by the words of psalm 16)

Heavenly Father, you show us the path of life and instruct us in how to live. You are our refuge and our strength and because you are with us, we will not choose other gods or let the many distractions of this world turn us away from you. In your strong name we pray, Amen.

And, finally a bit of humor for us today — let’s hope that people can see our faith in action!  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s