Reflection for Sunday – April 16, 2023
Readings: Acts 2: 42-47; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31
Preacher: Gloria Ulterino
As I write this, the sun is out. A miracle in itself in Rochester! And yet, we constantly hear about death of every kind. War in Ukraine. Hunger. Sickness. Struggles over paying bills. You know the stories. Isn’t there a temptation, every now and again, to ask: where, oh where, is hope to be found? Where is genuine life to be found? Especially now, as Easter has begun: an entire season of God’s explosive life out of death.
Ah, but how can we understand this miracle, beginning with Jesus’ triumph over death? How can it possibly connect with our own problems? As it happens, John’s Gospel story of Thomas, one of Jesus’ original disciples, helps us out here.
Remember now. John describes Thomas as a twin. TWICE! Is it possible that John is naming Thomas as our twin? In other words, that Thomas’ story has an intimate connection with our own? Recall that Thomas—just like us—was not there when the other first disciples encountered the Risen Jesus. And, just like us, Thomas might have despaired that Jesus could ever triumph over death itself. And yet, it was Thomas who uttered the ultimate statement of faith in Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”
Where do we fit here? Why not listen to the story of Thomas with an open heart and mind? Listen, so that his pain might tenderly touch our own. Listen, so that his sureness of faith might become our own. Listen, so that we too can proclaim: in and through Jesus, abundant life will always triumph over death of any kind! Always!
Thomas begins. “How can I ever forget this day? This harsh, horrific day. Helpless, watching our beloved Jesus die. Not simply die, but in a most brutal way. Surely, this was the end of my world! Or so it seemed. You must know that I had followed Jesus because he had made all the difference in my life! He alone was the answer to my constant, continual questioning. Like, how can we follow you, when ‘we do not know where you are going?’ But then, that horrible day arrived! He was crucified! Gone from us forever! Dead, sealed in a tomb! Now what? What would we ever do? Where would we ever go now? How could we ever live without Jesus? None of us had an answer.
“I simply had to go off by myself. Many have claimed that it was out of doubt. But let me say this! Not so much doubt, as total desolation! Utter, profound loss! Was there any way to connect again with even the tiniest glimmer of comfort… assurance… and healing? Would there ever be, once again, a spark of hope that life could go on in some way? Oh, never as before. No, that time of tender joy and continual becoming was gone forever. No, our umbilical cords to Jesus had been severed. My life, our lives together, would never be the same. How on earth could life go on, without Jesus? Where on earth was hope, even life itself, to be found?
“So, yes, I wasn’t there with the others when the Risen Jesus first returned. But I did know this: No matter what, I absolutely had to return to them, with all our faults, with all our failings. For it was Jesus who had held us together. It was Jesus we had come to know well and trust—his goodness, his healing, his constant challenges to grow and grow and become ever more genuine. Somehow I trusted that I could become better, but only by being in their company.
“Even so, I wasn’t prepared for what they had witnessed! Jesus was alive! In a whole new way! As I listened to them, I could slowly begin to feel their truth seeping into the depths of my soul. Somehow, I slowly began to realize that this explosion of new life could begin in me, as well, deep down, little bit by little bit. With an ever increasing warmth toward my companions in faith. With our growing desire to reach out to others who were in pain. With our longing to make our own little part of the world a better place. Yes, I was stunned; but it was real.”
Thomas’ story is ours, as well, isn’t it? Where, and how, have each of us come to know and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, so that we, too, might have life in his name?