So I ended up not using the script I wrote for this sermon. What I wrote felt contrived an wanted to be more 'natural', whatever that means. Any I post the script knowing that it is not exactly what I said, but I think the gist of what I wanted to say is in here somewhere.
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
I speak in the name of the Speaker, the Word, and the Breath. Amen!
Good Morning! I wish to take a moment and thank yall for being here today. As Wynton Marsalis once titled one of his albums, it is a distinct pleasure to have you here, “in this house on this morning.” See there are many names for this particular Sunday, this particular feast of our Lord’s resurrection, in our Christian calendar. The official name is the Second Sunday of Easter; the second Sunday in the great fifty days of Easter, the fifty days that are considered the Sabbath of the year. But, beyond the official name there are some colloquial expressions used to name this Sunday that exist in Episcopal culture. First, this day is commonly known as Low Sunday, a two fold reference to attendance and adornment. See for a lot of people this is a Sunday off. It is a Sunday where low attendance is expected. After the family has visited, after the ham has been eaten, the eggs hunted, the house cleaned for the arrival of company and then re-cleaned post company, after the new suits, dresses, hats, and gloves purchased for Easter Sunday have been laundered and stored, and, indeed after the piety of lent, with its self-denial and discipline, a Sunday to sleep in sounds good. So, simply because you are here today, simply because you didn’t take this weekend off, I rejoice.
Furthermore, I am grateful that you are here because there is another name this Sunday. It is also known, along with Trinity Sunday, as International-Associates-Get-to-Preach Sunday. See, many a Rector is on vacation this Sunday, and even if they aren’t I guarantee you across this nation of ours, and maybe even around God’s great earth, any church that has an associate and uses the lectionary, the associate in the pulpit this morning. Furthermore, since we always read this gospel about Doubting Thomas the Sunday after Easter, Associate clergy have an intimate knowledge of this scripture.
Through the convenience of the internet, I keep in contact with many of seminary classmates, most of which are associates and are preaching on this text this morning. We corresponded a bit this week about preaching on Thomas, and as we conversed and I read, prayed, and re-read the scripture it dawned on me that our focus was misplaced. While we were drilling a hole in good ol’ Thomas we were forgetting Jesus. So I read the Gospel again, this time paying particular focus on Jesus and I noticed two things.
First the Resurrected Jesus, the one who is Risen, is scarred. Jesus is raised from the grave still bearing the marks of his execution. Early in this passage he shows his hands and side to 10 of the apostles, and then later he has Thomas touch his hands and side. At first glance, we might think these details are placed in the story as identification markers, proof to the disciples that the one who appears in their midst really is Jesus, the one who was crucified, the one who is risen. But I think there is more to it than that. I think there is an implicit message in the scars of the resurrected Jesus that our existence, this creation matters.
See, there have been times in Christian thinking and practice where it has become vogue to think that this life didn’t matter. That our time together was simply something to be endure until the next life, that the physical should be ignored for the sake of the spiritual. This thinking has led to some horrible actions. In some cases it has led people to believe that their bodies needed not be cared for or worse should be damaged as an act of faith. This thinking also has led some to think that we need not care for the environment that God’s creation is here for us to consume and use up completely with ne’er a thought on our way to the next existence.
Jesus, the risen one, the scarred one, stands in opposition to this line of thinking and its harmful byproducts. If Jesus carries his scars to through death to the risen life, then what happens to us in this life is important because we will carry it to the risen life. We should care for ourselves, each other, and this creation because it is the raw material for the next creation.
The second thing I noticed, is that there is forgiveness in this passage. Jesus was not just betrayed by Judas, not just denied by Peter. Indeed, all the apostles abandoned him in his neediest hour. But, yet Jesus appears among them and says “Peace be with you.” Despite their betrayal, despite their abandonment on him, despite their sin, Jesus says “Peace be with you” and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Now it is a good thing this creation matters and good thing that God forgives, because this is the only world we can get to know God in and we are all sinful people in need of forgiveness. So, I am glad you here today. I rejoice that we have come together because this world is where God acts we proclaim it here “in this house, on this morning.” In our celebration of the Eucharist and Baptism we proclaim God’s action and forgiveness in the simple things of life. As Litrugical Theologian Louis Weil says, “The sacraments reveal that the physical world, far from being evil, is the domain of God’s activity. The most common things in human life—a bath, food and drink, a human touch—can serve as the instruments of an encounter with God.”
So, thank God you are here. I rejoice in inviting you to this table, this altar of God. Come experience the risen scarred, know his forgiveness, and Peace be with you!