2nd Sunday of Easter C

Many people think of mercy as the forgiveness of sins, and that is found in our Gospel today. Many think of mercy as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that too plays a prominent role in John’s resurrection account.  But just as Christianity is not simply a set of beliefs, but an encounter with Christ; so mercy is not a set of values but an encounter with the merciful one.  So let us relax, sit back and have that encounter.  Let us meet the risen Jesus in the upper room.

We are in the upper room and anxious behind locked doors. There are reports the body is missing and Jesus has been seen by Mary Magdalene, but you are still hovering in that same room, afraid that those who came for Jesus will come for you.  Then suddenly, somehow Jesus appears before you.  He says “Peace be with you,” but it is no mere fervent wish or even a blessing.  It is a statement of fact you can feel to the depth of your soul. Peace is with us because Jesus is here. He does not just make you feel peaceful; he is peace.  Then he shows you his hands and his side, still bearing the scars of his execution.  You wonder why are they still with Jesus.  Why has the glory of this new body, so enfleshed and mysterious, so familiar and so new, why does it carry it with the marks of the crucifixion?  A second time he says, “Peace be with you,” and it is as if he has answered your question.  The ugly marks of violence are now the symbol of love. Yes, love wounds, but we carry those wounds as our glory and not our shame. His wounds are a sign of the peace he is sharing.  The wounds of love we carry are awaiting the redemption and the glory of the resurrection.

Then he breathes on you and the disciples.  As God first breathed life into Adam, so now new life is breathed into you.  A new spirit transforms you as surely as it did to the lifeless bones of Adam.  Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  The Spirit within you has been given from within the Lord.  We hold within us the very same spirit that made Jesus Jesus.  God is not an impossible enigma lying millions of light years away.  God is intimate and available and closer than our skin.  The Spirit comes with power. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  But in the midst of this forgiveness for all the times we have sinned, denied and betrayed which had nailed Jesus to the cross, we are now free because the Lord is here, risen as he promised.  Nothing will be retained by us.  All will be forgiven.

How blessed we are to be here with the Lord on Easter Sunday!  Yet you allow your mind to wander outside the locked doors.  Oh, if only everyone can know this peace.   If all could understand and receive this glory. Yet, our family and friends are not with us in the upper room.  What can we say to them?

Thomas has not been there here.  He is beyond the locked door, but when is excitedly told of Christ’s appearance he refuses to believe.  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” He is like so many beyond the door.  Give me scientific proof.  I cannot believe what I don’t see.  But there is something a little sadder and darker operating in this statement, another story that echoes for those who love outside the doors.  Thomas has been burned by faith, by his love for Jesus which melted and burned before his eyes on the cross.  He chooses unbelief so that he will not be fooled again by Christ or by a world too cynical. His voice resonates with those who are beyond the doors.

It is a week later, another Sunday. Jesus emerges again from the opposite side of locked doors.  He says. “Peace be with you,” but now your heart expects it and begs for it and you are flooded with that peace.  He turns to Thomas, to all those who refuse to believe, and says, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas does not avail himself of the offer.  He has his proof.  But we also have the answer to our darker question.  Jesus, even risen from the dead is vulnerable.  For the hurt, lost and betrayed, he offers his hands and his side.  He is letting us know no matter what pain you have known, what loss you have suffered what injustice you have endured, I have left a space for you.  Fill my nailmarks with your loss.  Place your pain in my side and I will raise it up to something beautiful if only you would give yourself to me.  What is broken and hard given to Christ will be glorified through him, with him and in him.  We grow together from unbelief to belief.  We are even given our own blessing.  ““Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

And when you dwell on the beautiful risen Christ standing with us in the upper room, when you know he has brought us a peace that can never be extinguished, a Spirit from a font that will never run dry, a forgiveness that is never exhausted and a compassion that engulfs our deepest fears and hurt, you can have nothing else to say but the words of Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

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