FIRST LESSON Matthew 16:13-20
TIME FOR CHILDREN Acts 3:1-10
April 24, 2016
So take a look at that sandal in the bulletin.
That sandal was not much protection for feet, if you think of it. It didn’t protect the toes or the tops of the feet or the ankles. It didn’t protect from the cold. Or the rain. It didn’t protect much from rocks or sharp stones on the path, or clumps of soil sticking up, or from snake bites or wagon wheels - not to mention whatever donkeys left behind them on the road. The feet in those sandals are pretty much unprotected.
Now think about the man who might have worn those sandals – Peter, for instance. And think about his feet. He may have been about fifty years old. He was a fisherman, used to walking along the rocky coastline of the lakeshore on Lake Galilee. He had walked up and down hills and through the dessert and in small villages and cities in those flimsy sandals for about seventy-five miles here and there - just in the last three years, following Jesus. Those feet were calloused and permanently stained and grimy and filthy and he had probably broken his toes and his toenails countless times. These are some ugly feet we are looking at here!
And on the last night of Jesus’ life, after he had finished his last supper with Peter and the others, Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist. He took a basin of water and knelt in front of each of them, one by one, and washed their feet. But Peter wasn’t having any of it. He wanted to tuck his filthy, ugly feet under his long robes and hide them and he protested. Knowing Peter, he probably protested loudly. But Jesus had one last lesson for Peter – one final loving gift.
Usually, you know, it was servants or slaves who washed peoples’ feet. Anybody who was wealthy enough to have guests to dinner also had slaves, and before the guests sat down to dinner, the slaves would wash people’s feet. Which were probably hot and dirty and dusty. It was the mark of a truly gracious host.
But Peter says to Jesus, “I don’t want you being a slave to me. I won’t have it.”
And Jesus may have said something to Peter like this: “Peter, you’ve struggled and suffered alongside me for three years. You’ve been homeless and penniless with me and you’ve heard every word I said and you’ve seen everything I’ve done. You, more than any of the others, know and understand who I am. You’ve heard the people who have hated me and they are powerful people and you have stuck with me anyway. But you can’t really belong to me if you don’t let me wash your feet. There is one more, last, lesson you need to learn from me. One more loving experience between us. You need to learn to be vulnerable with me. You have been strong, and proud and very, very active with me. You have said all the right words about me, with great conviction. You have made rash, bold promises to me. Now you need to show me another side. You need let me see your ugly feet, and you need to let me wash them, callouses and all. And unless you let me do that you can’t be a part of me.”
And for us, the story is all the more poignant and powerful. Jesus knew that in this loving circle of friends he had created, two of them would fail him badly in his last hours. Judas would betray him to people hated him and Peter would deny that he ever knew him. And in that moment around the table he could have accused them, and he could have screamed at them and denounced them. But the Creator and King of Heaven and Earth quietly wraps a towel around his waist and kneels on the floor in front of them and does the chore of a servant for them.
And Jesus says to us, “Unless I wash your filthy feet you can’t be a part of me.”
So we look deep into ourselves. We recall all the good we have done in Jesus’ name. We remember all the money we have given to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering and to this church. We remember the funds that we have lovingly given to Renae Venman toward her Mission Trip to Brazil in a couple of weeks, and to the Mel Trotter Ministries. We think about all the clothing and food we have given to very good places for Jesus’ other children. And all the kindnesses we have done and all the care we have given to others.
And we look deep into ourselves again and we shamefully recall all the times we have spent our other money wastefully on all the wrong things. And all the times we have been secretly proud of ourselves for being better than the homeless people at Mel Trotter. And all the times we were so preoccupied with dressing well and looking well and presenting a good image of ourselves that we did not notice the hurts of others.
Let’s have a moment of silence to sit with our filthy feet in front of Jesus and let him see that side of us. And allow him to wash our feet.
And then Jesus says to us, “Now that I have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.” Which might even be harder still. We won’t have a pedicure first and we won’t clip our toenails first. We will simply take off our shoes and our socks and show each other our feet.
Now I have been your temporary part time pastor for about eighteen months. For me they have been beautiful, very blessed months. I have watched some of you do the very hard work of forgiveness and healing and I have been blessed to sit with you. A great deal of the anger and hurt and conflict and mistrust in this church is gone, and I watch every Sunday now how long you stay in coffee hour chatting with each other and I can’t get you into worship on time because you’re all off talking away and laughing with each other in Teeuwissen Hall. I have seen how you have eaten enormous amounts of very good food that the Membership Committee provides. I have watched how you are able to look across huge differences and work together and worship together well. I have watched the elders on the session slog through the tough stuff together and come to consensus. I have watched the deacons care for you all.
But I have not seen many of you take off your shoes and socks and show your feet to each other. Or wash each other’s feet. I think that’s happening in our Disciple Bible study. But maybe not many other places.
So maybe it will be like this: that you will sit with one or two others in a circle with a scripture passage and talk about a hard time in your life and tell how that scripture has comforted you on your very worst days. Maybe it will be like this: that you will pray with each other in a small group - not the polite little, sweet little prayers we pray in public before and after meetings with each other, but the desperate, fervent prayers of a person in great pain. Maybe it will be like this: that you will even cry with each other and hold hands together and hug each other. Maybe it will be like this: that you will see the faults in others and acknowledge them and forgive them. Maybe you will even say to another person in this church, very privately: “I know a little bit about your life and I can’t imagine how hard it must be, and how can I support you?”
Maybe you will hear Jesus say, “Now that I, your Lord, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.”
Sit with that in silence for a moment.
FIRST LESSON Exodus 20:1-17 and Matthew 22:34-40
SECOND LESSON John 3:1-21
TIME FOR CHILDREN Luke 2:41-51
April 17, 2016
We have a guest in worship with us today and he has asked me to read the story he has written for you.
My name is Nicodemus and I am a Jew. I am a Jewish lawyer, in fact. I am a very good Jewish lawyer, in fact. I sit on the Jewish Supreme Court, in fact. We call ourselves Pharisees and you may have heard of us. You might know that we are the legal scholars. We know the laws. We know the pickiest parts of the laws. We recite the laws, and obey the laws, even the pickiest parts of the laws, and we teach other Jews the laws. And we make sure that they obey the laws. We know the proper way to wash our cups and plates and bowls and that’s how we wash them. We know precisely what we should and should not eat. We know how far we are allowed to walk on the Sabbath, and we don’t walk a single step farther. We have spelled out very properly what we are allowed to do on the Sabbath (which isn’t very much.) We know the laws that God gave to the people in the book of Exodus. And we make sure we enforce those laws. We are the ones who are preserving our pathway to God. For the entire Jewish nation.
Because here’s how it is. We are a very small nation. We are controlled by Romans and we are surrounded by other countries and we might very well be swallowed up by the Romans and our neighbors. We could very well lose our identity as a nation. Except that we know our God, and we remember the laws that God gave us, and we worship God in our temple in Jerusalem. Our God gave us our laws more than a thousand years ago at Mount Sinai in the Arabian dessert. Our great King Solomon built a beautiful shimmering shining golden temple to God a thousand years ago in Jerusalem. We know we are Jews – and we are proudly Jews – because we keep the Jewish laws. We know we’re Jews because we worship our God in our beautiful, sacred temple here in Jerusalem. We know we’re Jews because we know our God and our history and our laws and we honor them.
We have a box right near the door of our temple for our offerings and if we don’t have the right change for our offering that day we have men sitting at the door making change. Our laws tell us very clearly that we are not to associate with people who have skin diseases like leprosy and we don’t. We make lepers live outside our cities and they wear rags and if they absolutely have to come into the cities we make them shout “unclean,” “unclean” as they walk along so we won’t come near them by accident. That was the law that God gave us in the book of Leviticus a very long time ago. That has been our way. Always.
But lately this young man named Jesus has been walking and talking in our streets and he has gathered quite following. He’s associating with all kinds of people who are sick and dirty and he’s talking with prostitutes and he’s actually touching lepers. He’s telling people it doesn’t matter how we wash our cups and plates and bowls. He made a huge scene the other day at the temple and drove away our money changers. We would call him a sinner. We would call him the worst of sinners. And in fact we lawyers have confronted him and we have tried to prove him wrong. Some of my colleagues are even beginning to hatch plans for how to kill him. They think they are doing their job. They think they are getting rid of a person who is doing wrong and who is teaching others to do wrong.
BUT. BUT. He’s healing all kinds of people with all kinds of diseases and he’s bringing people back to life again who have died. And the other day at a wedding reception he turned ordinary water into wine. So he must be some sort of supernatural person – some sort of person from God. I was puzzled by him. I was intrigued by him. I was drawn to him. I wanted to hear more about him. But I knew I had to do it secretly.
So I scheduled a very private meeting with this Jesus at midnight. At first he talked in riddles and I didn’t understand a word. He talked about being born again. He talked about light and dark and how we love the dark and we hate the light because it exposes the evil things we are doing. He talked about eternal life which I certainly did not understand. I had no idea why he was talking with me like that in the middle of the night at our secret meeting.
But then it dawned me. With the moon shining on us in the darkness I saw the light. This man Jesus is talking about a loving God. Not the kind of God who counts how many steps we walk or how we wash our cups and bowls. Or what we eat or don’t eat. Or if we happen to touch a leper. Jesus’ God loves people whom we have always avoided. His God could care less about all those laws we have about not associating with people who have skin diseases like leprosy. In fact, those are the very people whom Jesus’ God cares about. This God loves it when people are healed, even if it is on the Sabbath day (maybe especially if it’s on the Sabbath day.) And this man named Jesus came to show us this God. Jesus helped me to see that God doesn’t judge people who don’t keep our picky little laws. And God doesn’t condemn them or punish them. It’s not about the laws. It’s about love. It’s about a God who loves us. Who loved us all so much that that God sent a son to die in our dark and evil world.
I began to see how very radical this new idea was. And that it requires me to have a complete change of heart and mind. I understand now that I need to see newly and think newly and act newly. It’s like being a new born all over again. And walking in the light instead of the darkness.
That night I became his secret follower. I kept my seat on our Supreme Court. I continued to know the law and teach the law and counsel people about the law. But secretly, I believed this man Jesus and his talk of a loving God.
And I was there a couple of years later. My colleagues, the others on our Supreme Court, had demanded his death, and he was executed. On a cross. But my friend Joseph and I came to take his bloody, mangled body off the cross. I brought spices, and we wrapped him in a linen cloth and we tucked in sweet smelling spices around his body. And we buried him in Joseph’s grave.
And I am here today to speak to you – here in Michigan in the twenty-first century.
Learn to know the God who loves you. Learn to believe the unbelievable love that God has for you. God is not a God who picks at you and hovers around waiting for you to disobey some picky little law. And watching how you wash your cups and bowls. God loved you so lavishly that he did what nobody else has ever done for you - offered a son to die in your dark, evil, messy world. To show that goodness is stronger than evil and light is stronger than darkness and love is stronger than hate.
Remember what Jesus said to me, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.”
Now it’s not that the Ten Commandments are bad. Those laws help you to live as people of God. They show you who you are with God. Just as they showed us how to live as God’s people. But they are only half the story. They don’t begin to tell you the forgiveness that Jesus talked about, and the great gift that God has given you.
And then, when you have that firmly in your mind, then love each other. Don’t pick at each other. Don’t find fault. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t condemn each other. Don’t dwell on your differences. Don’t live by rules and laws. Live in love. Let the love of God soak through your resistance and seep out of you to others. Love as lavishly and as unselfishly as you are loved. Love God and love each other. Accept the grace of God in your life and offer that grace in return. Make a real effort to reach out to people you may have avoided. Replace cruelty with kindness. Pattern your life after Jesus and do what he did.
Remember what Jesus said to all of us, “I have a new commandment for you: Love one another as I have loved you. By this all will know that we are the Lord’s if we have love for one another.”
That may require some changes in your life. That may require thinking newly and acting newly and maybe it will even mean that you are born again. Born into God’s outrageous love for you. Born into the outrageous, all-sacrificing love of Jesus for you. And born again to love others as outrageously as you have been loved.
Thank you for inviting me here today.
First Lesson: John 18:15-18 and 25-27
Children: John 21:1-14
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Now I have been pretty much living with Peter for the past week or so, and I will tell you that he is a strong, complicated, dedicated, unpredictable sort of guy. He’s not easy to classify and he’s not at all consistent.
For example: the first we hear of Peter is that he and his brother Andrew are fishing up in Lake Galilee. And a man whom apparently they have never seen before walks by and says to both of them, “Follow me.” and they do. According to the story in the book of Matthew, they actually dropped their fishing nets right where they were on the beach and walked with Jesus down the lakeshore. And they walked with him and behind him for the next three years from the northern part of the country where they lived, all the way to the south.
Eventually there were ten other men who followed him, and Peter seems to have been their leader. They traveled to pretty much all the small villages and cities all over the country and they did astonishing miracles in Jesus’ name. They healed people who were sick and even brought people back to life again who had died. They traveled from place to place without an extra penny in their pockets and without an extra change of clothing and they slept and ate wherever and however they could. Peter’s the one who said to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you.” And it was true. Peter was chosen by Jesus to witness some of the most important moments of Jesus’ life – things that the others weren’t invited into. He was there on the mountain when Moses and Elijah appeared from hundreds of years earlier and when a voice came from heaven announced “This is my Son, whom I love.” It was a frightening moment, with bright shiny lights and dark scary clouds, and mysterious things happening to Jesus. And it was Peter, you remember who had his wits about him and wanted to prolong the glory of it all. Peter was in the room when Jesus took a twelve year old dead girl by the hand and raised her up off her bed to life. There was that time when Jesus called Peter to walk on stormy water to meet him, Peter hiked up his clothes, climbed out of the boat and came walking through the waves to Jesus. And when he started to sink into the waves, he grabbed onto Jesus’ hand. Peter is strong, deeply committed to Jesus and entirely unafraid.
Of all Jesus’s disciples, Peter “got” Jesus. They had all heard him speak. They had all seen him cure people with serious mental and physical illness. They were all there when he fed fifteen or so thousand men, women and children with a little bit of bread and a few fish. They had all listened in while he had loud confrontations with the religious leaders and they had heard him talk constantly about the kingdom of God. But Peter was the only one who could say, with great conviction, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
When Jesus wanted to eat his last Passover supper with his disciples he chose Peter and one other person find a place for them to do that and to prepare the meal. As they were eating around the table, Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. They were all astonished, Peter maybe more so than the others, and he declared loudly that he would never deny Jesus, even to the point of death. And few minutes later during the supper, you remember how Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist and took a basin of water. He knelt on the floor in front of all the men, one by one, and washed their feet. It was his last act of humble service to each of them, and though they didn’t know it, it was also his silent, loving farewell to them. But Peter wouldn’t have it. He couldn’t see the deep affection and the beauty of the moment and he couldn’t accept Jesus’ humble, loving service to him. He protested loudly that he didn’t want Jesus on the floor mucking about with his filthy, smelly, misshapen feet and his grimy, broken toenails. And after supper, when Jesus went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, it was Peter and two others whom Jesus chose to watch and wait nearby for hours while he prayed his passionate, end of life prayer. And it was also Peter who fell asleep while he waited – who couldn’t manage to keep his eyes open long enough at a critical moment to offer some small support. And a few minutes later, when a crowd of priests and elders with clubs and swords came for Jesus, Peter stepped in. He had a sword himself, you recall, though I don’t know where in the world he would have gotten it. He must have had some reason to expect trouble. And Peter whipped out his sword and slashed it at the closest person and chopped off his ear. In passionate defense of Jesus. Useless. But passionate. And very misplaced. And Jesus told him sternly, “Put your sword away!” And a few hours after that, when all the other male disciples had abandoned Jesus and had gone into hiding for fear of what would happen to them, Peter stayed nearby. He was there and stayed within sight of Jesus in the middle of the night when the soldiers and the priests and the elders were hauling him from court to court to court and trying him again and again. Perhaps he was hoping to catch glimpse of Jesus as he went from court to court. To say a supportive, loving word to him in the darkness. But it never happened. Peter was sitting beside the fire warming himself and that’s where he denied three times that he ever knew Jesus. .
So are you getting the picture here? Sometimes we are in awe of this man Peter and the fact that Jesus chose him to be his special companion over and over. We honor him for his deep devotion to Jesus and for the ways that understood Jesus’ mission better than the others and for the ways that he sacrificed a great deal and expressed his devotion so devotedly. And in the next second we want to say to him, “Peter, what were you thinking? Peter, how could you have? Peter, what has gotten into you?” For missing the point so completely and for saying all the wrong things and doing all the wrong things and forgetting his very firm promises and disappointing Jesus so tragically so often.
And after all that, Jesus reaches out to Peter in love.
It was a poignant moment, there on the beach. Three times Peter had vehemently denied that he even knew Jesus. And now Jesus gives him the chance to re-affirm his love. Three times.
But did you notice the words we spoke this morning in our Statement of Faith? Now you know I am no great student of Greek. I learned Greek and also Hebrew in seminary about thirty-five years ago, and I’ve pretty much lost it all. But this I do know. There are different words in Greek for our word “love.” Jesus says to Peter, twice, ”Do you love me with all your heart and soul?” And twice, Peter responds, “You know that I am very fond of you.” Did you catch that? “You know I am very fond of you.” The third time Jesus asks Peter, “Are you even very fond of me, Peter?” Peter answers “I am truly very fond of you, Jesus.” Peter cannot bring himself to say that he loves Jesus with all his heart. And I cannot begin to imagine how that hurt Jesus’ heart. But even so, he says to Peter, “Well then, even if that’s the best you can do, tend my sheep. Care for the people I love. Do for them what I would do if I were here.”
And here’s the truth, my beloved. Sometimes we go through our closets and we find a lot of very nice clothing and belts and shoes and we pack them up and we bring them to church. And we are happy that we have done what Jesus would have wanted us to do for the people he loves. But here’s the other piece of truth: it is very hard for us to consider sharing our schools and our neighborhoods with refugees from other countries who may have a different way of worshipping God.
A good many of us in this congregation do a great deal of caring for our spouses and our parents and our children and our grandchildren. And sometimes – often – we do that graciously and in good spirits and with genuine love for them and concern for their needs. And Jesus is pleased that we have tended his sheep. And at other times, horrible words come out of our mouths that we have not planned and that we are immediately sorry. Sometimes we have the most selfish feelings in our hearts. And we are utterly ashamed.
Sometimes we really do get it. We really do understand that we are hands and feet and minds and voices of Jesus in this world. We understand that Jesus has no hands and feet in this world these days but ours. He has only us to tend to the needs of world as he would. And some days we really do fulfill that mission well. But the truth is that there are too many hungry people and it’s going to take a whole lot more than a few boxes of Cheerios to feed them, and a couple of Band-aids for their pain. And our political system is too complex and the forces against us are too strong and in the end, Jesus’ lambs are still going to be hungry and poor and sick and we will have failed miserably.
And I think to myself, “Paula, what were you thinking? How could you have? What has gotten into you?” And we are ashamed and sad and full of regret. Like Peter was.
But here’s the real truth. And here’s the wonder and beauty of Jesus. He knows all that. He knows who we are and how we are. He knows that even our best is sometimes not very good. He understands that we love him very imperfectly. He knows the days we shine and the days we fail miserably and he loves us anyway. And forgives us. And offers us another chance. And another and another. And he wraps us up in the warm blanket of his love.
And all we can be is grateful.
Second Lesson: John 20:19-31
First Lesson Luke 24:36-49
Children’s story John 20:10-18
Sunday, April 3, 2016
Sunday after Easter
So picture this. Eleven men are sitting in a secret room in Jerusalem with the doors locked. Maybe there are also some women in the room with them. Probably there are some women in the room with them.
They have gone into hiding in this locked room because they are afraid. Legitimately afraid. They have seen how the soldiers and the priests and the elders came for Jesus while he was praying in a garden. They watched while they hauled him away in chains. He was herded from one judge and one Governor and one priest to another in the middle of the night, and people had accused him all of all sorts of things that were not true. He was executed. These eleven men are his closest followers and they have been in hiding for three days because they were very sure that what had happened to Jesus could very well happen to them. It was pretty clear who Jesus’ followers had been – they openly walked and talked with him and did miracles in his name in all the cities and small villages throughout the country for three years. They could have rightly expected that the elders and the priests and the soldiers who came for Jesus would be coming for them soon also. And do to them what they had done to Jesus.
The men sat in that locked room remembering their lives with him and thinking about his death and thinking about their futures after his death. Three years of income gone. Three years of normal family life gone while they followed him up and down the countryside. And for what? They could have no idea what their futures will be. Will they go back to their families and back to fishing and tax collecting and whatever else they did? The women were wondering how their lives would change now that they didn’t have Jesus to care for every day. And follow him wherever he went every day. What about that glorious kingdom they were anticipating? What about all those hopes that one of them would sit on Jesus’ right side and one on his left side as he sat on his royal throne? They are thinking back to that Sunday just a week ago when they waved branches beside his donkey and sang songs to him and thought he would be their King in their capital city. In one short week their whole lives had changed and they were bewildered and in shock.
And while they are thinking all of that, here come Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and Joanna and some of the other women. They come flying into the room with the news that Jesus is alive. Out of his grave and walking around and alive. That story we had last week. And the story I just told the children. But those men didn’t believe such nonsense. How could they believe such nonsense? A man dead in his grave for three whole days and then alive again???. But then immediately here come Cleopas and his wife running all the way back from Emmaus seven miles in the dead of night and they are breathless and they are telling how Jesus has been in their very house and at their very kitchen table and eating supper with them that very night. And Peter is sitting there quietly. He’s remembering that he went to Jesus’ grave and found it empty. And Peter, who usually has the all the answers to all the questions, doesn’t know what to think.
And just as all this is happening, Jesus comes to them. Past the locked doors into that secret room where they were hunkered down. They thought he was a ghost. They doubted that it could possibly be Jesus. We do not blame them that they doubted. And we do not blame Thomas for doubting when the others told him.
Jesus speaks to them. He says, “Peace” to them.
That’s the picture.
And here’s more of the picture.
We don’t know very much about Thomas from the Scripture – only three very short stories that John tells us, but we call him Doubting Thomas because of this story. But there are other stories. Once Jesus wanted to go to Bethany near Jerusalem to be with his friends Mary and Martha after their brother had died. The other disciples told Jesus that the Jewish priests and elders would stone him to death if he went there and they tried to persuade him not to go. But Thomas said, “Let’s all go with him and die with him.” Which looks to me like a man who was deeply committed to Jesus – even to the point of death. That man is no doubter.
Another time Jesus was talking in riddles about his death and about his going back to heaven to prepare a place for them. Thomas didn’t understand, and rather than pretend that he understood those riddles, he asked Jesus a bunch of questions. Which makes me think that he wanted desperately to understand. More of a believer than a doubter, I would say.
And now this story of Thomas after Jesus’ resurrection. He refuses to believe the amazing story that Jesus has come back to life. He said, “Unless I put my fingers in the nail holes in Jesus’ hands and feet and put my hand in the hole in his side where the soldiers rammed their swords, I will not believe that Jesus is alive.” And for that we call him Doubting Thomas.
But maybe he was more of an honest questioner. Maybe he was the sort of person who doesn’t know things until he can understand them with his head. Or sees the evidence with his own eyes. And who struggles to know because it’s very important for him. Maybe he’s the sort of person who believes deeply – not lightly.
The Bible doesn’t tell us any more about Thomas or about what happened to him after Jesus went back into heaven. Tradition - and we can’t prove it though we have no real reason not to believe it – tradition tells us that he was a missionary in India and died there as a martyr. And there’s a book called the Acts of Thomas, which isn’t in our Bible, but which tells of his travels and missionary work in India. And may I tell you that it takes a man of great faith and courage to be a missionary in India and be martyred. That man was no doubter. That man is a devoted follower of Jesus.
So did you see how Jesus responded to Thomas’ questions? He held out his hands where the nail holes were barely beginning to heal. He offered the gaping wound in his side, and invited Thomas to put his hand there. And when Thomas experienced Jesus, he believed. He saw with his very own eyes and touched with his very own fingers, and he believed and he said, “My Lord and My God.”
So that’s the picture. Now can you put yourselves in that picture?
Maybe you’re like Thomas in our story for today. You have questions about our faith. Honest, legitimate questions about our faith. Maybe the stories of the Bible seem a little fanciful for you. Or maybe you live in the real world and there’s too much going on the real world that is troubling for you. Maybe there are things going on in your life that are difficult and that you don’t understand. Or you wonder what in the world God is doing in the world, or maybe God is off somewhere ignoring the whole mess? And you want to say to God, “Where are you when I need you? Where are you when this messed up world needs you?”
And you have every right to those thoughts and those feelings and you have every right to question when your mind can’t take it all in and when you can’t see a solution in front of your eyes and when you can’t find logical answers that satisfy. Just as Thomas did.
But think about this: maybe it’s not a matter of reasoning things out until we know them. Maybe it’s not a matter of being eye witnesses as Thomas was. Maybe it’s a matter of experiencing, for ourselves, the outrageous love of God for us. It’s a matter of opening ourselves up to be in the right place and in right frame of mind to hear God speaking to us, which is the only way that will happen these days. And then, in that place, we know things that our eyes cannot see and that reason cannot teach us and that our minds cannot comprehend.
Maybe Jesus comes to you when you are wretchedly sad like he did to Mary Magdalene and says your name and gives you his love. Maybe he comes to you when you have a great many questions like he did to Thomas and shows you who he is – in unmistakable ways - and offers you peace.
And this morning Jesus offers us this bread and juice. His beaten, bruised body. His blood running from the holes in his hands and his feet and his side. We come to this table and we eat bread and drink juice and in a way that I can never understand or put into words, we experience the death of Jesus. And then we say, with Thomas. “My Lord and My God.” And we hear Jesus say to us: “Peace be with you.”