Sermon Reflections and More!
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The Second Sunday of Easter                                                 April 3, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

Acts 5:27-32Psalm 118:14-29; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31

Pr. Steve's Sermon - The Resurrection of Community
Pr. Steve's Sermon - The Resurrection of Community

Children's Sermon - Believing Without Seeing
Children's Sermon - Believing Without Seeing

Choir Anthem: Canticle for Easter
Choir Anthem: Canticle for Easter

Hallelujah Chorus - Easter Sunday
Hallelujah Chorus - Easter Sunday

Easter Offertory: I Know That My Redeemer Lives
Easter Offertory: I Know That My Redeemer Lives

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Sermon Notes from Pastor Steve...

It's not really true, but it always feels like Pastors have a lot of extra time on their hands after Holy Week! After Holy Week, we don't have lots of weekday services to plan. There usually isn't something going on every day we have to deal with. And generally, people figure we're exhausted, so they leave us alone and we can catch up on stuff!
And it always feels to me like Jesus had a lot of extra time on his hands after Holy Week as well! In his new and Risen life, he no longer had to avoid enemies who wanted to kill him. He wasn't constantly with the disciples and settling their disputes. And more than that, Jesus now seems unbound by time and space! He can be everywhere at once, and doesn't even need to bother to open a door when he wants to go into room!
So that's sometimes led me to wonder why it took Jesus a whole week to show himself to Thomas. Thomas wasn't present when Jesus showed up on Easter evening, and we often give Thomas a hard time for not being there. But in all likelihood, Thomas wasn't there because he was the only one brave enough to leave the safety of the house and go out to get groceries and other things the disciples needed ...
But wherever Thomas was, and whatever Thomas was doing, it seems that it would have been easy for Jesus to just show up next to him and say, "Hey Thomas, look! It's me!" Thomas would have seen, and believed and that would have solved the problem.
Or would it? Was there a reason that Jesus wanted to show himself to Thomas not as a personal revelation, but as part of the whole community of the disciples? That is, did Jesus just not have the time to chase Thomas personally, or did Jesus want to intentionally wait until they were all together again?
I suspect strongly that Jesus waited because he wanted all of them to be together again. There was something about the importance of being together in community that was essential to experiencing the risen, new life of Jesus.
You see, in Jesus' death, the disciples had had two key relationships destroyed. Jesus' death cut them off from their relationship with God, as they had all come to experience God most fully through Jesus. But Jesus was also the glue that held them all together. And even though they were still locked in a room together, they had fallen apart. They didn't know how to move forward into the future. And they didn't know what would become of them.
Jesus' Resurrection restored both relationships. The disciples had their relationship with God restored, and Jesus glued them back together as a community that could continue to experience his risen life and to share that life with others.
Jesus gave his disciples both a renewed relationship with God and a renewed relationship with each other. The two were so intertwined that Jesus didn't want to simply appear to one person as though it were a private, spiritual experience. Thomas and the rest of the disciples needed to experience Jesus' resurrection together for the sake of:
  • Thomas - Thomas needed to know that Jesus wasn't going to leave him out of the group, nor give him an experience that he might have thought was either greater or lesser than what the others experienced ...
  • the other disciples - Thomas again, often gets a bad rap for saying "unless I actually touch Jesus" I won't believe; but I can't imagine every single other disciple wanted that, too, but simply wouldn't say it. By Thomas' question, the other disciples' faith was strengthened as well...
  • The future mission of the community - they knew that faith was going to have to depend upon the witness of others, not everyone physically seeing Jesus. And the best way to be witnesses of the risen life of Jesus was to not try to do it alone. The whole community had to have the experience, so it couldn't simply be dismissed as a dream or fantasy of one or two isolated people ...
And as we spend these 50 days celebrating Jesus' resurrection, the same is true for us. Too often, Christians get caught up in thinking that it's most important to have a "personal" experience of Jesus in their lives. Each of those first disciples also had a personal experience with Jesus, but it didn't end there.
Whatever we feel may or may not be our personal relationship with Jesus, it's also important for us that our relationship not be private. Instead, Jesus calls us also to experience him in community and to be part of Christian community for the sake of:
  • Each one of us personally - like Thomas, eventually it's going to be hard to believe or move forward in faith all by ourselves. But being part of the community isn't just something we do when we feel a little weak in faith. It's Jesus' idea and Jesus intention for each one of us. And that's also because being part of the community is also important for...
  • The community - The whole group of disciples needed Thomas' witness - and even Thomas' questions and doubts - in order to strengthen their faith. Each one of us is called by Jesus to be part of his community because even our questions, doubts and maybe even just our very presence, can be the thing others need to be strengthened and live in faith;
  • The future mission of the community - Jesus called the whole community of disciples to be witnesses of his resurrection and new life. Surely, that meant each one of them had an individual job to do.   But it also was clear that Jesus intended them to be witnesses together, because their collective witness would be more significant than anything they could do individually. That's also Jesus' intention for us, and why it's important that "church" isn't just a place we come for individual spiritual nourishment.
So as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection, we celebrate not only the new life Jesus gives to each one of us, but the new life Jesus gives to all of us together as a community.
And together, Jesus calls us to experience in the Resurrection a renewed relationship with God and with each other. Jesus calls us to strengthen one another in faith with our presence, our questions and even our doubts. And most importantly, Jesus calls us to work together to share his new and resurrected life with the world.