May 1, 2011


“Embracing The Faith”

John 20:19-31


As you know, to embrace Christianity means to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  We are, as theologians are fond of saying, Christocentric.


Thomas believed that, that Jesus was and is the Christ.   Thomas was a Christian.  He knew him, they all did.  They saw him every day and they said, he is the Messiah, the Son of God.  But today he isn’t so sure.  Don’t go getting down on Thomas.  He’s been through a lot in the last two weeks.


Still, they told him “we’ve seen the Lord.”  Why didn’t he accept it?

They were a reliable source…men, not the women…Peter himself

Maybe he didn’t believe them because this was something too important to trust hearsay.  So he told them, “Unless I see, I will not believe.”


Don’t be too hard on Thomas. 

We too are Christians, we proclaim Christ “…crucified, dead, and risen…”  We believe, not only that there was a Messiah, but that there is a Messiah.  We believe Jesus is alive today.


And so here in the Easter Season we celebrate his presence, with us, so we will dispense with the confession for a few weeks here….Jesus is with us. Don’t need confession.  If you are in the presence of God you surely don’t need confession.  And we will stand for the gospel, the ‘Good News of Jesus Christ’ as if Jesus himself were reading it.  You don’t sit down in the presence of the Anointed One.


Still, it isn’t as if we “See Him.”  So we look for him.


Some folks go looking for a Messiah in all the usual places: Military might.  Someone and something to keep us safe.  Wealth:  All those TV come ons, infomercials they call them.  Some regular couple like you or me telling about how rich they got by buying properties with no money down.  On Saturday on my way here to church I stopped at Turkey Hill for some coffee.  I was dressed as I always dress for a working day.  The man in the line in front of me turned, after purchasing his “Mega-Millions” ticked and exclaimed, “O Glory, divine intervention, bless this ticket, will you?”  I said, “you cannot serve God and mammon.”  He just gave me a weird look and walked off.  Then there is health: some people worship health.  If you buy these vitamins or get this lotion and use it regularly, why you can cheat the aging process.  Seems like there are lots of opportunities to find a Messiah in all the predictable places: success, health, and superiority.


I don’t know if that was what Thomas was doing when he was away, out looking for the Messiah.  I think that he was just disappointed because, so far, this was not the Messiah he expected.


Then Jesus did finally come to him.  Not on a Celestial Chariot, not with a bag of silver and gold.  Even when he did come, do you know what made Thomas recognize him?  Do you know?  It was his wounds.  His hands.  His side.  He was resurrected, to be sure, not some spiritual afterlife, bodily resurrection, and it was through his wounds that Thomas believed.  One prophet got it right, “By his wounds, we are healed.”  And ever since then, the church has said that wherever there is woundedness, that is where you will catch a glimpse of Christ.


In the next few days there will be some who say “thank you Jesus” when they cross home plate.  Others will offer thanks when that parking place at the mall opens up.  Others might say that Jesus helped them get that job they have been waiting for.  Who am I to say they weren’t blessed with the presence of Christ?  But based on what Thomas experienced, I believe the messiah was too busy for all that, Jesus was tied up down in Alabama, being drug out of what was once houses.  He was there alongside folks for whom no amount of tears can wash away their pain, their suffering. 


This idea is not new.  I did not make it up this morning to assuage the issues you face.  It is an ancient Christian idea.

In his book on traditional religion in 15th- and 16th-century England, Eamon Duffy notes that “the wounds of Christ are the sufferings of the poor, the outcast, and the unfortunate.” He goes on to write that devotion to the wounds of Christ often translated into acts of charity. Such acts became a tending of the living, wounded, corporate body of Christ.[1]



See, we all come from a broken world looking for a Messiah.  But today all you get is some broken bread and a spilt cup.  We say he is here, in this.  We say we catch glimpses of him through these things.  Some say that in the prayer of consecration these things become him.  Others say it is just a memorial, meaningful, don’t get me wrong, it is meaningful.  Still others say it is a mystery, how he comes and is in, throughout, above, and under this thing, this Communion.  There is, however, no getting around this reality when we gather in this way:  “By His wounds,” says Isaiah, “we are healed.”


Like Thomas, some will come late, bruised and dejected.  They will recognize wounds like these in their own wounds.  Others will go from this place and tend to the wounds of the world.  But for this moment, together, we will all say, “my Lord, and my God.”


[1] Quoted from Jan Richardson: The Painted Prayerbook; “The Illuminated Wound”  April 24, 2011.