April 8, 2018 – Easter 2 B

John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

—–

So there’s an acronym out there right now, usually used be people younger than myself, to describe a common phenomenon. You’ll see it used as a hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. But you’ll also see it at pretty much any big party or event. It’s usually people who have been drug there only half-enthusiastically. Maybe they wanted to watch TV, read a book, catch up on their housework, or maybe just take a good long nap. But their friends asked them to come, they were promised it would be a good time, and they were certain that there would be other people there who they knew. All of this leads to a certain social syndrome referred to as FOMO or, for the uninitiated, the Fear Of Missing Out. I sometimes suffer from FOMO and maybe you do, too. It can come and go, of course, but in my experience, in any gathering, there is as least one person there because they are suffering from the Fear Of Missing Out.

This week, we read about a man commonly referred to as Doubting Thomas. The evening of the resurrection day, Easter evening, the disciples are gathered in the house they were staying in. Perhaps it was the same place Jesus had washed their feet and given them bread and wine, telling them that it was in fact his body and blood. Maybe they were trying to make sense of all of this. Some of the women of their group had just come and told them that Jesus was risen. Mary Magdalene even said that she had seen him. Some of them ran to the tomb and, finding it empty, returned to tell the others. Everyone was gathered in that room…except Thomas. While the rest of the disciples were gathered in fear, he was out in Jerusalem.

But he’s given a rather itchy stereotype when he is later told, as he returns to the house, that Jesus had been there. While he was gone, Jesus came. But I wonder if maybe the name Doubting Thomas is maybe not fair. He is the only one, it seems, brave enough to be out and about. And we don’t know what he was doing there, but I like to imagine him looking for Jesus, the one who left the tomb empty, and maybe even telling some people about it. Jesus, the one who died three days ago, has risen! This is a man who is bold and you can’t fault him for not believing the disciples – they hadn’t believed when the women told them and why, oh why, where they still in that room? Why was their response to seeing Jesus, hearing him speak peace to them, to just stay there? I’d be pretty skeptical, too, if someone told me such great news and it did nothing to change their lives. He’s there the next time, though. Maybe Thomas has developed FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out.

I like Thomas’ impulse and skepticism, though, to be honest. It seems to me that Easter changes things. We have just witnessed God’s sacrificial love made plain and evident on the cross. This love, the love that Christ modeled for us and talked about, is made abundantly clear in his willingness to take the cross instead of succumb to the violence and fear mongering that the powers and principalities of the world take part in. And, in Easter, Christ’s victory of sin and death become our victory over sin and death. Easter changes things. It always has and it always will. And if Easter changes anything, if God’s love and power have the ability to change the world, it will first change people. That is how God works. And Easter people, changed people, live differently.

They live differently because the fear and doubt and pain that they experience does not leave them all alone. Christ’s suffering and death, his shouts of “My God why have you forsaken me?”, leave us forever entwined with Christ. Love conquers fear and doubt and pain. Love, God’s love anyway, is unconditional and given freely. And that love never leaves us the same. Maybe Thomas knew that. Maybe Thomas didn’t doubt Christ, but doubted his friends – the ones who claimed they had seen Christ raised and yet had not been changed by the encounter.

Yet, I want to caution that doubt is not, in itself, a bad thing. All faith, even lifelong, sturdy faith, always carries with it a tinge of doubt. If you find yourself doubting, know that you’re not alone. The sacrifice of Jesus and his victory over sin and death is still for you. God remains God, Christ remains Lord, with or without our ability to understand it or believe it. And that, I hope, is freeing news. Because, instead of remaining in the locked room, that should give us the courage to leave, to tell the good news, and to live changed lives. Maybe, just maybe, this good news develops a healthy dose of FOMO. Maybe the new life of Easter cultivates in us a fear of missing out, fear of missing out on what God is doing in the world, fear of missing out on the signs of new life, recreation, and grace in the world.

God is at work and is working everywhere. God can work in locked rooms, yes. We get a story about that today. God can work in sanctuaries and church buildings. Absolutely. But God is also at work out there, out in the messiness and winds of life, out in the pain and fear and doubts of this world. You, as forgiven, loved, claimed, and grace filled people of God are given the chance to witness God’s love in the world and then tell people about it. And I hope that our fear of missing out eventually leads to a joyful life and a heart full of the love and grace you have received. God’s peace, which Christ gives freely and abundantly, is for you. And that changes things. Let us go out and watch those changes. And then, let us become a part of those changes. The world needs Easter and Easter is for all the world. Amen.

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