The Third Sunday of Easter
The lectionary weeks that follow Easter Sunday are some of the most insightful that we have about our Christian journey. After Jesus has been raised from the dead, we read the Acts of the Apostles that tells us the journey of the apostles and their first converts; we read epistles that time and time again talk about and attempt to prove that the resurrection really happened and that Jesus fulfilled all of scripture. In the midst of these writings, many written 40-100years after the death of Jesus, we also read the gospel accounts of the resurrected Jesus. In the two Sundays following Easter our gospel accounts tell stories of doubt and uncertainty. Sure, Jesus prepared the disciples over and over again, but we know from the telling of the parables that the disciples often didn’t understand and needed an extra push. As you can imagine the disciples may be a little confused perhaps a lot confused and doubtful as their teacher and mentor, who was as dead as dead can be, walks into the room in a resurrected, not a ghost, body. The best part is, is that Jesus says to them, “why do you doubt”? I think I would freak out a bit if I were them. It seems normal to have that reaction.
What is really fascinating is that the writers of the gospels told these stories of doubt. If you were trying to convince people that this really happened, it seems counterintuitive to say “well I actually wasn’t sure at first. I mean can someone who is dead be made alive?” Then right next to these stories we look at stories of the first followers trying to prove that scripture was fulfilled. When we look at this as whole and not in parts, it all seems to click together. As the disciples saw Jesus and had their eyes open, they dispersed and told these stories to the communities they went to. And then those first followers started to talk about their experience of the resurrection and what was revealed to the disciples. They wrote so that people might believe and be saved. A journey that started with doubt spread like wildfire and people were starting to realize that there was something to this idea. This idea that God was no longer this omniscient being in the sky that controlled things. God was no longer separate from us. God was with us, here on earth, and it was because of that that we would no longer be separated from God. We came from God and we would return to him, and in the in between God would journey with us because he was the word made flesh. Our grief would no longer be held alone because Jesus knew grief; our pain would no longer be held alone because Jesus knew pain. God’s love for us would be forever held up in the life of Jesus reminding us that God walks with us.
One of my favorite questions I am ever asked by people, especially when they see me in my collar, is, “why do you do this? why do you believe this? Don’t you doubt?” or better yet “what’s the point? People don’t believe in hell anymore, why go to church?” I am sure at least one of you has encountered these questions as well. When you choose to be at church on Sunday morning instead of a ball game, or brunch, the secular world starts to wonder what is going on. I often have people say they don’t come to church because it is social club anyways-they can get that by playing golf. Well, ok, maybe you can get the same social stimulation at church as you do on the golf course, but we offer something that no one else does. We offer the reality of God with us. Sure we have doubts, but we also have communal and individual experiences of resurrection, of life made new because of our relationship with God.
I read a great sermon this week that said, “Jesus isn’t concerned with what the masses have to say-he is concerned with what the disciples say about him.” He comes back in his resurrected body and appears to the disciples and shows them that this is real, so that they can tell the story. I am sure all of Jerusalem was spreading rumors and lies-the ultimate game of telephone, but Jesus didn’t need to prove anything to all of Jerusalem, he just needed the disciples to do the work that he had started and they were called to.
And so it is with us. We don’t have to prove to the entire county, state, nation, or world that Jesus is real and that what we believe is true. You don’t even have to prove it to your friends who doubt what you believe. But when someone asks you or when someone walks through our doors, we do have to have a good answer as to why we do this. Church is more than just our worship-it is fellowship, relationship, eating, talking, game nights, and a slew of other things. Sometimes it is just for fun because we like being together. But ultimately, we were brought here on the foundation and belief that our lives are whole because of the love God gave us in the joy of resurrection. For us it isn’t myth. One day we will be raised to eternal joy with God-all of us-together. And trust me I am still working out the kinks in my heart when I realize that people who really grind my gears are going to have a seat at the table with me, but that is the beauty of our story. Made in God’s image, we are all beloved, and we are all folded in to the covenant made with us through the life of Christ. That is the story we tell. That is the answer we give to people. And when someone who is questioning is in your midst or in our midst, we have to have that story ready to go. Jesus isn’t concerned with what the masses have to say, but when you are baptized you become a representation and part of the body of Christ. What you say, portray, and believe matters. So examine what that means for you, ask questions, don’t stop learning, and continue to ask God to change your hearts to see people the way he does. We all have work to do and we all have a role in this. We may not change the world, we may not convince the masses, but if someone among us can know God more deeply and know that they are beloved, we have done our job. Amen.