Monday, 4 April 2016
Sermon April 3, 2016
This Morning’s Gospel is a marvelous, wonderful story. It is marvelous and wonderful for the many things that are happening. We have the disciples hiding together in fear. We have the Holy Spirit in action and the countless possibilities that it manifests. We have sin and the forgiveness of sin that is the inheritance of the church down through the ages since. We have doubt manifest in the attitude of Thomas and seemingly inherent need for people to have proof in order to believe. We also have the theme of “believe” and how we are called to believe despite the lack proof. There is just an embarrassment of riches in sermon material.
Indeed I had a hard time deciding what theme to use for my sermon. When I first read it this week, the first word the resonated with me was “believe”. It is probably the obvious one as there is the whole issue Thomas who demands proof if he is going to believe in the risen Jesus who is now the Christ. There are, or course implications for us who are not fortunate to have this kind of proof. We do have Jesus statement,” Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” In effect we are even more fortunate that Thomas if we are able to believe without this kind of proof.
However, when I considered the Gospel again what resonated with me was “fear”. We are told, “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.” That is something that we can all relate to. We can appreciate why the disciples were afraid. All their hopes and dreams and plans had come crashing down. All their dreams that Jesus was the messiah who would bring about God’s kingdom on earth were shattered to smithereens. Their friend and teacher and beloved leader truly was not the messiah—or so it seemed to them. He was not the only begotten son of God the Father.
All their efforts to follow him and understand his teachings and his sometimes incomprehensible parables about prodigal sons and fathers who acted in ridiculous, surprising ways; about those outcast Samaritans being the good ones; or farmers who sow seeds indiscriminately. Those were difficult enough but then there was the completely incomprehensible one about the dishonest manager whom Jesus seems to honour for his dishonesty. All that effort and work and all those trials they endured seemed have turned to ashes in their mouths. And now here they were— afraid for their lives; who knew what those temple authorities, not to mention the Roman soldiers, might do?
They were not doing to be satisfied with just executing the leader of a possible rebellion but would want to stamp out anyone connected to that rabble rouser. They cowered there in that room paralyzed by fear.
Where have you been overwhelmed by fear in your life? Where have you let fear rule you and prevent you from doing the things you knew you should do? I certainly have had times when fear has ruled my life. I have let the fear of how people will react prevent me from speaking the truth. I feared the disapproval of others and was afraid that I would be not accepted by those from whom I wanted acceptance. I have stood by and allowed people to bully others for fear of becoming the target of their bullying. I have let fear rule my life in small ways and big ways. And I have much to regret in that. However, sometimes fear can be useful. It has also prevented me from doing some things which would have been foolish to do and would have had serious consequences with little benefit.
So fear is not a black and white thing. We have the fear instinct because it is a necessary part of the survival and probably if people did not have fear as part of our being we would not have survived as a species. The challenge for us is to discern when fear is appropriate and when it is not appropriate. When do we pay attention to the fear/survival instinct and when do we put it aside and plunge ahead despite the possible consequences?
The disciples were cowering in fear in that room. If they had stayed there waiting until the furor had died down and it was safe to return to their homes and their old occupations as fishers of fish instead of people it all would have ended there. All that they had gone through could have been for not. Fear would have triumphed and death would have won. But it did not. They were able to overcome their fear albeit with the help and assurance of the risen Lord. We are gathered here today because fear did not triumph and death was not victorious.
What does that mean for us today? How does the fact that fear and death did not triumph in that room two thousand years ago impact our lives today? Are we going to throw fear and even caution to the wind and be the church that God intends us to be? Are we going to be the body of Christ here on earth until he returns? Are we going to speak the truth to power as the prophets did? Are we going to proclaim the Good News of Christ crucified and raised from the tomb? Are we going to love our neighbours and our enemies as ourselves? Are we going to feed the hungry, visit the sick and the shut-ins, are we going to help the poor and demand that the poor are aided by the powers that rule this world? We shall see. Amen