What a Difference a Week Makes

Easter 2
April 18, 2004

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Wasn’t last Sunday great? Wasn’t it just wonderful?

After weeks of Alleluia-less Lent,

 With its
dark Purple hue setting a more sober mood,

We came to worship last Sunday brimming with confidence and
excitement.

We shouted in church – Alleluia! Christ is risen!

We had festive music.

We had Eater lilies.

We had new Easter clothing and perhaps some new Easter hats
for the ladies.

It was bold. It was
beautiful.

The pews were more full than normal.

There was a giddiness in the air.

Our Lord was risen. He was alive. He was with us –

 Outside the
empty tomb, in the spoken Word, in the holy meal.

We celebrated the living Lord, the Son of God raised from
the dead.

Our Savior conquered death last week, and we celebrated.

 

And yes, today is called the Second Sunday of Easter.

It is still the Easter season.

We still use the festive white paraments on the altar and
pulpit.

And today at the late service, we’ll enjoy some special
music.

But, but we’re not as bold.

People don’t go out and buy new clothes for the Second
Sunday of Easter.

We don’t have Second Sunday of Easter Egg Hunts.

We don’t dedicate lilies for the Second Sunday of Easter.

The pews, sadly, are not as full.

Last week’s lilies are withering this week.

Last week’s Easter clothes are wrinkled this week.

Last week’s Easter ham is a bunch of cold leftovers

covered with saran wrap in the fridge this week.

Last week we heard the quintessential Good News – Christ is
risen.

This week we hear . . . doubt.

 

A lot can change in a week.

 

Last week we were there, at the empty tomb, days after the
crucifixion.

Last week we saw with our own eyes an empty tomb.

We were confident last week, because we saw the evidence –

the tomb was empty and our risen Lord appeared to us!

Last week was filled with the witness of the resurrection,

the certainty that comes with seeing evidence.

 



But this week is different. This week we’re Thomas.

We haven’t seen the empty tomb nor the resurrected Jesus.

Although others might speak with confidence

about the very real flesh and blood resurrection of Jesus,

we haven’t seen it and we just can’t come to believe it.

 

It’s like, over the past week, we moved ahead years after
the resurrection.

I can imagine that the saints of the early Christian Church

identified with Thomas and with this story.

If Jesus died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaved
around the year 30 or so,

 By about
the year 60 or 70, those members of the earliest church

who knew or saw Jesus during his ministry or after his
resurrection,

were dying.

The eyewitnesses, the story bearers, those who saw Jesus
with their own eyes,

 Were
passing away from the Christian community.

The church was losing its first-hand storytellers.

 

My grandfather liked to tell stories – and he had stories to
tell.

Born in 1907, he sold newspapers on

St. Louis street

corners as a kid,

 Ran away
from an abusive father,

and bootlegged beer as a teenager during the Prohibition.

He served in the Marines between the world wars,

 And swore
that he could compliment a woman in five different languages.

He fought in an undeclared war in

Nicaragua

,

And spent years stationed in pre-communist

Cuba

.

 He
even served a tour of duty in pre-communist

China

 (a
buddy of his stole his piece of the

Great Wall of China

).

 He met the
gangster Al Capone (I’m not sure how),

 And
was discharged from the service after hurting his back.

And there are many, many other stories that he told.

Some of which are now lost.

Besides loosing my grandfather,

 Who packed
my lunch during my elementary school years,

 His death
also represented the loss of his stories.

Funny, tragic, fascinating, off-color – these stories are
lost. Gone.

Sure, I remember some of his stories,

 But many I
don’t remember, and many more he never told.

And they are lost. 

I miss my grandfather. But I also miss his stories.

 

How much more traumatic it must have been for the early
Christian community.

They were loosing the men and women who saw Jesus,

 those who
told eyewitness stories about him, his preaching, his miracles.

My grandfather’s stories, as interesting as they were,

 Were not
the stuff of religion, piety or faith.



But for the early Christians,

 These
eyewitness stories were the reason the church was created.

 These
stories became the New Testament.

And now, these sources of divine stories,

These Jesus storytellers, were dying.

 

And so, the church was increasingly becoming a place of 2nd
generation Christians,

 A community
of Jesus-followers who never saw or knew Jesus in the flesh,

 But who
only heard about him from others.

Like Thomas, this early church hadn’t seen the risen Jesus.

Like Thomas, they had every reason to doubt.

Like Thomas, they didn’t have the luxury

of seeing, knowing or witnessing the resurrected Jesus.

Like Thomas, this 2nd generation of Christians

couldn’t depend on sight or evidence or proof as a support
mechanism for belief.

Seeing was no longer a footpath to faith.

 

But that’s not a bad thing. 

Nothing we see, nothing we can prove, no evidence can bring
us to faith.

As Jesus says in Mark chapter 4, “let those who have ears,
listen!”

And as St. Paul comments in his letter to the Romans,

 “faith
comes from what is heard.”

 

What did you hear growing up? What did you hear in church?

What were the stories – from the pulpit, yes,

but also in Sunday School class, youth group and in
fellowship hall –

What did you hear? What were the stories? 

What were the words that nurtured your faith?

 

Martin Luther, in his explanation of the third article of
the Apostle’s Creed,

 Says that
we cannot come to faith alone.

No, we can only come to faith by the power of the Holy
Spirit

working through the church.

Yes, faith is not an individual thing –

 It is not
arrived at on our own.

Faith is something that comes to us in our Christian
community,

 By the Holy
Spirit through the words of the faithful.

Yes, some of those words come to us “officially”

from the pulpit, at the altar or at the font.

And other words come to us in Sunday School and confirmation
classrooms.

But many of these Holy Spirit inspired, faith-giving words
come to us

 In the
fellowship and laughter and support and storytelling

That is part of our life as a Christian community.

Yes, when we pass along soothing words of comfort or
inspiring words of wisdom,

 Faith is
nurtured by the good words that are spoken,

 those
good words that are heard.

Yes, we are like Thomas. We are like those early Christians.

We have our doubts.

We don’t have the luxury of seeing a flesh and blood Jesus
standing right in front of us,

 Like those
first believers did.

But we have something just as good –

 A living
Word of God which comes to us from all parts of our Christian community.

Just as Jesus came to Thomas to assuage his doubt,

 So too does
Jesus come to us in the living Words spoken to us

 From
pulpits, at fonts, from altars . . .

 And
around tables, across backyard fences, through telephone wires,

and on Sunday morning in the narthex or in the parking lot.

Dear friends, hear this good news:

Life-giving words of faith and love are spoken here.

The Holy Spirit is active in you, in your words,

 Nurturing
the faith of others through your words

and through the words of scripture.

We do not depended on what we see for faith,

 But rather
are strengthened by what we hear.

 

Our God is doing a good and wonderful thing here,

 In you,
through you, for you.

Let all who have ears to hear the Good Words, listen.

Amen.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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