A sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
April 16, 2023
The Rev. Mark Nabors, Vicar
Readings: John 20:19-31
Today is called “Low Sunday.” It’s called that because our numbers tend to be low after our big Easter Sunday. Those who show up today are dragged here by something greater than themselves, by the very Spirit of God pulling them, by grace, to the life on offer in the word and sacraments. But for many, the pattern is Easter Sunday, then we need a break.
St. Thomas breaks that pattern today. In our reading from John, we read that he is absent on Easter Sunday. On the day of the Resurrection, with the doors still locked, Jesus appears to the disbelieving disciples. He breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit. He gives them a mission. He speaks peace. But Thomas isn’t there. And when his fellow disciples tell him what has happened, he doesn’t believe it. He doubts (just like they did before Jesus showed up). He says he won’t believe unless Jesus shows up and Thomas can see the wounds.
Let’s not beat up on Thomas for his doubt. Who among us has never had any doubt? Perhaps there are some, but they are not standing in this pulpit. I’ve had doubts and struggles with faith. And those struggles have come when I have been at my lowest point, at my most wounded, like Thomas. Those struggles of faith often assail us when we have been thrown into the pit, when our expectations about how things should be are turned upside-down, when our worlds reel and rock and we spin out of control. Thomas’s Lord and Master has been tortured and killed. The source of Thomas’s hopes has been crucified on a tree. No wonder he struggles with doubt today.
But the next week, on Low Sunday, at his lowest point, Thomas shows up. I wonder why? Why wasn’t he there the week before? Why does he come this week? I suppose it was for the same reason that we are here today. The grace of God dragged him there, wounds and all, because there was something that needed to happen in his life. There was some healing that needed to happen in his soul.
I often hear it: I shouldn’t go to church if I can’t believe. I shouldn’t be in the pews if I’m a mess. I shouldn’t be there if I’m a sinner, if I’m wounded, if I can’t have faith. My friend, take Thomas as your patron and come anyway. The Holy Spirit is dragging you here. For it is at that precise moment when we need to encounter Christ, crucified and risen.
That’s what happens to Thomas. He comes. Perhaps he comes kicking and screaming. He comes wounded. But maybe he comes wondering, too–wondering if there could be any truth in what he had heard. “Probably not,” he tells himself as he gets up that morning. “But I need a cup of coffee anyway, and maybe there will be some donuts.” So he comes. He thinks he is dragging himself there. He’s actually being dragged there by God.
And Jesus shows up. Jesus, crucified and risen, wounds and all, shows up. “Don’t doubt, Thomas,” he says, “But believe.” Trust in me. Trust in this resurrection. Trust that I have defeated the powers of sin and death. I see you’re wounded, Thomas. I have been wounded, too. Go ahead, put your hand in my pierced hands, in my pierced side. Trust me, your once-wounded healer, to heal you.
We show up week after week with our own wounds. And with our wounds, we come with doubts, with reservations, with what-if’s, with how-can-it-be’s. We show up having been dealt blow after blow, having struggled and lost against sin, having been touched by the icy hand of death. But the Spirit drags us here, even on Low Sunday at our lowest points, because we need to meet Christ. We need to meet Christ, not because we’re perfect, not because we have more than enough faith, not because we’re all put together, not because our lives are easy, but for the exact opposite reason: because we’re sinners, because we doubt, because we fall apart, because life is hard sometimes, because we’re hurting and wounded and our hope is lost. And that is exactly how Christ desires to meet us. He meets us there so he can lift us, so he can heal us, so he can love us, so he can give us his life.
Do not doubt, but believe. Believe that Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, is here now to do that for you. And be healed.
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