A sermon by Rev. Eric Dillenbeck
May 1, 2011
Fairmount Presbyterian Church
John 20:19-31
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I spent the past week in the gracious company of other potential jurors. That’s right, in a cruel twist of fate I was summoned for JURY DUTY on the week after Easter. I tell you what, someone has got a lot of nerve!

To tell you the truth, other than the timing, I really do not mind the idea of serving on a jury. As I see it, we have the privilege of living in this great country; along with that comes the responsibility to participate in the system by casting our votes and serving on a jury.

Plus I love all those crime shows like “Law & Order” and “The Closer;” the lawyers arguing their points, and the juries doing their best to distill the truth and figure out the best way to proceed.

The whole process, while nothing like television, was interesting to me. The best moment for me was the conversation with the judge about our belief in our innocence until proven guilty. This idea that we come into times of trial with our innocence intact revolutionized our legal system. It put the burden of proof on those making the claim, and made it acceptable to ask for the evidence.

Sometimes it is easy to prove something because all the evidence is there for you to see. Other times it is more difficult because the evidence is circumstantial, requiring us to make our own assumptions or draw our own conclusions.

Thomas is not someone who appreciates circumstantial evidence.

Thomas, you know the guy; the one who has come to be called, “Doubting Thomas.” I believe he was ahead of his time. He should have been the one sitting on that jury panel this week. He was ready and willing to hear the testimony, but what he really wanted was the evidence. “You can say what you want, but if you are going to convince me, you are going to have to show me, you are going to have to show me those nail marks.”

Can you imagine what Thomas must have been feeling? After he comes back from wherever he was, he is mobbed by the other disciples as they rush to tell him about their experience with the resurrected Jesus. In their excitement they begin talking over one another saying,

“We have seen the Lord!”                “He breathed on me,”
“He showed me his hands,        “He showed me his side.”

Thomas missed the resurrected Jesus and all he hears for a week are these same words repeated again and again. As they sit in that house with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, I imagine he makes them tell him the whole story, again and again, trying soak it all in; trying to believe.

“So you say Jesus just showed up? How did he get into the house?
How did he get through the doors?
They were locked right?
He breathed on you?
He said, he is sending you just as he was sent?
He told you, you can forgive sins now?”

But Thomas is not convinced. He figures it must be some kind of group psychosis, brought on by stale air and too much togetherness. It has to be because nothing is different. They are still in this house. It has been a week since they experienced the risen Lord, but nothing is different.

Thomas sits there going over and over the stories as he hears them, trying to make sense of them, trying to understand. But he looks around and he sees that nothing in different and he has a hard time believing.
“When Mary came running to this house the morning she discovered the empty tomb and encountered Jesus in the garden she said those same words, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (v. 18); and you could tell that something had happened. She was passionate, she was different. I just can not believe these stories. If I am going to believe it, I have to see it for myself. Show me the evidence. Let me touch it, feel it, experience it. If that does not happen, I will not believe it!”

Even as he is speaking those words, he can not believe what he is saying. He is just as shocked as the other disciples, but at the same time he knows it is true. At this the other disciples pull away from him, embarrassed and not sure exactly what to say; leaving Thomas to dwell in his own unbelief, his own uncertainty, his own grief, his own woundedness.

And then, just like before Jesus is there. The doors are still locked for fear of the Jews, but Jesus is there. He offers peace to everyone and then turns to Thomas and gives him the evidence he so needs. He does not judge him, or shun him or ignore him. Jesus turns to Thomas and invites him to put his finger in his wounds. And then like a wave crashing upon the shore Thomas is moved to witness saying, “My Lord and my God!”

There are many people who identify with Thomas in the world today. Who knows, there might be some here who have a special place in their hearts for our Friend Thomas. But there is no doubt, there are many in this world who look at the church and wonder what it all means; who look at the church and have a hard time believing because it seems nothing has changed; who look at the church, searching for the evidence of the risen Lord in our midst.

And who can blame them. Christians around the world celebrated Easter just last week. We left this place last Sunday shouting Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!
And then we went to work, we went to school, we went to jury duty, and it does not appear from the outside that anything is different and the Thomases of the world are left wondering. Christians across this country tell their stories of the great music and moving worship and others continue to watch us, like Doubting Thomas, wondering how, after the power of the Easter story, we can still be the same.

They are looking for the evidence, looking for the concrete facts, looking for an experience with the risen Christ, wondering if he will show himself to them too.

Have you seen him? Have you put your finger in his hand or your hand in his side? Has the risen Christ sought out your woundedness and allowed you to feel his? Have you felt the tears of Christ washing you clean, inviting you to trust and believe?

The stories of the survivors of the tornadoes that ravaged our southern states have not really begun to come out yet, but from what I hear from my friends and colleagues in the affected areas, the Risen Christ is present, the Risen Christ is there and at work through our brothers and sisters from the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Ministry who are already at work providing water, who are already at work providing food, who are already at work comforting those who grieve.

The Risen Christ is there greeting the Thomases, allowing them to wrap their woundedness up in his so that his tears might provide comfort and peace. The Risen Christ is here, in this place, breathing upon us this day, offering his peace, sending us out to forgive and work for the peace and justice of all people.

The Risen Christ is here. Will we be the same?
How will the Thomases of the world see the life and light of the Risen Christ at work in our shared ministry, or at work your life this day and in the days to come? Where’s the evidence? Will they see it? I bet they will!