Jesus Appears to the Disciples
When 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, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Jesus and Thomas
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
The Purpose of This Book
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
~ John 20:19-31 (NRSV)
Throughout the Easter season, we will be talking about the words that we use and the importance of clear communication. After all, as we learned last week, it is our call as Christians to share the Good News with the world; and so we need to figure out exactly how to do that. In the church, around the time of Easter, we use special words like “Hosanna” and “Alleluia.” We are reminded that the tomb is empty and that Christ is Risen. We talk of crucifixion and resurrection, of salvation and eternal life, and we know in our hearts that that is all part of the Good News! But though we can celebrate and be comforted by those words here in worship, they don’t always translate to the real world.
Sometimes, our words hold a lot of weight and are very important, like this afternoon when the committee on ministry announces that Pastor Amie is deemed ordainable pending a call! But other times, our words are routine and simple. Today, however, my question is, “Are words enough?”
I suppose they can be if they are simply describing things like a table or a chair, a guitar or a piano. After all, that is simply vocabulary. But some words tell more of a story, and they rely on the listener to trust and believe. Some things are everyday and ordinary, and when we hear them, we take them for granted. If we call to order a cheese pizza and the person on the phone tells us that it will be delivered in about thirty minutes, we assume that it will, because we have done this before and because it seems reasonable. If we talk to a friend and they say that they will be meeting us for coffee, we believe them because they usually follow through with what they say. Today in Household Huddle, we planted seeds in a cup. The instructions on the seed package say that they will start to grow in about a week. We believe it because it seems realistic, even though sometimes not all seeds germinate in the same amount of time, and results may vary depending on our care of the seed.
But what about when someone tells us something that seems too good to be true? Or when one of those friends who doesn’t always follow through on their promises tells us something? Those are situations where words sometimes just aren’t enough. That’s why we need to work diligently to be honest and true with our words. When we say something, we need to be sure to back it up with our actions.
If we are a church that says that it is welcoming to all, then we need to truly be welcoming to all—not just to our friends and the people that we know, and not only to the people who worship with us regularly, but also to the people who arrive at our door for any reason, whether expected or unexpected. And if we say that we are a hard-working church that works together, but the same three or four people continually show up and do all the work, we are kidding ourselves, we are not being honest and backing up our words with our actions. Folks, words can be strong and meaningful, or they can be empty and superficial. They can bring with them a sense of assurance and trust, or they can leave people feeling unsure and afraid.
I’m going to cut right to the chase. We have a turkey supper coming up in a few weeks, and there is a lot of work to do. Because it’s “graduation season,” many of our regular workers will not be available to help. We are getting nervous that, though people say they want to help, we may come up short of helpers on the weekend of the supper. Sometimes, it’s hard to trust and believe when we haven’t experienced something in the past.
It’s just like in our story today about “Doubting Thomas.” In the Gospel of John, we are told that Jesus appeared to his disciples after his death and resurrection, but unfortunately, Thomas was not there when Jesus appeared. When Thomas returned, the other disciples were excited. They told him about what they had seen and heard, but because Thomas had not seen with his own eyes, he could not believe. When Jesus finally reappeared, he allowed Thomas to see, to touch, and to believe, and Thomas did.
Was it wrong for Thomas to have doubted? Was he a bad person because he didn’t believe from the start? No. He was a human being, and so are all of us. Sometimes, it takes a little proof to reassure us. To be honest, sometimes it takes a little push for us to think about how well our words and our actions are matching up.
I know that life gets busy sometimes, and I know that we all have responsibilities inside and outside of the church. But as a congregation, and more so as a faith family, we need to have better communication. Not only when we go out and share the Good News with the world, but also when we talk with one another here within our walls. So, brothers and sisters in Christ, I’m going to ask you to do a few things this week.
First of all, if you have time to help out with the upcoming Craft and Vendor Fair or the Turkey Supper, please let us know so that we can plan ahead. We’re going to have a signup sheet in Maxcy Hall during coffee hour today. You don’t need to commit to being there for the entire time. Just let us know when you can be there so we can make sure that we have enough help. Then, inside and outside of the church, think about the words that you use and the stories that you tell. Are you bringing a sense of light to the world, or are you feeding the flames of gossip and discontent?
Folks, our church is far from perfect, but the only way that we are going to stay healthy and able to continue to share the Good News with the world is if we are honest, if we are true to our word, and if we are open about our needs. Think about this for just a moment. This church is so amazing that it’s doors have been kept open for three hundred and seven years, supported mostly by hard-working, dedicated volunteers. Believe me, that doesn’t happen in most places! Sure, there have been times when arguments and fights have broken out. There have been times when families have left, and times when a small handful of people have carried most of the weight. After all, we are a family! But like any family, we need to take time once in a while to remember what is important, to check our calendar and our budget, and to figure out how we’re going to function.
I remember when my kids were little, we always had a chore chart on the refrigerator because, in our family, it was important for everyone to have a job, a responsibility. It wasn’t just to keep people busy, but it was more of a statement that let everyone know that they were needed and they mattered.
Friends, there is no other church quite like Oldtown. I mean it when I say that. There is a reason why I am here, and a reason why I have no plan of leaving any time soon! Because I love this community with all of my being. And I know that any time you get a group of people together, there are going to be good times and there are going to be bad times. There are going to be times of celebration, and there are going to be times of struggle. There are even going to be times of negative energy when it seems like all you hear are arguing and complaining. But if we take some time to think about the words that we use and the way that we communicate with one another, not only here in the sanctuary but also in Maxcy Hall and out in the parking lot, and we truly remember who and whose we are and why we are here, then our eyes will be opened and we will no longer be afraid or doubt. Because then, we will truly be assured, just like Thomas, of the Good News that is all around us!
Here in Oldtown, we are blessed beyond measure. We have an amazing congregation where gifts abound! So, let’s be open and honest with one another, and rather than focusing on one another’s weaknesses and shortcomings and complaining about what it is that people are doing or not doing, let’s affirm and believe in all that is good and the endless possibilities that surround us.
When my kids were young, and they would get frustrated, I would always say to them, “Use your words.” Folks, remember that we are not surrounded by mind readers, so don’t get frustrated when the people around you don’t understand what you are thinking. Use your words and communicate, so that we can build up the Body of Christ here in Oldtown, because that’s the only way that we have a chance of spreading the Good News inside and outside of our walls, just as Jesus calls us to do.
My friends, may it be so, thanks be to God. Amen!