April 19, 2020, What We've Been Hungry For, by Pastor David Tatgenhorst
John 20:19-31 19 It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” Jesus appears to Thomas and the disciples. 24 Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” 26 After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” 28 Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. 31 But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.
We take a moment to breathe together on this call, to hear what God is saying to us today in this passage and in our lives, as our world recovers, and continues to reach to trust the message.
Living in a New Reality St. Luke UMC
“What are the first signs of civilization in a culture?” Years ago a student asked this question of Margaret Mead, the famous anthropologist. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.
I want to thank you for what you have done for me and for each other the past month. All of you have cared for each other enough to make major changes in your lives, to try to keep other people from getting sick, to be a civilized people. Not only would no other animal species have been able to do this, the truth is that probably no society up to the present day would have been able to take such drastic action, organize it and carry it off on a worldwide basis. It’s remarkable.
There are things we could have done better, and I am still hoping that our country can pull together in ways that other countries have shown work best, but still I kind of shake my head in disbelief at how this has happened, trying to get my head around it. I know part of it has been fear. But on the whole, you all have shown some remarkable ability to see the bigger picture and take care of each other. The curve is starting to flatten.
Now we come to a crossroad. Can we stick with it even though it’s starting to hurt, and even when we’ve made progress? Or do we say, well, that’s enough, we declare victory and act as though it has all been accomplished? No, unfortunately, we have a ways to go yet. I wish it wasn’t so. I am so ready to be back together with you again at church and in our community work. We have to stay the course a while longer and be civilized a worldwide civilization.
This is a disorienting, de-centering time. And that is a hard thing, but it is also a time of real possibility. The disciples were totally disoriented by what happened during Holy Week. Some of them came to the tomb thinking they were going to anoint a body, but then found an empty tomb, just as we find our churches empty this weekend. One of them thought Jesus was a gardener. Today we read about Thomas who seems to have been the only disciple not social distancing and isolating himself. But he’s having a hard time wrapping his head around what has happened because he didn’t see the risen Christ for himself.
Other disciples, we read about next week, are trying to explain to a stranger how tragic life is, how everything had gone to hell — when they get surprised by Jesus breaking bread with them. Still others decide they don’t have anything left to do but go fishing - to go back to the life they had before and Jesus appears on the beach.
This is where we are going the next few weeks, folks. To think about this new reality we are in. We will look for the resurrected Christ in the midst of a bunch of pain and suffering and confusion. We will take extra time to pray and listen and watch for the risen Jesus. We will do extra prayer and meditation to enable us to be a non-anxious presence in our world.
Most of us are hoping to go back to the life we had before, to get back to normal, like the disciples who decide to go fishing. That’s not how resurrection works, folks. As Simone Weil noted, ‘the one indispensable requirement for resurrection is death.” (quoted by Thomas Currie, in Journal for Preachers) We do not want to die to anything - but especially to what we were used to, what made us comfortable, to our sense of life revolving around our own needs.
Whether we like it or not, however, death is happening. We cannot avoid it, no matter how much we deny it. The old is dying and God is in the transformation that is happening around us and within us. The resurrected on is in our midst calling us to notice, to live into God’s new reality, even now. This is not about self-growth or psychology. This is about death and resurrection, dying to the old and being transformed into new life. When we recognize that we can find life.
Thomas had trouble believing that new life was possible out of the death that he had just witnessed a couple days before. Any of us would. All of us do have trouble recognizing it and believing it is possible, that it is happening. But there are signs all around us. Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe. We do not have to stick our fingers into the wound to know that this transformation is happening.
We see it in the mobilization of doctors and nurses all around the world. We see it in new ways artists are performing and cheering and soothing. we see it in people mobilizing to get people out of jail, to get people food, to help people stay safe and connected and loved.
There are signs all around us that we live in a civilized society - that broken bones are being healed, that people are sacrificing jobs in order to keep each other safe, that people are making sure that their neighbor has food, that their neighbor has medicine, that their neighbor is staying safe. We are making sure that people know they are not alone, even when they have to be isolated. These are signs of an evolution in civilization. Civilization dies and is resurrected.
We rise with Christ care for each other. We rise with Christ to free each other. We rise with Christ to sing and laugh and welcome a new day.
We pray that we will hear God as this new civilization is shaped and formed and recreated. We rise with Christ to the task of living into this new reality that God is making.
This is God’s good news. Let us with our Christ arise.
This song that Matthew will lead us in was written by Charles Wesley at the very beginning of the Methodist movement. Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise.
Responsive hymn. 2084 Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise