Thomas

Worship Matters

John 20:19-31 (MSG)

19-20: Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. 20-21: The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” 22-23: Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” 24-25: But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.” 26: But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.” Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” 27: Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.” 28: Thomas said, “My Master! My God!” 29: Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” 30-31: Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

 

The contrast between the setting of this Jesus story and our reality couldn’t be starker. Jesus’ disciples have locked themselves in a room out of fear. We don’t know if their fear was legitimate or if it was irrational, Falsehood Experienced As Reality. We, on the other hand, are “locked out” of our church sanctuary for the health and safety of each other because of respectful fear of a new, life-threatening reality.

Jesus shows up, locked doors no barrier to his presence, offers them peace, and shows them his wounds. Ah. To offer peace and then “back it up” with the strong vulnerability of exposing his wounds to them. Not hiding them in shame but sharing them. We can imagine that his appearing in the locked room might have added to their fear, right? The kind of holy fear they experienced when he walked to them in their boat during a storm.

In that story he spoke to them and Peter jumped over the side of the boat to be with him. In this story Jesus speaks the blessing they desperately need to hear, exposes his wounds as if to say, “it’s really me,” moves their attention outward, “I send you,” and brings up forgiveness in the act of breathing the Holy Spirit upon them. If all of this is confounding I believe you’re hearing it clearly. John is packing a lot
into this account.

I believe there is specific good news today for Foothills Mennonite in this Scripture, especially because we are in the midst of transitions galore (none of which are as dramatic as our Messiah being publically put to death and then returning in a new resurrected body). First, Jesus is not controlled by our locked doors of fear and anxiety. He is always present to us, always, with open hands of welcome and grace, and offers us peace. Not the false peace of conflict avoidance or denial. Rather, the true peace that comes when we face whatever we are dealing with in awareness of his presence and openness to the Jesus Way the Jesus way.

Second, the source of the peace that Jesus offers and that we receive as gift is rooted in his wounds. He suffered unto death for love, because of love, in love, with love. Suffering is not the worst thing that happened to him and it’s not the worst thing that happens to us. Refusing to accept love and to offer love is the worst thing.

May we be more aware of God’s presence and more open to God’s ways during this time of fear, whether it be rational, irrational or holy fear. For Jesus will come through our locked doors and will offer us peace, service, the Spirit and forgiveness!

Pastor Donna