Doubting Thomas

Homily for Sunday, April 23, 2017
Easter 2A
John 20:19-31
“Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God.’”

doubting-thomas-duccioToday’s gospel lesson is the familiar story of “Doubting Thomas.”  (Each year the Second Sunday of Easter uses this lesson, from the end of John.)  As I said last Sunday, doubts are a normal and healthy part of faith.  A healthy place to be is in tension with, on the one hand, the Bible’s stories and Church’s teachings about Jesus’ resurrection, and on the other hand our own doubts and skepticism about the resurrection.  I compared navigating the tension between these to be akin to a ship navigating its way between rocks.  The temptation is, when still off in the distance, to jump ship, as it were – or to try to convince our inner “captain” to turn around or to maybe incite a “mutiny” – rather than sail forward and risk the “rocks” of resurrection.  But I noted that, if we sail forward and learn to navigate the “rocks,” we come to a place where we are not so much concerned about what “really” happened at Jesus’ resurrection, a place where we are not so much concerned either about what may be in our own future after we die, but a place rather in which we are focused on the “now.”  And in this Easter “now” we discover that we can live fearless of death.  Mot that we don’t fear death – I think the fear of death is normal, and I have a hunch that all healthy people have at least some fear of death – but a place in which we learn to live beyond our fears.  And I suggested that it is in this “now” that Mary Magdalene lived, she who was not afraid to be present at the crucifixion or the tomb, and who – as soon as Jesus said her name – was brought back into the “now” such that she could notice – and savor and relish – the presence of the risen Christ. Continue reading

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We Are Called to be Priests

Sermon for Sunday, April 12, 2015
Easter 2B
John 20:19-31

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”—John 20:23

One of my favorite northern renaissance artists is Pieter Bruegel (the Elder).  In particular, I love his peasant scenes in which scores of people are scattered about, with each person or group of people doing something different.  (These paintings are kind of like a 16th– century Dutch “Where’s Waldo?”)  Bruegel is an artist whom, no matter how often I may have seen one of his paintings, each time I come back to it, I almost always see something new.

John’s Gospel is kind of like a Bruegel painting.  In John there is so much going on, that no matter how often I may have read John, each time I come back to him, I almost always see something new.  This morning’s lesson from John 20 is no different.  At first glance, this passage is about faith and doubt.  But the more I look, the more I see, and the more questions I have.  For example, why in some translations does John specify that it was “after eight days” that the disciples were again together?  Why would Jesus say to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side?”  (Couldn’t Jesus simply have shown them his hands and feet, as he did in Luke?)  And why does Jesus say, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained?” Continue reading