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"Another Chance" 2nd Sunday Easter 8 AM - April 17, 2022

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

In the name of God, who is love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Alleluia!! On this Second Sunday of Easter, the early disciples are not sure if Christ is risen or, if he is, how that makes a difference in their lives. Alleluia??

Aren’t you glad we didn’t start the service with that acclamation? But it does capture how today’s Gospel starts.

Before we turn to the Gospel, let’s take a moment to reflect on where we are in the Church Calendar. I’m grateful for the Second Sunday of Easter. Really, I’m grateful for Eastertide, the entire 50-day Season of Easter. It allows me time to let the Resurrection of Christ sink in. It assures me that God is not in a rush for me to wrestle with Mystery. In particular, the Second Sunday of Easter assures me that God offers another chance. Repeatedly. To me. To you. To the person we’d rather give up on.

As we enter the Gospel story today, we haven’t actually made it to the Second Sunday of Easter yet. We’re still on “that day.” The day Peter and another disciple went inside the empty tomb. The day Mary saw the Lord alive and returned to the other disciples with a message from the Lord.

On the evening of that day, the disciples are in a house – a safe house – a locked house – a house filled with fear. Because they aren’t too sure what to make of the reports of an empty tomb, the reports of a living Lord who had been crucified in plain sight not many days before.

Yes, the house is locked. But suddenly, Jesus is there. What does he do? Does he chastise them for not believing right away? Does he remind them how very often he foretold his death and resurrection? No. He offers them peace. He shows them his hands and his side.

I wonder if some of the disciples might have “accidentally” brushed up against him and felt the mark of the nails or the wound from the spear. It’s natural to want to make sure. Because resurrection isn’t what anyone would expect.

Thomas is not there. Where is Thomas? I wonder if he’s out trying to find someone who can explain the empty tomb, someone who can make sense of what Mary told them. Because Thomas likes a full explanation. He’s bold about asking questions, bold about searching for evidence.

Later that week, the disciples meet again. When Thomas shows up, they tell him about seeing Jesus. Thomas insists that he needs to see for himself, to touch for himself. I wonder how the other disciples react to that. Do they conveniently forget that they didn’t believe Mary’s words? Do they mentally pass over the fact that they needed to see, maybe even managed to touch? Do they find it easy to judge Thomas – so bold, so unbelieving, so unlike them?

Then, on the second Sunday of Easter, the disciples are huddled in the same safe house with the same shut door. This time Thomas is there, too. Thomas needs another chance to believe. All the disciples need another chance to trust—they are clearly still fearful.

Jesus enters through the shut door and offers peace to them all. To Thomas, he offers the opportunity to see and touch his wounds. Does Thomas touch? Not sure. But he does see, like all the other disciples did. And he cries out, “My Lord and My God!”

And here’s where we enter into the Gospel story – you and me and Christians down through the centuries. Jesus tells the gathered disciples, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Then the writer of the Gospel offers the Gospel of John itself as a means for people to come to faith.

And, definitely, the Gospel of John has been a means of grace leading to faith for many people. But what happens if it’s not convincing to someone? Is that the only chance God is giving?

No. Definitely not. Because God is love, and love offers another chance. We see that throughout the Bible. Starting with Adam and Eve, going through all the giants of faith in the Old Testament, with all of the early disciples—they all mess up and need the grace of another chance. The Resurrection of Christ is the power behind that grace. The Season of Easter assures us that this is part of God’s love to us: God offers another chance. Repeatedly. To me. To you. To the person we’d rather give up on.

Of course, for anyone like Thomas, the problem is that Jesus Christ is not here in the flesh right now. But we are the Body of Christ. As we follow in Christ’s Way of Love, we are a means of grace to each other and to those around us. We are how others can see the love of God in action.

And I am evidence that this works. I’ve had an up-and-down spiritual life. I’ve been part of several types of churches – Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Mennonite, Unitarian Universalist, and Episcopalian. I’ve also spent years as an agnostic or an indifferent Christian, far from any church.

And I have not always been easy to be around. I’ve been that person others would rather give up on. Partly because of a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that has sometimes overwhelmed me and caused me to moodily withdraw. Partly because of an unpredictable anger. It sometimes exploded for what must have seemed like no reason to those around me. To me, it seemed like I was protecting myself. But eventually I realized that it was out of proportion to what was going on and that it was harmful to those around me and to me.

Through many years, I have repeatedly gotten another chance to embrace life, to find peace, to experience joy, to become a loving person. Each chance has brought improvement for a time, later a partial but not permanent setback. Each chance has come through people who loved me in my prickliness.

Let me give you a glimpse of some of those people. A kindergarten friend and her devoutly Methodist mother. For several years, they provided a haven from a chaotic home life. A Lutheran Sunday School teacher for teens. She took my antagonistic questions with grace and loved me despite myself. The Dean of Women and a few students at Faith Baptist Bible College. When I was at my lowest, they brought laughter and joy into my life. An Episcopal colleague in an English program for international students. She exuded the beauty of a life secure in God’s peace and love for everyone. Therapists who combined psychological insights with faith in God’s power to heal. They listened deeply and showed compassion. And so many of you here at St. Andrew’s. When the Bishop appointed me here as a new deacon, I felt that I just wasn’t good enough to be part of such a large, vibrant church. Yet I have found acceptance and love and joy for myself and have seen that extended to others, as well.

So, do you see why I’m grateful for the Second Sunday of Easter? It’s because I’m grateful that God offers another chance. Repeatedly. To me. To you. To the person we’d rather give up on. As the Body of Christ walking in the Way of Love, we are a means God uses to extend that grace. The Resurrection of Christ is the power behind that grace. Please join me in acclaiming that glorious truth.

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Acts 5:27-32; John 20:19-31

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