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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sermon 04072013 1st Sunday After Easter


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray!  Almighty God, we have joined in celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Graciously enter into our hearts and embolden us to show the power of the resurrection for all of those who have not seen and enable them to believe on Your Word spoken through we Your servants.  For Jesus life, death and resurrection was for all mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

With the onset of spring in the air when you drive by Central, West or Grant schools one of the clear activities is the kids being outside playing either basketball, kick ball, soccer or some sport that requires some physical prowess and ability.  All of us probably remember picking teams for these match ups and experiencing for some the joy of being picked first because either you were good at the sport or your best friend was the captain and they wanted you to be on their team.  As the ranks of the chosen whittled down, those who were left were clearly the minority and possibly at the lower end of the talent pool.  I know I was almost always chosen last even after the girls, because all though I had enthusiasm, I wasn’t very good at sports.  But I had bred into me the competitive spirit to win, Simon saw this last summer when we were at Confirmation Camp in 4 Square, I hated to loose.  Although I was chosen last early in life, it did free me up with the other players so when I was lucky enough to make a surprising catch or play, it would bolster my confidence and strangely enough makes me understand a little clearer this morning what Thomas the disciple felt after Jesus resurrection.

From our Gospel this morning we have heard the story that all of us know so well of doubting Thomas.  This story is told about a disciple who in one sense was ‘last’ to see and experience the resurrected Jesus Christ.  Thomas known clearly for this story of his doubting is heralded as one who does inform us about what it is like to be in the minority, but also how Thomas plays an important role in discipleship for us who gather today.

You see, Thomas was one of the twelve disciples, chosen by Jesus Christ to not only escort Him on His ministry for the three years that led up to the crucifixion and resurrection, but also be mentored along the journey by Jesus.  Thomas wasn’t one of the ‘inner circle’ of disciples, the ‘close friends’ like the kids that would be chosen first in the sporting events.  Thomas was different, he was clearly known for his pessimism.  He is also best known for his doubting of Jesus resurrection, but strangely enough Thomas doubting in one sense not only puts him as a minority for the disciples at the end of the day of resurrection, but for us today could be seen as a role model for our society and our world. 

Thomas is the poster child for our world that needs the tangible results of ‘proof’ for whatever is going on, whether it is the papers for the farm loan or note, the proof of our support of the latest school bond issue or the proof of our attendance at worship here at church.  We seek proof for everything.

Yet, Thomas was not only known for his ‘doubting’, he is also known for his faith.  This is the part of the story that we tend to forget.  Yes, Thomas said, “Unless I see in His [that is Jesus] hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  We are no different than Thomas as well.  Until someone proves their worth, their commitment, their length of service or their longevity we will not see them as equals.  Even here in the church we take it one step further.  We doubt and deny fellowship or welcome to people who were not raised in this congregation, look different or dress different than we do or even do not have the lineage in this congregation, community or even the Lutheran faith.  We like Thomas deny those sitting in the pew beside, in front or behind us the belief that they are included in the body of Christ here at Emmanuel.

This is what Thomas experienced from his fellow disciples the evening after the resurrection.  They that is the disciples had seen Jesus resurrected from the dead, but Thomas, doubter that he was known by was probably ‘outcast’ from his friends pushed to the side or the outskirts of the group and made to feel less special, like we sometimes do here at Emmanuel and in society by being separate whether by family group or by our own little ‘clicks’.  Thomas was in a minority of one, who had not seen and had not yet believed.

But then it happened.  Jesus Christ appeared to His disciples and Thomas was with them.  It doesn’t say he was sitting in the corner, but clearly Thomas probably was seen by the other disciples in a different light.  But Jesus immediately after offering “Peace be with you” says clearly and directly to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side…”  Jesus calls for Thomas to be on His believing team by calling for him to see, touch and encounter the risen Savior.  Jesus wants Thomas to be included in the great activities that are to come.  Jesus tells Thomas not in command but in personal calling, “Thomas….do not be unbelieving, but believing.

This message to Thomas is the same message spoken to us today.  It is a message of love and forgiveness that we are called to share with all of mankind.  We are called to reach out to each other here at Emmanuel and in Goodland and the world and embrace one another even if we are from different sides of the tracks, different economic strata and even different faith backgrounds or families.  God is calling us to put aside our petty differences, forgive one another if we have been hurt, or our family has been hurt and not only share the forgiveness of sins, but believe and put into action the forgiveness of sins for each and every one of us.  If we cannot forgive, if we cannot love as Christ call us to, if we cannot let love rule our hearts and not our lust for power, prestige or perfection as we see it, then we spit upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our model is Jesus Christ Who called Thomas out of his ‘doubt’ and called Thomas to believe in His resurrection for all of mankind and be welcoming.  We are the body of Christ and we should be unified with the faith and belief in Jesus Christ Who rose from the dead for you and for me.  This is our mantra, not exclusive of people who just joined Emmanuel or were just baptized or didn’t grow up here, but inclusive, because Jesus Christ models this with Thomas and for each and every one of us today.

And what does Thomas say after seeing, feeling and encountering Jesus Christ, Thomas makes the boldest declaration of faith recorded after Jesus resurrection.  He says, “My Lord and my God!”  Thomas hadn’t drunk the kool-aid, he hadn’t been brain washed, but clearly encountered Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.  But Jesus says what we need to hear, understand, remember and cherish today, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?”  Now what we need to hear, grab ahold to and share with those who have not encountered Jesus Christ like Thomas is the following, “Blessed are they [that is us] who did not see, and yet believed.

This morning we are the ones who are blessed.  We are the ones who have the opportunity to not only receive the blessing of Jesus Christ in receipt of His precious Body and Blood, we are also witnesses of God reaching into our lives in a very special and personal way.  This morning we have had this opportunity with the baptism of Keri Snethen, but also in a few minutes four young ladies will for the first time receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the first time. 

These four young women will be blessed as Jesus says because they ‘did not see, and yet believed.’  They with eyes of faith given to them in their baptism will receive the greatest mystery of faith that gives us eternal life.  In, with and under the bread and wine, they will see the resurrected Jesus Christ with the eyes of faith given at baptism and they will be blessed.  These are the promises God makes to all of us when we hear and head the words, “Given and Shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  This is the great mystery that we partake of with our receipt of Jesus Body and Blood.  This is where we are no longer in the minority of people, but chosen for the believing team of Jesus Christ to spread the Gospel message of salvation for all of mankind.  This includes all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel celebrating the baptism of Keri, but also Olivia, Destiny, Bekah and Keri receiving Jesus Christ true Body and Blood for the first time, with all of the saints of all time and all place, including all of us here at Emmanuel this morning in the Lord’s Supper.  AMEN.
//trial script