Sermon For Easter Sunday April 1st 2018
We all have our own prophecy of liberation, through Christ. In our celebration of Christ rising from death, to eternal, perfect life, we see that the Spirit transcends what, we often fear, may be the only reality we can know. Thank God for giving us his Son to show us our fears are not the truth! Yet, statements like ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust’, when taken out of context, can be a stark reminder of this fear that life and death are our only fates. Haven’t we all stopped and wondered, in a moment of stillness, if this, our mundane life, is just “it’? Those moments when we get a glimpse, through the veil of our busy realities, of what Jesus came to show us, are our connections to the resurrection.
Christ knows that his example, the Spirit working in the world, can be a hard thing for us to understand- because he experienced all the human frailty of this existence himself. It can be a hard thing to have faith in the resurrection when what we often see seems to contradict the possibility of such a glorious experience. Why is it that many people have a MORE difficult time, more challenges to their faith, during holidays and celebrations than during everyday life? Shouldn’t you be more faithful, more ‘in the spirit’, during a celebration like today? Could it be because the contrast to the everyday perception of a mundane world, through something like the resurrection, is so much stronger in these moments?
Let’s look at Christ’s own experience on the cross, and what he returns to show us afterward.
Christ took up his own cross. He was nailed to his cross, with no hope of escape, in public. Christ suffered as a man suffers, in pain, feeling forsaken and alone, wondering where God was, and why he must suffer. Even though he knew the prophecy for his life, in its totality, Christ had to experience this profound suffering, and feeling of being forsaken, without any special comforts of being the son of God. At the peak of Christ’s suffering, when he was seemingly isolated, both physically and spiritually, it was then when his spirit was released.
It was only after Christ gave up any possibility of his own will and desire being fulfilled that he could unite with God and release the suffering. Suffering ONLY occurs on an individual level. You cannot suffer when you are with God. Resurrection cannot happen when one’s own will is active.
As powerful as this is, just as powerful is Christ’s boundless compassion for those still trapped, still bearing their own crosses, and having yet to die to their own will.
The story of Christ’s interaction with the apostle Thomas, after Christ’s resurrection, is a light given to us through the love of Christ. It seems especially fitting for ‘modern humans’ who often put such confidence in the material world and our senses.
Thomas should be praised for his unwavering honesty. He doubted. Not only did he doubt the resurrection of Christ, he proclaimed his doubt. I wonder how many of us would have such courage and honesty in our own spiritual journey. This alone is a great lesson for us in ‘seeking with all our heart’. I say this because, as I mentioned above, many people struggle greatly through celebrations, holy days, and all those times when we seem to be expected to ‘turn on’ a higher level of spiritual awareness and connection. Many people feel they need to pretend, smile their way through their own internal struggles, as they fit in with the spirit of the day. Thomas is there to show you to be genuine in your relationship with Christ.
Jesus, however, IS love. He sees the doubt in Thomas and, instead of condemning, offers himself to Thomas. It is a gesture of such profound beauty and love, a teaching with more Truth than I could possible touch with a single sermon, that it is with a great sense of humility and reverence that I even touch the subject.
Thomas had doubt because it was his own intellect, his own will, that needed to be satisfied. Thomas carried his doubt as Jesus carried his cross. Thomas was nailed to his doubt, trapped in it, just as Jesus had been trapped on the cross when doubting God. Jesus could see, just as he had experienced for himself on the cross, that by doubting, by trying to use his own intellect and will to understand, Thomas had effectively separated himself from Christ. Christ could see that the very thing that Thomas thought would help his faith, would ultimately limit his faith to mere belief.
In an act of great compassion, Jesus indulges Thomas and allows him to experience the proof, Thomas believed he needed, to no longer doubt Christ had truly risen. Thomas proclaims his belief, having been given what he needed to stop doubting, and then Jesus says-
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Do you see the profound truth being given here? Jesus is telling Thomas that, although I gave you what you wanted, it is not what you needed. Although you now believe, you are not blessed. To understand the importance of this, you need to understand what a blessing is. Being blessed is a connecting with the divine. It is a coming together of the person being blessed and the source of the blessing. It is not a belief as in I, as me, believe in you, that other thing. It is a transformative connection, through faith.
Jesus is telling Thomas, and showing us, that believing through a need of proof is separating yourself from God. He is showing us that belief, through our will and intellect, is not enough and that it can never be as truly transformative as a blessing is. Faith, without knowing, transforms.
Jesus had just showed this through his own attempt at knowing if God would save him on the cross. Till the very last moment, Jesus cried out to God to show Himself, and save Christ from his suffering. ONLY when he let go of his own will, his need to know God, did Christ receive the blessing, and return to the Father.
So, on this day of celebration, a joyous day of hope in the saving Grace of Jesus Christ, allow yourself to meditate on the experience of Christ and his return to teach, and save. Go to Christ with whatever is on your heart, doubt, joy, sorrow, faith, confusion- the totality of what He already knows is there. Go to Christ not for proof, but in faith, and allow his blessing to transform you.