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Second Sunday of Easter, Year C

John 20:19-31 - link to NRSV text

The Second Sunday of Easter is always the Sunday of Thomas "the twin," sometimes called "doubting Thomas."  At St. Martin's, where I work, it's also a day when we baptize children, so as I prepare to preach, I find myself reflecting on the connection between the Baptismal Covenant and this Sunday's gospel, in particular Jesus' statement, "Blessed are those who have not seen and who have come to believe."

In many ways, it's a puzzling statement. It certainly goes against some modernist sensibilities. A lot of the scientific quests of the 20th century seem predicated on the assumption, "blessed are you who, because you won't settle for somebody else's word for it, finally see for yourself." Some (though not all) scholars examining the historical Jesus -- what can be demonstrated with current evidence as most plausibly coming from Jesus of Nazareth before his crucifixion -- speak of their quest in "blessed are those who see for themselves" kinds of terms, as they talk about trying to get behind the stories early Christian communities told to something else, something behind them, something closer to "truth."

I don't think there's anything wrong with historical Jesus scholarship as an enterprise. I think it's of historical value, and can be of value for Christians and Christianity as well. At the very least, I find it's often useful to be able to make a very solid historical argument that there actually was a person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in the first century C.E. But I don't think (and most historical Jesus scholars would agree with me) that trying to get somehow beyond Christian community is going to help (or, for that matter, hurt) much if what you want is to encounter the risen Jesus for yourself.

If you want to meet the risen Christ, I'd suggest hanging out where he hangs out. Invest compassion as well as time and treasure with those with whom Christ suffers today. Find a stranger on the road you can invite to break bread with you and your fellow travelers. Listen deeply for Christ's voice where two or three are gathered in his name. In short, don't rely solely on books, or even on solitary prayer to find Jesus. Connect with Christ in community. Thomas was absolutely sure of one thing before he saw the risen Jesus for himself. He knew that if Jesus was alive, Jesus would be seen in the flesh.

That hasn't changed. We still encounter Jesus in the flesh. We might not see him with our eyes, but we've got something in common with Thomas: the surest way for us to encounter the risen Jesus, and to know him as Lord and God is by touching (and being touched by) Christ's Body.

And that brings me back to baptism and our Baptismal Covenant. We can't live the life of the baptized outside of community, without other human beings with whom we can form relationships of justice, whom we can love, whom we can forgive, and from whom we can receive what Christ wants to give -- the fruit of the Spirit in abundance. I love to hear conviction in the congregation's cry of "We will!" in our vow to support the baptized as they live into the covenant they've made, or their parents have made on their behalf. Our journey isn't always easy; Jesus' call is as much in tension with our culture as it was in first-century Palestine. The new disciples will need our support. And we need theirs. We need all of the gifts, the creativity, and even the wounds of Christ's Body to know life in Christ.

Thanks be to God!

April 12, 2004 in Baptism, Easter, John | Permalink

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Dylan's lectionary blog: Second Sunday of Easter, Year C

« Easter Sunday, Year C | Main | Third Sunday of Easter, Year C »

Second Sunday of Easter, Year C

John 20:19-31 - link to NRSV text

The Second Sunday of Easter is always the Sunday of Thomas "the twin," sometimes called "doubting Thomas."  At St. Martin's, where I work, it's also a day when we baptize children, so as I prepare to preach, I find myself reflecting on the connection between the Baptismal Covenant and this Sunday's gospel, in particular Jesus' statement, "Blessed are those who have not seen and who have come to believe."

In many ways, it's a puzzling statement. It certainly goes against some modernist sensibilities. A lot of the scientific quests of the 20th century seem predicated on the assumption, "blessed are you who, because you won't settle for somebody else's word for it, finally see for yourself." Some (though not all) scholars examining the historical Jesus -- what can be demonstrated with current evidence as most plausibly coming from Jesus of Nazareth before his crucifixion -- speak of their quest in "blessed are those who see for themselves" kinds of terms, as they talk about trying to get behind the stories early Christian communities told to something else, something behind them, something closer to "truth."

I don't think there's anything wrong with historical Jesus scholarship as an enterprise. I think it's of historical value, and can be of value for Christians and Christianity as well. At the very least, I find it's often useful to be able to make a very solid historical argument that there actually was a person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in the first century C.E. But I don't think (and most historical Jesus scholars would agree with me) that trying to get somehow beyond Christian community is going to help (or, for that matter, hurt) much if what you want is to encounter the risen Jesus for yourself.

If you want to meet the risen Christ, I'd suggest hanging out where he hangs out. Invest compassion as well as time and treasure with those with whom Christ suffers today. Find a stranger on the road you can invite to break bread with you and your fellow travelers. Listen deeply for Christ's voice where two or three are gathered in his name. In short, don't rely solely on books, or even on solitary prayer to find Jesus. Connect with Christ in community. Thomas was absolutely sure of one thing before he saw the risen Jesus for himself. He knew that if Jesus was alive, Jesus would be seen in the flesh.

That hasn't changed. We still encounter Jesus in the flesh. We might not see him with our eyes, but we've got something in common with Thomas: the surest way for us to encounter the risen Jesus, and to know him as Lord and God is by touching (and being touched by) Christ's Body.

And that brings me back to baptism and our Baptismal Covenant. We can't live the life of the baptized outside of community, without other human beings with whom we can form relationships of justice, whom we can love, whom we can forgive, and from whom we can receive what Christ wants to give -- the fruit of the Spirit in abundance. I love to hear conviction in the congregation's cry of "We will!" in our vow to support the baptized as they live into the covenant they've made, or their parents have made on their behalf. Our journey isn't always easy; Jesus' call is as much in tension with our culture as it was in first-century Palestine. The new disciples will need our support. And we need theirs. We need all of the gifts, the creativity, and even the wounds of Christ's Body to know life in Christ.

Thanks be to God!

April 12, 2004 in Baptism, Easter, John | Permalink

Comments

Post a comment