Second Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 27, 2014
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. The Easter season did not begin and end when we gathered here a week ago on Easter Sunday morning. Easter is a season which lasts for fifty days and ends each year when we celebrate Pentecost Sunday.
I imagine some of us today may feel like how we feel the Sunday after Christmas. Although the Christmas season is one that should celebrated for twelve days, we seem to spend the time after Christmas Day setting the poinsettias aside and storing away Christmas lights and ornaments.
Christmas Day has come and gone. It’s over!
Easter Sunday seems to be no different. The bloom on the Easter lilies have faded and all of the fanfare of Easter Sunday morning now seems a distant memory.
Each year there are those who miss the press releases, highway signs, voice mail messages and other efforts we make to remind everyone that there is only one service on Easter Sunday here at Keawalaʻi. Despite our best efforts and intentions, there are those who arrive after the service has ended.
Last Sunday was no exception. About five families stopped by after the service had ended.
It was easy to hear the regret and the disappointment in their voices. “We missed Easter!”
It may be helpful for us to remember that the latecomers on Easter Sunday morning were not the only ones who missed Easter. All of us missed Easter - by about two thousand years.
The Rev. Martin Copenhaver reminds us, “We have never lived at any time other than the time after Easter. For most of us, every Sunday is more like the Sunday after Easter. We can hear the accounts, but we were not really there. We did not see and touch and experience it for ourselves.” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2010, page 394)
In our reading from The Gospel According to John, we find the disciples troubled and fearful following the death of Jesus. Thomas becomes the central figure in our reading. Unfairly, we belittle Thomas for doubting what the other disciples said to him – that they had all seen the Risen Christ.
But Thomas was not the only one to doubt. Earlier in the day Mary Magdalene went to the empty tomb. She did not believe Jesus had been resurrected until he appeared and spoke to her. (John 20:15-17)
When she announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18) the disciples dismissed her words because they had not seen him for themselves. They locked themselves in a room to hide. It was only when Jesus appeared to them that evening and showed them his hands and side that they rejoiced and said to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” (John 20:25)
Thomas responded to their declaration by making it very, very clear: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) Mary Magdalene and the other disciples knew well enough not to be critical of Thomas’ response.
After all, they were not unlike Thomas. They had their doubts. But in each instance of doubt, there came a moment of belief.
Jesus said to Thomas, “Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)
Jesus went on to say to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29)
Jesus did not chastise Thomas for his doubt. Instead he instructed Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.” (John 20:27)
In that moment Thomas’ life was transformed by the wounds he saw in Jesus’ hands and side. I imagine that when God and the host of angels saw the wounds in Jesus’ hands, they welcomed him home into their midst. “We see your wounded hands. Come.”
If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God and that through believing we have life in his name, would others not ask of us, “Where are the wounds in your hands?” I am not saying that we need to bear the wounds of the nails in our hands and side as Jesus did but what wounds would we have to show for ourselves if we were to enter the gates of heaven today?
Did we stand on the side of the poor? Or did we put our trust in the Wall Streets of the world to provide for our own economic security at the expense of others?
Did we feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty out of our abundance or out of a substance that required a greater cost and sacrifice? Did we welcome the stranger into our midst or did we construct new walls and electrified fences to say, “Go away!”
Did we speak out for those who have no voice – for the children, for those who are mentally disabled, for the abused? Did we speak out against the violence we see in the world or did we succumb to the notion that the only deterrent to violence is to take up arms to protect ourselves from those whom we perceive to be a threat to our way of life?
Would others believe that we are followers of Jesus Christ? Or would they say to us, “Unless you show us your wounded hands, we will not believe.”
Jesus offered to the early disciples and he offers to us today the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Spirit that we are enabled and empowered to live a life of faith worthy of the Risen Christ. It is through the Spirit that others will see in our wounded hands the joyful community of the Risen Christ.
Mahalo Ke Akua!
[ A note on the photos above: these were taken a few days after the Easter Sunday service, later in the week... ]