April 11, 2021

"Now What?"

Pastor Scott Landis

John 20:19-21

While the liturgical calendar indicates that today is known as the “Second Sunday OF Easter,” in preacher talk this is often referred to as “Low Sunday.” It’s called “Low Sunday” because it tends to be one of the lowest attended Sundays of the entire year – a reality that is particularly noticeable as it comes on the heels of Easter Sunday.

It’s as if after ALL the work and effort that has gone into Easter, the Sunday that follows is a bit of a letdown. Truth be told – it would be impossible to sustain that level of excitement. I realize it’s nearly impossible to monitor whether this really is a “low Sunday” since we are still only gathering virtually, I bet there are fewer folks glued to their computers to see what we are going to do this week. Just a hunch.

The beautiful floral cross that stood tall in witness to the resurrection last week has wilted, been dissembled and put away for another year. Thanks Buzz! The hundreds of chairs that WOULD have filled the lawn (on a normal year) by now would have been neatly folded, returned, and the crowd gathered today would easily fit inside Hale Pule. The special music, doves, and in our case the amazing videography of our very own Tony Alleyne have reverted to the more typical Vimeo livestream – that, I hope, you have been able to access.

So, after all the hype over the wonderful celebration of the resurrection of last week – we – just like the disciples of old – are now relegated to asking the understandable question – “Now what?” [Pause]

For years, I used to try and counteract this “Low Sunday” phenomenon by doing something completely different in worship. I probably would have done the same here if we were back to meeting in-person. I called it “Stump the Rev. Sunday,” or what some of my members would refer to as “Stump the chump.” On that Sunday, I invited members to ask me any question that was on their minds regarding the bible, theology, or what my plans were for the coming year in leading the church. I did this in lieu of preaching a traditional sermon. It was a lot of fun. It kept me on my toes as I had to answer questions extemporaneously.

“Stump the Rev.” served, at least, two purposes. 1. It gave me a break from writing yet another sermon after all the work that went into Holy Week, and 2. (more importantly) it offered me a peek into the minds of folks as I listened to their questions. Their questions – much more important than my answers – helped me to see what they were wondering about at this particular time. In a way, it gave me some insights into their - “Now what?” [Pause]

While the dynamics of the situation were very different as John described the situation on that first Easter, I believe the feelings may be fairly similar.

The story, often referred to as the “Doubting Thomas” story, has really little to do with so-called “Doubting Thomas” and much more to do with Jesus who will stop at nothing to maintain an intimate relationship with his beloved community of disciples.

Remember the scene. The disciples were huddled together behind locked doors. The reason: they were scared. Afterall, if they did that to Jesus, there was no telling what they would do to those who professed allegiance to his message and mission. While no one would say it, I imagine they were all thinking the same thing – “Now What?” Now what do we do? Now, who are we? Now what are we supposed to do?

For some reason Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to them the first time as somehow he was able to penetrate the well-sealed room offering them his “Maluhia” – Peace – and then commissioned them to go out and do the work they had committed themselves to do.

A week later, Jesus did the same thing. Somehow miraculously entering the locked room, he blessed them all with his peace – and invited Thomas to experience physically the reality of his wounded yet resurrected body. Overwhelmed at Jesus invitation, Thomas proclaimed “My Master! My God!”

Jesus pierced through Thomas’ skepticism and he – as well as all the others – believed. [Pause]

You see, this story is not so much about the doubts expressed by Thomas as it is about a Savior who apparently will stop at nothing to invite us into relationship with him. And who promises to be with us as we venture forth to serve.

I find the setting of this story particularly relevant to our situation today. For over a year now, we have been forced to remain separated in our own “locked rooms” – locked in legitimate fear of a virus that threatened and has been successful in taking the lives of so many in our own country alone – some in your own `ohana. We have good reason to be scared. But the great hope is, with the increasing administration of vaccines, AND our responsible behavior based on the advice of medical science, we will slowly be invited out – to engage in life – real life – once again.

Some can hardly wait for that moment. It’s as if the light has turned green and we are raring to go. For others the light is a little more yellow – and caution will have us stepping very tenuously into a nexus of uncertainty. For still others, the light will remain red, and we will remain behind closed doors where we feel safe, secure, and out of harm’s way.

Each will make his/her own decision – based on our desires, needs, and sense of confidence in a vaccine, as well as our individual health conditions. But no decision will be a wrong one. And no decision will stand in the way of our Savior meeting us where we are.

That’s the physical reality of what we are up against. But like those first century disciples – we have a spiritual reality we must contend with as well.

It’s so very comfortable for us to huddle together behind locked doors – gathered with those who think, act, and believe like us. We love being together with our spiritual `ohana in worship and in fellowship. But as Jesus challenged his first disciples – he is still doing so today. He blessed them with the Holy Spirit for a reason – so that they would be inspired, empowered, and have the ability to go out and change the world. As he blessed them with peace – so they were to go and do likewise. [Pause]

Friends, we are being called out from behind closed doors so that we can invite others to experience the good news of Jesus radical gift of love given to all! That requires action on our part. [Pause]

This past week, I heard our President say something that made me squirm a bit – but I know that it’s true. In response to a whole spate of mass shootings, he promised to enact some executive orders to try and curb the proliferation of weapons that no ordinary citizen needs nor ought to own. In so doing he said, “We need more than prayers. It’s time to take action.”

I think this is what Jesus had in mind. It’s good for us to be here – in worship – in prayer – contemplating the issues of our world. But eventually, we must get up and do something – it’s time to take action – to do something positive in order to make our world a better place for all.

The good news is – IF we are advocating for peace, for justice, for religious freedom, for equality of all beings, for basic human rights and the meeting of basic human needs – God will be there.

So come with your questions. Come with your doubts. Come with your fears. Say them aloud. Jesus will break through all those barriers and offer you maluhia – peace.

Peace be with you.


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