*Caveat: This sermon was preached as part of a series of sermons addressing a Capital Stewardship Campaign in the congregation. So there is part that, while having broad application, refers directly to the context in which I am a pastor. Hope you still enjoy!
Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
Do you ever remember seeing something that was really neat the first time you saw it? But then afterwards, you may have seen it a hundred times, maybe a thousand times. Now, it just doesn’t hold any luster. Now it might even annoy you a little? A movie? A commercial? That song you heard a year before they started playing it on the radio? The disappearing coin trick? Magic tricks are notorious for this. Once one knows how a magic trick is performed, it is really easy to lose interest. The mystique is gone. From magic tricks to movie trailers… from pop songs to commercial jingles… once we over-familiarize ourselves with something, it is very easy for that something to become second-rate… boring… disposable. We tune-out. We ignore. We change the station. We go get a snack or something to drink so we are ready for when the good stuff arrives… the new stuff.
We’ve seen a lot of the body of Christ lately, haven’t we? For the most pious among us We had Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday Service, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunrise, and Easter Sunday service. Now, we are back here again. We have seen the supper of the body of Christ instituted on Thursday. We saw the body of Christ on the cross on Friday. We saw the body of Christ risen from the dead in all of the services from Holy Saturday through Easter Sunday. I don’t care who you are. That is a lot of the body of Christ.
Here this morning…. Just 7 days later, we have it again… the body of Christ. He actually shows up twice in our account for today. The disciples are scared to death that what happened to Jesus might happen to them also. They are cowering in together behind locked doors. Then, all of a sudden, Jesus was standing among them. Gasps of ghostly shock. Shrieks of terror sounded from the disciples until Jesus speaks, “Peace be with you!” They see His hands and side. They see He is not a ghost. Then, they calm down and are glad. But one was not with them. Thomas. The Bible doesn’t give an account of where Thomas was, but He was not there. So the disciples tell Thomas. As can be expected, Thomas meets this news with skepticism. Who wouldn’t? A dead person raised to life? That doesn’t happen. Bodies put in tombs do not come out. But He did. It happened to Jesus, and Thomas got to see it the next week. They were all together again. Afraid of the Jews again. Doors locked again. And Jesus stands among them again. His hands and His side again, but this time especially for Thomas. Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and My God”. Jesus responds, “Do you believe just because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Most of you are probably familiar with this account. It is the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter every year. The same room. The same scared disciples. The same doubting Thomas. The same Body of Christ. You might feel like a you’ve just heard the latest pop song on the radio for the 3000th time? It might have been great the first 50 times but it is getting a little ridiculous? It just loses its impact when we know the trick. It loses its hit when we know the punch line. We know that Jesus is going to appear. We know He’s not going to leave Thomas hanging. We know that Thomas is going to believe. Some of you have changed the station in your brains already.
However, like most of what we talk about here, our reaction to the same old Word of God is not new or avante-garde either. So typical of us in our American culture, isn’t it? As much as things are often way overdone, we also have a propensity to think that things should always be new. We think that they should always be exciting. If something doesn’t have to do with me, then I tune out… become disconnected… complain about not having my needs met… search for the next new thing. Our application-addicted culture is always looking for the next thing that will be catered to my life to make it easier, more productive, new, exciting. So when we sit in the same pew, Sunday after Sunday, hearing the same accounts, receiving the same Body of Christ, in the midst of the same Body of Christ, our commitment can often be lackluster. While we might continue to utter the same words of support for proclamation of the Gospel in our midst, our commitment often gets stagnant and stale. Other problems… other grudges… other axes to grind often pop up to steal away what really happens here.
Then, when Jesus seems to get a little old, it is easy for us to want to give Him a bit of face-lift. We are tired of the same-old-Savior who dies for the same old sins, so we try to dress Him up in a clever congregational program, a pithy sermon series, and maybe even some new music. This is where it is easy for us to run. When we feel that Jesus is tired, we run to make Him better. The unfortunate part being that is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. The fact that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow is a good thing… indeed, it is the very best thing. The fact that Jesus appears to us in His very body and blood every week is a good thing… indeed, it is the very best thing. Time and time and time and time and time again, your same old sins (and your new ones) are forgiven right here in the stead and by the command of your same old Jesus. And that is a good thing… indeed, it is the very best thing. It is the reason that Jesus appeared to the disciples and to Thomas. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed! That is you! You are blessed by the Body of Christ as you are in the Body of Christ. Your sins of idolatry, profanity, neglect of God’s Word, parental disrespect, murder, theft, adultery, false-witness, coveting, and EVERYTHING in between have been forgiven in the exact same way they have always been forgiven. You are made new, in the exact same way that all of the Body of Christ has been made new since the beginning of time.
And that is why we do what we do here. It is why we endeavor to do everything to the best of our ability and resources. It is what we have school that is constantly trying to adapt and improve the education that it gives to the students. So that the sins of God’s people may continue to be forgiven in this place for years to come. It is the reason that we seek to maintain and improve the sanctuary. So that the body of Christ may continue to gather here around the Body of Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith. It is the reason we update our sound system and add new fangled contraptions to record video and what-not. So that the same Word of God might be proclaimed to the best of our abilities. We are stewards of God’s abundant grace by which we grow in Him.
There is something else that you might be getting tired of hearing about. In a couple of weeks, we will be having a commitment Sunday for our Stewardship Campaign. It might sound like the same old plea for money. It might make your stomach wretch the same old way it always does when the church starts talking about money. You’re going to tune out. You may or may not fill out a commitment card. Frankly, on most days… on those days when I am not in an Administrative Council meeting, I give very little thought to how much you give. That is not for me to know. As a pastor, though, I implore you to remember what matters and stewardship is one of those things that matter. It is who we are as the Body of Christ. We take care of all the blessings that God gives to us. We seek to proclaim the Word of God so that those who have not seen might believe and by believing might have life in His name. Jesus appeared to the disciples. He appeared to Thomas. He comes and dwells with us in the same, wonderful, and comforting way. Your sacrifice and commitment is an integral way that God works in this place.
I, often, wonder what it would have been like for the disciples and Thomas during that week in between the two appearances in our readings for today. Did Thomas tease the disciples? Hey guys, did you see Jesus again? Did the disciples ridicule Thomas? Hey Thomas, remember that time when Jesus showed up in the room even though the doors were locked? Oh, that’s right! You weren’t there! These are things that we will never know. But we DO know that Jesus did show up. He did forgive their sins. He did show up for Thomas with precisely what Thomas needed to believe. We do know that He continually shows up for us in His Word and Sacrament. He continually calls us to be His people. We are called to live lives of faith and trust in God’s care. We are called to teach our children and strangers about Christ’s love… His same old love that is always here. We are called to be stewards of the mysteries of His grace. God continues to grant us the grace to endure the hardships of our lives. He continues bless us as the Body of Christ with physical and spiritual blessings beyond measure. It starts with forgiveness and flows out into every aspect of our vocation as God’s people. May God grant you joy in your place within the Body of Christ… the same old wonderful Body of Christ. Amen.