Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 150; Revelations 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
April 28, 2019 –Second Sunday of Easter
We celebrated the great day of our faith last week. It was a mountaintop experience. Now we begin to live into it. As they say, ‘After ecstasy, the laundry.’
Our minds were stretched last week. Something that is completely beyond us now confronts us. A new possibility gathers startling testimony around itself and sends it all out as one man is overcome, defeated and crucified.
But that is not the end. Women return from the tomb on the morning of the third day. They could not dress Jesus’ body because the tomb was empty and men in white asked why they are looking for the living among the dead.
In Luke’s account Peter runs and looks in the tomb to confirm that it is empty. In John’s account, the Gospel we read from today, Mary Magdalene was confronted by the risen Jesus.
They return with their stories to the place where the disciples are hiding and there is, understandably, more than one opinion about what has happened. It is hard to explain such a thing. Unless…
He did say he would rise from the grave, and the accounts from those who went to the tomb are hard to reconcile with anything short of that. But it is as hard a thing to believe as it is to explain.
How do we find our faith in the world today? How do we find our way in the world today?
How do we believe in this First Century man with such confidence that it can change our life and the lives of those we know and love?
There are some things you have to take on faith. If you do, your life gets bigger, and if you don’t, you pay a price for it.
Some of these things are very ordinary, like believing that the person driving the car coming at you is going to stay in their lane and drive by without hitting you.
If you don’t believe that, you either pull off the road every time someone is coming or you don’t get on the road in the first place. And if you never get on the road, you never get anywhere.
Some things we have come to believe with such confidence that we take them for granted. When you get up in the morning, you flip a switch knowing that there will be light. You turn up the heat knowing it will get warmer. You turn on the shower knowing that water just the right temperature will come out. These are marvelous things. We take them for granted.
Some things take a bit more thinking. When I was in the Army I went to Jump school, because if I was ever going to jump out of an airplane, that was when I was going to do it...kind of an early day bucket list…before the movie came out.
So how do you get someone to jump out of an airplane? It’s easy to say, but hard to do. It takes training. You have to be a unit so you do drill together and exercise together.
You learn to jump off of a four-foot platform into sawdust. They put a harness on you called a Swing Land Trainer and they drop you onto the ground at an angle…just the right angle.
They winch you up to the top of a 250-foot tower and drop you, giving you commands to see if you can remain calm enough to obey commands from the ground as you float down.
But even after all of that training, when you got in the plane and went up, as they opened that door on the approach to the landing zone, I turned to Captain Allan Carter next to me and said, “What do the last two weeks have to do with this?” and Captain Carter replied, “I don’t know! I don’t know!”
You might say that everything Jesus did with the disciples as they walked two Jerusalem was like the ground training we had at Jump school. When the women came back from the tomb on that first Easter morning, telling what they had seen and heard, well, that was like having the Jump Master open the door of the plane for those guys.
Only more so.
Today we believe more things than any people in history. We believe lights are going to come on, the house is going to warm up and clean water is going to come out of the tap.
We accept it as a matter of course that we can get into an automobile and drive down the highway at 70 miles an hour. When Ulysses Grant left home for the Army at the outset of the Civil War he took his first train ride and reported that he “thought the perfection of rapid transit had been reached. We traveled at least 18 miles an hour when at full speed…”
We believe people can fly, walk on the moon and have new hearts implanted in their chests. One of our friends who recently lost his wife hears her talking to him every now and then.
But we have trouble believing that Jesus rose from the dead…or that there is life after death. We weren’t at the tomb, and not that many people have heard from their loved ones who have passed on.
We don’t have any evidence, any scientific, tangible evidence. We are Thomas, his own self. I have an abiding belief that the evidence is right in front of us but we cannot see it. That’s just a theory, mind you, but it’s hard to shake.
It’s like Sir Isaac Newton discovering gravity. He started thinking about it one day sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell.
Now Newton didn’t discover gravity. It had been there all along. But he found a way to describe it and predict its effect on us and things around us so we could use that knowledge to our advantage. So that we would be the masters, not the victims, of our fate.
But we are left with a mystery when it comes to life eternal. Even after Jesus appeared to the disciples, Thomas refused to believe until he, too, had seen.
We should be forgiven the difficulty we have in putting our faith in this Word of life eternal, but we should continue to be open to it, heart, mind and soul. There is much to be gained and little to lose.
What do you lose, after all, by believing that you are a beloved child of God? What do you gain by believing that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and you should do unto others before they do unto you?
I believe there is also much to gain by being of good faith. You live your life more freely, more honestly, more fearlessly. You become a beacon of hope to other people.
Our First Reading this morning gives us evidence of this. Peter and the Apostles are arrested and brought before the council for preaching that Jesus was the Promised One and that he has arisen from the dead.
These are people who were in hiding from the time Jesus was arrested until some time after he appeared to them. They were non-people with nothing to live for then.
Now here they are, right out in the open, in the public square, proclaiming Jesus as the Christ and swearing that he had arisen. This new truth has given them power…power to believe what Jesus told them all along and power to speak the truth even when they face terrible consequences…consequences like Jesus suffered…if they get at cross purposes with the authorities.
But if they have had this experience …if they have seen Jesus die…the empty tomb…the risen Christ…if they have touched his hands and his side…and they don’t talk about it… it will be as if they had never lived.
They are witnesses to the most amazing event in all of history. How can they remain silent? How can they keep still once they have beheld that truth, elusive but open to us?
They have been given new life with a new truth. They aren’t believing what they want to believe to get ahead in this world, they are believing what they know to be true and they are fully alive…in Christ.
Amanda and Ollie and I had an exercise in faith on our trip to Seattle last month.
They have put a glass floor in the Space Needle. It takes faith to walk out on it. But we haven’t had any practice at it. I had my Airborne training come back to me and I was able to step out on it by remembering that I could jump out of a plane.
As Jesus said, we have to become as children, because Ollie didn’t have any trouble at all, but his mom was a lot more cautious. She hasn’t been to Jump school and she has just enough experience to not trust such a novel situation. She believes her eyes.
Jesus told the disciples to come follow him and they did. Sometimes they were more ready to get up and go than other times, but as John writes to us in the Revelations, “May kindness and peace be yours from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness…the first to conquer death, and…the ruler of all earthly kings.”
Simply accept it as a hope…if that is the best you can do, but live into that hope every day. Your day will be brighter, your words and acts will be more meaningful, your love will be deeper and your life will be richer.
It is time to stop doubting and have faith. It will come back to you more ways than you can ever expect. Be open and a whole new life will open to you.
O Lord, what is it that you want to do through us…through me…this day? Amen.