More Valuable Than Gold
Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
April 19, 2019 –Second Sunday of Easter
It has been a remarkable season...a season like no other. We are no strangers to change. We have probably seen more change in the last 20 years than all the generations before us. But they came gradually, one thing at a time.
This is different. It was more sudden. It was worldwide. It was not the product of human hands. Instead human hands…and breath…our mere presence…are the transmitter of it. It is using us… we are not using it.
We are used to being in control of our destinies or at least to know who to blame when things go wrong. But this is bigger than that. It doesn’t care whose fault it is, and our blaming each other gives it room to move.
We can argue about the health science basis for it, but there is no doubt that it has changed the way we live, and the world is now a different place.
This week, Jessica Meir returned to Earth. She had spent the last seven months in the International Space Station. She left last September. I wonder if the first words she spoke on landing were, “So I leave you alone for seven months and look what happens. I guess it’s time to quit my day job. One more trip, and heaven only knows what will happen next.”
People sheltering in place. People saying if we do this we are fools. People saying if we don’t do this we will be fools. How is a person to know what to do?
Well, first I urge you to read the letter I forwarded to everyone via email yesterday. One of the best ways to know the best way to do something is to listen to someone who has done it before.
All of the Bennings have been through what we are going through and their countries…Germany and Austria…are just starting to open back up. Carina gives us a clear view of what is happening someplace else
And she has obliged us with real world advice…greatly and gently. Read it. If you don’t have the email ask the church to send you one.
It is all so new, isn’t it? You really think so? Let me tell you another story about when everything changed. It happened suddenly and it happened everywhere. It had a direct impact…whether they became symptomatic or not… on everyone.
It appears that it was not the product of human hands…forces beyond this place…greater than we are…not us…were in control…and the world would always be different.
The disciples are sheltering in place this morning …hiding behind closed doors…to avoid severely negative consequences.
Suddenly, there he is, the reason for their isolation…the lifeforce that has produced the great change…the one who is the reason that the authorities are now looking for them.
His first words…his first words… are, “Peace be with you.” Peace be with you? Really? I am supposed to be grateful for the fear I feel while I am hiding here?
Yes, you are, because now you have been asked, in a very direct way, what you have been asked indirectly all your life. What is important? What is real? Why are you here?
Finally, you find a way to step out of yourself and see the whole of it and want to see things as they truly are…and not just how you want them to be.
You are freed from your fears and invited into the world with a clear point of view…and the world is beautiful…life is wonderful…and you have been blessed to walk through days upon the earth when we all step into a new understanding …that we all need each other.
Astronaut Jessica Meir came back as the disciples came back…with a compromised immune system. Hers was due to the fact that she had been living in the relatively antiseptic environment on the space station.
The disciples’ special vulnerability was due to the fact that they had been next to the Messiah for the last three years…seeing miracles and hearing loving words. The Earth’s harsh environment wanted to forget them…bury them…not listen to them.
When they saw Jesus they were filled with joy and not fear. It was as if all that had happened had been a dream. It was all going to turn out all right in the end.
He had left them with the words that night, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Now, here he was assuring them once again. “Peace be with you.”
But it hadn’t been a dream. It had all happened. But that did not make it worse. It made it better, because they weren’t going back to the way it had been. They were going on to something new…something the world had never seen before.
I can’t say from where I stand that I see us going back to the way things were, either. It is a terrible, terrible ordeal we are going through, but it is showing us what is good and what is not helpful…what is the powerful way to go and which way leads to an empty shell of a life.
As Carina wrote to us, “Hug your family as often as you can. Call your friends or skype or send emails. Keep in touch and be tolerant and understanding when others are having bad days. Understand, that you, too, can have bad days. Listen to your own needs carefully. Find a project that you have always wanted to do but didn't have time.”
What is important is easier to see. What is unimportant is easier to leave behind.
The disciples can see clearly now and it fills them with energy and power and hope. Their world has not ended. It has just begun.
They could even see the fulfillment of the scriptures in it and Peter would proclaim of this moment, “Having seen this beforehand, David spoke about the resurrection of Christ, that he wasn’t abandoned to the grave, nor did his body experience decay. This Jesus God raised up. We are all witnesses to that fact.”
But Thomas wasn’t there at the time. He was out doing the shopping for all of them, or busy with something else, and he…one of the twelve…would not believe it when he was told. He had to see the scars.
Then there Jesus was in front of him, holding out his hands… speaking loving words of understanding to him and calling him into the truth of what had happened and all that it meant.
I spent ten days in the hospital my last semester of law school and I missed a full two weeks of class. I had a friend named Paul, from Connecticut, I was taking a class with on Tuesdays and Thursdays and we had a deal.
He took notes one Tuesday and gave them to me Thursday and I took notes the next Tuesday and gave them to him the next Thursday. We both took good notes and it saved us some time.
But I missed two Tuesdays in a row and when I came back I sat down next to him and he nodded knowingly at me. “And how have you been?” he asked sarcastically.
I told him I had been mugged and knocked into the street and a pickup had run over me and I had been in the hospital for ten days.
He nodded again. “That’s good. I knew it was going to be good, but that is really good.” The class started and we began to take our notes together.
At the break in the middle of the class, another friend, Chuck, from Wisconsin came over and said, “Hey, Kelly! Good to see you back. When did you get out of the hospital?”
Paul froze in his seat. I told him I had gotten out the previous Friday. “You look great!” Chuck said. “Did they catch the guys who mugged you?”
No, I told him. “How about the truck that ran over you? Did they ever find those guys?” Again, I told him No.
My poor friend Paul was leaning as far away from me as he could with a look of astonishment on his face and he said, “It’s true! It’s all true!”
The range of good news Paul was willing to hear grew larger that day. The world had a lot less fear and a lot more possibility in it from that day forward…and he could hope to find goodness even in disappointing hours.
The disciples could believe fully in the Way and the Truth and the Life from their moment with the risen Christ…and it was so powerful that they could come out from behind those locked doors and proclaim to the world that there was hope for all humankind because of what had happened and what they had witnessed.
Peter writes to us today in his First Letter that the world was changed …for the better…by this unbelievably good news. “You have a pure and enduring inheritance that cannot perish—an inheritance that is presently kept safe in heaven for you.”
We can rejoice in this hope even if it is necessary for us to be distressed for a short time by various trials. The faith we have received as a result of going through this trial, he writes to us, is more valuable than gold. The power of the truth we now see has made us better people …kinder…gentler…more understanding that people have bad days and more forgiving of ourselves when we have a good day.
That insight is more valuable than gold. Knowing that goodness awaits at every turn even when we are distressed by trials is more valuable than gold.
The news asked Jessica Meir what she was going to do once she got out of her next 90 days of isolation. She said “But of course, elements of nature are the one thing that I think will feel even more amazing once I come back. I love being outside and just feeling the fresh air, the feeling of the warmth of the sunlight on your skin. The smell of the trees in the forest - that is something that I am really looking forward to.”
It is time for us to take it all in, in a new way, too. Peace, he has left with us. His peace he has given to us. And he has not given as the world gives. Blessed are we who have not seen as Thomas saw and yet we can believe.
Now it is up to us to pass it on…to give to our loved ones…to our neighbors…and to the stranger we meet by chance…the faith we have received…that it more valuable than gold.
O Lord, what is it that you want to accomplish in the world through us …through me…this day? Amen.