Sunday, May 01, 2011


St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Gainesville FL
The Chapel of the Incarnation, Gainesville FL
May 1, 2011

Year A: The Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31


By now, the world has moved on from Easter. The Easter candy that everybody likes has already been eaten. The Easter baskets have been put away for another year, or they’re still out, looking a little threadbare with just a few stray jellybeans or some unpopular candy all that’s left.

But, here in church it’s still Easter. The paschal candle is still front and center, symbolizing the light of Christ in the world. The lilies are still giving church a beautiful fragrance. And since it’s still Easter, we began the service with the great acclamation of faith:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

It’s the great acclamation of our faith – Jesus was dead and then God raised Jesus on the third day. It’s the heart of our Christian faith – it’s what we are expected to believe – it’s what we say we believe each time we stand and say the words of the Nicene Creed.

But, if we’re honest, many of us would admit that we often struggle with our faith, we struggle with the great acclamation of our faith that Christ is risen.

Part of faith is agreeing that certain claims are true. Part of faith is standing and saying the creed as if it were a checklist of claims that we can agree are true. I believe in this, that and the other thing…

But, a much more important part of faith is trust.

And trust is very difficult for many of us, isn’t it? Trust is difficult because we’ve all been lied to, betrayed, misled, and hurt more times than we’d care to count.

Trust is difficult for many of us because we have not always been trustworthy.

So, we’re suspicious of people’s motives – what’s in it for you? Are you somehow trying to take advantage of me? Why are you being so nice to me?

For many of us, the best we can do is the supposedly Russian proverb frequently quoted by President Reagan, “Trust but verify.”

If you stop and think about it, that proverb presumes an open heart, a willingness to trust. But that proverb also reflects the real and important fact that we don’t want to be taken advantage of, don’t want to be abused, don’t want to be played for a fool.

“Trust, but verify.”

Here in church it’s still Easter here and it’s still Easter at the start of today’s gospel lesson. It’s Easter and, maybe like us, the disciples seem to be having some trust issues.

Last week, you’ll remember, the Evangelist John described the appearance of the Resurrected Christ to a stunned and overjoyed Mary Magdalene. We left off with Mary going to the other disciples, telling them “I have seen the Lord”, and telling them what he had said to her.

We’re not told exactly how the disciples reacted to Magdalene’s amazing news – but I think we can rule out that the disciples trusted blindly what Mary told them. John does give us a clue about the disciples’ trust issues at the start of today’s passage when he tells us that in the evening of the same day the disciples were hiding fearfully in a locked room. The locked room powerfully symbolizes the closed hearts of the disciples. They lack the openness that is the beginning of trust.

But then Jesus appeared – still himself with the wounds on his hands and his side.

Jesus appeared – still himself but also transformed – he mysteriously entered the locked room and then in a kind of mini-Pentecost, he breathed the Holy Spirit onto his disciples.

At this point trust is no problem for the disciples. At this point the disciples have received all the verification they will ever need. Like Mary Magdalene, they can say with complete confidence, “I have seen the Lord!”

But, what about the rest of us?

Like us, the Apostle Thomas was not present for this powerfully convincing appearance of the Risen Christ. When he hears the news from the other disciples, he is appropriately skeptical. But, notice that Thomas doesn’t close himself off. Thomas doesn’t run away from Christ and his friends, trying to forget that his time with Jesus had ever happened.

No, Thomas has the openness that is the beginning of trust. He is open enough to the possibility that the disciples are telling him the truth that he still spends time with them.

And then Thomas gets his famous verification when the wounded and risen Christ appears once again.

Thomas is often called “Doubting Thomas” and I guess that’s true. But, really Thomas is the patron saint of all of us who struggle with faith as trust. Thomas is the patron saint of “Trust but verify.”

Since we’re here in church on the Second Sunday after Easter – when things have returned to normal and many people have returned to their normal Sunday activities – it’s safe to say that we all have a certain amount of openness to the claims of Christianity – a certain amount of openness to the acclamation that Christ is risen, the Lord is risen indeed.

We have the openness that is the beginning of trust.

But, how and when do we get verification?

We are not likely to encounter the Risen Christ the disciples did in the locked room long ago.

But if, like Thomas, we begin with openness that is the beginning of trust, we can get verification all around us.

The author of the Gospel of John declares that the gospel is “written that you may come to believe.”

We get verification in the Scriptures when we read and hear these old texts and feel God’s love and grace in the deepest meanings and messages that transcend time and space.

We get verification in our own Christian community right here. We get verification when we come here and in the words of the great spiritual we can really feel that “there’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place, and I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord.”

We get verification when we exchange the peace with friend and stranger alike. We get verification when we come together at the Lord’s Table and each receive the same portion of the bread of heaven and each drink from the same cup of salvation.

Most of all, we get verification after we leave here. We get verification when we go out those doors into the world and live lives different from our neighbors, with values different from what the world thinks is important.

When we devote our lives to living out the words of the Baptismal Covenant, we can really feel the presence of the Risen Christ with us and with the people we encounter and serve.

We get verification when persevere in resisting evil, and we sin, we repent and return to the Lord.

We get verification when we proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

We get verification when we seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves

We get verification when we strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.

The doubtful but openhearted Apostle Thomas is our patron saint – Thomas is the patron saint of “trust, but verify”.

Thomas received special verification that the Lord is risen indeed. But, I bet that wasn’t the last verification that he received. According to tradition, Thomas brought the Good News of Christ all the way to India – and, in fact, sacrificed his life for Christ there.

As powerful as his personal verification was, I am sure that over the course of his journey of sharing the Good News, his journey of serving and loving the strangers he met, Thomas, like us, received ever surer verification that, alleluia, Christ is risen.