John 20:19-31

A sermon preached at St. George’s Anglican Church, Calgary, by the Rev. Clara King, April 8, 2018.  

2nd Sunday of Easter – Year B
Acts 5:27-32 
John 20:19-31  

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.    

My brothers and sisters, this is a season of believing! A season of new life and new invigoration – and I exhort you to believe! Believe my brothers and sisters – do not doubt, do not be overcome by the shadow of death, but believe! Believe that Spring will come at last, no matter how bad the weather is, and how dead everything still seems – it is time to believe!

And there are those who have seen it with their own eyes, and know that it is true: among the saints in Vancouver and Victoria where it has been spring for some months now, and the stories are wondrous to hear, almost miraculous: tales of green grass and soft, springy moss, tales of gardens of flowers that are now even past their bloom, and the spectacular cherry blossoms and magnolia trees that are just now coming into their best, tales of big beautiful leafy trees, making everything, even the air itself, seem green.  

It is true my friends, it is true. And there are those among our number even now who have seen such wonders, in places like Hawaii and Las Vegas – but friends, I tell you it will be true even here, even here, my friends and I exhort you to believe!

Believe that this miracle will happen even to us, even in our own communities, on our own streets – yea even in our own back yards. Trees that even now seem dead and cold will become green, and grow these things called “leaves” – so many that they even block out the light of the sun! That is called, “spring”, friends, and it is coming!  

And all that work is going on even now, even weeks ago, the water and nutrients being drawn up through root and shoot, growing the new cells, which have become the shell of the new cells which are becoming leaf – even now, when our world seems so dead and cold, the future has been well laid out and is happening even now.

So believe in the resurrection of outdoor life, my friends! And it’s not such a stretch, not such a stretch, when we know it happened last year, and the year before, not such a stretch to believe it will happen again.  

Not such a stretch compared with Thomas – Thomas who didn’t believe, who couldn’t believe, on being told that Jesus, who died under torture as a failed leader of a failed movement, Thomas who couldn’t believe that he was alive and apparently walking around. That indeed that failure was not a failure at all, but a future well laid out and happening even now. But what was the point of all that? What was the point of all that was done, all the miracles, all the healings, if the plan was to end in death? – or not end in death, but end in… End in an upper room, the disciples barricaded against the authorities and the crowds, who might even now think they were rebels like Jesus, good candidates for crucifixion as revolutionaries.  

What is that to understand? What does it all mean? What kind of future is this that has been well laid out and is now coming to pass? They are not safe from political violence, the sick and dying are still sick and dying, the poor are still poor, the Romans are still the Romans, in charge and oppressive.

The other disciples said there was some kind of triumph, but listen to Thomas’ soul-deep skepticism, his defeat, when he says, “yeah right. Yeah right there’s a plan, yeah right there’s a victory. Yeah right you over-confident fools. I wouldn’t believe unless he were standing here right in front of me, and I stuck my hand in his wounds.”   It must have been a bit of a humiliating moment for Thomas, when Jesus showed up at their next meeting, and called Thomas on his bluff. Or it would have been humiliating, if Thomas hadn’t have been so shocked. And then so relieved, like the spring after a brutal winter  

So there was a victory, and it changed everything. But it doesn’t make any sense yet, not yet. Because they are not safe from political violence, the sick and dying are still sick and dying, the poor are still poor, the Romans are still the Romans, but this changes everything. It changes everything, though we don’t know how yet.  

And how it changes everything is the rest of the story. It’s the rest of Thomas’ story, and the rest of the story for Peter and the other disciples. And it’s the rest of the story of Pentecost, and the rest of the story of the early Church, and the desert fathers and mothers.

And it’s the rest story of Constantine’s conversion, and the story of the birth of public education in the court of Charlemagne, and the story of the Convivencia in medieval Spain, when Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in peace and extraordinary cooperation and creativity, and the story of organized charity and welfare and universal health care, and human rights.

It’s the rest of the story of millions of lives, billions of choices, trillions of days of trying to understand, and trying to make sense, and trying to live as witnesses to a loving God, who calls us to rise beyond ourselves and strive for the flourishing of all life, life in ourselves and life in one another and life in the world.  

Our story starts with Thomas, who couldn’t believe, and then did. Thomas who couldn’t wait to understand. And two thousand years later, here we are with cell phones and the internet and cars and nuclear bombs and stem cell technology, still living Thomas’ story, trying to believe and make sense of a failure that was in fact a triumph.  

In fact a promise – that even in a world where there’s still political violence, where the sick and dying are still sick and dying, the poor are still poor, and there’s still structures of oppression, even in this world, there is a triumph well laid-out, and happening even now in the tiniest of ways. And what makes for saints is not the pomp of public miracles, but the faith to see the spring rising in the world, and the faith to call spring out of other people.   

We are called to be just those saints: prophets of spring after a hard winter, when by growth and faith we transform ourselves, one another and the world, so that even the air itself seems green.