From the Pastor | 4.23.18

Greetings,

In this Easter season it’s good to ponder the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for us both personally and corporately. That Jesus rose from the dead and is alive and has followers to this day, must mean something extraordinary happened! How has that affected you? Has it affected you? The text (and sermon below) for the second Sunday of Easter is always the account of Thomas and his hesitancy to believe in Jesus. That’s OK. Many of us sometimes or even often are slow to believe or if we’re honest, have lapses. But we don’t need to stay stagnate or become stale in our faith. Like Thomas and all the disciples, we can move from a position of doubt to one of increasing faith and confidence in God. Thomas 1) listened to his friends and what they had to say of Jesus’ resurrection, 2) he remembered his 3-year relationship with Jesus as one of his disciples, 3) he took into consideration his experience with Jesus and the evidence of the empty tomb and other sightings of Jesus, and 4) in faith he made a reasoned decision to believe and trust in this risen Jesus who stood directly before him and therefore he was able to 5) proclaim to him, “My Lord and my God.” And so can we! And if and when we do, it makes a world of difference in both our personal and corporate (church) life! In Jesus, the Church is moving Onwards and Upwards! It’s actually kind of fun! Alleluia!

FIRST HOLY COMMUNION Sunday four students — Noah Paola, Maddie and Ben Cavenaugh, and Delaney States received their First Holy Communion during worship. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a grace given to strengthen us in faith and shape us into likenesses of Jesus serving each other and extending God’s love in the world. Please stay following worship and join together for some Christian fellowship and treats.

JEAN SUNDAY – EARTH DAY Also on Sunday, in acknowledgement of Earth Day, the congregation of FLC is invited to stay an hour or so to do a little spring cleaning around the place, either inside or outside; whatever you fancy. That God created such a wonderful world…is reason enough for Christians to care for it and be mindful of our place in it. To join together in caring for our church is good stewardship and also good evangelism as we continue to make the facility a welcoming and pleasant place for all to be!

-pastor

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 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 come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20:19-31

SERMON TEXT FROM APRIL 8,2018:
The church’s view of the apostle Thomas has not been that good.
Partly because there is not much to be known about him.
But what is known about him, shows him to be a very fine person.
We are basically indebted to the writer of the Gospel of John for what we do know.
We first encounter Thomas in the eleventh chapter of his gospel.
Mary and Martha lived in Bethany, which was in Judea and close to Jerusalem, the center of Judaism.
They had a brother by the name of Lazarus, who was ill and had died.
Jesus wants to go there to be of help.
His disciples are fully aware that to do so would be to put his life in danger or at least in conflict with the temple authorities.
They are reluctant for Jesus to go, as well as fearful for themselves.
Yet it is Thomas who encourages and motivates the other disciples by saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (11:16) We can certainly see by this the courage and devotion which he had for our Lord.
He certainly was not a coward.
The next time that we meet Thomas is in the fourteenth chapter.
Here, he does not understand the purpose of Jesus’ impending death and not only has difficulty with it, but questions Jesus about it.
Jesus tried to explain to the disciples that when he died he would be returning to the Father.
He also wanted to make it clear and plain that he was going ahead to prepare a place for them.
All that Thomas could comprehend was the finality of Jesus’ death.
So he says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; How can we know the way?” (v. 5) Thomas is pretty direct and basically saying, “how do we know what you’re up to and where you’re going?”
Thomas has one of those inquiring minds; he’s one of those “left-brain” guys.
But maybe more important than being honest and inquisitive is that he is in relationship with Jesus and secure of Jesus’ love to be willing to ask questions.
Honest questioning and wanting to get a solid answer is only possible when there is great trust and devotion; like what developed in their relationship with Jesus over three years.
The third time we encounter Thomas comes in today’s section of scripture.
Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, that first Easter.
This of course is why we gather on Sunday, the day of resurrection!
It’s a day of sabbath, of rest for soul and spirit; to worship God, have family time, and then afterwards do some chores and talk about pastor’s wonderful sermon… Anyway, in the evening Jesus appeared to the ten other disciples.
But Judas and Thomas weren’t there.
Unfortunately, Thomas had not seen the risen Jesus nor heard him speak his reassuring words.
He found it hard to accept what he was told by the others.
For him death was harsh and final.
So he says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”” (ch. 20:25) Eight days later Thomas was with the other ten in a room in a house where the doors were closed that Jesus came and appeared before them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Incidentally, this is where we get the “Passing of the Peace.”
It’s not the 7th inning stretch or time to do social networking, but rather after we ourselves experienced confession and forgiveness of sin, heard God’s word to us in the lessons and proclamation of the gospel in sermon of being justified and set right before God by grace though faith, that now we address each other with resurrection words of comfort…“the peace of the Lord be with you.”
Take this seriously folks.
You are basically saying to your friends and fellow parishioners, “calm down, chill out…the resurrection power of Jesus is with you!”
And that’s what Jesus says to Thomas…“Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
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 come to believe.”
Unfortunately though, it is because of Thomas’ doubt about Jesus’ resurrection that he has received a negative reputation over the years, being known as “Doubting Thomas.”
He is not only misunderstood but has often been badmouthed as a poor example of a follower of Jesus.
But isn’t it true that it’s only through honest, sincere questioning and investigation and study and struggle that faith and a solid relationship with Jesus be accomplished and made one’s own?
Doubt and faith are not incompatible.
They are woven together.
Doubt is the gateway, the opening by which an individual moves on to a greater faith.
If you think about it, doubt is what has made it possible for humanity to progress.
It is a necessary part of human growth and development; from toddler to pre-teen, from adolescent to adult.
The mysteries of the universe have been unraveled because men and women have been willing to question, asking continually how, why, what, and when.
I think we should say too that science and the Christian faith are not incompatible.
They don’t cancel each other out.
They are both ways of getting to the truth, and of knowing God and ourselves.
The Bible itself is a record of this journey of those who in every age have been willing to challenge the way things were said to be.
This is true of the religious life of our early ancestors.
Thank goodness they questioned the belief that God demanded human sacrifice and later why even the need to worship God by sacrificing animals.
And we are indebted to the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah who spoke against the practice of idolatry, sexual abuse and the whole thing of appeasing the fertility gods.
And its clear that even Jesus doubted the faith practices of his day especially the strict interpretation of the law and the harsh and vengeful ideas of God according to the Pharisees and Scribes.
Throughout the bible, changes came and continued to come, thanks to Jesus and the many men and women willing to confront the status quo.
It is necessary in every age to question what we have come to believe to be true about God.
It isn’t that God changes but, thank goodness, what humans have come to know and believe has.
What Thomas did in this instance is what any thinking person should and must do.
He listened to trusted people, remembered his relationship with Jesus up to this point, gathered the evidence that was there, and moved forward boldly!
Once he made his decision and came to believe…he was as they say, ALL IN!
‘My Lord and my God!’ he says to Jesus.
What a confession!
What a proclamation!
What an announcement to make and live into!
It is said that the scriptures record that Thomas was a twin. (Didymus means the twin) To whom he was a twin, we don’t know.
But maybe in a larger sense he is a twin to each one of us.
For who among us has not at some time or other said, “Unless I see and touch, I will not believe”?
Yet hopefully, too, like our twin Thomas, we can 1) search the scriptures, 2) remember our relationship with Jesus, 3) weigh the evidence for the resurrection and 4) in faith experience the presence of the living Christ and 5) exclaim with the church… “My Lord and my God.” AMEN