Watching for the Morning of April 12, 2015
The Second Sunday of Easter
This second Sunday in the Easter season always takes us to the story of Thomas. He was absent that first Easter evening when Jesus appeared to his followers as they hid behind locked doors. Thomas becomes an example of those who have not seen the risen Jesus and must decide whether to trust the apostolic witness.
We tend to hear this as an individual struggle between doubt and faith. And because we tend to hear faith as believing ideas rather than trusting a person, we often miss that the drama in this narrative is not only the relationship between Thomas and Jesus, but between Thomas and the community of believers. It’s not simply that he doesn’t believe Jesus has been raised – he doesn’t trust them. He doesn’t accept their testimony.
We tend to think it as honorable to want to see for ourselves. It’s good to see proof, to not follow the crowd. But this is not a nameless crowd; these are sisters and brothers in Christ. Even we understand that allegiance to family involves trusting what they tell us.
Thomas is not wrestling with an intellectual problem; he is wrestling with whether or not he is part of this community.
Though we think of this as the story of “Doubting Thomas”, this theme of the community is present at the beginning of the narrative when Jesus speaks his word that brings peace, and breathes on them the Holy Spirit/Breath of God. They are commissioned to exercise the authority of Jesus to declare the forgiveness of sins.
The other texts assigned in this year point us towards this notion of community. The first reading from Acts tells us the believers “were of one heart and soul” and contains the familiar words “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
And our psalm on Sunday declares, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” The word ‘kindred’ may not have quite the same emotional impact as ‘brothers’ (and sisters), but it is a psalm of ascent, a communal song of the believing community as they journey to Jerusalem for worship. It conveys the vision of a world enriched and enlivened by a deep and fundamental harmony in God.
In this same vein, 1 John speaks of our ‘fellowship’ with the Father and the Son and with one another, echoing all the language and imagery in John’s gospel about Jesus abiding in the Father and he and the Father abiding in us.
So the texts this year point us not towards Thomas’ personal struggle to believe, but to the work of God to form a community shaped and govern by God’s Spirit – a community bound together in love, a community shaped by the one who washes feet.
The Prayer for April 12, 2015
Gracious God, in the night of his resurrection,
Jesus breathed your Holy Spirit upon his followers
and sent them into the world.
Renew in us your Holy Spirit
that, in the joy and freedom of Christ risen from the dead,
we may bear faithful witness to your truth and life;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
The Texts for April 12, 2015
First Reading: Acts 4:32-35
“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.” – The author of Luke-Acts, commonly called Luke, summarizes the life of the first Christian community as a household, sharing goods and providing for one another. It represents a foretaste of the messianic age when all things are made new.
Psalmody: Psalm 133
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” – A psalm of ascents sung as the community went up to Jerusalem for one of the annual pilgrimage festivals. A faithful people of God as a blessing upon the world.
Second Reading: 1 John 1:1-2:2
“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” – The author testifies to what they have seen and heard in Jesus – and to the fellowship they have with the Father, the Son, and one another.
Gospel: John 20:19-31
“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.” – Jesus appears to his followers on Easter Evening and commissions them with the gift of the Holy Spirit, then appears again, the following Sunday, to summon Thomas into faithfulness.