THE PATRON SAINT OF SHOWING UP

JOHN 20:19-31
ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
MORROW, GEORGIA
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Do you remember last Sunday’s gospel? 

Last Sunday we heard a story about someone who showed up.  On Easter morning Mary Magdalene showed up at the tomb of Jesus. She went there thinking Jesus was dead.   She went there to care for Jesus’ body according to Jewish custom, but what she found was a shock.  She found an empty tomb.  Mary thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body.  She then encountered a “gardener” but when the gardener spoke her name, “Mary,” she recognized him as Jesus, her risen Lord. 

Last Sunday we heard a story about someone who showed up.  Mary Magdalene showed up at Jesus’ tomb, and according to John’s gospel, she became the first person to encounter the Risen Lord.  She showed up.

Today we hear a different story.  We hear a story about someone who doesn’t show up.  It was evening that same day, Easter Day, the day of resurrection.  The disciples were gathered in a locked house, and they were scared to death.  As of yet, they knew nothing about the resurrection.  Suddenly and without warning, Jesus came and stood among them.  “Peace be with you,” he said.

Peace be with you.  Jesus appeared to his disciples, and the first thing he said was “Peace be with you.”  Does that ring a bell?

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

[And also with you.]

Hmm.  I always wondered where The Peace came from.  I guess it means a lot more than “Hey, how ‘ya doin’?  Nice to see you!”

Jesus shared the Peace with his disciples, but there was a problem.  Someone was missing. 

Last Sunday we heard a story about someone who showed up.  Today we hear a story about someone who doesn’t.  Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with his brothers when Jesus first appeared, and he missed out.  He missed out big time.

Have you ever wondered where Thomas was?  I have.  I’ve wondered about that a lot.  The scriptures don’t say one way or the other.  Did he have a good reason to miss?  We don’t know.  Was he taking care of a family matter, or did he choose to sleep in that day?  Was he sick?  Was he hurt?  Was he deeply disappointed?  Things did not work out the way Thomas expected.  Expectations often get us in trouble.  Maybe he was depressed.

Or maybe Thomas was afraid.  Considering what they had done to Jesus, he had every reason to be afraid.  Wouldn’t you be afraid?

The other disciples were afraid.  (The house where they met was locked, remember?)  But they showed up, nonetheless.  They came together.  For whatever reason, Thomas did not join them.  He stayed away.

Later, when the disciples told him they had seen the Lord, Thomas refused to believe.  Now, that’s not surprising.  After all, he wasn’t there.  He had no experience of the Risen Lord.  How could he believe?

If you have no experience of the Risen Lord, how can you believe?  Belief is not based on what we hear.  Belief is not based on what we are taught.  Belief is based on what we experience. 

Whenever the community of faith assembles, in good times and in bad, in joy and in sorrow, if energized or if downright bored, the Risen Lord is present.  He promised that.

Jesus said, whenever two or three are gathered together in my name, I will be in the midst of them.

When we gather we experience the Risen Lord.

It’s all about gathering.  To believe in Jesus, you must experience Jesus, and Jesus is most often experienced in the gathering of the faithful. 

Here’s the Good News: Thomas got a second chance.  He got a second chance because he finally showed up.

“A week later” (that’s today, by the way: one week after the resurrection), “his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were shut, Jesus came among them once again and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”

Then Jesus turned to Thomas and said, “Thomas, shame on you!  Shame on you!”  No, of course not.  That’s not what happened.  What happened was this: Jesus helped Thomas believe.  He said, 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!”

All this happened because Thomas showed up.  Better late than never.  Had he not shown up, what would have happened to Thomas?  Who knows?  Who can say?

Do you know how much it means to show up?  There are members of our parish who can tell you.  They are sick, or disabled, or they’ve moved far away.  They could tell you how much it means.  They’ve told me.  I’ve heard the same story so many times from so many people for so many years.  They wish they could be here, but they can’t.  They deeply miss St. Augustine’s.

Last Sunday we added two members to this community.  Destiny Ifi and Emmanuel Barlay were baptized.  Today we will add a third member, little Cori Abaray-Sliver will be baptized at the 11 a.m. service.

Whenever we baptize we renew our own baptismal covenant.  The first vow goes like this.

The Celebrant asks: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

And the People respond: I will, with God’s help.

When you make that promise to God, I hope you understand what it means.  It means that you will do your best, God helping you, to show up, to be present in a faith community, Sunday after Sunday, for as long as you are able, for as long as you live.

And when you make this promise to God, I hope you’ll think of Thomas.  Thomas taught us what it means to be absent, and he taught us what it means to show up.

I consider Thomas the patron saint of Showing Up.

Dorothy Day was co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.  She served the poor of New York City for decades.  She died in 1980.  Today there are more than 240 Catholic Worker Communities throughout the world.  Dorothy Day knew something about community.  She knew about showing up.

In her autobiography The Long Loneliness, Dorothy wrote: “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

The solution for loneliness is love, and love comes with community.

Let us pray: Patient, long-suffering God, forgive us when we forget the importance of community.  Give us grace to always remember how much we need this community and how much this community needs us.  In our baptismal vows we promise to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and the prayers.  Give us grace to be faithful to that vow.  And help us remember Thomas: the disciple who taught us the importance of showing up.  Amen.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Amen.

If you would like to respond to this sermon or receive future sermons by email, contact me at barryqgriffin@earthlink.net

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