On Believing in Resurrection

Sermon preached at Christ Church Bronxville on the Second Sunday of Easter. 

Gospel reading was John 20:19-31, the story of “Doubting Thomas”

So before I begin, let me take care of a little housework. I am required by church law to make two jokes at the start of this sermon.

The first is a joke about the clergy dying Easter Monday and being resurrected Easter Tuesday.

The second is about how there are two sermons every year that the seminarian traditionally preaches. We always preach Trinity Sunday because supervisors think its funny when their seminarians try not to be heretics — and the Sunday after Easter because that clergy resurrection is tenuous at best.

While we’re on the subject of “Things seminarians do,” one of the other things we do is that after we learn Greek, we start getting really cranky about Bible translations. So, I have to admit, I kind of hate the translation of this story in John. This is one of my favorite stories in all of scripture and what we have just does it no justice.

See, it’s a very – Anglican – translation. “Why yes Thomas, just be a chap and gently put your finger in my wounds. Lightly now, there you go.” NO! That’s not at all what the Greek says! The word that is used means something a little more like thrust. Thrust. “Thomas thrust your finger here. Now thrust you whole hand into my side.” …Ew. Y’all that’s kind of gross.

So Thomas thrusted his whole hand into Jesus’ flesh.

Now hang on.

When I hear the Easter story, with Jesus coming out of the tomb, it’s always sunrise, so the sky is glowing, and there’s this angel who perches on top of the tomb like a giant strange bird, he’s glowing. And Jesus comes out of the tomb and he is glowing. I imagine glowing Jesus to be like, ya know, kind of Adonis-like. Jesus with the perfect flow of hair, crisp white robes, like the kind of Jesus that might be on the cover of a magazine. He is the perfect human after all right?

But then Jesus asks Thomas to thrust his hand into his open wound. That’s not how I picture a post-resurrection Jesus.

What that tells us is this: Jesus still had open wounds. Jesus died, like heart stopped, no more brain activity, no pulse died. Jesus went down to hell. Jesus fought death and defeated it. His body resurrected and he appeared to Mary (who I’m sure was bewildered and I don’t blame her), and then to the apostles (behind a locked door no less, which is crazy). But it was still his body.

Jesus conquered death so that death would no longer be our king, Jesus conquered death so Jesus would be our king. Death makes us slaves. Death binds us in chains. Jesus broke those chains himself. 

Here’s something we know about this planet earth – everything here dies. Plants die (I would know, I’ve personally been responsible), our pets die, our loved ones die, people die, coral reefs die.

And I don’t mean to be trivial about death, because it honestly scares me sometimes. On Palm Sunday, two bombs were detonated in a church in Egypt. The intent was not only to kill people, but to destroy the place the building, the symbols, that give people life. Gay men in Chechnya are being kidnapped and killed at the hands of a government who denies it by saying “it can’t be true because gay men don’t exist in our country.” Even here in Bronxville there are things which bring about death, vices, desires, the way we compete against each other, the way we treat one another, demons, things in our lives that haunt us and chain us to death.

How is resurrection supposed to come out of all of this? How is it that daffodils poke their yellow heads out from under hard cold dirt? How am I supposed to go out there, “going forth in the name of Christ” and stare this death in the face and scream at it Life! Resurrection! Jesus!

Thomas doesn’t seem so crazy after all.

Because I am no bigger than a worm in the face of all that.

But Jesus shows up. And not only does he tell us to believe it, but he asks us to thrust our hands into his side. Into his fleshy open side.

If we can’t believe just because we’ve been told it, then we need to get our hands dirty.

It is hard to look at this world, to see all the death that is out there, all the suffering and decay and rubble, and believe that resurrection can come from it. And I think it’s so hard to believe because we have an idea of “good as new.” Resurrection must mean it will be good as new. But Jesus shows us that is not the case.

The resurrection we see in this world will still be the pieces-parts of this world. Our buildings will bear the scars and marks of resurrection, our people will bear the scars and marks of resurrection in their souls, maybe even sometimes in their bodies.

In our own lives following Christ, we will face little deaths and little resurrections, dying more to him and rising more in him. If you think back on your life, you can probably think of some; I certainly can and I’m still young. We find though that we don’t forget those deaths — the sting of them goes away but we carry the scars from them. Because by Jesus, death has lost its sting. And here we are, resurrected anyway.

The Egyptian churches were bombed on Palm Sunday, so they sat covered in dust and rubble throughout Holy Week. But Easter Sunday, the Christians went in, dusted off a bit of the altar, and celebrated the Eucharist. I don’t know if the Egyptians who celebrated that Eucharist believed what they were saying when they proclaimed resurrection and Love in the midst of rubble. Some probably did, and some probably didn’t. There was almost certainly fear. But they thrust out their hands for Jesus flesh anyway. The proclaimed it anyway.

If we can’t believe just because we’ve been told it, then we need to get our hands dirty.

There is already resurrection happening in the world, little resurrections that point us to the Great Day when Jesus is coming back for all of us.

When we look out there and see death and suffering, when we look out there and wonder where resurrection is happening, when we don’t believe that God’s Kingdom could at all work that way because it is too crazy to be real…

We’re called to thrust our hands into the midst of it. Proclaiming this resurrection, believing in the Resurrection, makes us just foolish enough to believe that we can go out there and be a part of the resurrection.

We are called to thrust in our fingers until we become the hands and feet of Jesus out in that world, out there bringing about resurrection, proclaiming life defiantly in the face of death.

Blessed are we who trust in the resurrection.

Blessed are we who trust in God (Ps 43). 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s