The blog of a lutheran pastor, writer, and political animal.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

“Doubting Thomas” Monologue Sermon

          I can already hear your snickering.
          Yeah, especially you there in the back.
          I can hear you whispering “Look, the doubter.
Look, Doubting Thomas.”
          It’s really not fair. 
          You don’t name any of the other disciples that way.
          You don’t say “Look, Abandoning Peter.”
          You don’t even say “Look, Betraying Judas.”
          For that matter, why can’t you call me “Twin Thomas”—that’s what the gospels call me…
 Or you could even call me “Brave Thomas”
After all, when all the other disciples were whining:
 “Oh, if we go back to Judea we’ll get stoned to death… poor us.”
I said, “Well, then we’ll go to Judea and die with Jesus.”
          Or you could call me Inquisitive Thomas—after all, there was that one time when Jesus told us that he was going someplace—and he claimed we already knew where that was (Truth be told, Jesus really gives us too much credit sometimes)
Everyone else just nodded solemnly like they knew what he was talking about
—Not me though, I actually wanted to make sure I knew what this was all about
—I chose to ask the dumb question that no one else wanted to ask, “Where are you talking about?”
          But noooo…
I’m stuck with that name
I’m stuck as Doubting Thomas.

          Doubting Thomas. All because of that one incident.
          He’d died for crying out loud!
--we’d all seen it. Our Lord, hung out there like a criminal.
          And then, later, Mary told us he’d risen from the dead.
          We didn’t believe her. None of us, not one!
We ALL doubted her.
          That’s why the other disciples locked themselves in the upper room. They didn’t trust that if Jesus could come to Mary he could come to all of us
—yet I get the bad wrap as “Doubting Thomas.” …
My point is this, we all doubted.
          I at least went outside
—I wasn’t afraid to die
—I didn’t lock myself in that room out of fear
—I figured if they killed me, for knowing Jesus, then so be it…
          (sigh) Yet I’m the doubter
          I wasn’t in the room the first time.
          So I missed out.
          Next time I saw them
—the other disciples
—they  were…
          They told me about being breathed on, how that changed everything for them.
          That seemed kind of strange to me, honestly… being breathed on by a dead guy…think of the halitosis…
But I couldn’t knock it. It gave them peace
—it changed them from frightened fishermen hiding-out, to bold preachers front and center.
          I was jealous of that—maybe that would be a better name for me “Jealous Thomas” I’d cop to that.
I was jealous of their new status—their new boldness.
          I mean, I was the bold one, after all.
          But not after seeing them.
I felt like the person who misread the worship time for Easter and got to church in time to pick up a Lilly and go back home… without even hearing the good news.
I felt like I’d missed Easter.
          And I couldn’t believe them
—I couldn’t believe they’d seen him.
I couldn’t believe the transformation that had overcome them.
I couldn’t believe…
(hmmm)     Well, if I’m really honest… I couldn’t believe I’d missed it.
I missed Jesus coming back.
I missed this peace they all felt.
          I felt left out.
          I was jealous of them.
          I went so far as to cut myself off from the community by not trusting their words…
          And I want to be clear, it was their words I doubted—not himnever him. Never God and never Jesus…
just missing his return, missing out on what they all had …that changing moment… I missed it.

          And it didn’t help that they were so excited about that forgiving and retaining sins thing.
In fact, they tried it out on me. I think they were meaning it well—but…
 it felt like they believed doubt was a sin.
          Do you know what it feels like to have your brothers and sisters whisper, and even say aloud, that you are a sinner because you doubt? A sinner because you weren’t there in that room.
A sinner because you missed out.
A sinner because they were all certain… and your uncertainty makes them feel uncomfortable.

1        They were changed, and I missed it / they were gung-ho and I was still in the depths of mourning.
2        It made me pull away from them, even though they were trying their best to continue to be my brothers.
3        They went so far as to call me a sinner for missing that moment… for doubting.
For being “Doubting Thomas!”

          And because of all that I blew up—I said something I didn’t really mean.
I said I would only believe if I squished my fingers around in his wounds.
          Pretty gross if you stop and think about it—macabre even…
but I was in despair.
While everyone else had experienced resurrection… I was still in despair.
Not doubting… but despairing. Despairing Thomas / not Doubting Thomas.

          Somehow, I toughed it out. I came back—despite all that, I showed up in that room, with them, the next week.
          There … with them… a voice came from behind me, and said:
“Peace be with you.”
          And he took that gross challenge I’d thrown at my brothers,
and at God,
the challenge of “poking my fingers in his wounds,” and made it a redeemable moment
—a place from which I could believe…
a place beyond my despair.
          And I shouted out, “My Lord and my God.”
          That’s where things get complicated. Most people think what Jesus said to me next was a rebuke… that Jesus too called me a sinner for not being with them… with the other disciples—for being “a Doubting Thomas.”
          But it wasn’t a rebuke. He just asked me a rhetorical question, “Have you believed because you have seen?”
          Then he looked passed me, through that room, and out into eternity
—to future generations… to all of you…
and blessed them, saying, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
          It wasn’t a rebuke, it was a blessing for all those Christians who came after us… He was promising them
promising you
—his love and faithfulness,
his resurrection,
his peace,
his forgiveness,
his gospel, for them
for you.
          It wasn’t about me
—about my doubting
but about his blessing, that conquered the grave,
and conquered our despair and division,
and continues to bring life to this day
—to this very moment.
If I’m “Doubting Thomas” … You all are “Blessed Disciples”
You all are “Blessed Christians”
You are “Blessed Children of God!” A+A


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Sermon

Alleluia. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia. (2X)
         Was not what the women at the tomb said, on that first Easter.
         No, not Joy, but terror and amazement.
         Not Alleluia, but “Oh my!”
         Imagine the emotional and spiritual whiplash of that experience—the Terror of the Passion, the Crucifixion, the Death… Jesus’ movement and message drowned in defeat.

         All that confronted by an unsealed entrance, an empty tomb, a young man proclaiming a promise of God—telling of resurrection and a new future.

         In that moment, as they flee, running away from such a strange turn of events.
         In that moment, as they shake in terror, and are overawed.
         In that moment, as they say nothing, zipping their lips out of fear.
         In that moment the resurrection shapes not only their future, but also their past.
         God’s actions in the resurrection of Jesus, there in the tomb, cause His past ministry to mean something more.
         Christ’s promise to go on ahead of them—it transforms their future, and our future too!
         Christ Risen, not only today, not only there with the women,
but Christ risen yesterday, the resurrection as a way to look back with understanding,
and Christ risen, the resurrection a promise and a roadmap for tomorrow!
Let us pray

Alleluia. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.
         Christ Risen yesterday; his life and ministry reconsidered in light of the empty tomb.
         They say hindsight is 20/20, meaning everything in the past is clear in a way that it was not in the moment when it was happening.
         And because of this, 20/20 hindsight, looking back on Jesus’ ministry, is overwhelming!
         The resurrection means all of those things Jesus did, are done by the one who God saw fit to raise from the dead—they are acts not only of a good man doing right, but acts of the Righteous One of God
When we see Jesus, the resurrection promises us, promises! That when we see Jesus we are seeing God at work—seeing the Invisible made Visible.
         The resurrection is a lens with which to look at the rest of the Gospel—a different way to see it.

All of a sudden!
         All of a sudden, God is the one found with tax collectors and sinners, foreigners and children.
         God is the one found protecting a woman from an abusive divorce, and concerned for a widow.
         Found breaking religious rules, ministering to the demon possessed, in the impure mess, of pigs and tombs and the living and the dead.
         God on a donkey, not a warhorse—because ((the donkey) makes all the difference)
         God with us in all this mess!
All of a sudden!
         All of a sudden, God is the one abandoned by family, rejected by his hometown, betrayed and denied by those closest to him.
         God is the one violently attacked, humiliated, put on trial… all by religious and political people.
         God Found, ultimately, accursed on a cross crying, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me…”
All of a sudden!
         All of a sudden all this is redeemed… all this done, as Paul writes, “For our sins and in accordance to scripture.”
         All this for us.
         All this, a beginning, not an end!
         God is found up again,
         Working again,
         In among the mess again!
         Found, “going ahead of you to Galilee.”

Alleluia. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.
         Christ Risen tomorrow; tomorrow because he’s going ahead of you to Galilee.
         Christ was not just there in the Gospel, in his ministry before the crucifixion, though he was there!
         Christ is going on ahead of us.
         Christ’s resurrection means he’s still at work!
         As we go on our own journeys, there is Jesus.
         As we fumble along, even afraid and saying nothing—there is Jesus.
         When we worry about our child in jail struggling with drug abuse—there is Jesus.
         When we visit a friend or parent in the hospital and just don’t know what to say—there is Jesus.
         When we are alone and alienated—there is Jesus.
         When we are strangers in a strange land, or find ourselves steeped in sin—there is Jesus.
         When we are humiliated and struggle with all the trials of this life—there is Jesus.

         When we take up the task of those women, and tell the disciples,
         When we tell our neighbors,
         When we step out in boldness and tell those who need to hear a word of comfort,
         When we tell them all,
         Tell them that he is risen and goes ahead of youthere is Jesus.
         When we trust our future to God, trust that yes, Christ will be there
         When we listen to the hope of the Gospel and hold on to it for dear life.
         When we take the promises of God to be true and good.
         When we go forward in faith–there is Jesus.

         When we seek out God among those who might make us cringe,
         When we protect the abused and feed the hungry,
         When we step into the mess and get our hands dirty,
         When we seek the abandoned and the rejected—there is Jesus.

         Christ Risen yesterday.
         Christ Risen today.
         Christ Risen tomorrow.
         Alleluia. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.


Saturday, April 04, 2015

Vigil of Easter 2015

Christ is risen (he has risen indeed, Alleluia!)
         Christ we tempted by the Devil.
         Christ was crucified that Sin might die.
         Christ triumphs over death.

         Let us Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously!
         Let us sing to the Lord
         Let us Sing to the Lord, seven stanzas of Salvation

1. Sing of the works God has fashioned.
         Light, sky, sea, and vegetation.
         All ordered for the good of fish and bird,
         All made that the creatures of earth may prosper.
         We people put here,
         Together the image of God!
         All of this ordered, and then given blessed rest.
         All of us given a day, good, for nothing—a Sabbath
         Sing of the God who creates!

2. Sing of God’s continuous liberating acts.
         Sing a freedom song.
         Sing to reassure us when we are confronted by that reality
         When freedom is frightening/
         When an open world astounds us!
         Sing to the clapping of a multitude of feet against dry land
         Sing by the fire at night and through the smoke in the day
         Sing of God’s leading us on, to his promises.
         Take up Miriam’s melody
         “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
         Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”
3. Sing to the prophetic rhythm of Ezekiel
         To the maraca-like rattle of bone on bone
         Sinew sproing-ing like guitar string
         Flesh wrapped tight like a drum
         The breath bellowing out baritone
         The life returned, worthy of many a song
         Prophecy is a solo,
         that is actually a duet with God.
         The multitude who were sleeping are awake,
         A massive choir
         They join you and we all sing together
         Sing: “God’s people are never without hope.”
4. Sing the raucous counter-tune
         Make melody against the clangor of
         Horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp,
         drum, and entire musical ensemble.
         Sing so high the idols shatter
         Charm the fire with your song

         Join in harmony with the three men
         Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
         Three men in the fire,
         Four men singing praise to God
         The God with them in the fire.

5. Sing that brief refrain
         Beloved disciple—running faster
         Upping the tempo
         Hitting a rest, not entering in
         Ending in a crescendo

6. Sing like Peter
         His pace petering out
         Failing in the race
         A brave climax mid melody
         Entering in the tomb to see
         A confused fluttering note
         “What has happened?”
         Peter fades away, returning home.

7. Finally, Mary’s song
         A startled start—stone rolled away
         She too joins in the percussion foot race
         Like Peter and the Beloved Disciple.

         Then, she gets her sad solo,
         An Aria of anguish there at the Tomb
         No she doesn’t! She’s alone! Then surrounded!
         Two Angels there, and wisped away
         A Gardner for her to accuse
         Then the single finest note in all of God’s great song
         Jesus Christ calls her by name.
         If you listen quietly you can hear it too.
         He knows you and calls you by name. Singing it aloud.
         When you go from here
         Sing this song to the others too
         Sing that “I have seen the Lord!”
Christ is risen (he has risen indeed, Alleluia)