John 20: 19-31 Easter 2 April 11, 2021
Christ is Risen!
The Resurrected Christ pays a visit to the disciples this week.
They are hiding together behind a locked door in fear.
And Jesus enters their locked room.
We read this gospel lesson every year on
the second Sunday of Easter and most of the time
we focus our time on Thomas and his doubt.
|The Doubting of St. Thomas|
Now, I happen to like Thomas.
He left that locked room when no one else would.
He went out to get everyone coffee or lunch or whatever he was doing.
He was the brave one in the group.
He just happened to miss all the action.
I don’t have a problem with his doubt at all.
But we can talk about him another year.
In all the hubbub about Thomas, we often of miss
a very important thing here.
Jesus whole purpose for being there.
So what did Jesus come to the disciples for?
Just to haunt them like a ghost?
Just to catch Thomas while he was out?
No, of course not, Jesus has a purpose in his visit.
He says to the disciples,
“Peace be with you,
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Jesus has returned to give the disciples peace in their fear,
to give them the presence of the Holy Spirit
And at this point in the narrative, he also gives them a clear mission.
For a long time many in the church have believed-
or acted at least – that Jesus sends our churches out primarily for two things:
For recruitment, so we can increase the number of Christians in the world
And/or to tell people about the rules and about morality –
teach right from wrong.
Those are noble causes for some to have to be sure,
But neither of them are what Jesus tells them to do
here at this very important moment after his resurrection.
He doesn’t say to the disciples, “make sure you get a lot of new members,
OR make sure you teach everyone knows what the rules are.”
Jesus sends the disciples out into the world with one main purpose:
That is forgiveness.
“as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." He says,
"Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any,
their sins have been forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any,
they have been retained."
Forgiveness. This is what Jesus sends the disciples out to do.
To forgive one another and to let others know about God’s forgiveness.
This is Jesus’s gift to his disciples and this is the disciples gift to the world.
And this is what we uniquely have to offer.
There is an Episcopal priest named Robert Capon
who writes wonderful thing mostly about Jesus’ parables. He writes:
The world is in the morality and rules business and they succeed at that.
What the world cannot get right, however, is the forgiveness business –
and that, of course, is the church's real job.
She is in the world to deal with the Sin
which the world can't turn off or escape from.
She is not in the business of telling the world
what's right and wrong so that it can do good and avoid evil.
She is in the business of offering, to a world
which knows all about that tiresome subject,
forgiveness for its chronic unwillingness to take its own advice.
But the minute she even hints that morals,
and not forgiveness, is the name of her game,
she instantly corrupts the Gospel and runs headlong into blatant nonsense.
The church becomes, not Ms. Forgiven Sinner, but Ms. Right.
Christianity becomes the good guys in here versus the bad guys out there.
Which, of course, is pure tripe.
The church is nothing but the world under the sign of baptism.
On this second Sunday of Easter, we and the disciples
are sent to the world to tell it of God’s forgiveness.
We are sent to act out own forgiveness of others.
We are sent to forgive.
And why? Because we believe in the Resurrection.
Not just in the stark fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.
But we believe that the Resurrection of Jesus was just one big example
of the new life that God offers the whole world.
The Resurrection tells us that God is not spending time
writing down when we’ve been naughty and when we’ve been nice.
God is not saving up and will make us pay for them one day—
The Resurrection says that if God could forgive
the crucifixion, God can forgive anything.
We believe in the Resurrection which tells us
that God won’t check the list twice or once,
God has thrown out the list all together.
Resurrection tells us that no matter what has taken place,
God can and will create New Life.
God will forgive the old and make the new.
No matter how bad it has gotten, God will redeem the world.
And that is Forgiveness. That is what the church is sent out for.
Because we believe that Christ is risen,
we believe that redemption is possible in all situations.
For decades, people suffered under the
horrible racist oppression of Apartheid in South Africa.
The white government sanctioned stiff segregation, kidnappings,
killing and torture for any one who rebelled against it.
After being released after 30 years in prison, once in power,
Nelson Mandela did not call for retaliation and uprising against
the white government oppressors. Although no one could have blamed him.
He didn’t even call for a Nurenburg type trial – although they may have deserved it.
With Bishop Desmond Tutu’s help,
he called for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In this commission,
people would admit to being a party to the oppression,
then they would listen to the stories of the horror told by the victims.
In turn, they would be forgiven.
This commission did its work for two years.
It hasn’t been perfect in South Africa,
but there has been a noticeable absence of
bloody, civil wars which have arisen in other places in Africa.
There has not been an attempt at ethnic cleansing which certainly could have happened.
And there is a presence of Justice.
Black people and white people are working together.
There is hope for that nation.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Episcopal archbishop who lead the commission:
“Forgiveness is an act of much hope and not despair.
It is to hope in the essential goodness of people
and to have faith in their potential to change.
It is to bet on that possibility.
Forgiveness, is not opposed to justice,
especially if it is not punitive justice, but restorative justice,
justice that does not seek primarily to punish the perpetrator, to hit out,
but looks to heal a breach,
to restore a social equilibrium that the atrocity or misdeed has disturbed.
Ultimately there is no future without forgiveness."
Jesus has come into the room. The pain is still visible,
the crucifixion has not been forgotten
and swept under the table.
The wounds are still there for Thomas to see and put his fingers in.
But Christ still comes with a word of forgiveness.
“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.”
Our own former presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson asked:
“Do you think by that Jesus could possibly mean
that if I fail to tell my neighbor, my colleague at work,
my son or my daughter,
the Good News that God in Christ forgives you,
then their sins are now mine?
It’s an interesting way to look at what Jesus said.
Forgiveness is what we are sent out to share with the world.
God’s forgiveness and our own forgiveness.
Forgiveness is new beginnings. Forgiveness is hope for the future.
that the past won’t hold us back.
Forgiveness means relationships can start again.
Forgiveness means that life can start again.
Forgiveness is hope for all of God’s people.
When we share forgiveness with a friend or a relative
or with a stranger, or an enemy,
or with those who have done us harm –
it is the Resurrection of Christ made real to the world.
It is the hope and promise of New Life.
Forgiveness is God’s gift to us.
Forgiveness is our business.