•Acts 4:32-35 • 1 John 5:1-6 • John 20:19-31•
Scripture Readings: Second Sunday of Easter
Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!) In the gospel of John there are four distinct resurrection stories. They are clumsily linked in order to read as a continuous narrative. Today our lectionary brings the 3rd and 4th of those stories into our gathering. My plan here is to look at each of them separately, and then to draw the good news for us today from them.
Draw this 3rd story into your imagination. It was evening. The disciples probably were sharing their evening meal. Unexpectedly the Risen One is among them. How is that possible? The doors and windows were closed and locked. The implication is his presence is not physical!
In our Eucharistic Prayer, immediately after the Words of Institution, we affirm, “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!” “Come again!” The idea of the “second coming of Jesus” seems to have emerged early in Christian thought. Watch any 30-minute segment of TV news. It seems apparent the Risen One has not returned to inaugurate “God’s new reality” of justice and peace. In the year 100 the Christian community struggled with doubt. The social-political world in which they lived was in turmoil. Was their expectation of the “second coming” a mistake, or is it far off yet in the future, or has Christ already come again?
Perhaps such questions guided the gospel’s author in composing this story. Perhaps the author actually is describing “the second coming.” Think about it. Unexpectedly the Risen One is among them. Perhaps John is telling us he has “come again!”
Now draw the 4th story into your imagination. Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared. Eight days later, the scene is exactly the same. Again the closed, locked doors and windows are no barrier. Again the presence of the Risen One among them is not physical.
Apparently Thomas is stunned. He does not accept the invitation to reach out and touch but finally awakens to the Christ Mystery. “I now understand that the Risen One is the source of life calling us to live fully!”
Earlier in the fourth gospel, while speaking of himself as “the good shepherd,” John’s Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it fully.” The function of the Christ is to bring us to an experience of living in which we pass into new dimensions of life. He leads us to cross the boundaries of fear that separate us from one another and from ourselves.
Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!) The author of this gospel is not trying to convince that early Christian community that Jesus had been raised. It seems more probable to me that he is trying to convince them “Christ has come again” and they have a responsibility to fulfill. They are the bearers of resurrected life that is to be shared with the world.
“Receive the Holy Spirit.” “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Now it is us, this community of the baptized called “church,” that are a people empowered by the Spirit of the Risen One. We are called and sent to be a source of life for all people in this 21st century. We are called and sent to offer the fullness of life to our world that is so obsessed with death.
Thirty minute segments report only part of the news. As we, like Thomas, understand that “the Risen One” is the source of life calling us to live fully,” we become the real good news. The “new reality” Jesus called “the reign of God” is emerging among us!
Evolution is a slow, long process. We live in an evolutionary world. Each of us are incomplete works in progress. As we celebrate Easter again this year, we affirm that Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!) and remind ourselves that we are the “Good News” for which our world yearns. We are “the Living Body of Christ!”