Summary: Believing something opens to us the possibility of experiencing it, of seeing it come to pass, and of having that which we believe produce in us many kids of blessings. What will it take for us to believe? What proof are WE looking for?
One Easter Sunday morning, a minister looked out on his congregation and noticed many people who had not been there for a long time. Before he began his sermon he said, "Since this will probably be the last time I see many of you for awhile, let me be the first to wish you 'Merry Christmas' "
Today is sometimes called Low Sunday. This term has a perfectly respectable origin. We can think of Easter Day as the start of an octave, a period of eight days that runs through today and thus contains two Sundays. The first of these Sundays is Easter Day, the greatest of all Christian feasts. Today, the other Sunday in the Easter Octave, is by comparison Low Sunday.
But the term has gained another connotation-one that refers to church attendance. Attendance on this Sunday is not as high as on Easter Day. It is by comparison low, hence the term Low Sunday.
The name I prefer, along with many other ministers, for this Second Sunday of Easter is Thomas Sunday. The Gospel reading for today is always the story of how Thomas became to believe in the risen Christ. And while this Sunday is sometimes slighted for its low attendance, so its featured apostle Thomas is frequently dismissed as a doubter-hence the origin of the term "Doubting Thomas".
Jesus' appearance to the disciples in today's Gospel reading is actually the second time he appeared to them after his resurrection. He made three promises to them this time:
• "Peace be with you"
• "Receive the Holy Spirit"
• "Do not doubt, but believe"
The last promise was a response to Thomas' doubt. There are three different kinds of faith. Faith comes in different ways and different intensities to different people. People have different needs and find various routes into faith.
The "locked door' referred to in the Gospel represents the fear the disciples had, but it also represents Christ's power, because nothing can stop him. The disciples have Christ's peace in spite of persecution by a world that hated them. Those who have faith in Christ today and show it publicly also have Christ's peace in a modern world that more often than not also hates them. One only has to look at how Christians are treated in some Middle Eastern and Asian countries to see concrete examples of this hatred as expressed by persecution. The Holy Spirit is a defender of victims through forgiveness-even forgiveness of the victimizers
When Jesus said to the disciples, "Peace be with you", the kind of peace he gave them was the one set in motion by forgiveness. The disciples' future, along with Christ's forgiveness, was their main qualification for being chosen to continue Christ's work. Their fear, as represented by the locked door, showed their human weakness. Forgiveness was the core of the message Jesus gave to his disciples as he sent them out into the world. He gives us the same message today. We must all be ready to mediate God's grace to all those who are ready to receive it. Christ stands before God as our representative, pleading our case. He re-establishes our broken relationship with God. God used the resurrection to give Christ victory over sin and death.