Friday, April 8, 2016

2nd Sunday of Easter (April 3, 2016)

Easter 2 2016c
Trinity Lutheran Church (NALC), East Flat Rock, North Carolina
John 20:19-31 & Revelation 1:4-8

In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew plowed through South Florida. The 140 mile per hour winds were strong enough to peel roofs from homes. Over 135,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, 250,000 people were homeless. Total storm damage exceeded $20 Billion.
During the cleanup, inspectors found something interesting.  Houses that were leveled had poor construction: staples used instead of nails, steel straps to trusses were never installed. In stark contrast, one set of homes withstood the hurricane with very little damage.  Those were the houses  built by the Christian organization, Habitat for Humanity.
          Former President Jimmy Carter helped build some of those homes, and he explained why those houses stood up to the storm so well.  Carter said, we don’t just meet the building codes "we exceed the building codes, whereas a lot people in Miami violated their own building codes."
The strength of a building, it turns out, is determined by its infrastructure… what holds it together. And in a way that’s like our belief in God.  Because if the core of our belief is rooted in our hearts, then our faith will be strong.  But if it is rooted in our minds, then our relationship with God will be something less than He intends for us.
In our Gospel today Jesus comes to his disciples while they’re gathered in a locked room.  They’re in that room probably because they’re afraid: they know that the authorities are searching for them to arrest them.  And, suddenly, in the midst of their fears: Jesus is standing. How he got through the locked door is a miracle.  They didn’t expect him to be there… they saw him die on the Cross.  Yet there he is, and his first words indicate what he desires most for them. “Peace be with you” he says.  In Hebrew this word ‘peace’ means serenity and the wholeness of life.  The disciples had been feeling anything BUT serenity and wholeness, but Christ knows that’s what they need… he wants them to have it, and they encounter him and they believe and experience the peace of God.
Everyone, that is, except Thomas.  Poor Thomas is out and about somewhere when Jesus comes.  We don’t know where he was, but we know that when he returned: everyone was feeling peace but him.  And the others told him what had happened, and he refused to believe it.  “Unless I touch the wounds in his hands… and the wound in his side… I won’t believe” he says. 
Now, let’s notice something about Thomas here. So often when we read this passage we infer that Thomas refused to believe.  But the issue for Thomas here is not belief… it is pride. Thomas was absolutely certain that he was right, and everyone else was wrong.  Thomas insisted in basing his belief not in his heart, but in his mind.
“We have seen the Lord!” the 10 disciples told him.  ‘We discerned him among us, and he gave us guidance of what we’re supposed to do – He is sending us out to lead others to forgiveness in Him.’ “We have seen the Lord!”  And Thomas answered. “No, I don’t think that’s what we should do.  I disagree with all of you.  I think it should be different.  “Unless I touch the wounds in his hands… and the wound in his side… I won’t believe”
The belief of Thomas was based on personal knowledge and personal judgment.  That kind of belief is a problem for us.  You see, God calls us to be constantly changed in sanctification, but if our belief is rooted in our minds, we will resist being transformed by a renewing of the mind, as Paul encourages us in his Epistle to the Romans.  Change is hard for belief that’s rooted in the mind.
It’s like the man who went to the store and bought himself a new radio.  He took it home and plugged it in and tuned it to his favorite radio station… and after that: he pulled all the knobs off.  His wife asked him why he did that and he told her that he’d already tuned the radio to what he wanted to hear and he never wanted to hear anything different!
Sometimes people approach God just like Thomas did: set in their ways, and insisting that God conform to them. They look at our reading from Revelation this morning.  They see in verse 4 about those seven churches in Asia that John writes about, they focus on that.  But they miss the real heart of the Gospel that’s in verse 5 Jesus Christ… who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.”
The heart of the Gospel is God’s love. And it is the Gospel that draws us to the Lord… the love of God in Christ Jesus, and him crucified, dead, and risen. 
We don’t encounter the Risen Lord in our minds, we encounter him in our hearts.  And if we are to experience the peace of God in our lives, then we must surrender and base our faith on the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ, and nothing less.
A man named Richard Phillips is a consultant who companies hire to help managers be more successful. In his training sessions, he always asks one question: “What is it about this company that made you stay long enough to become a manager?”  One day he got an answer that he didn’t expect.  A woman named Cynthia raised her hand and she said, “The reason I’ve worked here so long… is a $ 19 baseball glove.”
Phillips asked her to explain.  She said that she began working as a clerk in the store after her divorce.  It was the only job she could get and she really needed the money; things were hard.  On the 2nd or 3rd day she was working there the manager called her to his office.  She said that she thought she’d done something wrong, but it was only a phone call from her son.  The boy told he needed a baseball glove to play in Little League.  The store manager couldn’t help overhearing as Cynthia told her son that money was really tight… there were bills to pay.  Maybe in a few weeks she’d have money for a baseball glove, she said.  She told him goodbye and she left the office and went back to her register… wiping tears from her eyes.
The next day when she came to work the store manager asked to see her in his office.  He told her to sit down, and then he handed her a box and said “I overheard you talking to your son yesterday, and I know it’s hard for kids to understand how things are sometimes.  This is a new baseball glove for him.  I want you to know that we care about you here, and I want you to know that you’re important to us. Take that glove to your son as a gift from us.”
Cynthia said after that day she couldn’t imagine ever working anyplace else.  “How could I ever work any place else after I experienced love like that?”
When it struck Florida, Hurricane Andrew showed people how important infrastructure was in their homes.  This morning God is reminding us that infrastructure is important in our belief as well.
For we encounter God in the love he showed Jesus Christ.  Not by the efforts of our human minds, and not by any theology or philosophy or anything we read in a textbook.  And if we shed our human pride and encounter him in his love, then we will be transformed.  And transformed by love… the peace of God is ours. AMEN

Pastor Mike 2016
Permission is granted to reproduce this work in whole or in part if the glory for its content is given to the Lord
Soli Deo Gloria

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