This Sunday has several code names in church circles. Like the Sunday after Christmas, it is often referred to as a Low Sunday, meaning that after filling the church pews last Sunday, ….it will be a low attendance Sunday this week. It is also emotionally a low day after the high of the holiday the week before. This Sunday is also referred to as Doubting Thomas Sunday as each year on this Sunday we tell the story of poor Thomas, who missed out on seeing the risen Christ with the other disciples and says he will not believe Jesus was risen from the grave unless he can actually see the mark of the nails in his hands and put his finger in his wounded side. He needs to see and touch to believe. I love Thomas. Thomas is like every teen I have ever enjoyed in a confirmation class. They want to believe. But they need proof. No leaps of faith for those groups. I have often thought that Confirmation Classes should be called ‘The Doubters’ Clubs… and well, Thomas should be their patron!
But… then Jesus enters into the locked upper room and appears to Thomas. Jesus allows Thomas to do what he must to believe… and then Thomas makes a powerful faith statement. He calls the Risen Christ, ‘my Lord and my God’. But instead of dwelling on Thomas’ bold and emotional faith conversion, Jesus almost ignores it and says, ‘Blessed are those who have seen and yet believe. In other words, blessed are we who come later and do not have the personal experience of Jesus walking on earth, yet believe. Yes…. that is us.
And normally that is where we go with the sermon text….
But this year I keep thinking of those apostles closed off in that upper room.
I have always thought the role of the disciples in the Gospel stories is that they represent us… They are the bumbling numbskulls to which we can relate as they don’t understand, they mess up, and they continually fall short of the mark. And, in spite of themselves, Jesus doesn’t ever give up on them. They are us. And that is actually comforting.
And this year… I feel like we are the disciples in that upper room. As we practice physically distancing and isolating ourselves from others in our homes during this pandemic, we are those people.
Just as they did, we feel uncertain… we feel cut off, we feel fearful for our safety…. The death toll from the virus rises each day, we have no end in sight, and our economy is shot. (Just two days ago as I sat at my desk, about to enter a ZOOM meeting, an emergency squad arrived at my neighbor’s home and took them to that hospital. As the ambulance, quickly took off, it certainly punctuated the reality of our situation.) And we, like those disciples, out of a need to protect ourselves and others, must isolate and separate.
It feels awful. It feels hopeless. It overwhelms….
But then we remember that something absolutely wonderful happened to those disciples in that upper room! They were behind locked doors. They were frightened, they are, as I said, us.
And Jesus comes to them. Jesus answered their needs. Jesus comes through the barriers they have set up, both emotionally and physically and brings hope and comfort.
Just as Jesus knew exactly where the disciples were, knew what they needed, was present for Thomas, God is present to us as well.
And God is present for us at this time. Think of how God has come to you this past month. And our faith in a living God has been our comfort this past month and will be the balm we need in the weeks ahead. We cannot touch and feel Jesus like Thomas and the disciples could. But we can see and feel God at work in the way we respond and care during this time. We feel God in this church community we share, the way people have reached out to each other in love and concern. We see God in the people who are working through this pandemic so that we might live. Not just the doctors but everyone to whom we are relying on. The bagger in the grocery store and the UPS carrier as well.
We also feel God in the humor on the internet that is helping all the parents who have become teachers to their children while doing their own jobs.
We see God in the faces of the medical personnel caring for people in the hospital that cannot be with their families while they are sick.
We feel God in the person who smiles and says they know how you are feeling, who writes you a note, sends a text, or a phone call to make sure you know you are loved.
God is in the blessings we are feeling as we work through this. We are not alone. God does not abandon. God has been, is, and will be the calm in our storms. God is the love that is needed and the courage that will get us through.