Like newborn infants, Alleluia!
long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word. Alleluia!
Sing aloud to God our strength,
Shout for joy to the God of Jacob...
Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord's resurrection may by Your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God...
Alleluia! He has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee. Alleluia!
Eight days later Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Alleluia!
[A Homily from Yesteryear]
Did you catch the pattern? Sunday. Disciples gathered. Doors shut. Jesus. The sight of His wounds in a living bopdy. Overflowing joy. Commissioning to carry forgiveness out into the world.
But Thomas missed the gathering. Maybe he was golfing. Maybe he was finshing. Maybe he was moping. Maybe his siesta lasted a bit longer than usual. We’re not told why he wasn’t there, and there’s a reason for that.
Because it doesn’t matter WHY he wasn’t there. The only thing that matters is that he missed out. And look at what happened because he missed out on the gathering where Jesus came to his disciples behind the closed doors to bring them joy flowing from the wounds and the Spirit breath of His words and the commission! Thomas refuses to believe.
Thomas in his unbelief lays down his conditions. He’s got to see with his own eyes those wounds and touch them. Then he’ll see about believing.
And the Lord could have appeared to Thomas on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday. Any of them would have done. But the Lord didn’t. He let Thomas stew in his unbelief for a solid week. And then look at what happened. Deja vu!
Sunday. Disciples gathered. Doors shut. Jesus. The sight of His wounds. Overflowing joy. This time the truant was present and the presence of Jesus in the midst of the gathered disciples brings Thomas from unbelief to full-blast confession: “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus responds to that. Thomas had been brought to faith by seeing. By seeing the wounds in hands and side He came to confess that His Lord and His God had been raised from the dead just as He had promised He would be. But Jesus is setting a pattern now and he is thinking of more than Thomas on that night. He is thinking of you. And so he says to Thomas: “You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
But if it will not be the seeing of Jesus that brings to faith, then what? The Gospel holds the answer. It’s all about what happens on the First Day of the week, which is also the 8th day, the day beyond all our sevens - one of which carries us to death. On the First and 8th Day, a miracle. The disciples of Jesus gather. And into their midst comes the Risen One. He comes with His wounds, His Spirit, His breath, AND His Words. “These have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
In the gathering of His people together, the miracle happens again and again. Even though there is more Jesus than can ever be fit into a book, nevertheless He has given His people a book around which to gather. A book where the breath of Jesus that is the Spirit of God still blows to call from unbelief to faith. A book that is opened and read. Words. Concrete words. Words about Jesus. Jesus’ own words. The Spirit breathed them all. They all come from and are all about Jesus. And we read them and when we do, it is not just a matter of remembering Jesus. No. We confess that Jesus is with us in His Words. That’s why we stand. That’s why we shout out: “Alleluia!” in greeting to the One who comes to us in His words. The One who had promised: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My words and My Father will love Him and We will come to Him and make Our home with him.” (Jn 14:23)
But the One who comes to us in His words is the One who comes to us showing the wounds and speaking peace and bringing joy. And so when the words of Jesus are spoken over bread and wine, then we have what the words of Jesus say: This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you. Thomas was invited to touch and believe. You are invited to believe and taste. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Body and blood correspond to the wounds, for you only get body and blood separated from one another when there is a wound. So it is His death that is proclaimed every time we gather together and He feeds us with His body and His blood. You can’t see it from where you sit, but a reminder of it is upon the altar cloth. Five little crosses. Two on each end and one in the middle. What are they there for? To be pretty? Hardly! They are there by way of confession that what is placed upon this altar cloth is what resulted from five piercings: two in the hands, two in the feet, and one in the side. They are there to confess that on the altar is the very body and blood which hung upon the cross for you. That that is what is given you to eat and to drink and with the sight and taste of the wounds comes the word of peace (“the peace of the Lord be with you always”) and then the joy.
When? On the Lord’s Day. When Jesus comes into the midst of His gathered disciples and speaks His peace and brings the joy of sins forgiveness. But the joy isn’t to end here.
The disciples go out and announce - as they did to Thomas - “We have seen the Lord!” So we are sent out from this gathering where Jesus has come to be with us, where we have known Him in His Words and in His Wounds, His body and blood. We are sent forth to tell people like Thomas who are left in the sadness of thinking that death is the end of the road, that there is one who went farther. We are sent to tell people like Thomas who think that their sins are still hung around their own neck, that there is one who lifted the burden from them to give them peace and joy. We are sent to tell one and all. And not just that there is such a one and such a forgiveness and such an eternal life. But sent to tell WHERE He can be found and where faith is given and forgiveness and joy and peace. To tell them about the secret of the 8th and first day when Jesus still comes to be with us when we gather together in His name, around His words, and His wounds. Amen.