Easter 2 Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
At St. James Episcopal Church, Quitman, GA, 7 April 2013
RCL Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
One day at the office coffee pot a colleague regales us with what she has seen on her pre-dawn drive down our main street on her way to work:
Her headlights show a cowboy on horseback as he twirls his rope overhead, trying to lasso a run-away calf. . . . . . She slows down.
I know her as a sober, reliable coworker, so I don't doubt her story. But I am glad to have the local paper's details: A cattle truck overturned, cattle escaped all over the place, & emergency responders called local cattlemen to help Public Safety round 'em up. The report has no mention of what my friend has seen. Yet, I still believe her account. I know her well.
My college biology professor did not know me well & did not accept what I told her about a natural phenomena that happens on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay where I had lived. (It IS hard to accept what contradicts what is logical.)
In that part of Alabama, we have “jubilees”. I've been to one & benefited from the bounty of others. Jubilees are natural events that scientists have studied for years; yet cannot fully explain. I have read in several publications that scientists do know there is less oxygen in the bay's water during a jubilee.
Sea creatures of all kinds – flounder, mullet, shrimp, crabs – leave the water, flopping or crawling onto the beach, or float listlessly near shore. Crabs climb cypress tree trunks. Sometimes a jubilee has several species, sometimes one or two. This usually occurs at night & pre-dawn.
Once, a neighbor gave us 12 croker sacks full of crabs from his pre-dawn bounty. He also had many buckets of flounder & mullet. A jubilee has no “game limit” . . . . Imagine the stench IF we leave all those sea creatures to die on the beach!
A practical, fact-based scientist, my biology professor does believe the evidence when I bring her newspaper clippings & Chamber of Commerce brochures with photos. This evidence balances my experience so that she can believe. She knows it's true that jubilees happen, although she has yet to experience one, as she has said in our recent conversation.
It IS hard to accept what contradicts what is logical. (All four Gospels report some disciples doubt the reports that Jesus has risen.) Thomas' doubt about Jesus' Resurrection comes naturally to him. He is a witness to Jesus' miracles:
- He sees Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead.
- He sees Jesus raise Jairus' daughter.
- He sees Jesus raise the Widow of Nain's son.
He also sees Jesus die on that cross & run through with a spear. So who is there to raise Jesus?
When Thomas encounters the real thing, his doubts vanish.
There is no report that he actually touches Jesus' hand and side. Jesus' words are the real thing. The words Thomas' friends report are not “newspaper clippings”. They are not “real enough” evidence. The Disciples' reports to Thomas remind me of the famous Pablo Picasso painting students studying Spanish always encounter: Guernica.
I remember it from my student days & my years as a teacher:
Small in textbooks. Famous (enough about that...move on with our lesson). So easy to dismiss. . . . until my husband & I see the real oil on canvas: 11½' high x 25' 8” wide1: black, white, gray, in “varying temperatures & values”2. I see the real thing:
My Lord & My God.....
forgive us the evil / the horrors we do!
As a teacher, I returned home to bring that experience to life for my students: No more glib glance & cursory treatment. Seeing Guernica teaches me why it is in textbooks. (Textbooks give reports of facts.)
The Bible gives reports of creation, God's work, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. You & I can bring the Bible to life. We can balance reports & experience.
You & I are the way these reports can become more real to fellow humans who do not know Jesus, who do not believe Jesus lives, people who are running, scared in life.
We are God's Emergency Responders, rounding up scared, running, scattered cattle.
There is a jubilee of people, gasping for the Holy
Spirit, people ready to be gathered into this fellowship.
We just have to go & reach out to them.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 7 March 2013.
Picasso: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art. Ed: Barbara Ross. Kirk Varnedoe, Exhibition Chief Curator. Pepe Karmel, Adjunct Assistant Curator. Exhibition organized by The Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with the High Museum of Art. Printed in Milan. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. 1997.
1 Picasso: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art. Ed: Barbara Ross. P. 16.
2 Note: Technical terminology re temperatures and values is from my friend & colleague Deacon Sally Shovar, Teaching
Artist, Moultrie, GA..