Sunday, April 10, 2016

Believe: It's as Easy as Driving on Ice

Easter 2 Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 3 April 2016
RCL Year C: Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
Notice John’s Gospel says: “...Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.” I wonder what they were.
Our Gospel says : The signs written in John's book “are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, & ...through believing you may have life in his name.” This story of Thomas' doubt is for us when we face hard times & doubts. It is for us to share with our brothers & sisters who doubt.1
Some of us have to have our own experience of Jesus to believe. We see this in literalistic Thomas, who has to have his own experience.
How many of you have seen one of the larger dragonflies that have a wingspan of about 5-6 inches? The largest ones, found in Central & South America, grow to a wingspan of about 7½ inches.2 When I bought a ceramic dragonfly [which is now packed for moving], I hesitated: Its shimmering beauty appealed to me; its size seemed unreal. It is about this one's size. Not long after I bought it, I found a dragonfly in my convertible: The real thing LARGE as life! It felt odd to see something so different from my experience with our common smaller dragonflies.
Some of us have to see things for ourselves to believe them entirely. Remember how Thomas reacts in John 14:1-7 [today's Gospel at Morning Prayer]. Jesus says in verse 4: " know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas says: "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus says: "I am the way, & the truth, & the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Like Thomas, I can't have your experience of Jesus to believe in Jesus. I have to have my own.
I remember my first time ice skating & how different it felt from all my roller skating & from what friends had described of ice skating. How many of you have ice skated? How did that feel? There's a difference between ice skating & roller skating & a difference between ice skating & driving on ice. How many of you have driven on an icy road & skidded? How did that feel?
How confident would you be driving or
riding in a 40-ton truck on ice over a lake?
When I say “driving or riding in a 40-ton truck on ice over a lake”, I'm not talking about driving on a bridge. I'm talking about driving on the layer of ice on the lake....

Remember: We are Easter people.
We know how unbelievable some facts sound3.

We see how Thomas responds in our Gospel to what sounds unbelievable. We remember, as we discussed last week, the 1st “Easter flips everything upside-down”, shatters our preconceived notions, transcends what's rational...”4
What's rational is driving across a lake on a bridge. The only reason I know about driving heavy loads on an ice road is because my husband & I are living a new reality. The artwork on the U-Haul truck in our driveway tells about the ice roads in Canada's tundra: 
Truckers drive tons of cargo on ice, traveling over lakes in some places that have no roads. I read this at because the brief message on the truck intrigued me to know more.
I felt like Thomas: I'm not going to believe just the truck's statement. I've got to inspect this myself. I've got to see the details, touch the screen image.
Reading this week's Gospel & the U-Haul Truck site show me that I am like Thomas. I am slow to believe. If you had told me at Christmas I'd be writing this week's sermon staring at a U-Haul as my husband lugs box after box from our house into the truck, I would have doubted, just as I doubted the possibility of applying to work at St. Francis' Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, no matter how appealingly closer it is to where our son lives.
What made me see & believe with new eyes was the printed message God sent that I have told you about. I told God: “If you want me to apply for this job, make it clear – preferably in writing.”   Like Thomas, I wanted to see & touch something real before embracing a new reality.
I embraced the new ministry possibility with the assurance God offered when I found this prayer card where I randomly sat at 
St. Paul's in Washington, DC.  It has a picture of St. Francis & this prayer attributed to him:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, & the wisdom to know the difference.” 
This single card with a picture of  St. Francis was at that randomly chosen seat at  St. Paul's for a funeral of someone who died in 2014 .  .  .  .
    Why did I doubt?    Why did Thomas doubt?

The Rev. Anthony Clavier says in his sermon on today's Gospel: doubt can be as simple as not taking things at face value & as complicated as an emotional issue from a great loss...“a form of despair...that clings to loss” & refuses to embrace the future without what [is] lost.5

Notice the difference between Thomas' fear of believing & how quickly he proclaims:
"My Lord & my God!"

Notice the courage we hear in Acts as Peter & the apostles bravely speak the truth of Jesus' Resurrection despite the cease & desist order the authorities have imposed on them. [I am sure Thomas is among the apostles bravely sharing the Good News of Jesus' Resurrection.]

They tell the authorities: "We must obey God rather than any human authority.” You & I live under God's authority.

How do people believe who don't have Thomas' advantage to see Jesus' scars? How can they know Jesus can heal their hidden scars & pain? How do we respond when we are the ones in pain?

This is work Jesus gives us to do.
Jesus is counting on us to share the Good News: He is risen. His healing power, His Love are at work in the world.
We – you – are part of this work.

Clavier, The Rev. Anthony.” My Lord and My God, Easter 2 (C) – 2016”. Accessed: 2 April 2016.
Scarred for Life”. Accessed: 2 April 2016.
Schenck, Tim. Dust Bunnies in the Basket: Finding God in Lent & Easter. USA: Forward Movement. 2015. “Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata)”

1 Note: Insight from Ibid. Clavier.
2 “Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata)”. “The largest living species of odonate (the order that includes dragonflies and damselflies) is Megaloprepus caerulatus, attaining a size of as much as...7.5 in...across the wings and a body length of over...4.7 in...”
3 Note: Idea of unbelievable from “Believe It or Not!” sermon that speaks of Robert Ripley's Believe It or Not! publications and museums to discuss today's Gospel.
4 Schenck, Tim. Dust Bunnies in the Basket: Finding God in Lent & Easter. P. 64.

5 Clavier, The Rev. Anthony.” My Lord and My God, Easter 2 (C) – 2016”. Accessed: 2 April 2016.

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