The Second Sunday of Easter has a name you won’t find in the worship program, but appears on the Episcopal Calendar. Today is Low Sunday, and not just in Episcopal Churches. I am told that churches can expect about a third of the Easter attendees today. Easter Day is so joyful and grand. But Monday comes. We go back to the “real” world where flowers die; hidden eggs get found; chocolates consumed; and Peeps – something to look at, but please, never eat. North Korea is still making noise; Washington still needs a brain transplant, and tis’ the season to file income taxes. Easter Day’s joy fades quickly. It was Sunday, but Monday comes.
Sustaining Easter has always been a problem. Actually getting Easter off the ground was no small feat either. An empty tomb wasn’t enough to rejoice – it wasn’t much to build resurrection on. Mary figures someone’s moved the body. When Jesus appears to her and she knows, he sends her to tell the disciples. They are so overjoyed, they lock themselves in a house. That’s where we find Jesus, finding his disciples. He just appears in their midst, greeting them, “Peace be with you.” He doesn’t berate them for denying him, for running away in his darkest hour, for doubting Mary. What matters is they know they are his beloved, as he is the Father’s beloved. He shows them his hands and side, and then they rejoice and believe. Then Jesus breathes the Spirit he promised them earlier – God’s Spirit that will keep him fresh, alive and always with them.
For some reason Thomas is missing this day. When told what he missed, he says he’ll hold out until he sees for himself. Jesus comes back for him the next Sunday. With Jesus no one is left out. People label Thomas a doubter, as if doubt is troubling. I like to think Thomas trusts Jesus will understand where he’s coming from. He knows Jesus prefers honesty – not sweet clichés that hide how we are feeling. He meets us where we are. Besides, Thomas is no different from the rest. They didn’t believe until they saw for themselves. Jesus invites Thomas – “Go ahead. Touch my side, my hands. It’s really okay.” He sees and that’s enough for him to make the ultimate confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”
What about us? They see the risen Lord and believe. How can we believe if we don’t see? John includes Jesus’ blessing for us who have not seen, and yet come to believe. Jesus encourages us anyway. The clue – the promised Spirit – ever present, ever available, opens our eyes and we see God truly is in Jesus. Jesus gives the Spirit to his disciples, and his followers now – the Spirit that reveals what God is doing. Besides, Jesus just didn’t show up to evoke belief or confession, and that’s it. Jesus comes back to resurrect us. In the mystery of grace through preaching and teaching the story, in prayer and meditation the risen Lord returns for us, where we are, too, and raises his life into ours. Easter is real, the beginning, not the destination. Jesus commissions us to be his Body, witnesses of resurrection life – to continue the deeds of love and forgiveness he brings from God, in service to others. Our sole purpose is to love – to continue what God sends Jesus to do – like sending the Son – you know, God so loves this world – not condemns it or us.
What do you think the world would be like if we stopped trying to believe or rationalize Easter, and simply live as if Easter is true? In our 175th Anniversary year, we celebrate the past, but also look ahead – to where we are going, how God calls us to live Easter’s truth – shaping us into Christ’s Body in our time and place. We’re more than nice people. We are Jesus’ people – living Easter’s truth. We feed the hungry at the Gathering; support our sister church, Christ Church in Oforola, Nigeria; serve in numerous ways through the Thrift Shop: to work there, to bring gently used items to sell and raise funds for local and international ministries to support those in need: become better stewards of creation with GreenFaith. Today we celebrate being members of Common Ground, and those who hear God’s call to help the voiceless be heard. At St. Paul’s we offer a variety of opportunities to serve Christ, because one ministry will not fit all.
For the next few minutes I want you to hear and discern another ministry call – “Creating for a Cause,” the Episcopal Service Corps, Milwaukee, getting off the ground this spring – a diocesan initiative that needs parishes, us to be involved. Amy Clark, Program Director, is here to briefly introduce this exciting ministry, and talk with those interested in learning more after this service. What can we do to live as Easter people? Here’s another way to live as Christ’s resurrected people – Amy we welcome you.