Fr. Bill Carroll – Second Sunday of Easter, April 16, 2023

Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you…”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Some of you have heard me tell the story before.  When I was just five years old, my best friend and his little sister died in a fire.   What I don’t often talk about is how that made my parents hold on to us a little tighter.  In some ways, I grew up in an anxious home.  In this regard, there is a sweet story about my dad.  Apparently, he once asked my mom to watch over us as we played in the backyard, because “the wind might blow them away.”

That’s true, even though, by today’s standards, we did not lead a sheltered childhood.   We roamed our neighborhood freely.  We rode our bikes in a canyon filled with rattlesnakes and coyotes.  When I was seven years old, I walked a mile and a half alone every day to catch the school bus.

But, even back then, there was a lot of anxiety all around us.   My mom and dad tried to shield us from the worst of it, but we felt it anyway.  Vietnam was still on the nightly news, and my dad had served overseas.  A little later, the energy crisis was happening.  Gas was being rationed.  Double-digit interest rates and inflation were harming our economy and many of our people. Toward the end of the decade, there were hostages in Iran.   Two different serial killers dumped bodies near our neighborhood.  They were anxious times, no matter who you were.   There were good things too, but what I remember is the climate of pervasive anxiety.  

Today, we live in a similar, fearful age.  This is the context in which we hear the Good News of Jesus.  And our Gospel this morning, in particular, is one we need to hear.

Every version of the Easter story is filled with movement.  Lives are changed.  Expectations are reversed.  And God turns the world upside down. And so, Jesus comes to us this morning through locked doors.  “Peace be with you,” he says.  Then, he turns our fear to great joy.   It is important that he shows us his hands and his side.   He shows us the visible scars of his passion.  

That’s because he isn’t a ghost.   He’s still human.  He is the one and the same Lord, who died on the Cross.  And now his scarred body is alive by the power of God.  

The movement of his followers from fear to joy reflects his own movement from death into life.   But there is another movement in the Gospel this morning.   “Peace be with you,” Jesus says.  And then he says this:   “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus is sending us out on a mission.   He is sending  us out from our hiding places–out into the public square.   He’s sending us to show others his justice and his love–and to offer them forgiveness in his Name.  We can’t stay locked away in the Upper Room–with its illusions of safety.

Today, many of us avoid other people and the risks of life in community.   It’s not just because of technology.  Why do we do this?   Are we tired?   Are we angry?   Are we grieving, or wounded, or afraid?  

Beloved, that is just where Jesus comes in.  He comes to us in our worried and wounded places. There are no doors we can lock (there’s nowhere we can run to) to keep him out of our lives.   For Jesus is our Lord and Savior.  And whoever we are (and however he wants to) he can come to us and show himself—alive.   

Even Thomas, the one of the twelve who insists on proof, receives the Spirit and comes to believe.   He is late to the party, but God still comes to him and sends him on the mission of Jesus.   A full week after he appears to all the others, Jesus comes back for Thomas.  (He is not going to leave any of them behind).  He comes to Thomas to show him his hands and his side—to breathe the Holy Spirit into his heart, which is a Spirit of boldness and hope, to equip him for mission.  

Thomas is overwhelmed by what he sees. He turns down the opportunity to touch the wounds.   Instead, he cries out:  “My Lord and my God.”  It’s one of the most powerful confessions of faith in all of Scripture:  “My Lord and my God.”   Jesus loves Thomas too much to leave him behind.   With the others, Thomas is renewed in his call to fish for people.   Jesus calls all of us to share the Good News.

Twenty years ago, in his Easter message, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who died very recently, wrote about the life-changing power of the resurrection.   I’d like us to meditate on his words today–especially at the dismissal—at the end of the service, when we are sent out from here in the power of the Spirit.

“Christ is risen from the dead, (Bishop Griswold begins) trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb.  This Easter anthem, drawn from the liturgy of the Eastern Church, appears in our Prayer Book at the conclusion of the Burial of the Dead.  It is to be sung as the body is borne from the church.”  Through resurrection, Griswold continues, “Christ not only rises from the dead but destroys death—death in all its forms.  And, as members of Christ’s…body, we are called to trample down death.”

“What does it mean to trample down death?  It means to confront all that is death-dealing” in our world.  This means our greed, our hatred, our divisions, and our violence.  Jesus came to give us a “living hope.”   He came to show us God’s new and better way.  Because he is alive in us, we are called to live out the resurrection and become “instruments of his death-destroying love.”

May we do so, Bishop Griswold concludes, with a “battle cry of Alleluia on our lips.”

Alleluia!  Alleluia!

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