The Reverend Amelia Nugent Edson serves the Falmouth Congregational Church in Falmouth, Maine.
Scripture: John 20:19-31 (NRSV)
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Reflection: In The Mess
I didn’t find Jesus until I left the church. Church, as I experienced it as a child, was a place for shiny, happy people. You had to dress up and “get presentable” to go. It was a place to be on your best behavior, a place for being especially good, compliant, and nice. Church was a place for pretending; the mess of our real lives had no place there.
Isn’t it odd then, that Jesus seems to show up right in the middle of life’s messiest moments? Jesus seems pulled towards pain, doubt, anger and fear like a moth to a flame. Throughout his ministry, Christ heals wounds, naming this work as a sign of God’s kingdom. He spends time in the places in society where people have it the least together: eating with tax collectors and sex workers and going out of his way to visit Samaria, a place avoided by respectable Israelites. In this passage, Jesus comes through locked doors to Thomas who has just cried out his grief and unbelief. Jesus appears not to those who dutifully believe, but to the one who is authentic enough to voice doubt. Once he has arrived, he connects with Thomas not through his divine glory, but through the power of his wounds, offering them up to Thomas as proof that he truly is the risen God. It is through the mess of Jesus’s hands and side that Thomas receives the Easter message.
I found Jesus working in politics, as I watched people of faith wrestle with messy, real-life, issues — issues of inclusion, equity, and righteousness. These people, who could cry and cuss and show their true, wounded, beautiful selves, made me think that maybe Jesus was for real people, even someone like me.
As we go out and preach this passage this week, whether with a pulpit or with our lives, may we remember that mess is where Jesus shows up most. In the mess and vulnerability of our own lives, we meet the vulnerability of the crucified and risen Lord, and it is there that we find life in his name.
Lord Jesus, help me stop playing pretend. Give the church less pretty flowers and more messy life- for that is what draws you near. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 553,000 dead due to the Covid-19 disease
- For the victims and their families of the 123 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For those grieving or suffering in Indonesia where floods and mudslides have killed more than 40 people
- For those grieving or suffering after a train accident in Taiwan killed at least 50 and injured more than 150 others
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For innovative thinkers who discover fresh ways of doing church
This Week in History:
April 6, 1896 (125 years ago) The first Modern Olympic games was held in Athens, Greece, more than 1500 years after it was banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. In 1896, 280 participants (all men) from 13 nations competed in 43 events, covering track-and-field, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, shooting, and tennis. The 2020 Summer Olympics (the XXXII Olympiad), postponed last summer due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, will be held in Tokyo beginning July 23, 2021. More than 11,000 athletes from 206 nations are expected to compete is 33 sports.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”