Blessed Easter to you all. The world is ready to move past Easter on to Mother’s Day and Memorial Day and whatnot. We in the church, however, linger for 50 days. We luxuriate in the empty tomb and how that redefines us and attaches us to the resurrection hope.
This coming Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, always has the text about Thomas (who is unfortunately labeled “Doubting Thomas”). We will use the appointed epistle for our focus this week. May you be blessed.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! And we shall be raised too.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
There are three things that jump out of this text:
• There is an inheritance that is coming
• While we wait for that we experience trials
• Faith is a venture that transcends what we can discern with our senses
THERE IS AN INHERITANCE THAT IS COMING
The gift that comes when someone dies has little to do with what the inheritor has done or not done. Unless there is a stipulation in the will the gift comes purely as a gracious act on the part of the author of the will. God gives us new birth through the death of Jesus. We are attached to an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” given to us freely through the hands of God. Not to say that the gift came freely—it came through the piercing of the hands of God. It came through a sham trial and a shameful scourging and an unjust crucifixion. If our salvation—our inheritance—were contingent on our worthiness we would all be in a world of trouble. But, God endured trials and pains to secure for us what we could not. Because God is imperishable and undefiled and unfading so is the gift that God bestows on us. God’s promises are all “Yes and Amen” in Christ Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 1:18-20).
WHILE WE WAIT FOR THAT WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS
There is no promise that if we follow after Jesus our lives will become less painful or more blessed or more comfortable. Jesus talked about taking up a cross and following after him—there was little discussion about wealth and abundance and provision at least as would speak to our modern sensibilities. Church tradition holds that 11 of the original 12 apostles and Paul came to violent deaths. The church came under fierce persecution under Nero. There has been persecution of the church in one form or another from that day forward. As we grow in our ability to articulate and live out an ever-deepening faith there will be consequences. The world and the devil may kick back against what we are trying to say with our actions—and perhaps our words. Trials will come. But our hope as people of faith is that God will use such trials to burn the dross out of us and refine us like a precious metal. The promise isn’t that only good things will happen to us. The promise is that God can use all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. (see Roman 8:28)
FAITH IS A VENTURE THAT TRANSCENDS WHAT WE CAN DISCERN WITH OUR SENSES
Thomas, this Sunday, asks for a reasonable demonstration of a fantastic claim—as Carl Sagan used to say: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Thomas wanted to see and to touch the risen Lord. Don’t you? But we don’t get to see Jesus directly. Bizarre claims of Jesus appearing on billboards or pieces of toast and other faith figures showing up as salt stains in underpasses and other peculiar places betray how much many of us long to see manifestations of God with our senses. As much as we might long for such experiences they are rare if at all. And our senses can so easily be manipulated or deceived. God has chosen to constrain much of our communal experience of God to two senses—taste and hearing—through sacrament and word—through communion and the Bible. We appropriate God through faith. God is the one who gives us faith. We cannot even muster belief on our own. Rather than label and judge Thomas we should own that we are kindred spirits—longing to touch and see Jesus. But in spite of the challenges, God has given us the gift of belief. And we are receiving the outcome of that faith—the salvation of our souls.
God, help us to live faithfully as we await the inheritance that you have promised. Give us courage and good cheer as we face trials and tribulations. Strengthen our faiths in spite of what besets our senses. Grant us the salvation of our souls. Amen.