Second Sunday of Easter by Rev. JoAnn Huber
Acts 5: 12-16 Psalm 118: 2-24 Revelation 1:9-19 John 20:19-31
I love the readings in the Easter season leading us to Pentecost. They strongly
invite us to live out the teaching and modeling of Jesus love and mercy, and show
us too, how others attempted to do so. They also remind us of the basis of our
faith – Jesus lives!
Many signs and wonders were done by the apostles – the people esteemed
them but none dared to join them our first reading says. Many believed in the
power of Jesus after they saw the Apostles working miracles yet still could not
“give up’ their old confidence in the established religious authorities. Less risky to
stay put even though the witness of all who were being healed/cured was
wonderful. In James 1:22 it says,” Obey Gods message! Don’t fool yourselves by
just listening to it!
The author of Revelation finds himself on Patmos- a small island where
Romans sometimes kept prisoners. He was condemned for his faith and his
teaching. He sees and hears a vision rich in symbol. Verse 16 was left out of
today’s reading a part of which pictures “a doubled edged sword coming out of
his mouth”. This sword is the word of God that irresistibly penetrates the heart
and is then fulfilled in events. It deals death as effectively as it saves! If we want
fullness of life we must always die to something/lose something. A hard choice.
We can’t be lukewarm or risk free. God wants all of us and modeled for us what
John is also using “I am” statements. I am the first and the last; I am the living
one. I died but now I am alive for evermore. Unspoken, yet there is again the
invitation, “Join me”!
In the Gospel the disciples were very afraid and in hiding behind locked doors.
Jesus enters and says “Peace be with you.” When they see his hands and side they
recognize him with rejoicing. Again Jesus says peace be with you and says “as I
have been sent so I send you”. He then breathes on them the gift of the Spirit.
“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” This message is for all the disciples – not
just the apostles – which is of course all of us as well On another visit Thomas,
called Didymas, which means twin, according to John, shows up after having
missed the first visit from Jesus. Jesus again says peace be with you and invites
Thomas to touch the wounds. Does not say that Thomas touched. Thomas saw
and responded, “My Lord and my God” – a statement of faith. In the Gospel of
Thomas, Thomas is said to be Jesus spiritual twin in that he saw that God’s light
was shared by all – in everyone open to receive. He saw Jesus and his heart was
opened for all. Some believe it was Thomas who then traveled to the east to
evangelize where he learned even more about non-duality.
People who strive for a deeper spiritual life often suffer from a depth of
awareness of the universal presence of sin or wrongdoing. There is grief over the
imperfection. Forgiveness is the greatest gift – it always involves mercy and love.
The capacity to forgive is the only power able to release the great tensions within
humankind. It does not easily conquer hearts, yet it is an invaluable secret
treasure. One who does not know how to forgive does not know how to love
deeply. Forgiveness is a way of showing a more authentic love. Words like
forgiveness, love and even mercy can sometimes seem like mere jargon words –
not practical at all in the culture in which we live where we are taught to fight
back, get even, and have a judicial system that does not restore life.
January 30 – Gandhi’s death day – began the season of non-violence. April 4
we end the season of non-violence, as it is the day MLK Jr was killed. With
today’s gospel it seems fitting to speak of forgiveness and the power Jesus has
given us to forgive, as we recall the great modeling that Gandhi and King and so
many others demonstrated.
During the Civil Rights movement one Sunday morning King was preaching at
his church the day after his people had been severely beaten up. They were in
bandages and casts, were bruised and saddened and angry and he said to them,
“The forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged,
the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some great injustice, the absorber
of some terrible act of oppression.” Can we even imagine the difficulty of
hearing that message? How about allowing yourself to be beaten up and not
physically fighting back? King went on to say that, “Forgiveness is a catalyst
creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning.”
Another story I am fond of is one where a man took a daily bus ride and the bus
driver was consistently unfriendly, rude and offered his passengers only gruff
words and frowns. One rider was always friendly and encouraging toward the
driver. When asked how he could do that when met with such rudeness day after
day, the passenger responded. “I refuse to let this man dictate to me how I am
going to act.” This man made an act of the will, a decision, not to be led by
another’s negative behavior, nor to respond in kind but rather to act from a place
of freedom. A new beginning every time. NOT seeing the person who hurt you as
an enemy requires depth of understanding, great acceptance of self, and of the
other, and often a huge leap of faith! “Forgive them for they know not what they
do,” says Jesus.
The question is often not can I forgive, but, can I love enough, or how can I
show mercy? We are given deep responsibility to show mercy and love in our
forgiving actions. Who do we need to forgive? Who do we label enemy? From
where does our courage come? Forgivers are peacemakers and lovers and
followers in the footsteps of Jesus and Gandhi and King. We have good
teachers. Be not afraid. Christ lives!
Second Sunday of Easter by Rev. JoAnn Huber