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Most of you know that there are several liturgical seasons in the church year. There’s Advent, Christmas, Lent and of course, Easter. But there is a season near and dear the hearts of all Pastors and others who work for churches. It’s the season of the year we regularly refer to as “After Easter…” You know, I’ll think about that “after Easter.” We should have time for that “after Easter”…! (there’s also a corresponding season known as “after Christmas!”…
And while it’s not usually true, it always feels like “after Easter” is a time when things are more relaxed. When you have more bandwidth to think about stuff. And when you have a little more time to get things done that have been piling up.
And maybe that’s why it’s always felt to me like Jesus had extra time on his hands after Holy Week as well! In his new and Risen life, he no longer had to avoid enemies who wanted to kill him. He wasn’t constantly with the disciples and settling their disputes. And more than that, Jesus now seems unbound by time and space! He can be everywhere at once, and doesn’t even need to bother to open a door when he wants to go into room!
So that’s sometimes led me to wonder why it took Jesus a whole week to show himself to Thomas. Thomas wasn’t present when Jesus showed up on Easter evening, and we often give Thomas a hard time for not being there. But in all likelihood, Thomas wasn’t there because he was the only one brave enough to leave the safety of the house and go out to get groceries and other things the disciples needed …
But wherever Thomas was, and whatever Thomas was doing, it seems that Jesus would have had time and bandwidth to simply show up next to Thomas wherever he was and say, “Hey Thomas, look! It’s me!” Thomas would have seen, and believed and that would have solved the problem.
Or would it? Was there a reason that Jesus wanted to show himself to Thomas not as a personal revelation, but as part of the whole community of the disciples? That is, did Jesus just not have the time to chase Thomas personally, or did Jesus want to intentionally wait until they were all together again?
I strongly suspect that Jesus waited because he wanted all of them to be together again. There was something about the importance of being together in community that was essential to experiencing the risen, new life of Jesus.
You see, in Jesus’ death, the disciples had had several relationships disrupted. Since the disciples had come to experience God more fully and deeply in the person of Jesus, Jesus’ death made them feel that their relationship with God was gone. Because Jesus was the glue that held them all together, Jesus’ absence made them wonder whether their time together as a community was now over. And because Jesus’ death also meant that the people who wanted Jesus dead also probably wanted them dead, the disciples hid in the house behind a locked door, and no longer engaged the wider community as they had when Jesus was physically leading them around.
As important as it is, Jesus’ Resurrection wasn’t simply about Jesus’ personal victory over death, or even promising the disciples their own personal new life after their deaths. Instead, Jesus’ Resurrection – and Jesus’ showing and sharing his new life with his disciples – was intended to restore their relationship with God, renew them in community with one another and empower them to re-engage with the world Jesus came to save.
So Jesus could have simply shown himself to Thomas privately, and that might have solved Thomas’ personal need to feel restored to God. But it wouldn’t have re-connected him with the rest of the community. And it wouldn’t necessarily have moved him to re-engage with the wider world around him.
But Easter is always about how the new life we find in Jesus not only personally renews our relationship with God, promising us new and eternal life. Easter is also about how Jesus renews and reconnects us a living community of his disciples, and how Jesus continually calls us, as a community, to re-engage with the wider world around us.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be getting ready for two big events at Prince of Peace – the Coffeehouse / Auction and our Yard Sale. We’ve done many events like this in the past, and they’ve always been a success in many ways. But one of the things that’s really good about this year’s events is that, while it will be good to raise some funds for special causes, we don’t NEED to raise any specific sum of money … (which was often the case in the past).
But when we don’t have to focus on the money, it allows us to focus on the Easter parts of these events, which have always been important but sometimes got lost in the background. That is, we can focus on how these events can help reconnect us as a community and re-engage as a community with the wider world around us, which this year are major goals of both planning groups….!
And after having been apart for two Easters in a row, celebrating the Resurrection by reconnecting with each other and re-engaging with the wider world around us has never been more appropriate or needed. Many of us have realized over the past couple of years that Jesus really is alive in our lives even when we were stuck in the house or maybe even, like Thomas, felt like we were off by ourselves. And that’s a great lesson to have learned.
But Easter has always been much more than that. The Resurrection of Jesus means more than simply a personal promise that there’s new life for each of us someday after we die. And in all the Resurrection stories, in one way or another, the Risen Jesus is always using his Resurrection appearances not just to show himself to be alive, but to reconnect his disciples with one another and to send them out to re-engage with the world around them so that the reality of the Resurrection gets shared with others.
So in this Easter season, let’s use the Coffeehouse and the Yard Sale – and indeed, any other moments we find ourselves in – to open ourselves to the Risen Jesus’ work of re-connecting us to each other so that we can be his Risen community, and not just a collection of individual followers. Let’s use the Coffeehouse and the Yard Sale – and indeed, any other moments we find ourselves in – to open ourselves to the Risen Jesus’ call to re-engage with the wider world around us, not merely individually but as that Risen community. And let’s remember – just like those first disciples who often experienced Easter while they may have just been gathered for a regular evening – that the Risen Jesus often uses events like meals, coffeehouses and even yard sales to call to us to new life.