It is in community that we can share our doubts, strengthen each other, and be fed and healed by Word and Sacrament for our life.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Third Sunday of Easter, year A
Text: Luke 24:13-35
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Do you realize Thomas is one of the bravest disciples in the Gospels?
When Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem to deal with his dead friend, Lazarus, the disciples tell him not to go, that the leaders want to kill him. Jesus persists, and it’s Thomas who bravely says, “then let’s go die with him.”
On the night of his betrayal, when Jesus says “don’t be afraid, I’m going to prepare a place for you in my Father’s house,” and adds, “and you know the way to where I am going,” only Thomas has the courage to say what everyone else was thinking: “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going.”
And when Thomas misses Easter evening, he shares his doubts and fears to his friends. They may have seen Jesus alive, but he says, “I need to see myself.” That takes courage to admit.
And Thomas finds his bravery in his community.
There’s a serious discussion among Christians today about the future of Christian community.
Since the pandemic separation, when congregations responded by finding ways to connect on the Internet, from streaming worship to online meetings, many are now asking if virtual connections are the church’s future.
Many of these are younger leaders who are used to connections, community, online, via social media and messaging. Some argue we need to recognize that community is more than being in person. In fact, some are saying that’s the past, that the way people experience community today is virtual, online. That’s our future.
That hasn’t been our experience here. As important as it was that we connected online during our COVID separation, we had, as a community, a deep desire to be with each other again, in the same space, able to see and talk to each other. Coming together for worship and fellowship again was a tremendous blessing and continues to be. It’s wonderful that we now reach people through livestreaming that we never did before. People join us for worship from far distances, and our own folks who can’t come on a Sunday are able to join in. This is miraculous. But it’s hard to imagine this congregation not continuing to cherish and seek being together in person.
Just like all these Easter stories. They all happen in community.
This couple from Emmaus go to their home together, and then return to be with the others that same night. The women go to the tomb together, not alone. Mary Magdalene runs to the other disciples twice, once to tell them Jesus’ body is gone, the other to say she’s seen the Lord. Peter and John go to the tomb together. Thomas misses the first Sunday night, but rejoins his friends the next. Peter and six others go fishing in Galilee and meet Jesus on the beach.
These people needed each other. They sought each other out. They didn’t face Jesus’ death alone, they gathered in the Upper Room. And no one stayed apart when news of Jesus’ resurrection started to spread.
They found their faith together, in doubt and fear, and in joy and hope.
The Emmaus couple shared their pain together: “We had hoped,” they sadly said, “that he was the one to save Israel.” Thomas opened his heart and told his friends he was struggling to trust what they said. Mary Magdalene poured out her fear to the others: “they’ve taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.”
They shared their griefs, their doubts, their fears with each other, not pretending to have it all together.
And they shared their joy and faith. The Emmaus couple ran back eight miles after dark, just to tell the others what they’d seen. Mary witnessed that she’d seen Jesus. The other disciples told Thomas what they’d experienced. They all realized they weren’t complete without each other, in their doubts or in their joys.
Because the risen Christ brought healing and hope within their community.
Apart from Sunday morning’s appearances, every time they met the risen Christ they were fed with word and with food. That gave them peace, eased their fears, settled their doubts. They were encouraged, and loved, and sent.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus opened the Scriptures to this couple, and when they invited him into their home, he broke bread with them, revealing himself as God’s risen life. In the Upper Room, Jesus breathed peace on them, sent them as God’s forgivers in the world, and ate with them. At that beach in Galilee, Jesus fed them with breakfast, and invited them to remember their love for him and their call to feed his lambs, to be his love. This is Word and Sacrament, every time! It is the Easter life.
What we do here in community each week is no accident.
So be bold. Be brave. You can trust this gift Christ gives.
Here you are fed by Word and Sacrament, and strengthened, and healed. Look around you at these people who share that healing with you. You can trust them and speak openly, like the Emmaus couple, like Thomas, like Mary, and say, “I have my doubts. I struggle with my faith. I need to see more. It feels like Jesus has been taken from me.” Here we hold each other in our fears. Here you’re not alone, even in those times you struggle to believe. Here we don’t pretend to have it together.
And here you can also be the other one, who will hold another and give them the hope of faith when theirs is struggling. Like Thomas on the way to Jerusalem, or Mary Magdalene after meeting Jesus, or this couple from Emmaus after they knew him in the breaking of the bread. We here for each other in our doubt and in our faith. And for those who can’t be with us in person for whatever reason, it is our duty, our joy, as a community, to go be with them, bringing Word and Meal and the gifts of community.
This community of faith is the gift of the risen Christ for you and for all. Trust it, and be brave: we’re all in this together. And we’re all in this with Christ.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen