Reverend Philip Stringer
LET US PRAY: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Feed us with your Word, and speak to our hearts, that we may be filled with your endless life, now and forever. AMEN.
When I was nine years old, I believed that the world looked like this: <<<needlepoint>>>
My view of the world was shaped entirely on my perspective/experience. I took what I knew and drew a map to try and make sense of it?
Today, our Gospel story presents us with a question of beliefs. Not only in regard to the world, but also of God and our faith. Will we fashion a world view that suits our desires — will we recreate God in our image— or will it be the other way around?
What do you believe?
Jesus was dead. Everybody knew that. John tells us that, “the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear…”
That’s what scared people do. They build walls and close doors. The problem with this, of course, is that when you close yourself off from the world— your world view gets closed off, too. And it starts to look a little bit like this: <<<needlepoint>>>
What do you believe.
What is shaping your view of the world? Your view of other people?
What motivates you to act? What is the impetus that gets you going?
“Gospel” means “Good News,” and our gospel reading today is full of good news! For starters, although the disciples have barricaded themselves into a hiding place, Jesus broke in! It is a retelling of the Easter story. The disciples are sealed up in a tomb created by them out of fear. Jesus breaks into their tomb to make it as empty as his own tomb. The difference, however, is that while the disciples went into their tomb out of fear, Jesus had entered his tomb out of love. And it is with love that he breaks into their tomb, too.
And he says to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.”
The Father sent Jesus on a mission of love. Jesus sends the disciples on a mission of love, too.
Let’s not candy coat it, though. The world was still a dangerous place. The same people who had killed Jesus were right outside those doors. The mission that the Father sent Jesus on led to his death. The mission that Jesus sends his disciples on will lead to their deaths, too.
And yet… Jesus frames this mission with his first words: “Peace be with you.”
Jesus was with them.
Peace was with them.
Jesus is with us.
Peace is with us.
Do you believe this?
Thomas was famously not with them. You know the story— and we call him, “Doubting Thomas.” That is so unfair!
None of the others believed until they saw him, but Thomas gets shamed because he wasn’t with them.
Actually, I think Thomas is a bit of a hero for us in today’s reading.
You may remember that just a few weeks ago we heard the story of Jesus returning to Judea when his friend Lazarus had died. The others tried to talk Jesus out of going there, because the people had tried to stone him just a few days earlier. The disciples were afraid, so they didn’t want to go.
BUT THOMAS— he is the one who said, if Jesus is going there, “Let us go with him, so that we may die with him.” Thomas was motivated by his love for Jesus. Not by his fear of the world.
Thomas loved Jesus.
And Thomas knew that Jesus loved him.
The Jesus that Thomas loved had gone to the cross and was crucified, died and was buried.
Maybe the others had seen something— the others certainly HAD seen something. Maybe it was in their minds— maybe it was a ghost— maybe it was someone or something that looked like Jesus. But Thomas said, “I don’t want someone or something else. I want my friend back.
The Jesus who was my friend got crucified, so if the Jesus you saw doesn’t have the marks of crucifixion, then he isn’t the Jesus who was my friend; he isn’t the Jesus who loved me, so I’m not interested.”
“I want the real Jesus.
I want the one with holes in him.”
What do you want? What do you believe?
There have always been people proclaiming a different kind of Jesus, and today is no exception. There are a lot of people peddling a “Jesus without holes” these days. They are peddling a world view built upon fear and from a perspective of one’s own interests. And through this “Jesus without holes” they reshape the world and our place in it.
A Jesus without holes is a Jesus who avoids the cross. This kind of Jesus who says, “Be afraid. Don’t go out there. Stay in here. Build a fortress for yourself. Put your own interests first.
Put your country first.
Put your desires first.
This Jesus without holes is all shiny and new and promises an illusion of safety— but it relies of fear. That’s not peace.
You may have heard that years ago the tobacco industry literally created a manual on how to manipulate people. They wrote the book on how to get what you want by manipulating others.
FIRST— convince them that what is bad for them is actually good. “smoking calms the nerves and promotes health.” Pepper them with images of how smoking makes you popular, beautiful, cool, tough, elegant, etc.
SECOND— you bury the truth with a chorus of lies. Create organizations, like, “The American Association of Health Research,” and make someone the representative. Get this “expert” in front of a microphone to say that the studies concluding tobacco is bad are all flawed.
Create half a dozen of these organizations saying the same thing, and people think it’s true because “there are a lot of people” saying it.
THIRD— pour it on. Inundate them with DIS-information and contradictions until it is just too much to sort out. Before you know it, the people will be repeating this garbage themselves— and your work is done.
It was an actual manual— a “how to” guide of manipulation.
Did you know that the oil industry literally read the tobacco industry manual to develop its strategy of DIS-information about the effects of climate change?
It’s not just tobacco and oil. It is politicians from every party and endless groups with short-sighted agendas— from the gun industry, to birth control, to gay rights. From racial injustice to immigration to equal application of the law.
“People are upset.”
“A lot of people are talking.”
“People are laughing at you, calling you suckers.”
There are a lot of people out there selling a pretty Jesus who doesn’t have any holes. They say that you should be afraid of people who want to hurt you. That you should pick a side— and God wants you to have a Jesus without holes who tells you what you want to hear and gives you what you want to have.
So how are we to tell the difference? Well, its actually pretty simple if you follow the example of Thomas.
First of all— if it plays on your fears, it’s probably a Jesus without holes.
And if the message is to care about yourself more than others, it’s certainly a Jesus without holes.
The Jesus with holes broke into the closed off room and told the disciples to be at peace. And he sent them out into the world on a mission to love the world in his name.
What do you want?
We have a Jesus with holes. Those holes are there because he loves us.
The way of Jesus is the way of sacrifice and self-giving love.
<<<needlepoint>>> I didn’t draw this picture out of fear; just a narrow view of the world.
I have traveled the world since then— the world is a beautiful place. But it is also a hard and dangerous place. What makes the difference for me in how I view it, is knowing that it is a world Jesus loves.