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Focus from the Rev. David F. Sellery, Priest-In-Charge, St. John’s Church, Salisbury, CT Beyond Belief - John 20: 19 - 31

homas wants proof. And who can blame him. Things had been going so well. Just a short time ago Jesus had entered Jerusalem in triumph. Thomas found himself in the entourage of a super-star. Then suddenly the world collapsed. Jesus was arrested and stuck up on a cross. Scared out of their minds, the disciples are on the run. Thomas is certain that he and his friends will be next on the hit list. So, he’s not in the mood for all this happy talk about Jesus coming back from the dead. Unless he gets rock solid evidence… the kind he can see and touch, he’s not going to get swept up in this Resurrection fairytale.

Then suddenly Christ is right there among them… living, breathing, tangible proof, beyond all doubt, that he has conquered death. See, the killing wounds. Touch them. They bled him dry. Yet, he lives. It is your friend, Jesus. He said he would conquer death and he has.

Thomas is stunned into belief. He had said repeatedly: I will not believe. Now with proof literally in hand… he proclaims the risen Christ as: My Lord and my God.

In this morning’s gospel, Jesus makes the Resurrection real for Thomas. He cuts right through the doubt, the depression, the disorientation. But beyond the initial shock, what does it mean for Thomas and the other Apostles? Do they conclude: “Well, Jesus, this has all been very interesting. Glad to see that you’re OK. But we have nets to mend and fish to catch. See you in the temple
sometime.”

Of course not. Who could encounter the risen Christ and go back to business as usual? Another Thomas has the answer. Thomas Merton tells us: “It is not enough to believe in the Resurrection, we must participate in it.” Like the Apostles, we were made for that mission. We may ignore it. We may even hide from it. But exactly like the Apostles, it is our purpose… our only purpose.

We are meant to be witnesses to the risen Christ. We may not have touched him. But he has touched us. The Resurrection has changed everything. As baptized Christians, we are both the beneficiaries and the legacy of the risen Christ. We are beneficiaries because now our life has meaning. We are showered with grace. We are cleansed of our sins. We are bound for glory.

We know all this because Jesus was not just another holy man who ran afoul of some tough guys and got the chop. Sadly, history is full of those stories. But Jesus is infinitely different.

He is God, the Son of the Father, come to earth for our salvation, and in total command of both life and death. As his legacy, our lives were never meant to be business as usual, with a religious flourish thrown in at Christmas and Easter.
You may believe in the Universal Theory of Relativity, but unless you are a practicing atomic physicist, that belief has little impact on the way you live your daily life. Not so with belief in the Resurrection. We are the living legacy of the risen Christ. Beyond private, personal belief, our lives are meant to proclaim: He is risen. Christ lives in us. He is risen in us. We are the Body of Christ …the risen Christ.

As Christians, the Resurrection gives us meaning and direction. It shapes our thoughts and guides our actions. Thomas Merton captured this centrality when he wrote that Christianity gives us the power to confidently face the inevitability of suffering and death “… because the Resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of meaning.”

While Jesus was demonstrating tangible proof of his Resurrection, he had us in mind when he told Thomas: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. Through his Resurrection, Jesus wants us to know that death is not our destination. It is a passage. Beyond belief in the Resurrection lies actively living and sharing the joy of the Resurrection… both now and in eternity. And that’s as good as life ever gets… a life of belief… a life of purpose… a life in Christ.

He is risen… Alleluia!

eDevotions from The Rev.Bob Dannals Daily Devotionals - [Easter Saturday] Psalm 118:14-18; Acts 4:13-21;Mark 16:9-15, 20

And [Jesus] said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.' - Mark 16:15

When Jesus of Nazareth defeated death, he did so that the world might experience something beyond its own limits -- to rise with him into new life. This is the good news the church is to proclaim.

Challenge and Opportunity:

After every cross, resurrection is a possibility. The stone that covers the tomb is rolled back, but it is up to us to walk out of it as new creatures. It all depends on the choices we make. In its original ending, Mark's Easter story is unfinished. How does the story get finished? It gets finished back in Galilee, back in Rome, back in Washington, back in Dallas, back in New York, back in Atlanta, across the breakfast counter, at your workplace, in your family. When you and I announce and live the good news, the resurrection reality continues to be written.


Clergy Confidential: Finding God in Daily Chaos by Tim Schenck Holy Week Invitation: Will you admire Jesus or follow Jesus?

At one level, we love the grand pageantry of the entrance into Holy Week. Palm Sunday is fun. Like Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, it attracts large crowds. And like bobble-head night at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, there's a liturgical give-a-way in the form of palms; a tangible souvenir to prove your presence and loyalty.

There's something we love about the image of crowds and palms spread along Jesus' path. Riding on a donkey doesn't exactly project the same image of strength as a Presidential motorcade but still, the palms are symbols of admiration and adulation. And this excites us. In a world of dwindling church attendance, we're dazzled by the prospect of big numbers. We can't help but think, “Finally, they get it. Finally, Jesus is getting his due. Finally, they recognize Jesus for who he is.” We equate large enthusiastic crowds with validation for his message. And that pleases us, hoping that this will also, somehow, validate us.

But here’s the problem with this model: Jesus didn’t come into the world to attract admirers. He didn’t seek to build up his base by drawing large crowds. He wasn’t concerned with the optics of success.
No, Jesus didn’t seek admirers but followers. He sought people who would follow him not just when things were going well, but when things didn’t go according to plan; not just when things were joyful and euphoric but when things turned dark and tragic. And they do.

This coming week we must ask ourselves whether we will be admirers of Jesus or followers of Jesus. Holy Week brings us face-to-face with the question of whether we are content to call ourselves people of faith only when it’s on our terms or whether we are disciples of Jesus willing to follow him when it’s inconvenient or difficult or painful. Are we fair-weather Christians who love to wave palms around and proclaim “Hosanna” or are we disciples of Jesus who recognize our complicity in the Passion by crying, “Crucify?”

It’s easy enough to follow Jesus when things are going well. When life is smooth. When the parade is heading down the street and we’re surrounded and buoyed by the support of others. It’s harder when life takes a turn. And there’s a health crisis or a relationship fades or we’re confronted with conflict at work or home. Jesus knew full well about life taking a turn.

Yes, we can and should admire Jesus. But if we stop there, we’re missing the invitation to truly transform our lives. Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th century Danish philosopher, writes about the difference between being an admirer and a follower of Jesus: “A follower strives to be what he
admires.”

The Christian life is not an intellectual pursuit. It is about the entirety of our souls. We can’t follow Jesus at a safe, emotionally-detached distance. We can surely admire him that way and that’s a good first step. But Jesus wants all of us, not just part of us. To follow Jesus takes heart and soul and mind and full immersion.

So, the invitation has been extended. How will you respond this week? Will you keep your distance or fully engage with Jesus? Will you be willing to make sacrifices or will you play it safe? The possibility of radical transformation awaits as we prepare to walk the way of the cross. As we prepare to follow Jesus.



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