Believing is Seeing
As human beings, we pretend to only believe what we see;
however, in reality, we make tons of decisions and take countless actions
without truly knowing or seeing what the consequences will be.
The mature Christian understands that believing is seeing.
POINT OF RELATION
POINT OF RELATION
When the pandemic hit us, it was hard to believe we would survive that as a church...
Some times it is still hard to believe.
There was so much at stake.
How would we be able to worship without the proper technology?
Buying that technology would deplete our finances even more.
How would we be able to survive the loss of people giving?
We didn’t even have an online giving site set up!
There was so much uncertainty that it was easy to think like Thomas did.... “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Yet, that is not how I or anyone one of our other leaders looked at it...
Sure, we had some doubts and concerns...
But we chose to BELIEVE that GOD would carry us through if we remained faithful to the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.
We did just that...
We purchased equipment, set up two platforms for online giving, expanded our presence on Social Media, learned the best practices for using YouTube, and looked continuously for fellowship and missional opportunities!
In terms of the latter, we created our Zoom Fellowship hour on Sundays following worship.
We held a virtual open mic night on Zoom.
We’ve held and grown our small groups via zoom.
We’ve made cards for healthcare workers in the hospital and at Bristol Glen.
We’ve donated KN95 masks to the hospital.
We’ve created a virtual Christian education program for kids, called “Kids Rock”.
Check out this video from June 2020. This is a reminder of the great ministry being done all around Greater NJ.
Keep an eye out for the third act, you might recognize those faces! [Pause]
Awesome, right?!?! I mean, we clearly caught the eye of our conference because we chose to believe we could make a difference.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
THINGS TO CONSIDER
We all operate on our 5 basic senses.
And we especially rely on our sight.
None of us like not being able to see, and we tend to not move around…
or move very cautiously…when we are in the dark.
Being in the dark…being forced to operate on faith is not comfortable.
In fact, it is downright scary and many of us resort to paralysis by fear.
Yet, in so many cases, without thinking about it, we choose to operate on faith without realizing we’re doing so in the dark.
We drive down the road, for instance, without knowing whether we will get to our destination alive.
Abraham Lincoln believed he could be president before ever saw it become true.
Louis Pasteur believed he could find a means of preventing rabies before he ever produced a vaccine.
Thomas Edison believed that he could harness electricity to produce light in a bulb long before he actually did it.
Our government believed it could come up with a virus in record time to fight this pandemic…and now we are seeing those results.
WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS
WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS
Well, honestly, our Scripture passage has a lot to say to us…far more than we have time to cover in one sermon.
There is the whole Pentecost theme that appears here in John’s Gospel. “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive theHoly Spirit’” (20:22).
This is very different from Luke’s version that appears in Acts, with tongues of re and mighty winds.
It is a quieter, gentler Pentecost perhaps. But we’ll leave that one alone for now.
Then there is that confusing and misinterpreted verse,
“If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Sure, no problem! It’s not like that hasn’t caused centuries of abuse of power from the hierarchy of the church or caused self-righteous Christians to think it is their job to be judgmental and to point out specks while conveniently overlooking logs.
But hey, he said we have the power to determine what sins are the bad ones and which ones don’t really matter all that much. Right?
Well, no. That would also be a misinterpretation as well.
But, we’ll move on from that for now.
And then there are those curious verses at the end that seem to open the door to all kinds of stuff.
For instance, maybe it is possible that Jesus kinda sorta wants us to think for ourselves sometimes?
That we’ve got to take his life and teaching and apply it to stuff he never took the time to tell us about?
Or that John and the others didn’t take the time to write down about what Jesus said about LGBTQia+ issues or whether he would urge us to go green? You think, maybe?
Well, that stuff is also for another day.
Right now, what occupies our thinking are those doors in the passage we read today.
On Easter evening, they were locked. John tells us they were locked out of fear, John says.
And they were locked up tight.
The disciples were locked in, behind doors, probably stuff piled in front of the door so it wouldn’t budge.
The windows were shuttered, and nobody moved much in case someone below heard the footsteps. T
They were huddled, hunkered down. Behind the doors. And who was there?
Well, Thomas wasn’t, we learn that later. So, what how many disciples were there? ten?
Maybe ten. But maybe more.
In the Gospel of John, the word disciples is a tricky. It’s not just the twelve, usually. John rarely just talks about the twelve.
He’s interested in a bigger crowd.
The twelve, now ten, plus the women who were there. And maybe others.
And if the women were there, did they try again?
“Look,” I can imagine Mary of Magdalene saying, “It was him. He’s alive!”
With the rest replying,
“Yeah, sure Mary. Maybe your demons have come back? Just sayin’. And didn’t you think it was the gardener? You have no idea who it was, do you? It was early; you were up all night; none of us slept. You must have been dreaming.”
I can hear Mary protesting, “No, it was him. He said my name. When he said my name, I knew it was him.”
I can imagine Mary crossing her arms and turning to Peter and John who were trying really hard to not make eye contact.
“Come on boys, you were there. You came running in like your shorts were on fire and dashed into the tomb. What did you see?”
I can hear how the silence hung in the air behind the locked doors.
Nothing. They saw nothing. Not what they expected to see. Not what they hoped to see.
They saw nothing.
The silence reminded them that there they were sitting, comforted by nothing, afraid of everything, hoping locked doors would save them.
Of course, the doors didn’t save them.
Jesus came. That’s what John says.
The doors were locked and Jesus came.
How did he come? Who knows!
John doesn’t tell us; he just came.
“Peace be with you.” Jesus had to say it twice, because the first time they didn’t hear it for fear of . . . well…for fear of him.
They thought he was a ghost again…just like when they saw him walking on water.
I can hear Jesus sigh, if this were the Gospel of Might have facepalmed with a groan,
and he showed them his hands and his side.
it was then...John tells us…then they rejoiced.
How long did he stand out there banging on the doors hoping someone would let him in?
Jesus, who had earlier that morning burst through a stone door, now appeared through a locked door and said, “Pace be with you.”
We learn that sometime afterward Thomas shows up. How much later? John doesn’t say. ..
But the disciples tell him “We saw the Lord.”
And of course, we all know that Thomas believed, right?
“Yeah, sure,” says Thomas. “Nice try guys, I’m not stupid!”
Ah, Thomas, why did you doubt? Because the doors were still locked? Because dead people don’t just get up out of the tomb and walk?
Because he forgot that Jesus was more than just your average person?
“We saw the Lord! He showed us his wounds be which we were healed. He offered us peace. He gave us power, he sent us out to forgive!”
Honestly, I am thinking too myself....Yeah? Really? Then why are the doors are still locked?
And…a week later, the doors are STILL locked.
The truth is, none of them believed. They SAW, but they didn’t believe – not enough to open a door anyway; not enough to venture out.
You see friends, SEEING isn’t always believing. Or maybe there is seeing and there is seeing. Seeing with our eyes doesn’t always lead to seeing with our faith.
BELIEVING IS SEEING.
A week later the doors were shut, but Jesus came anyway.
With a sigh, undoubtedly, but he came. He came to show them what they needed to see.
Just like he shows all of us what we need to see.
Remember? That’s the Easter proclamation.
He is going before you, going back home, going to familiar territory, going where you belong, where you live and work, and there you will see him.
That’s the promise. That’s what they were offered, what we are offered. We will SEE him.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU
But wait. What about that “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
What about that?
Well, I think he threw that in because he heard the locks turning on our own doors.
And he wanted to pry them open. Maybe coming through locked doors was strenuous; maybe it was painful.
Or maybe he wanted to spare us the false security of locked doors and just be open enough to see him in our midst,
showing us his wounds, the brokenness of this world,
the suffering of Christ on the backs and sides and hands of our brothers and sisters.
But also, to see the grace and the forgiveness that is poured out even on us just when we’re sure we won’t get it,
just when we are afraid we can’t have it and we turn to push the doors closed against a world too cruel to live in, too empty of him. Or so we think. But he’s there.
Jesus doesn’t like your locked doors.
We try to shut him out like we shut out a cat on the wrong side of the door.
We act like we don’t see him.
But Jesus is persistent; he keeps banging; he keeps coming through.
And in our darkness, he appears with a shaft of light that’s almost blinding.
And he says, “Peace be with you.”
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR US
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR US
Sisters and brothers, how have we looked the door on Jesus?
In what ways have we allowed our fear and our doubt to keep us from openly welcoming him in?
In what ways do we, the church, lock our doors on Jesus?
Do we fail to see him in those who are different than us?
Do we fail to see him because we fear to get too involved?
Do we fail to see him because we’re tired, or disinterested, or simply can’t be bothered?
Let us remember the persistence of Jesus.
Let us remember that Jesus is real…he is REALLY present…and he is really standing at the door knocking!
He will come in, whether we keep the door locked or not...
But who will he find inside?
Let us welcome our LORD with open arms.
BELIEVE…and WE ALL WILL SEE the miracles Jesus will work through our church into the community! Amen.