A sermon by the Rev. Linda Harrison
Easter 2; April 8, 2018
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
In the appointed psalm, the psalmist writes how good and pleasant it is when kindred live in harmony. Harmony in community is another way of describing reconciled relationships.
For the writer of the gospel of the John, sin is not a moral category. Sin concerns belief and relationship, specifically, sin is broken relationship, or not being in relationship with Jesus and God – disharmony, if you will.
The gospel attributed to John is known for its language concerning abiding. To abide, for the writer of John, is deeper than being with someone; it is more descriptive than living or merely dwelling with someone. To abide is to be entwined, it alludes to an intimacy in relationship. Sin is not abiding; to sin means we are not in relationship with Jesus or God. Unbelief hampers abiding; unbelief prevents relationship with Jesus and with God. Unbelief leads to broken relationship. Unbelief in and of itself is not sinful; to allow unbelief to hamper relationship is the sin.
In resurrection, Jesus continues to abide with the disciples. Literally, Jesus breathed into them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus breathed into them like God breathed into creation and the clay creature when God created humanity. Breathing into is an intimate act.
Jesus further invites relationship when the risen Christ says, ‘If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them…’ In the Greek the second half of that verse (23) does not contain the word ‘sins’. English translators have assumed the word based on the antecedent. It therefore can be translated, ‘If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; anyone whom you hold fast (embrace, retain) is held fast (embraced, retained).’ We hold fast those whose unbelief keeps them from full relationship. We forgive the unbelief and embrace the ones who are unbelieving, holding them in community so they are not abandoned. We abide with the one who struggles. And one day, that may very well be you or me.
This is exactly what Jesus does for Thomas.
Thomas asks for nothing more than the other disciples received. Thomas has been left out and yearns to remain in relationship: within the community and with Jesus. Thomas struggles to believe.
The community surrounds Thomas; they hold him fast. Thomas is indeed with the community the next week when Jesus appears again.
And the risen Jesus invites and affirms relationship with Thomas: see, touch, put your finger here. What is more intimate than touch? Jesus says, “Thomas, do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Jesus invites Thomas to abide in resurrection.
Jesus invites us to abide in resurrection.
How good and pleasant it is when kindred abide. Abide in the Resurrection. Abide in Jesus. Do not be unbelieving, but if you are, we will hold you fast and keep you in community. You are not abandoned.
Easter is fifty days. Let us practice abiding in Resurrection and living Resurrection lives.
I cannot think of a better way to live in to God’s will that we abide in harmony.
Blessed be God forever.