John 20:19-31When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
This will be a different kind of sermon but I think it ties in nicely with today's lessens. I want to tell you about my trip to visit my son in North Carolina. I was worried about him in part because that is what parents do when it comes to their children, even thirty seven year old children. The good news is I think he is living his life the way he wants to live it. He makes enough money to support himself. He will probably never have great wealth but he will be ok. He has a lot of dogs, probably too many dogs, and they are how he expresses his love for God's creation and I get that.
He and I still have a strong bond and I can tell that we think alike in many ways. I will always worry about him but maybe after this trip I will worry a little less. It was clear he wanted to take me to places he thought he and I might both like. So....he took me to a craft beer and wine bar. It was a cool bar. It was not a large place but it must have had a thousand varieties of wine and beer. We went up to the bar and made our choices on what kinds of beer we would try first. The beer I chose was a high gravity beer which means it is a sipping beer because of its high alcohol content. I learned that after I had drunk the beer. (I was wondering at the time why I was feeling a little fuzzy)
t wasn't long before we were engaged in discussions with others at the bar. I was talking to this guy whom I later found out was an architect and he asked me what I did. I told him I was an Episcopal priest. (I wasn't wearing my collar.) He said, “that doesn't surprise me”. I believe he meant it in a good way. One woman and her friend who had just come into the bar (they had been on the patio) overheard us and she came up to me and said, “Can I talk to you?” I of course said, “sure”.
She proceeded to tell me about her son. At age twelve her son got up early one Sunday morning, dressed up, and went to a Sunday service. She herself was not a church goer. He went to services every Sunday after that of his own volition and he continued doing so for several years. It was a great puzzle to her and her husband but they felt it was a good thing.
One day at age fifteen, he was talking to his mom and he said he wanted to tell her something. He said that it was very private, and he was afraid she would get really mad at him. As tears were rolling down his cheeks he confessed to her that he was gay. He said he couldn't help it and that he had been going to church all that time because he was sure that he was going to burn in hell for eternity because of it.
She was in tears as well by this time. She hugged him and told him she loved him and there was nothing that would get in the way of her love for him. She also told him she had been pretty sure that he was gay from the time he was a small child. She also said she was certain God loved him too and that being gay was not something that would make you burn in hell.
We had a good conversation after she related her story to me and I thanked her for sharing it. I praised her and I told her she did a wonderful job of assuring him that he was loved and that there was nothing wrong with him.
I had a lot of conversations that evening but this was the most memorable. Did I mention that this bar was so cool that it closes at 8PM.
I did wear my collar when I traveled to and from North Carolina and I'm glad I did. While I was waiting for a connecting flight in the Atlanta airport, I bought a Snickers at one of the kiosks in order to tide me over. I am always hesitant to pay so much for a candy bar ($2.29) but as I went to the counter the lady at the register said, “I want to thank you father for your service and I am going to give you my employee discount of $1.79.” (still too high) I thanked her of course. It is a good idea to show your religious beliefs on several levels. Although I think she thought I was Catholic.
So...how does all of this tie into today's readings? Jesus came back. He knew the apostles were still not ready to be full believers. Peter had gone back to fishing. Thomas said he wouldn't believe until he had touched Jesus' wounds. After Jesus return from the resurrection the apostles were stronger in there faith and they no longer feared showing their stripes and talk about this spiritual path they called The Way.
This passage is telling me that I should never hesitate to talk about my faith and to show my stripes if you will, whether it is in a bar or an airport or anywhere else. We are all called to be ministers of Christ's Way and not just when we are sitting in a pew.