After the culmination of a season of preparation and celebration such as the one we recently shared from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, our tendency is to pause and catch our breaths for a moment before pressing on. I would be the first to say that we all deserve such a rest. So many in our church were so heavily invested in the multitude of ministry going on during this time, and our church was most definitely better for it. Consider the choirs and the cooks, the servers and the singers. Thanks to all who had a part in making these last days so productive.
But now that Easter has passed, it is even more important that we do not allow resurrection joy to get lost in a return to life’s ordinariness. If Easter is more the beginning of a new reality than merely a big day in the life of the church, then every moment becomes one in which our Risen Lord’s presence and power shows up and shows out.
When we read on in the Easter story according to John’s Gospel, we find Jesus appearing to all of his disciples that Easter evening. (By the way, I had one member in a previous church insist that Jesus showing up on a Sunday night is why we should never stop having Sunday night worship. She had a point.) All of the disciples were there, except for two: Judas, who had left the group to take his life, and Thomas, whose whereabouts are not explained. When Thomas did return, the disciples enthusiastically shared with him their Easter evening experience with the Risen Jesus, but Thomas famously doubted their story, insisting that he would not believe unless he saw evidence for himself that Jesus was risen.
One week later is when that experience came. Thomas was with the rest of the disciples this time when Jesus appeared to them once again, and Jesus gave Thomas an invitation that would quell all his doubts and stagger him to the core of his being. “Put your finger here,” Jesus said. “Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” The experience was more than Thomas could have imagined (as an Easter experience always is) and he responded with a confession of faith that is the mark of all true believers: “My Lord and My God!” In one week’s time “Doubting Thomas” had been changed by his experience with the Risen Jesus into “Confessing Thomas.”
This Sunday will mark one week from Easter. My guess is that the worship crowd this Sunday will be a tad smaller than on Easter. Where will they be? As with Thomas, we’ll likely never know. But what will matter is that for those who do show up there is every reason to be confident that Jesus will be present. Even if only two or three are gathered “in his name,” he has promised to be among us.
MBBC has the reputation of being a place where people encounter the Risen Jesus on a regular basis in worship. So, let’s come together expecting just that experience this coming Sunday, and the next, and the next. When we come expecting to see Jesus each Sunday, then and only then will we show ourselves to be a church that has chosen to stop doubting and has chosen instead to keep believing, in breath-taking and then breath-giving fashion, which is yet another mark of a truly exemplary church.
“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).