Tag Archive: Lord


God Keeps Showing Up

This morning’s sermon on John 20:19-31 from Community Lutheran Church in Sterling, VA.

Thomas was framed! Every year we hear this story the Second Sunday of Easter and I think – oh man, Thomas was framed! All of the other disciples disregarded Mary Magdalene when she ran back Easter morning and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Yet, we don’t collectively refer to them as “doubting disciples,” although maybe we should. Poor Thomas. He gets stuck with this permanent label of “Doubting Thomas” when, in fact, the word doubt doesn’t even show up in the Greek – he’s disbelieving or not believing.

So I was thinking about all of this and a song from the musical “Oklahoma!” kept popping into my head, but with different words.

Here is tune I used as the inspiration for my song about Thomas – “Poor Jud is Dead:”

Poor Thomas was framed,
Poor St. Thomas was framed,
He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared,
And when he said to believe,
He needed to touch and see,
All through history people jeered.

Poor Thomas was framed,
Poor St. Thomas was framed,
He always looks so doubtful and so sad,
He wanted to meet Jesus,
He’s got a lot to teach us,
And really I think he’s pretty rad.

This is what I do in my free time… Anyway, I do think Thomas has a lot to teach us. And I do think he’s pretty rad, although that’s a word I wouldn’t normally say – it just rhymed in the song!

So what exactly do we know about Thomas? As we hear in the reading for today, Thomas was called “Didymus” or “twin.” He shows up throughout the Gospels, but only speaks in the Gospel of John. We’ve already encountered him once in the past couple of weeks, when Jesus says he wants to go to Bethany to resurrect Lazarus. At that time, even though there was the fear that Jesus would be stoned, the Gospel records that, “Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” Pretty bold fellow, I think.

Then, a few chapters later, after the Last Supper, Jesus speaks about going to prepare a place for the disciples in his Father’s house. He says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” But Thomas, apparently the most inquisitive of the bunch says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Reflecting on these little snippets of Thomas that we get in John’s Gospel, it doesn’t seem to me as if Thomas is a doubter. It seems instead to show that Thomas is someone who wants to be engaged in his faith. He wants to follow Jesus, to ask questions, to understand more deeply, and he wants to really encounter the crucified and risen Christ.

Think about it, on Easter, the disciples, except for Thomas, were locked up in the house, shaking in their boots for fear that they might be persecuted and killed like Jesus. Mary Magdalene had come running, telling them about her garden encounter with the risen Christ, but they were still scared and confused and didn’t act on the good news she brought. With the doors still dead bolted, Jesus came into the house, stood in front of their weary eyes and said, “Peace be with you.” Then, in order to show them that he wasn’t a ghost or an apparition, he showed them his scars. And when they saw it was really him, in the resurrected flesh, they were finally able to rejoice!

Jesus then tells them as God the Father has sent him out, he is sending them out. In order to empower them to serve in the world, he breathes on them, filling them with the Holy Spirit.   It’s like the lion Aslan breathing new life into the statues in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Jesus breathes new life into disciples turned to stone by fear, worry and doubt. But Thomas missed out. It was the worst kind of “Oh, I guess you had to be there!” experience.

Later, Thomas returns and hears about what his fellow disciples have experienced. And surprise, just like the other disciples listening to Mary Magdalene before their encounter, Thomas doesn’t jump on the bandwagon when he hears that the others have seen the Lord. And so, Thomas says his now famous line: “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.”

But then, a week after the empty tomb, something happens. The doors are shut again, but this time Thomas is there. And Jesus shows up again, saying “Peace be with you.” Then, Jesus turns to Thomas and offers him exactly what he needs. “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” And Thomas, so overcome by the event, exclaims this beautiful confession of faith, “My Lord and my God!” He’s so moved by his experience of the risen Christ that he doesn’t even need to put his fingers in the wounds. He’s so moved, overjoyed and maybe even relieved, that he claims Christ as his Lord and his God. None of the other disciples did that. He sees the resurrected Christ and he knows that it’s really God in the flesh.

Thomas needed to have his own encounter with Jesus. He needed to see him risen and encounter him, in order to continue his relationship with him post-resurrection. The other disciples had that kind of experience and relationship because Jesus appeared to them. They saw him, they heard him giving them his peace, and they even received the life-giving Spirit when he breathed on them. Thomas missed out on all of this. And then he had to wait for a week until he had his own experience. What was that like for him? He must have wanted to see Jesus so badly – just like the others did and, yet, there’s nothing…for a week. He must have been longing for an encounter with the crucified and risen one, but feeling left out from the experience that the others had had, and probably feeling separated from the other disciples, too.

How often are we like Thomas? We ask questions of our Lord and our God, trying to make sense of it all. We wrestle with God’s Word for our lives and try to follow what Christ has called us to do. We see the violence and hurt in this world and wonder how the resurrection has changed things. We long to encounter – to stretch out our hands to touch the crucified and risen Lord and know that this is for real. We want something personal and tangible in our faith.

And God knows that. Thomas had to see Jesus before his very eyes in order to believe, so Jesus shows up and offers his hands and his side to Thomas so that he can believe. God knows what we need in our lives, and amazingly, God keeps showing up, making Godself known to us. The wounded God shows up and reaches out his hands to us in our woundedness and brokenness. And we experience Jesus, maybe not like those first disciples, but we see him nonetheless. We see the God that journeys with us in our wounds and the scarred Jesus in the scars and hurts of others. We encounter God in sharing a great evening with family or friends. We experience the joy and hope of the resurrected One in the laughter of children. We are awestricken by the beauty of creation and the creativity of the One who shaped the world. We touch and taste Jesus in broken bread and wine poured out for the healing, forgiveness and redemption of all creation.

Yes, Christ keeps showing up, pointing to the wounds of the world, and inviting us to see how he is at work. He calls us to look at the scars and to see his very own wounds. To walk with others in their brokenness, working to bring healing, and to be surprised, shouting out, “My Lord and my God!” when we recognize Christ’s presence in the world. And he calls us blessed that we believe when we encounter him in the word, in water, in bread and wine, and in community.

The lesson for today ends with two sentences. “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.” The writer thought it important that we hear this account and that we know that even if we don’t see Christ like the first disciples, God will keep showing up and helping us to see, understand and believe in different ways.

The writer thought it was important to share this so that we could believe and continue believing, and have abundant life in Christ. So that we wouldn’t remain locked up in our rooms of fear, doubt, worry, or stress, but that we would be filled with Christ’s peace and the animating breath of the Holy Spirit. Christ is calling us to go into the world and to encounter him in the woundedness there, so that we too may see and believe, saying “My Lord and my God!”

I’d like to end with blessing. Thomas was blessed and transformed by his encounter with the risen Christ. And we, too, are blessed and transformed by Christ as he walks with us in our beliefs, as well as in our doubts, wounds, brokenness, struggles, and unbelief.

So in a few moments, I will ask you to stand up, find a neighbor and bless them.   With their permission, you can trace the sign of the cross on their hands, a symbol of their work in the world. And maybe you can offer a blessing such as, “God bless you, bring you peace, and help you to see Christ in the world.” So start blessing!

© 2014. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Merry Christmas!

This is the “sermon/homily” I delivered this morning at Christ Lutheran Church in Washington, DC.  The first few stanzas came to me while sitting in traffic and I expanded it from there.  A very merry and blessed Christmas to you and your families.

 

Beneath all the gifts, boxes and bows,
Lies our Lord wrapped up in human clothes,
God became flesh among us to dwell,
We know him as Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Not born in a palace or down by the sea,
But born in a manger – Whew! Dirty!
Still, all the same, angels came and sang loud,
You can imagine the noise – it was quite a crowd!

Praising, they sang “Glory to God on high!
And “On earth peace!” They continually cried.
The shepherds in fields full of wonder and mirth,
Ran to Bethlehem to witness the miraculous birth.

Lowly herdsmen with frowned-upon work,
Were the first to worship – what a perk!
Once there, the good news they couldn’t hold inside,
Shared it with Mary and Joe, gleaming with pride.

Mary treasured these words – kept them in her heart,
Wondering what meaning they could possibly impart,
As this boy grew, became a teacher and leader,
These words came to be all clearer to her.

He started near home and gathered some students,
Taught throughout the land with wisdom and prudence.
Speaking of love, he turned the world on its head,
People marveled at the things that he said.

He healed the sick, the lame and the blind,
And reached out to welcome those left behind.
He brought forgiveness and told wonderful stories,
And gave hope to people in the midst of worries.

But the people in power, they didn’t approve,
And sadly they couldn’t get into the groove.
They arrested him and put him to death,
Leaving his little band of followers bereft.

But wait! Hold on! The story doesn’t end here.
One morning his followers, faithful and dear,
Hurried to the tomb only to find it empty,
He is risen – he lives again!  Praise to God be!

Jesus appeared to many after that day,
Calling more to follow him on the way.
He ascended into heaven and sent the Spirit,
This same holy history is the one we inherit.

So in this Christmas season we rejoice,
Not because the fruitcake is actually moist,
But because God came to us, born in a stable,
And comes to us now in water and at the table.

Christ is with us – not just on Christmas day,
But he’s “present” with us in all different ways.
In conversations with family and friends,
When something begins or something ends.

In the scriptures we listen to and read,
In a friend’s kind word when we’re in need,
Praying alone in our bedrooms at night,
Or as we struggle that one essay to write!

In singing our praises and passing the peace,
Or when our good fortune is on the decrease,
Serving the poor or in the face of a stranger,
We can encounter the God born in a manger.

So on this day we proclaim and try not to forget,
The God born in Bethlehem we just re-met.
Keeping in mind that beneath all the gifts, boxes and bows,
Lies our Lord wrapped up in human clothes.

© 2011. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

 

Shepherds Watching Their Flocks By Night

Community & Holy Conversations

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about community and the tremendous gift we have in one another. I love people and, as an extrovert, it is only natural that I love speaking with them, but I am constantly amazed at how much I learn about God in speaking with others. In listening to their stories and journeys, I often catch a glimpse of God.

Furthermore, in praying with others, we become connected in a deeper way than in just talking to one another. In those moments of prayer, with eyes closed and hands clasped, I find myself in awe that people who might be separated by age, gender, sexual orientation, race, physical or mental abilities, ethnicity, socio-economic status, education level, or even experiences are caught up together in speaking to and listening for God.

The same amazing thing happens in Holy Communion when people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life come to the table to receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in humble bread and wine. In the Eucharist, we are joined together not only with God and those in our individual communities, but with others around the world participating in the meal. In that holy meal, we are connected with those who have come before us and those who will come after we are gone. That’s powerful.

Trying to capture all of this is mind-blowing to me, but I’m glad it is not easy to grasp. The mysterious and powerful nature of it speaks to God’s immense creativity and the great expanse of God’s love.

Here’s a brief poem about some of the holy conversations that take place in community:

Holy conversations…

Swirl around coffee cups.
Resonate in cramped hospital rooms.
Occur on walks in the woods.

Holy conversations…

Silently fill grieving souls.
Shout from joyfully overflowing hearts.
Pass through a gentle touch.

Holy conversations…

Sparkle in empathetic eyes.
Rest in hands receiving broken bread.
Echo in full-bellied laughter.

© 2011. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Song of a Modern Day Martha

Jesus Visits Mary and Martha

“Come, sit with me a while.”
“No, I have to call this company to straighten things out.”
“Come, sit with me a while.”
“No, I have to finish the laundry and clean the house.”
“Come, sit with me a while.”
“No, I have to plan the rest of my day.”
“Come, sit with me a while.”

“Come, sit with me a while.”
“Lord, why did that phone call frustrate me so much?”
“Come, sit with me a while.”
“Lord, why didn’t I get the laundry and cleaning done?”
“Come, sit with me a while.”
“Lord, I feel like I have so much to do!”
“Come, sit with me a while.”

Worn and tired at the end of the day, carrying so much frustration, stress, and crankiness, I wondered what on earth had happened to put me in such a state. Then I realized. God had been calling gently and persistently to me all day – “Come, sit with me a while.” And what did I do? Everything on my “to-do” list – well, at least, I tried to.

Reflecting on this in quiet prayer and contemplation, again I heard God speak: “Come, sit with me a while. I’m glad you’re here.” Once I sat down, read some Scripture and entered into conversation with God, I felt so much better. I was able to examine what had happened during the day and I slowly realized that I had been ignoring God.

If I had just taken the time to pray and read like I wanted to – like God was inviting me to – I would have been refreshed and recharged. My priorities would have looked much different and I probably wouldn’t have gotten so bent out of shape about a frustrating phone call or unfinished tasks.

In silence, listening for God, I heard once again, “let go and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Stop worrying so much about relatively trivial things and rest in my arms.” All day long, God had been trying to get my attention – to care for me so I could go out renewed and strengthened, but I resisted, wishing instead to go my own way. Boy, am I a slow learner! In silence, I realized that I knew God was calling – I recognized God’s voice (John 10:1-10 – see below) and still I ignored it.

Now, it would be really easy to beat ourselves up once we realize what we’ve been doing and how we’ve been neglecting to spend time with God. However, God does not want us to do that. Instead, God extends to us unfathomable grace, that grace which gently and persistently seeks us out and enfolds us in the overwhelming depth of God’s love, forgiveness, faithfulness and mercy. That remarkable and beautiful grace is a gift, given freely and generously to all through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We need only to stop for a moment, to pause ever so slightly, and spend some time listening for and to what God has to say to us. Rest in that grace and know that you are loved.

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

John 10:1-10
Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Holy Thoughts

There are times, O Lord,
when thinking about You
sets a smile
as wide as the sky
on my lips,
and composes
a song in my heart,
ne’er heard
except for by You, the intended.
Words escape me
and I can only
marvel at You
and rest in Your presence.

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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