March 31, 2013  — Second Sunday after Easter

Rev. David Boyd

 

           Dear Uma Jean:

It hasn't quite become a tradition that when we have a baptism that I write to the baptized, but I choose to do that today. This is your baptism day, a day when we give extra emphasis to God's gift of life and love, especially that gift that we experience in children. We celebrate as your extended family and welcome you into the Way of Jesus; early Christians were not called Christians. They were called followers of the Way. Welcome to this journey of life; we are pleased to accompany you and have you accompany us.

It is the Sunday after Easter, the second Sunday of the season of Easter, a season which lasts for seven weeks. We celebrate God as the One who gives life... abundantly, joyously, wholeheartedly! We celebrate your life today... abundantly, joyously, and wholeheartedly as we celebrate the life of every child and adult of this wondrous world God has made. We continue to celebrate the real presence of Jesus in our lives, which is the Easter story. We can't say how God raised Jesus to life, but we can affirm his presence in our presence, his life in our life and his values that we aspire to live.

Today we read the second Easter story of John's gospel. It is the one where the disciples are behind locked doors and Jesus appears to them. Thomas the twin is not with them and he refuses to believe until he can see for himself. Jesus then invites us, as Jesus' followers to realize that we, too, can do the things that Jesus did—heal others, speak justice, live humbly and compassionately with others.

One of the things that John's story highlights is that we don't always have to figure things out. Sometimes we have doubts and it is better to acknowledge our honest doubts than to pretend that we have no doubts. We are encouraged to ask questions, raise doubts and concerns, to ask to have things explained and even encouraged to live with uncertainty. As someone said in Mark's Gospel, "I believe; help my unbelief." Raising questions is part of what makes us human.

The second thing I want to mention from this story of John's is the fact that the disciples were locked in to an upper room in Jerusalem. They had locked themselves in because they were afraid. They were afraid they'd end up the same way as Jesus. They were afraid that the authorities would come looking for them. They were afraid to confront their tormentors who felt that they had won. And more symbolically, they were afraid that Jesus' message of life, love and redemption was not true. They were afraid that Jesus was gone and so, too, was the essence of what he taught. They were afraid to venture forth to live out the love of God and neighbour as Jesus taught. They were afraid to wash other people's feet and to love as Jesus had loved... because what would happen? Would anybody care?

I like this story, Uma Jean, because I, too, sometimes am afraid. I'm afraid to let my light shine; I'm afraid to speak up about the goodness and wonder of life sometimes, especially when I'm among strangers. Marianne Williamson, quoted by Nelson Mandela when he became president of South Africa, said, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." I can relate as can many others. With the disciples, I don't have to do anything behind my locked door. I don't have to face uncertainty in confronting people with love when it might be rejected. I don't have to face the uncertainty of confronting people with justice when the unjust have access to instruments of war and torture. I don't want to impose on other people. I'm afraid to live up to the light. What if no one cares?

And yet, we do care. Jesus entered that locked room. Life entered that locked room. In the end, Thomas, when confronted by the gift of life, didn't need to touch Jesus hands and feet. God cared and cares still about us all individually and about this whole universe and all of the parallel universes! God enters our fears and helps us see that we are special and that we have a voice to sing and declare to the world, "We are all wondrous gifts of life and hope!" God cares and we try to care.

In fact, we are living in an unprecedented time of peace. Perhaps therefore, now is the time for us all to let our lights shine brightly. I don't know what your future will hold, but if we continue on the path we have been on for the last 50 years, we are learning to live more peacefully together on this planet. We don't have to be as afraid of nuclear bombs as my parents did. There were as many as 10,000 in their day; today there are only 2,500, which is still 2,500 too many but far fewer than there used to be. North Korea is ramping up its nuclear program, but I believe firmly that no one, not even North Koreans want a nuclear war. There are fewer child soldiers in the world today than 10 years ago. Far fewer people, including children, are dying in this century compared to last century. Violent crime is down. We are learning from each other and sharing ideas more openly. We are finding solutions and are learning to hope. I hope that this future will continue for you and your sisters and brothers around the world of a similar age.

It doesn't mean that there isn't work to do! There is. We have lots to do so that there aren't as many poor in the world, that all people can live in harmony and stand alongside others even if we have different ways of seeing the world and believing. We need to help repair the earth that we have helped to damage. We have lots to do yet so that all people can live in freedom... the freedom to be who they are. That is our hope for you, that you will be who you are and have the freedom to speak your mind, share your light and your unique self with the world. That is everyone's right and due. As followers of the Way of Jesus, we strive to work with others together as one family of love. We strive to live fully and abundantly the life God has given us. We strive to breathe the breath of God's Spirit through our lives. We strive to live with purpose and hope, to live through and in spite of our fears.

We cannot conquer our fears, necessarily. We can learn to not let fear conquer us, however. Jesus taught us through his life; he confronted his fears, holding true to his message of love even though it took him to the cross. His own fears did not conquer him. And because fear did not conquer him, I can be bold in confronting my fears and not letting fear conquer me. I have this hope for you. That you will confront your fears because you know you are not alone; we are with you. God is with you. The Living Christ is with you helping you through whatever fears you may have.

This is a bold, new age for those of your generation, Uma Jean, and I hold out hope for the best for you and for children all around the world. May God bless you always. And may you know the unique and special person that you are—indeed, that we all are!

Blessings one. Blessings all. Amen.