April 8 - Second Sunday after Easter

Fear of missing out. FOMO is what the kids these days call it. With a flood of information, instant communication and a difficulty to unplug from social media, young people and adults alike can suffer anxiety and fear of being left out or missing an opportunity. Maybe you didn’t get a ticket to see the hottest show or the best team in town. Maybe you couldn’t afford a trip with your college or high school buddies. Maybe a diagnosis or treatment meant a missed opportunity for career advancement. Maybe the illness or death of a loved one interrupted your future plans. Maybe you feel like you just aren’t ever in the right place at the right time.  

You could imagine Thomas suffering from a similar condition—after missing out on Jesus’ reappearance not once, but twice. He isn’t with the women who run into a resurrected Jesus in the garden. And in today’s story, he’s conspicuously absent when Jesus first appears in the house where the disciples had met after he had died. He must have felt like he just wasn’t ever in the right place at the right time.  

Add Thomas’ fear of missing out to a rising doubt that Jesus was indeed alive, that the accounts of his friends were true, and we have before us a character as wounded and broken as any one of us. 

And yet, the risen Jesus meets Thomas exactly where he is, in the depth of his doubt and fear. Jesus breathes his peace and presence into Thomas and those gathered, “Touch my wounds,” he says, “do not doubt, but believe.” The author Sarah Ahmed, in her book The Cultural Politics of Emotion writes, “The resurrected Christ not only still has a body with wounds but chooses to show those wounds to his disciples. Healing does not cover over, but exposes the wound to others.”[1] It’s in those wounds, in Jesus’ hands and in his side, that Thomas’ wounds—and our wounds—are healed.

Just like he did with Thomas, the resurrected Jesus embraces all the wounds that we carry and inspires faith by breathing the Holy Spirit upon us and blessing us with peace. When I hear the word peace, I think of two things: first, a sense of calm and inner tranquility but we also use the word peace to describe an absence of conflict. So we might wonder how exactly does Jesus affect the disciples with his breath and blessing of peace?

If we go back to the story, we find that that breath of peace transforms Thomas and the disciples who are gathered from the inside out. There is healing in their interaction with the wounded yet risen Jesus. Where fear and doubt had taken control, Jesus’ presence and breath of peace fills the space with hope and faith.

That breath of peace fills the spaces of our lives with hope and faith, too. When we experience moments of doubt and despair, when we are left wondering if God is there or resurrection is real, Jesus breathes and blesses us with peace, reminding us that God is always with us and giving us the eyes to see resurrection and new life all around us.

The peace breathed by the risen Jesus also restores community. When he appears to the group the first time, he blesses them by commissioning them for the work of forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s a commission to bring peace into places of conflict. A leading voice in the faith-based peacemaking movement suggests that “peace is not just the absence of conflict; it’s also the presence of justice…true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. . . . Peacemaking begins with what we change—ourselves.”[2]

The risen Jesus inspires that change in each of us. Thomas, the one who was left out of the group, the outsider, is restored to his place in the community by his encounter with Jesus. The risen Jesus breathes peace into our community, restoring relationships, reaching out to the outsider, and equipping us to work for justice. When we share the peace with one another, we encounter the flesh of the risen Christ in each other and bless each other with his peace. When we come to the table we encounter the flesh and peace of the risen Jesus in bread and wine. Like that early Christian community in Acts, we do all of this together, as a whole group, bound together by the risen Christ into one heart and one soul, working for reconciliation and leaving no one behind.

God declares to us this morning what was from the very beginning—what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands—that in God is light and life, no darkness at all. And that abundant and new life is revealed in the risen Christ, the one who shows up, bearing his wounds and breathing his peace. With his wounds revealed and peace exhaled, we no longer need fear missing out or being driven into our dark, locked rooms of despair and doubt. The risen Christ restores our ability not only to see and believe in the power and presence of new life, but to experience it for ourselves, our joy and our lives made complete.

 

[1] Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 200.

[2] Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Zondervan, 2012, Pocket Edition), pp. 58-59.   

Photo Credit: "Peace", © 2009 shawn smithFlickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio