Sunday, April 8, 2018

Phil Kniss: Recognizing Jesus

"Where resurrection leads us: Towards seeing Jesus”
John 20:19-31

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Our sermon today has been primarily in song,
and we are grateful to the Rockway choir 
for sharing so generously and meaningfully with us.
Blessings to you all as you finish up the festival events today,
and make your way back home tomorrow.

I do want to make just a couple brief comments about our Gospel text,
so that we can keep this wonderful story in its larger context
of this Easter Season which we began last Sunday.
In the Christian calendar, Easter is not a day, it’s a season.
It is 50 days long and culminates in Pentecost.
And each Sunday, through the scripture,
we ponder the implications of Jesus’ resurrection.
Clearly, the implications for Jesus’ disciples is huge,
and that includes us.

Today’s Gospel text is often referred to the “doubting Thomas” story,
which is unfair, because the other disciples also doubted.
And it’s unfair to the story itself.

This is really a story about recognizing Jesus for who Jesus is,
and putting our trust in him.

This is not a story about condemning doubt,
or looking down on people who ask questions and seek answers.
This story is about a God who comes to us on our turf,
who enters our space, and our time,
and says, here I am, to be with you.

This is a story about God’s action through the Risen Christ,
to move in, with love and grace, 
taking initiative to restore and reconcile all Jesus’ followers,
all of whom need to be forgiven, and healed,
and loved back into a covenant relationship with him.

Contrary to what we think sometimes,
God doesn’t try to make it difficult for us to have faith.
God isn’t playing a cruel game of hide and seek.
God wants to be found. Wants to be recognized.

If some of us have a hard time finding faith,
we may be looking in the wrong places.
God is generous and gracious.
And ready to provide whatever we need for faith.

Some of us are like Thomas, God bless us.
We are persistent seekers.
We are stubborn pursuers of truth.
We’re not satisfied with easy or stock answers.
God honors that. Meets us where we are.

Some of us are more like Peter, the passionate disciple,
living more by the heart than the head.
God honors that, too. Meets us where we are.

The faith God is most pleased with,
is the faith that, even with unanswered questions,
trusts God enough to keep asking, keep seeking,
until we find and recognize the Jesus who wants to be found.

If we approach with an open heart,
when we encounter that Jesus, 
we will, like Thomas, know it and declare it.
“My Lord, and my God.”
There will be a spiritual harmony in our spirit, 
to use the words of the beautiful anthem the choir opened with.

Let me end with those words:
Thou shalt know Him when he comes
not by any din of drums,
Nor his manners nor his airs,
nor by anything he wears.
Thou shalt know him when he comes,
not by his crown or by his gown,
But his coming known shall be
by the holy harmony which his coming makes in thee.
Thou shalt know him when he comes. Amen.

—Phil Kniss, April 8, 2018

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