As most of you know I am a sermon junkie… that is I love to listen to good preachers preaching good sermons. I regularly stream the sermons and worship services of pastors like: Rev. Dr. James Howell at Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, the very Rev. Dr. Randy Hollerith the Dean of the Cathedral at Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC, Duke Chapel, Riverside Church in NYC, among others. Through these brilliant Clergy persons I am immersed in a theological smorgasbord of grace, love and peace… challenged, inspired, and comforted. Every Sunday is a WOW Sunday when I hear them preach… many times it is spoken in low tones because I can’t speak… lest I ruin the moment.
Today I was honored and blessed by my long time colleague, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal Priest and college professor. I have loved her heart for Jesus, the easy way she is able to present that Word to me, and the challenge she always dangles before me. Today was no different – she took an average day and allowed that day to speak an especially touching and pertinent message.
Today Barbara Brown-Taylor spoke about “The Next Week or The Week After.” She reminds us all about the thrill, emotion and energy of the DAY. Do you remember the thrill, emotion and energy of your wedding DAY (you better). How about the birthDAY of your first child, your graduation DAY, the DAY you received that acceptance letter to college or your first job in your field of study, the DAY some loved one died? All of these (and many more) DAYS were Jesus Moments where you felt the intensity of the presence of God in and around that moment. These were the days when you sang the songs of loudest praise, waved your hands in the air (no matter who was looking – no matter what they thought), smiled with an unbreakable smile, laughed so much you hurt, cried so much your tears became sweet, your dreams were never ending… the sun was on your face and the sweet breeze of Spring was in your hair. It was the DAY.
On the week after… there is a big let down. Today is the Sunday after Easter. Easter was full of praise, worship, excitement and promises. This week after, this Sunday after is even known in the theological world as “Low” Sunday – usually referring to attendance, expectations, enthusiasm. Barbara Brown Taylor said today is the Sunday when there is a guest preacher, a soloist fills in for the choir not present, and a guest pianist/organist is here because all the others need some time off after the week of Easter.
On the week after the Resurrection where would you expect the disciples of Jesus to be? Jesus has just risen from the dead, God had ratified the power, love and mission of Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, for all people. Wouldn’t we all think they would be out talking to everyone about Jesus, healing people, speaking about the love of God? But no, they are hiding in a locked upstairs room… a upper room… fearful, afraid of being found and what might happen if they are. I can almost imagine someone in the shadows peering out to see if anyone suspicious is hanging around outside.
What now? What’s next? Nothing will ever be the same the week after. The truth of the matter is that after forty days of preparing for the Resurrection of Jesus things are not all that much different. You are still slammed at work, still shaken by the news of the world, still awaken in the middle of the night to more anxieties than alleluias. Even if the world is not all that different shouldn’t we be? Where is the peace that passes all understanding? The evidence of things not seen?
John is the only Gospel writer who lingers long enough to talk about what happens on the day after. He talks about Jesus and a disciple called Didymus, the twin, known forevermore as Doubting Thomas because he had some trust issues that the others did not have. Perhaps his doubting was really no more than that of the other disciples. The only reason Thomas got singled out was because he wasn’t there. He had questions because he didn’t get to see what the others had already seen… the evidence of the Resurrection. All he had was hearsay from the other disciples and his trust issues were not with Jesus but wether the disciples were telling the real truth.
Over the last few weeks Taylor-Brown has asked people what they thought about the Thomas story. They all said the same thing, she said; “They knew they were not supposed to approve of him but they did… they liked him… his honesty, where he was coming from. Thomas, for them, was proof that people who were right there with Jesus had problems believing. The disciples had the breath knocked out of them… and no breath means no way forward… no life. Jesus showed them how to breathe again and their grief turned to rejoicing. Perhaps Thomas was looking to see if the Jesus who was raised from the dead was the same Jesus who suffered the the scars of this world… who did not leave that which was human behind and come back all healed up. When he saw the wounds of Jesus he exclaimed: “My Lord and my God.” Thomas was back… not missing anymore… and it didn’t matter to Jesus that he was a week late.
You may be going through some difficult times… life may have knocked the breath out of you; health issues, grief recent and long suffering, troubles at work at home or in the community. Whatever it may be perhaps you need to breathe again… so you can move forward…so you may live again. May the Resurrected Jesus breathe the breath of life into you… that you may breathe in rhythm of the Spirit of God.
I have used many of Barbara Brown Taylor’s words in this blog tonight simply to make the point in a better way. I invite you to click on the link below so that you may watch/listen to her sermon. Please take this opportunity to be blessed.
Grace and Peace