At St. Mary's on Holy Saturday, Sharon takes down the Stations of the Cross which surround our iNave and replaces them with Stations of the Resurrection. These fourteen pieces of art, created by our own Celeste Booker, represent encounters with the resurrected Jesus. The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter (John 20. 19--31) are represented by Stations Five and Six.
Station five is a response to the night of Jesus’ resurrection, last Sunday evening. The disciples are gathered in the place where they were last in community with Jesus before he was crucified.
I wonder when they returned to this familiar place, a place full of memories of meals and love and washed feet and conversation: were the dishes still on the table? Were there crumbs left on the floor?
We don’t know who all was there--disciples could have included women and children, too. We know who wasn’t there—Judas, because he had committed suicide after betraying Jesus.
We aren’t told why Thomas wasn’t in the room with the other disciples. Was he home tending his family? Had he missed the email blasts and the texts letting him how the disciples were getting together?
Was he too sad? Too afraid? Too angry? Only God knows, but because he wasn’t there, he missed being with Jesus.
And it wasn’t a casual encounter he missed; Jesus gave those gathered disciples words of peace. Jesus gave them his Spirit. What a night to miss church!
Why-ever Thomas wasn’t there, when he heard who and what he had missed, he had to wait a whole week. Think about that.
Where were you last Sunday night?
Think of all that has happened this past week, and imagine, hearing that Jesus was alive, and knowing you’d missed him. That you might have missed your only opportunity to see him again. Ever.
7 days. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes. 604,600 seconds.
Thomas is the disciple who says what others think but are too shy to say. When Jesus and the disciples hear that Lazarus has died, it is Thomas who says, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Thomas is the one who asks the questions others are too afraid to ask.
When Jesus says that the disciples know where he is going, and that he is going to prepare a place for them, it is Thomas who asks, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
I like Thomas. A lot. I think God does, too. I think that God likes when we ask questions. Hard questions. Seemingly foolish questions. I think that God likes when we’re looking for God and trying to understand who God is. I think that God likes when we seek a relationship with God.
Thomas does all this.
When Thomas says, unless I see and touch Jesus, I’m not going to believe, remember what believing means is John’s Gospel: Believing means having a relationship with God.
Thomas wants a relationship with Jesus, not some easy statement of faith. Thomas doesn’t want a second hand experience of Jesus. Thomas is saying I want to be with Jesus.
That’s what God wants for each of us.
For us to seek and have a relationship with Jesus. For us to be found by Jesus.
Thomas has to wait 10 days after Jesus’ death, but Thomas does get what he yearns for--a real life encounter with Jesus. It’s represented by station number six of our Stations of the Resurrection.
Our Gospel today reminds those of us who ask hard questions that we are in good company. Those of us who are waiting are in good company, too.
Thomas waits, and he gets to touch Jesus. Thomas waits, and he receives Jesus’ word of peace. Thomas waits, and he will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s own Spirit, even if missed receiving it the evening of the resurrection, he will receive it six weeks later on the Feast of Pentecost.
One of the things that gives me pause when I stand and ponder our Stations of the Resurrection and look at the gold cross front and center of each Station is what I see reflected in the cross. Myself. Literally. We are all invited in our waiting and longing and fear and questions and uncertainty and hopefulness to find our heart's desire, Jesus. It is always a yes.