“Peter, John, Mary, and Thomas”
Second Sunday of Easter, 23 April 2017
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
A colleague of mine
Was recently interviewed by the Watertown newspaper
About his forthcoming retirement.
Rev. Leon VanWie has 44 years of parish experience
And will be retiring at the end of June.
He was asked about some of his most important accomplishments.
I paraphrase Leon when he said,
“That moment when someone gets it.”
He was speaking, of course,
About that moment when someone
Experiences the Gospel,
Encounters the resurrected Christ,
And becomes convicted by faith through grace
By the power of the Holy Spirit.
The result is transformative,
That moment when someone gets it.
I get it.
At least I think I do.
How about you?
Our Gospel account for today,
Which could air by itself
as an episode of 24 Hours,
Is an account of four disciples of Jesus who gets it;
Abet, each get it
By coming to conviction
By different pathways.
Each experiences transformation;
Shedding their former lives and leaving them behind;
Being born brand new; and
Claiming life in the name of Jesus.
Their stories are informative to us,
Each seeking direction for our own spiritual journeys.
Their stories are inspiring to us,
That we might, likewise,
Deepen our faith,
And draw ever closer to Jesus.
Indeed, with the resurrection
All roads lead to Jesus.
If Peter was a cooking technique,
I’d consider him “flame broiled.”
If ever there was a flash in the pan, it was Peter.
Peter sees the empty tomb,
And goes home to wait.
His eagerness to learn the facts
Led him to be first to enter the empty tomb.
The flash of flame browns the outside
But leaves the inside rare.
He did not understand scripture,
So he simply goes home.
It wasn’t until evening of that first day
That Peter, locked in for fear of the Jews,
Comes face to face with the resurrected Jesus,
Recognizes him and
Rejoices with the rest of the disciples.
Jesus breathed on them,
Giving the same breath of God
That flew above water on the first day of creation.
It was the same Spirit of God
That brought together dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision,
Breathing life into rotted skeletons.
And it was the same breath of the Spirit
That filled Lazarus’ lungs and raised him from the dead.
The same Holy Spirit empowers Peter,
And the rest of the disciples,
To take authority of those who will follow Jesus.
“Take thou authority,”
Ancient ordination vows echo Jesus’ words,
By forgiving or retaining sins.
The power of the Holy Spirit
And the authority granted by the Holy Spirit
Completed Peter’s flame broiling to perfection.
Peter went on to become
Truly, one of the fathers of the early Church.
If John was a cooking technique,
I’d consider him “hand rubbed barbequed.”
John was the disciple “whom Jesus loved,”
As the Gospel described.
Good barbeque, like relationships, takes time;
It takes a lot of time to develop and get it right.
James and John, brothers of Zebedee and Salome,
Were faith seekers;
First following John the Baptist,
Then, when called by Jesus,
They left their father behind,
Along with their former allegiances and lifestyle.
They simply dropped their nets to follow Christ.
John had been transformed by Jesus,
From one who
wanted to call down heavenly fire
on a Samaritan town,
leading to our Lord’s rebuke,
To one who
was invited up the mountain
to witness the Transfiguration.
Wow. What a change.
It gets even better:
He was one who
was invited to Gethsemane to witness our Lord’s agony.
The relationship between Jesus and John had matured such that,
Jesus sent John and Peter into Jerusalem
To make preparation
For the Passover meal.
At this Last Supper,
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved,
Sat next to Jesus.
Their relationship was tender, loving, and slow cooked.
John runs to the tomb,
Slows it down,
Gets himself under control,
Allowing Peter to enter first.
Yet, when he enters, we are told
“He saw and believed.”
His measured response continues.
He returns to the locked room
Yes, he believed,
But had to wait for Jesus to appear,
Stand among them, and
Greet them with peace.
John waited in fear,
on the one hand,
Yet also with the assurance that Christ had risen,
on the other.
He waited until evening.
Jesus stood among them,
Fill them with the Holy Spirit,
And granted each the authority to give or withhold forgiveness.
John, too, reacted with awe and joy.
John became an inspiring early church father,
Author of many New Testament books and letters,
One who’s awe and joy was transformed
Into a lifetime of witness to the resurrected Christ,
The one who he loved, and
The one who loved him.
If Mary Magdalene was a cooking technique,
I’d consider her “baked” or “roasted”.
She’s put in a CorningWare™ casserole with Jesus
For a full three years,
And allowed to bake at a moderate 325.
Mary from Magdala,
A fishing village on the North West coast of the Sea of Galilee,
Lying mid-way between Tiberious and Capernaum,
Was a disciple of Jesus from the beginning.
She was every much a disciple
As were her male counter-parts.
Mary joins with Jesus early in his Galilean ministry.
Luke first describes her as one of many women
Who were with him,
“Proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.”
- Luke 8:1
Now that’s good work, if you can get it;
Mary from Magdala was a team player,
Supporting the principal, Jesus Christ,
Who was, in her midst, bringing transformation to the world.
Luke reports she had seven demons leave her.
Indeed, it would have been hard
To be a traveling companion of Jesus
And to be carrying around a multitude of demons.
Drop the demons.
In the four Gospels,
Mary from Magdala is mentioned 12 times,
More than most of the apostles.
When the casserole is done,
Mary is there.
She witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.
She saw him dead,
Removed from the cross.
She saw him buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb;
Making note of the tomb’s location
For her return Sunday morning.
Mary is there
In all four resurrection narratives,
Either all alone or as a member of a group of women.
Mary is the first to testify to the resurrection of Jesus.
Good news about the kingdom of God is one thing,
But to be present at our Lord’s death and resurrection?
That’s Good news of a whole different magnitude.
Being the one who Jesus commanded to inform the other disciples,
Mary Magdalene has been rightly merited
by the Roman Catholic Church,
With the title “Apostle to the apostles”.
Mary sees, believes, recognizes, and witnesses.
The lid is opened,
The steam is released,
The house is filled with the smell
If Thomas was a cooking technique,
I’d consider him a “slow cooker” or a “crock pot.”
Put Thomas on low first thing in the morning,
And by dinner time,
He is traveling to the far corners of the world
Witnessing to the fact that
Christ had died,
Christ is risen,
And that he had every expectation
That Christ would come again.
But it takes time for Thomas to get there.
When Lazarus died
And the other disciples did not want to return to Judea
For fear of the Jews,
The Gospel of John gives Thomas his first voice,
“Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
- John 11:16
That’s commitment to your boss and to the company.
Like Peter drawing his knife in the garden,
Thomas was prepared to die for Christ.
In those last few precious moments,
When Jesus is attempting to prepare his disciples
For his impending absence,
Thomas releases his inner inquisitiveness by saying,
“Lord, we don’t know where you are going,
So how can we know the way?”
Thomas doesn’t have answers;
Half-baked, hastily drawn, incomplete opinions
That are mostly wrong.
Thomas is full of questions.
I tip my hat to Thomas.
So, it’s no wonder
Thomas is the one to respond
to his colleagues witness
Thomas could have been a child of the scientific method,
Had he only lived so long.
Indeed, I could have been Thomas.
The skeptic is transformed into a believer filled with awe!
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas confesses
When he sees Jesus’ wounded body.
Like a detective who has uncovered the solution,
Like a scientist who has proven a hypothesis,
Thomas is smart enough
To allow his skepticism to be swept away
When confronted with the facts,
When the proof stands before him,
And grants him authority to do so.
“My Lord and my God”
Would become Thomas’ witness
Far and wide,
Even to the far reaches of India,
He is recognized as the Patron Saint of India.
Once recognized, Thomas believes, confesses, and witnesses.
Now, that’s a recipe for successful, Christian living!
What kind of disciple of Jesus are you?
Are you flame broiled for Jesus?
Hand rubbed and slow barbequed for Christ?
Are you baked full of flavor?
Or a slow cooker that is worth waiting for?
Each trajectory has its benefits.
No one path is right or wrong,
Better or lesser than another.
As long as your path leads towards Jesus,
You’re doing it right,
You’re making the journey,
You’re following God’s will.
This is the common thread
Of our four disciples,
Peter, John, Mary, and Thomas:
See … the crucified and risen Christ standing before us.
Believe … that Christ has died for us and with us.
Believe … that Christ has risen forever winning victory over death.
Witness … to the world this Good News, starting right here, right now.
Witness … to the world,
Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit,
Bestowed with the authority of Jesus, himself.
I get it.
That Jesus is the Messiah.
Jesus is the Son of God.
That you and I may have life in his name.