2 Easter (B)
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; John 20:19-31
So, who’s looking forward to the upcoming Presidential campaign? Won’t you enjoy the TV ads, with all that love and goodwill? Two men whose campaigns will exhibit nothing but kindness, charity, and grace toward one another. And truth, let’s not forget truth. No spins or trying to take advantage of fears or prejudices this year. A black man and a Mormon man, perfect fodder for preying upon ignorant fears and division.
Ironic, but the office that unites us as Americans will have a campaign that will divide us. There will be continuous and descendingly nasty volleys at the other side. Supporters of each candidate will become further polarized, convinced they are right and good and the other side is the very face of evil. No one will be listening; yet everyone will be talking, claiming moral high ground.
Want to learn how to live in community? Most of us who will become embroiled in this year’s presidential election will show the world exactly what NOT to do.
It’s not just this election. Abortion, war in Afghanistan, capital punishment, homosexuality, how to interpret the Bible – name the issue and chances are people are taking polarizing positions against one another, convinced they are right and the others are wrong. Because apparently that’s what we value: believing we are right. That above all else, it seems. We seem to value that more than forgiveness, more than generosity, more than mercy, more than listening, more than community. Believing we are right—even if that means we can no longer even speak to one another.
Even in the church we’d rather consider ourselves morally superior and separate than recognize we are a broken community made holy only by God’s grace.
I’m not talking about getting along. Not about no conflict. This is about something much deeper. Unity that based not on agreement, or common interest, similar worship, or even moral right/wrong. Unity based on the very foundational reality that we are sinners who’ve been baptized into Christ.
All three of the texts we’ve read today speak of the importance of unity, of community, of our purpose together taking precedence over things we disagree about.
Unity was so important to the early church that, as we read in Acts this morning, all the disciples sold their property and put the proceeds into one common pot. In this way everyone who had need would be taken care of.
Psalm 133 declares the importance of the community living together in unity. Then it goes on to describe that unity in beautiful, poetic language.
Today’s gospel in John tells of Thomas and the other disciples on Easter Sunday and the next Sunday. The evening of the resurrection, Jesus appears, shows the disciples his hands and side. They now believe he’s raised, which changes everything. It is now the basis from which all decisions are made now. Thomas isn’t there, and so doesn’t believe it. Now there are two divergent paths: Thomas with his unbelief, and the rest with their belief. Make no mistake, they are living in conflict!
Each time the disciples came together during the week, they try to convince Thomas about what they have seen. In v. 25 — “The other disciples kept telling him, ‘We have seen the Lord’.” Thomas kept refusing to believe them. Each side insisting they are right, lining up campaigns, appealing to any means to attack the other side. Well, probably not. So how do they stay in community with such fundamentally differing views?
Here’s the thing — whatever conflicts they had during the week, the disciples didn’t kick Thomas out of the fellowship. And no matter how severe their disagreements, Thomas didn’t leave either. Eventually he had his own experience with the risen Jesus. In the meantime, all the disciples remain bound together even with major differences in experiences and beliefs.
That’s the identity of the church.
The church is in the relationship business. The church is not in the business of telling the world we are right and everyone else is wrong. We are in the business of revealing the reality of God’s forgiveness. But the minute we even hint that being right, and not relationships, is what we are about, we have corrupted the Gospel and have torn at the heart of what we are as a community created by God. The church loses the very thing that binds us together and becomes the good guys in here versus the bad guys out there. We act, then, as if we were nothing more than a presidential campaign.
By loving as Jesus loves, the church reveals God to the world; making it possible for the world to experience something of the grace of God. The church’s purpose, therefore, is not to be the arbiter of right or wrong, but to bear ongoing witness to the love of God in Jesus. Bound together in Christ’s loving forgiveness, we then live in the world including the world in that same love and forgiveness.
Can you imagine what would happen in the upcoming election if love and forgiveness was the attitude of the day instead of who’s good and who’s evil?
Can you imagine what would happen in this country if we included people, loved people, asked and offered forgiveness of people who were on the other end of important issues?
Can you imagine what would happen in our neighborhoods and in our families if we quit trying to prove we’re right and instead started proving that forgiveness is real?
Can you imagine what would happen in this congregation if we quit seeing people at “the other worship service” as “them”? Or people who are older, or younger, or newer, or who are here more often or less often as “them”? Baptism trumps style of worship every day of the week.
This is what God has created LCM to be. A community where forgiveness, love, and care are more core to our identity than issues of conflict, disagreement, or right/wrong.
As people baptized into Christ, this is what LCM is. This is what the world needs.
This is what the risen Christ brings amongst us. This is what we show the world.