“My Lord and My God”
Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, 2017
Based on John 20:19-31
Jesus told those who would listen, “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” It’s part of that section in Matthew 25. When did we see you hungry or in prison, Jesus? When you saw the least of my brethren, you saw me. So, when we make a profit from their illness and suffering, we do it to Jesus. When we turn them away if they can’t pay for their food or medicine, we do it to Jesus. Given that, it’s no surprise that the first response of the Church to capitalism was condemnation. There was tradition and law to back them up, of course. Usury was considered sinful. What’s usury? Read – someone – Exodus 22:25. Yes, it says, “Don’t charge interest when you lend money to any of my people who are in need.” Usury is profit from a loan. It was forbidden by God’s law to make money from the needs of your fellow citizens. Today we call it banking and think it’s honorable. What you do the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me. Just sign here, Jesus, and you can attend our school. You’ll pay off the loan someday. Oh, how we’ve adjusted. I love it that the same people who worry so much about who sleeps with who don’t make any noise about our culture and Exodus 22:25. Want to post the Ten Commandments in public? Don’t forget this little law.
What brought on this rant? Thomas did. Good old Doubting Thomas. When Jesus appears before him, what does Thomas have to do before he will believe? He has to touch where it must have hurt something awful. But touch it he did. It changed everything for him.
What if we all did that to the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters? Those who are addicted. Those who are over their heads in debt. Those whose bad decisions when they were young still define their lives. What if we saw where they were really hurting and touched it for ourselves? Would it change the way we treat them? Or think about them? It could be argues, of course, that Jesus knew when he started trashing the Temple, confronting Caiaphas, ignoring Pilate’s questions, he knew where this would lead. He brought it on himself. The Romans and the Temple hierarchy would have been convinced Jesus was making an awful lot of bad decisions, because surely nobody winds up on a cross for minding his own business and keeping his nose clean. What’s the message here, folks? Who gets our sympathy? The security guy who drags you off the plane or the guy whose face needs reconstructive surgery for being stubborn about keeping what he paid for?
Where, with eyes of faith, do we see Jesus?
As we pick up today’s Scripture, where are the disciples? Behind locked doors, laying low and licking their emotional wounds, that’s where. It’s a wonder they can look each other in the eye. Peter promised to stand by Jesus even if everyone else abandoned him. James and John put in dibs for seats on the immediate right and left of Jesus when he came into power. That really ticked off the other ten because they hadn’t thought of it first. And Judas? He really couldn’t face anyone else after what he had done. So he wasn’t there that night. But the rest were well aware of their failures. They didn’t need anyone to confront them with their failures. They were already about as low as you can get.
So when Jesus comes to them, it’s interesting. He doesn’t need their excuses or apologies or I’ll do better next times. Passing through the locked door, blowing past all their defenses – Jesus really only has one thing to say to them. Peace. Peace be with you. If you want to know how to treat the people who have let you down, let themselves down, let everyone around them down – Jesus shows how it’s done. Peace. Peace be with you. With eyes of faith, when do we see Jesus?
Thomas wasn’t there that first night, of course, but he was there the next time. Go ahead, Thomas. Touch where it hurts. If that’s what you have to do to believe, then go ahead and touch my pain. Now do you get it? No anger. No judgment. No condemnation. But if this is what it takes for you to understand, then put your hand right where I’ve been hurt the most. Blessed are those who don’t have to go there to get it.
We live in a time when borders and rules are more important than families. Ask the “illegal” mother of four who was deported this past week. I am ashamed.
We live in a time when Muslims are targeted for exclusion and their Gold Star parents are disrespected.
We live in a time when “the least of our brothers and sisters” - meaning “the most vulnerable” of them – are targets for bigotry and contempt. Somebody didn’t get Jesus’ memo about the way we treat the “least of our brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens, the foreigners who sojourn among us, etc., etc., etc. Thomas touched pain and then he knew – “My Lord and my God,” he realized. When we see the pain of the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, do we have to feel it ourselves to start doing something about it? There’s plenty we COULD be doing, but here we are in church. What do we do here? We pray. So let’s begin there. Beth Steinberg offers these words of prayer, in a poem called, “For An Open Heart.”
God, give me an open heart,
A generous heart,
A humble heart.
Give me a heart so free,
That I offer love without requirement,
To love as You love,
Holding my beloved precious,
Loving her/him in this moment exactly as he/she is,
Praying that she/he follows his/her true path
Regardless of where it takes her/him.
Give me a heart gentle and willing to love her/him
As he/she would be loved, with honor and respect,
Kindness and humor,
Joy and friendship.
Give me a love so pure and vast,
So simple and strong,
That it cherishes the love and the loving
Asking nothing in return.
When we look at others, do see the spirit of the living God first? Or their clothes? Nationality? Gender? Abilities or disabilities? Do we see Jesus with our eyes of faith? Our response shows the truth. Amen.