Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sermon: St. Thomas – 2011

21 December 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 20:24-29

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

We all know the expression “doubting Thomas.”  St. Thomas had a difficult time after the death of our Lord.  He may have been mourning the loss of his friend, master, and Savior.  He may have been confused about what lay ahead for himself and his fellow believers.  He may have felt left out of the earlier appearances of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

The reason isn’t important.  What is important is that the Lord has revealed to us the reality of St. Thomas’s struggle, removed St. Thomas’s doubts, and revealed to us St. Thomas’s faithful confession: “My Lord and My God!”

Indeed, this twofold confession of Christ is the difference between doubt and faith, between unbelief and belief, between hell and heaven.  For Thomas not only acknowledges that Jesus is the Lord, that is, “God,” he also confesses Him as “My” Lord and “My” God.

St. Thomas not only acknowledges the truth, he internalizes this truth.  This truth is not simply a dispassionate observation, rather it is the very truth that makes him free!  Indeed, this is the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise of the liberation of faith.  It is not only the dispelling of doubt and the knowledge of truth, it is also the source of comfort, the fountainhead of life, and the center and focus of one’s entire being.

For doubt is not the problem.  We are all sinful human beings.  We all doubt at times.  In fact, it is healthy to have a certain amount of skepticism.  Jesus even tells us that at the end of time, many people would claim to be the Christ.  He also counseled us not to believe them.  Jesus does not ask us to believe anything on blind faith.  Faith clings to something – and in this case, someone.  The Lord allowed Thomas to see and touch, to have an encounter with the body and blood of the risen Lord in space and in time, not to prove, but to bolster the faith he already had – even if that faith was weak at times.

This is a demonstration of the Lord’s true majesty – made manifest in His humility, in His taking the time to convince one beloved man beset of doubts to believe, to receive, and to have life.

What is worse than doubt is complacency.  For even in Thomas’s honest doubt there was a desire to see the truth, a yearning to believe, a willingness to be molded by the good news of the coming of God in the flesh for the forgiveness of sins, a wanting to be where his Lord and his God was, to see, hear, and touch God in the flesh.

Complacency is indeed far worse.  Complacency says: “I believe in God.”  Complacency says: “I believe in Jesus.”  Complacency says: “I read my Bible and pray.”  And then complacency refuses to allow the Word of God to take hold of one’s life.  Complacency allows everything else to take precedence over being present with God.  Complacency cannot even be bothered to gather where God miraculously comes in the flesh for the forgiveness of sins.  Complacency lacks even the yearning to be where one’s Lord and one’s God are, lacking the motivation to see, to hear, and to touch God in the flesh.

Dear friends, let us not be complacent.  If you have doubts, welcome to the human race.  Welcome to the Lord’s Church, where the incredible Gospel is credibly preached and the incredible gift of the forgiveness of sins is credibly offered freely.  And also welcome to the Lord’s altar, where the doubts and fears and anxieties and troubles of this fallen world melt away in the very same flesh and blood revealed to St. Thomas!  And before this altar we offer our own incredible creed: “I believe…”  Bring your doubts to this altar, and bring your faith from this altar.

For we have the opportunity to see the risen Christ in His flesh and blood and to confess: “My Lord and my God!” with St. Thomas and with all the saints of every time and place.  We can come to this altar again and again, this place raised above the fallen ground, this place where our Lord comes to us in His flesh and blood for the forgiveness of sins, giving us eternal life.  And as we kneel around this altar, week in and week out, we receive the Lord’s body and blood into our own body and blood, for the strengthening of our faith, and for the powerful communion we have with our brothers and sisters and with our very God Himself!

“My Lord and my God!”

St. Thomas believed, and the Lord said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Following this encounter with the risen Jesus, St. Thomas was to have many other encounters: serving at altars around the world in the holy ministry, celebrating Holy Communion, preaching, teaching, baptizing, and absolving sins.  St. Thomas spread the Gospel even in India, where the evidences of his ministry are all over the place – most of all in the body of Christ that is still there to this day: the Christian Church in India, believers who likewise confess Jesus as “my Lord and my God!”

St. Thomas’s doubts were resolved not by memorizing the catechism or studying doctrine (both of which are good things to do, but do not give one faith).  St. Thomas’s doubts were scattered like the gloom of night when the risen sun bursts over the horizon as the risen Son of God revealed Himself in space and time, in flesh and blood, in Word and Sacrament.  And this same gracious invitation is offered to us, dear friends, even now twenty centuries later. 

The same risen Christ says to us: “take, eat… take drink.”  The same risen Christ says: “I forgive you all your sins.”  The same risen Christ continues to baptize, forgive, restore, heal, repair, and bring life from death and light from darkness.

The same risen Christ continues to say: “Peace be with you” – coming to those who are willing to expose their dark doubts to the light of His glorious presence – a Light that overcomes the darkness and brings cool doubt into a burning faith, bearing the Light of Christ, chasing away the darkness, and drawing all who are drawn to that light to believe.

Dear friends, we may be mourning the loss of loved ones, we may be confused about what lies ahead in our lives and in the lives of our fellow believers, and we may even feel left out of the kind of faith that others seem to have.  If so, dear brothers and sisters, we have a patron saint in Thomas the Apostle.  He has shown us how to receive Christ – even in doubt.  Come into the Lord’s presence!  Let the Lord speak to you!  Allow yourself to be drawn to the Light of the body and blood of Him who is the “light of the world,” the “light no darkness can overcome.”  Let us join Believing Thomas in his confession, in our confession, in the church’s confession, in the one life-giving confession of Jesus Christ as “My Lord and My God!”


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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