How Do We Explain Easter to David?
This sermon was presented at Resurrection on the Second Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2012. Pastor Jim Kniseley chose John 20:19-31 as his text.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This is the Second Sunday of Easter and we are delighted to be baptizing young David Irby. What an awesome and joyful privilege for all of us! I’m reminded of Martin Luther’s experience with raising children and how that experience influenced how he taught the faith. Luther said he wrote his Small Catechism to be used in the home for parents to teach their children. He arranged his catechism so that something from the Bible would be stated (The Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed). Then a question would appear: “wo is dis?” We picture Luther writing at home while some of his children were crawling on the floor or running through the room. He had them in mind. So the question “wo is dis?” is akin to our young children always asking “why?”
While I am up at the altar for the liturgy of Holy Communion, I can hear clearly some of our children praying the Lord’s Prayer from memory, with gusto. That thrills me and tells me that parents are taking seriously their role as teachers of the faith. I have seen young Zoe Lyman standing with her dad at the door passing out bulletins and that tugs at my heart. I remember being her age and standing beside one of the adult ushers and passing out the bulletins during a Lenten Evening Service. I only did it once, because someone complained that it didn’t seem proper for a small child to be doing that. I’m glad we are in a new time and understanding.
I’ve given this sermon a title: How Do We Explain Easter to David? How do we explain the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to David? In other words, how do we pass on the faith so it will become vital and fruit-bearing for the rest of his life?
A good place to start is with the wonderful post-resurrection story that is shared by the gospel writer John today. The stories of faith are important in faith-building. The very evening of Easter is the time and the setting is a house in Jerusalem where the disciples were, with the door locked, and they were afraid. They had been told by the women and Peter and John that Jesus was alive, but they weren’t sure whether it was true or not. What they did believe was that their lives were in danger. Then Jesus appeared to them in that locked room. And the question is “wo is dis?” How could this be? How could someone come through the locked door and more, how could someone who was dead be alive?
Now listen carefully to the words that Jesus says to them. He says it twice to them for emphasis: “Peace be with you. Peace be with you.” In other words, let your fears dissolve and receive all the goodness that our God wants to bestow on you. He then affirms that he is indeed risen from the dead as God had intended all along. He gives them a charge, that as God had sent Jesus to them as proof of new life, so Jesus is sending them to announce this wonderful good news to the world. Jesus them gives them the Holy Spirit. I think John gives us the best explanation in the entire Bible of the Holy Spirit. He writes that “Jesus breathed on them. So we learn that the Holy Spirit is the very breath of Jesus. It’s like we breathe in Jesus when we come into his presence, and then we breathe out Jesus to others we come in contact with.
Then John tells us about Doubting Thomas. He wasn’t with the others on the evening of Easter and so did not see Jesus. When the others told him that they had seen the risen Jesus, he said he wouldn’t believe it unless he saw the nail marks in his hands and touched the nail marks and the hole in Jesus’ side.
What do you think about Thomas? I hope that today we can have some compassion for him. I’m not sure that that calling him Doubting Thomas is fair. He represents many of us. We too want something to hold on to, to have our doubts and fear relieved, to try to get our minds and hearts in sync. So Thomas is really asking “wo is dis?” What is this? Could it be true?
Back in my days of confirmation class as a youth, I remember the discussion one day on faith. My father was the teacher and he asked, “How many here have ever doubted that Jesus rose from the grave on Easter?” There were 33 of us in the class and not one hand went up. I think we might have been too afraid to admit to the pastor we had any doubts. It was then that dad
slammed his hand on the table and said “why not? Why have you never doubted? It means that you’ve never really thought about it!” That was then his launching point for talking about how one comes to faith. It involves questioning and wrestling with ideas and even doubting. All of that can help building a strong faith. I suspect that David will wrestle with his faith through the years and I pray that he will be surrounded by folks who can compassionately walk with him on his journey of faith.
But back to Thomas… who did encounter the risen Jesus and when his doubts were resolved, he gave one of the most sincere and memorable confessions of faith recorded in scripture: “ My Lord and my God!” And Jesus tells him something that involves every one of us here today: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
How can we collectively teach David about the meaning of Easter? Here are just a few ways I can think of:
1. Let David see that we believe by the actions we take and the words we use
2. Let this congregation continue to have excellent teaching opportunities in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and Confirmation and Youth Groups
3. May David’s parents remain faithful in their full participation at worship and Christian Education and the outreach ministries in the community
4. May every person present today resolve to help David grow up, knowing he is a beloved child of God
Today’s gospel reading ends with 2 verses that I believe are the key verse for the entire Gospel of John and also can be a wonderful theme for why David is being brought to God’s House on this day by his parents for Holy Baptism: (vs. 30 and 31) “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciple, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”