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The Rev. Grace Imathiu The Rev. Grace Imathiu

The Rev. Grace Imathiu is a United Methodist minister who has served congregations in Kenya Africa, Washington, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

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United Methodist Church

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United Methodist Church

To Believe Is to See

John 20:19-31

April 11, 1999

Last Sunday Christians all over the world greeted one another with the words, "The Lord is risen." And with joy each replied, "He is risen indeed!"

The resurrection is a reality that the followers of Christ proclaim to the world. Yet in the entire Bible, there is no theoretical argument for the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead. In the Bible we cannot find a detailed logical reasoning - inductive or deductive - aimed at driving all counter arguments to the ground. In the Bible there is only a testimony, a witness, a personal story by ordinary people, fisherfolk and tax collectors, who tell us the story of their life and the story of Jesus, risen Lord. When we pore over the Gospel stories for evidence of the resurrection, we find time and time again stories of lives turned around and empowered, and that is as far as we get with the hard evidence of the resurrection. Time and time again in the Gospels the followers of the risen Christ give their stories up close and personal, not sparing the details of their own doubts, fears, confusion.

They tell us their story of moving from despair to joy. From fear to hope. From risk-averse to risk-taking. From safely sitting the fence to daring living.

In their first encounter with the risen Lord, the disciples tell us how they had shut themselves up in a room. Threatened not by death, but threatened with the news of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene had come with news of the risen Lord and that had only added to their already turbulent weekend. A weekend that had begun with a parade of hosanna and had ended with Jesus on death row and his execution. It had happened so fast: the foot washing, the breaking of bread, the betrayal, denial, too much too fast. Before their very own eyes, life had spiraled out of control, unraveling into one big mass of shock. They were still in the stages of regrouping after the death of their beloved leader and friend when news of resurrection had entered the scene. Although "life goes on," they had not planned for it to be a total, complete resurrection.

Hey! Hold on. Can the resurrection be more threatening than death? One writer has spoken of the way we often seem to prefer the security of death to the insecurity of life. You see, death offers us something fixed, definitive, sure, predictable. Death offers a closed chapter. But life on the other hand is an adventure that will not allow us to passively sit in armchairs and be spectators like on some on-going television series. Oh no. Not life. Life insists on being in our face and insisting we participate and collaborate in its unpredictable, open-ended tensions and insecurities. Resurrection is good news that life goes!

At its best, the Church is in the business of life and life-giving. Resurrection and news of resurrection is the church's daring witness to God's "Yes" to life. Resurrection is the good news that the life, not death, has the final word.

So we meet the disciples. Ordinary people like you and I behind closed doors dealing with the threat of the resurrection. I imagine they talk among themselves and think that if Jesus is dead, then it is clear they must return to their fishing and tax collecting, at most maybe form a disciples' alumni club and meet once a year to reminisce the good old disciple days.

But listen! What if? What if Jesus were truly alive and Mary Magdalene was right? Well! That simply changes everything.

Resurrection rearranges life! Everything has to be re-thought. It really does mean that "life goes on." It does really mean continuing the business of healing and feeding and setting the captives free.

And suddenly, there he was. Standing among them. Jesus himself. His first words to them was "Peace be with you." Shalom. Peace be with you.

Shalom. Peace be with you. A greeting loaded with inspiration, challenge and God's future.

Shalom, peace be with you, is God's longing that things may go well with others.

Shalom, peace be with you, is a concern for the welfare of one's fellow beings and world.

Shalom, peace be with you, is a sign of solidarity, of commitment to one another, of standing in for each other.

Shalom, peace be with you, is responsibility for each other before God and before humankind.

Shalom, peace be with you, is not some sweet by and by pie-in-the-sky, but a sociopolitical reality for all God's world.

The risen Lord stands before his disciples, his friends, his church and the first words of greetings are "Shalom. Peace be with you."

Then he showed them his hands and his side. They knew what to expect to see on his hands. Had they not heard the nails being driven through his hands by the Roman soldiers? And they had seen the empire pierce his side. They knew the spear's wound would have left a mark. And it did. Oh yes. It was him. It was really him. They recognized him because of his scars.

Scars are evidence. Scars are evidence left from the wound, from an injury, from a battle. Scars leave evidence that can be held against the perpetrator, the oppressor. Often enough evil seeks to destroy completely so that there will be no evidence to hold up against it.

Now listen to the good news the church proclaims about Jesus the Christ. The evidence of the battle with injustice is still on his body. The verdict is clear. Death where is your sting? Death where is your victory? the scars are evidence that death has been disarmed of its sting. Debunked of its false victory. We have evidence.

Thomas, one of the twelve, was not present. When he returned and was told of the good news, Thomas was not easily convinced. Thomas wanted to see for himself and not only see but touch as well. Let us not judge Thomas too harshly. After all, imagine how many counterfeit Messiahs one must contend with. At the end of this second millennium, we have Messiahs all over the place. Thomas was in no hurry to believe the first report that came. I can see Thomas saying, "let's have some I.D. please."

It took a whole week of living in doubt before Jesus appeared to Thomas. Seven days of doubt. Seven extra days of unnecessary mourning. And when Jesus came be greeted the disciples again with Shalom. Peace be with you. And turning to Thomas, Jesus invited Thomas to put a finger on his hands and to reach out his hand and touch the side. "See Thomas, it really is I."

Face to face with the wounds and the scars, face to face with the risen Lord who does not hide behind some picture perfect mask, face to face with the risen Lord who wears the scars of history and yet dares to speak on forgiveness, a risen Lord who will not allow the past to mute God's future, Thomas: Shalom. You see, it is not in seeing that we believe. But by believing, suddenly the scales fall off and we are finally able to say "Ah! Now I see!"

Prayer: O God who shakes heaven and earth. Whom death could not contain. Who lives to disturb and heal us. Bless us with power to go forth. To believe that we might see and proclaim the gospel. Amen.

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