"Show me," Thomas says.
Wouldn't we all say the same thing? Wouldn't we like to see the scars, see the hands, get the proof?
When I was old enough to have my very first questions about the faith-about 12-I wished that I could have been there. A good post-enlightenment child, I wanted to see the star over Bethlehem, I wanted to taste the wine that had been water, I wanted to be in that fishing boat when the storm became still, I wanted to be in that upper room with all the doors closed, and I wanted to see Jesus' scarred hands.
I thought that would make it easy, easy to believe. But I don't think that anymore. I don't think there is anything much that is easy about the life of faith, about an Easter faith.
I don't suppose it was easy for the early church, for the first disciples, for Magdalene, for Mary, for Peter, for any of them. It was not easy for them to make sense of the death of Jesus, to see their dreams die, and then to encounter him alive again and real, more real than before. It was not easy to be shocked out of despair and into the threat of the new.
It was not easy for the author of the fourth gospel, the one who tells the story about Thomas. That's why he tells it. Easter is not about belief. That's what makes it so hard.
If we just had a set of empirical data, for even a set of historical events, we could put a body of evidence together and come up with a conclusion and sign on the bottom line. We could put two and two together and come up with resurrection. We could list our beliefs. We could recite a creed. But the foundation of Christian faith is not a creed, it's an encounter.
Thomas wanted flesh and bones and the mark of the nails, but he gets instead that whispered greeting, "Peace be with you," and then he gets life and breath and the shalom of God. Thomas gets the One who was so full of God, who showed them all the way of God in the world. He gets it. That One and that Way is alive again.
And so, Thomas gives us the central proclamation of the Christian faith: "My Lord and my God!"
Dangerous words. As dangerous as the Roman persecution of Christians was getting underway: Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not.
Thomas' words meant that not only Jesus, but the way of Jesus, the way that defied the institutions of Jerusalem and of Rome, the way that subverted the conventions of the day, is alive again, not stopped by the cross or the tomb. The way that Jesus had of gathering everyone around the table, women and men, Jew and gentile, insider and out, his way of inviting the ones at the margins to the center, his way of caressing the untouchable, lifting up the fallen, embracing the hurting, all of this is alive again.
God's compassion, once seen in Jesus, lives on in the community.
God's fierce and table-turning justice, indicting the power-brokers and heartening the poor, once seen in Jesus, is alive again.
Jesus' own passion for justice, which led him to the cross, is alive and let loose in the world.
Easter continues, the gospel encounters tell us, not because of the proof of hands with scars, but because the work of the Nazarene's hands will be carried on by the others, by Thomas and Peter and John and Mary and Magdalene, sent with the word of peace to bring God's peace, God's shalom, to a world waiting for good news.
Easter continues, because the work of the Nazarene's hands will be carried on even now, by us. Ours are the hands that will heal and lift up and reach out and include and invite and break barriers and break bread. Ours are the hands that will bring Easter into our day, into our world that longs for resurrection, for new life, as Thomas did. Ours are the hands that will bring Easter into the places of the cross, to the Mexican border, the Chicago classroom, the Washington courtroom.
Easter continues because what we bring, and what we long for is not belief, but encounter. What matters in the Christian life is not having the correct beliefs, but rather entering into relationship with the God at the heart of our tradition. It is relationship that changes our lives.
This experience of Easter, this life of faith is not easy. And it is not something any one of us can do on our own. Easter requires encounter with another.
And so, seeking Easter, we turn, seeking not proof, but truth, not facts, but encounter, we turn to one another and say "Show me."
Echoes from the Edge
By John Helmiere, 2012-13 Beatitudes Fellow - April 1st, 2013
Holy Table Turning Monday
In 2011, during our first year of existence, Valley & Mountain Fellowship made up a new Holy Week holiday: Holy Table Turning Monday.
Holy Table-Turning Monday commemorates the day when Jesus turned over the tables of the money-changers in the Jerusalem Temple, disrupting business as usual in this nexus of economic, religious, and political power. According to Mark, the Temple action occurred the day after Palm Sunday- the Monday of Holy Week. This symbolic act shed light on the oppression of the common people by the large institutions of the elite. The powerful were slowly taking over the land of the peasant farmers through extracting taxes and turning the indebted small landholders into serfs and slaves. The debt records were kept in the Temple.
For the past three years now, my church has celebrated Holy Table Turning Monday by going as a group into local branches of major banks (Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase so far) to close our accounts and tell the management our reasons for doing so, before opening accounts at local credit unions and neighborhood banks. We've then flyered outside the banks to let people know about the abuses perpetrated by the "too-big-to-fail" banks and about alternatives who were more accountable to our communities and at least not "too-big-to-care."
Other Christian communities have started to hear about it, contacted us to ask how they could get involved, and a few have done actions of their own, so we made a web resource: www.tableturning.org. We've started wondering if this holiday could catch on-- a day when churches around the world join in social justice actions (it boggles the soul to ask why there isn't such a day in existence already).
Holy Week Should Be a Disruptive Week
Port workers and organizers have come to several V&M Celebrations over the past year and shared about their struggle for good jobs, respect, safety, and fair pay. Tuesday they delivered notice to their bosses that they'd formed a union. Some bosses literally locked the doors and put down the shades while others came out and at least engaged in dialogue. V&M was there in support. Holy Week should be a Disruptive Week.
Finally, the Poet
By Maxine Kumin, in Connecting the Dots, Norton, 1996 - April 1st, 2013
Some things never change: the velvet flock
of the turf, the baselines smoothed to suede,
the ancient smell of peanuts, the harsh smack
the ball makes burrowing into the catcher's mitt.
Here in the Grapefruit League's trellised shade
you catch Pie Traynor's lofting rightfield foul
all over again. You're ten in Fenway Park
and wait past suppertime for him to autograph it
then race for home all goosebumps in the dark
to roll the keepsake ball in paraffin,
soften your secondhand glove with neat's-foot oil
and wrap your Louisville Slugger with friction tape.
The Texas Leaguers, whatever league you're in
still tantalize, the way they waver and drop.
Carl Hubbell's magical screwball is still
give or take sixty years unhittable.
Sunset comes late but comes, inexorable.
What lingers is the slender hook of hope.