By Pastor Steven Molin
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace, from God our Father, and His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s called “Low Sunday” for a reason. On this Sunday after Easter, worship attendance will be a fraction of what it was last Sunday. It happens every year in every church. During my first year as a pastor, as the lowest ranking pastor on the staff, I was always the preacher at Low Sunday; the Sunday after Easter, after Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day and the 4th of July. You know that exercise we teach children, with our fingers tucked into our folded hands:
Here is the church and here is the steeple;
open the doors and see all the people.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you aren’t familiar with this children’s poem and the hand gestures that accompany it, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H3E33o4URc
Well, my friends would to it this way, with the fingers outside their folded hands:
Here is the church and here is the steeple
Open the doors and…Steve Molin is preaching!
But there is another reason we call it Low. Gone are the smells and bells of Easter today. We don’t have a brass group on hand. We don’t have the tympani, or the Senior Choir, or the Bell Choir, or dozens of colorful lilies and tulips surrounding the altar. Heck, the youth group isn’t even serving breakfast today; just the same old stale coffee that Greg makes every week. It’s like someone let the air out of our balloon! Last week, there was celebration in the air; this week, there is snoring. Last week, there was elation, but this week it seems to have turned to deflation.
Now, before you get upset with me and think I’m being critical of our church members, or our musicians, or our teenagers, I assure you I am not. In fact, I think the Sunday after is supposed to be this way. We can’t live in a constant state of euphoria. No matter how much we love God and are filled with joy over the truth of his resurrection, we must come back to earth and learn to walk with our Easter faith in a world that is filled with more potholes than Alleluias; a world filled with mortgage payments and sick children and broken promises and shattered dreams. And the gospel lesson today – the gospel lesson every year on this First Sunday after Easter – is the story of Thomas; Doubting Thomas. So sit back, and let me tell you this story of a man that is more like us than we would ever want to admit.
It was Sunday evening, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection. All day long, there had been rumors that Jesus was alive, but only a couple of women had actually seen him, and the disciples believed that they were delusionsal. And then, while the disciples were gathered in a locked up room in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared. Didn’t come through a door; didn’t come through a window; he just “appeared.” He wished peace upon them, and gave the disciples the authority to forgive people’s sins in his name. And then he was gone.
Of course, the disciples rejoiced! The rumor was actually true; Jesus had risen from the dead. But unfortunately, Thomas wasn’t there. Ten other disciples were present, but not Thomas. People grieve differently, have you ever noticed that? Some people need to be surrounded by loved ones for support and encouragement, but others prefer to grieve alone. Apparently, this was Thomas. But when they found their brother, they excitedly said to him “We’ve seen the Lord, Thomas; he’s alive!” And Thomas uttered his now famous denial: “I don’t believe it, I can’t believe it, and I won’t believe it until I see the nail holes in his fingers and put my fingers through the holes.”
This emotional roller coaster just kept on rolling for the disciples. First, there was Palm Sunday, then there was Good Friday, then there was Easter, and now there is doubt. Elation, deflation, elation, deflation. But God is so gracious. Because on the following Sunday evening, the disciples gathered again, and Thomas was with them this time. Notice that, just because Thomas didn’t fall in line, he wasn’t rejected by the other disciples. Even though Thomas was having a bit of a faith crisis, he was still very much included in this family of faith. Remember that next time one of your kids announces that he doesn’t believe what you believe; or she isn’t sure of the virgin birth or the resurrection. If she was Thomas, she’d still be at your dinner table.
So Thomas was there, and Jesus came again. And he walks right up to Thomas and said “Tom, put your finger here…and believe.” And Thomas said “My God, you’re alive.” The elation returns. But the nugget of the story is what Jesus says to Thomas next. “Thomas, do you believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who will not see and yet believe. Blessed are those who will not see and yet believe.” People, that’s us; the ones who hear the Easter story and walk away believing that it’s true. The ones who pray to a God we cannot see, and trust a Savior we cannot touch, and somehow know that it’s real. What Jesus said to Thomas, he now says to us: “The Christian life is not lived on the mountaintop, but in the valleys; some of them deep and dark.” You see, it’s rather easy to sing Alleluia when the trumpets are blaring, and the bells are chiming, and the throngs are worshipping. But on Low Sunday, or Low Tuesday, or Low Thursday night, when life is hard and absolute proof of God’s love seems absent, Jesus says that when we still believe in those circumstances, we will be blessed.
Having said that, there is tangible evidence of the resurrection that still remains; this wafer of bread, this tiny cup of wine, and the simple words “Broken and shed for you.” Today, we receive the gift that those disciples received from Jesus on the night before he was crucified. And today, some 50 young people will receive it for the very first time. With bread in their hands and wonder in their hearts, these little ones will eat, and believe that it is true. I would to God that our faith would be as bold as theirs today. Elation on Low Sunday; how great is that?
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But what about next week, or next month, or next fall, when life becomes hard? It is then that we must remember and believe in the promise of the resurrection. The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers’ tickets, Einstein couldn’t find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; “Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I’m sure you bought a ticket.”
As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket, I’m sure you bought one.” Einstein arose and said “Young man, I too know who I am; what I don’t know is where I am going.”
And that is the good news of Easter; that we know where we are going. We have been told by the Savior that his life and death has promised us life eternal. And Low Sundays don’t change that promise. And unemployment doesn’t change that promise. Neither does divorce, or bankruptcy, or cancer, or depression, or felony, or failure. Through elation and deflation and every emotion in between, this truth remains; we know whose we are and we know where we are going, because the Son of God has promised. And this, my friends, is faith. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Copyright 2008 Steven Molin. Used by permission.