Texts: Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, 1John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31

Texts: Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, 1John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31

Second Sunday of Easter (Year B)

April 12, 2015

Texts: Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, 1John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31

Canon Dan Wagner

Fellowship. Community. Life together with others. We see this in our world in a variety of ways. Things that come to mind are in college there are sororities and fraternities. There are non-profit organizations where people can come together to work toward a goal. There are allegiances to sporting teams, to cities and states, to food or crops, and even to different types of barbeque sauce. Is it slick advertising and marketing that causes us to like one thing and not another? I suspect that is it something a little more deep or in our psyche.

Humans yearn to be in fellowship with others. Even in our highly individualist society, we still yearn for community. We have constructed digital communities through social media platforms. Now, we might not always do the best job of being in fellowship with others, but it is in our human DNA.

In all of our Scripture today, we see the need for community and the benefits.

In our Acts reading, we hear the apostles tell of Jesus’ resurrection and they had a communal living, where no one was in need. The community centered on Jesus and was lookingfor his return.

In 1 John, we hear of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. But we hear the call to fellowship with one another, which starts with God and Jesus. We hear that by doing so “our joy may be complete.”

Psalm 133 has much love in my heart and for you all who have an attachment to Sewanee. That first verse, “Oh, how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity!” is the motto of the University of the South. The current Vice-Chancellor always would end his remarks, no matter his audience, with “Ecce, quam bonum!” the Latin translation for the first verse. That motto is everywhere on campus. Heck, there is even the EQB Building for events.

This psalm is one of the psalms of accents. These were short psalms that pilgrims would say or sing as they made their way to the temple in Jerusalem. Singing these psalms were part of their fellowship, part of their communal living.

I think of this psalm especially as it is attached to the gospel story of Thomas. Thomas seems to be the disciple that gets a lot of grief. After all, we get “Doubting Thomas” from this passage. I do not want to beat up on him this morning. I would rather be an apologist for him.

Thomas, like Peter, is so human. We recognize Peter acts impetuously. One moment he pronounces that Jesus is the Messiah. And the next, he is the same one to deny Christ and when Christ is arrested. Thomas scatters from the scene when Jesus is arrested. His human reaction is the flight mode. We are told he is not there when Jesus is executed.

Like any human, Thomas is probably trying to process what happened to Jesus. All the time Thomas spent with Jesus, those three years, and now he is gone, killed in such a horrible way. Yet, Thomas was not with the others. He was not in community with his fellow disciples. He was alone. And he missed out. He was not enjoying living that life together, dwelling in unity. Instead, in his state, he sought to go it alone. He failed to hear the good news that Mary had seen Jesus. He failed to hear the good news that Peter and John saw the empty tomb and believed. He failed to be with his brethren and to see Jesus and to receive his spirit.

Instead, Thomas was isolated. And when he hears the news that nullifies all the pain he has, he has a very hard time believing. Now, I suspect that we too might have that same reaction upon hearing such wonderful news. I mean, we have similar reactions when we hear such good news that it might just be too good of news. We might ask, “what’s the catch?” or “oh really?” or is it more like, “yeah, rrrrright…”

The point being here is that Thomas needed to be together with his fellow brethren. He needed community, with Christ at its core. If he was there with the group:

  • it would helped with his mourning, his trying to make sense of things
  • he too would have learned what Mary, Peter, and John knew
  • he too would have seen Jesus and not made his harsh comments about touching Jesus’ wounds
  • he too would have received the Peace of Christ that would have quieted all his uncertainty

Friends, we all are like Thomas. We can struggle as individuals and need the strength we receive in community with our fellow brothers and sisters. Why? Well, it is said of Christian community that it is a gift of grace from God to have such a community in the first place. It is also said that Christians receive such a lift of spirit and strength when gathered together (I am paraphrasing DeitrichBonhoeffer from his book,Life Together, p.19, 20).

So, if we all are like Thomas and in need community, how are we,as a parish, a Christian community? We pray together, worship together, study Scripture. We profess Christ is our center. We reach out to the Diocese as the Cathedral to host events, such as ordinations. We reach out to our community in a variety of ways like the pancake breakfast outreach project, giving to Wilmer Hall, the angel tree and school supplies (and many other ways). We look after one another. We make those phone calls to support our friends, even when we are not sure what to say.

So, I think the final question to ask ourselves today is how does it feel when brothers and sisters gather together in unity? Well, it is not always rainbows and happy times. That is for sure. There will be challenges and stress points all around. But, we are able to take on those challenges because we love each other, despite our shortcomings. We listen and support one another, looking to Christ to show us the way. We find glimpses of heaven in the ordinary things we do. We find Christ’s peace that helps to quiet our minds.

So our charge today is to give thanks for the grace that God has given for us to be together; to receive the joy and strength from our fellow Christians; and to give thanks for Christ's gift to us all – eternal life; and to remember "oh how good and pleasant it is when brethren live together in unity." Amen.