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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Doubting Thomas – Year A

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable in thy sight Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen

Spring is in the air

with the smell of budding flowers and trees

comes the urge to leave the desk at work

the warmth of the bed at home

to seek out an adventure

to venture forth into the world

this happens to me periodically

the pull of spring

those urges have taken me on long bike rides

across the United States on a bicycle

San Diego to Fairfax

from the beginning of the Continental Divide Trail

in Canada

to its’ end in Mexico

I look out the window of my office and find myself drawn

out to horizon

the simple life, living in a tent

learning again what you can live without

meeting the challenges

that present every day….

can you survive in the face of wind

rain, broken spokes
searing heat, long periods of being alone

away from family, friends, all the structures

that support you from day to day…..

I realize that not everyone is drawn to such extremes

maybe the urge arises and is satisfied with a walk around the block

the need to plant flowers or cut back the hedges

but, for some of us there is a deep need

a call toward something

a need to step away from all that defines us…..

As winter was coming to an end

I came onto a book that has breathed new life into those feelings

like blowing on the embers of a dying fire….

will it catch on, flame up, ignite the kindling

Mark Jenkins’ has written a book

entitled A Man’s Life: Dispatches from Dangerous Places

Jenkins has been a columnist for Outside magazine

he has written three earlier books

often interviewed on popular t.v.

he is a persona of adventure

it is in his fiber

an irresistible part of who he is

Reading his stories

gave me a point of reference

a sense that I am not alone in my feelings….

here is someone who speaks a similar language

even more extreme than anything I ever considered

In the early chapters he talks about the need to go

at the same time the pain of leaving his wife and two daughters….

In the first chapter called Good-bye again…..

he acknowledges the responsibility he has as husband/father

the pain that he will experience as he leaves, as he spends time away

But, the chapter ends with this quote:

Without my home, a place to leave from and return to, travel would be impossible for me. In the balancing scale of life, home is the antipodal counterweight to travel. It is the hand that holds the kite string-and, should the string snap, the kite will twist and fold and drop from the sky like a buckshot bird. p. 10

what follows are chapter after chapter of great adventures

hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking,

but, it is the last chapter that brings it back to home

Mark’s closest friend in the world another man who shares

the call to adventure…but he has entered a crisis point in life

he has begun to question his need for adventure

Mark say’s “ His friend Mike has been trying to reform himself
for years….weaning himself off adventure
like a heavy drinker weans himself off scotch
serious adventure is incompatible with being a father
you are imperiling not simply your own life, but
the lives of your children, which is immoral, he will give it up

after one last adventure……

you can guess the outcome….
Mark writes:

Risk is integral to adventure. A freak accident, an unanticipated rockslide, an avalanche.
No risk, no adventure. Mike knows this, but he’s torn between being the man he is and the man he believes he should be……p. 353-4

The book ends as Mark talks about Mike’s death

his adventure completed Mike and his party are returning

to homebase

the boat they are riding is upturned by

a bowhead whale that comes up under their boat

dumping the team into arctic waters

after holding onto the boat for more than eight hours

Mike finally succumbs to the icy waters

eleven years later Mark is finally able to write about his loss

he lets Mike’s wife know what he is doing….they both break down

as they talk

“then she said: “But, Mark, there are so many ways to lose your life
besides dying”

the book comes to an end

I almost had to remind myself to breathe

no risk, no adventure….so many ways to lose your life

besides dying……………..

worth the price of the book…..

At the same time that I was reading/living through these stories

I had playing in the back ground the story of today’s Gospel

Randy and staff had offered me the honor

of coming again to this pulpit….

Thinking about this text as I read the book

On adventure

This is the Sunday in the church year

Known at least in Lutheran circles as ‘low’ Sunday….

the let down after all the excitement of Easter

the lilies are delivered to their proper homes

the new clothes and hair does now

a bit wrinkled

in the past it was a time for the preacher

to go off on a well earned vacation

Ashe Wednesday to Easter

six weeks, forty days of building tension

culminating in the loud Hosannas

amazing choirs

now back to the weekly business of the church

the Gospel of the Doubting Thomas

What a great way to come back to earth

the disciples slink away to a house in the suburbs

the doors are locked, they are sacred nearly to death

afraid that the same fate that has taken their leader

will befall them…..

When suddenly into their midst comes Jesus

Peace be with you…….

it must have been a moment

in the midst of great fear

comes peace

When the next day they attempt to tell Thomas what he missed

they are met with the cynicism of a realist

what are you talking about…

how can this be

I cannot believe it….won’t believe

till I see him with my own eyes

touch the wounds of his body

know that it is him……

This is Thomas, also known as the twin

known to be one of Jesus’ closest disciples

we met him earlier in Lent

when the Gospel lesson for the Sunday

told us the story of the rising of Jesus’ friend Lazarus

buried, unaware in that text

is another drama

Jesus has heard of his friend’s sickness

even though word of Lazarus’ death has come

Jesus has determined to go to him

to go to an area near Jerusalem

knowing that he risks being attacked, even stoned by the temple leadership

the disciples resist, rebel, why put yourself at risk, the man is already dead

It is Thomas who steps up….he is the one who says…

Let us go with him that we might die also with him……..

Later in those days before Good Friday

the disciples are gathered for dinner

Jesus shares the bread, the wine…

reminds those at the table that the end is near….

the cross is at hand

he says to the disciples, where I am going you know and the way you know

it is Thomas who speaks the obvious…Lord we don’t know where you are going

how can we know the way……

Jesus answers, I am the way, the truth and the life……

now Thomas is outside the group….

he has missed the moment experienced by the other disciples

show me, let me see and touch…..

fortunately he doesn’t wait long….

again the disciples gather

again the doors are shut and locked…..

again Jesus comes to them….

Thomas is invited into relationship…

Peace be to you……

Thomas answer is at the same time a plea for pardon

and an acknowledgment

My Lord and My God………..

Thomas is my kind of man…..

rough hewn

not particularly sophisticated

he has a realism about him that I envy….

while the others are holding back, unsure that they can follow

Thomas’ words ring out…

let’s go with him that we might also die with him

what do you mean that you are going away….

how are we supposed to know the way……

you saw Jesus…good for you…

not for me until I see it for myself….

Today he is known forever at the doubter….

Thomas the man who needed proof…..

it’s a bum rap!!!!

Thomas was the man of courage

the man who could ask the hard question

the man unafraid to join Jesus in this adventure….

adventure without risk is not an adventure

there are many ways to lose our life without dying……..

faith without commitment is not faith…..

Thomas is here for those of us who come back

The Sunday after Easter

People who are willing to explore what it means to have faith

Marcus Borg, the theologian who visited St. James in the fall

Has written a recent book called The Last Week:

What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’ final days

In it he describes the contrast of Jesus

To the expectations of those looking for Messiah

Jesus brief ministry confronted a system of domination

That included

Political oppression: ordinary people had no voice

In shaping their society

Economic exploitation: only a small percentage

Of the population had wealth

Or land

Religious legitimation: oppression and exploitation

Were justified with religious language

With the support of temple leadership

Jesus sets all of that on its ear….

Saying that Jesus is Lord

Is to say that Caesar is not

Is to put yourself at risk

Love God, love neighbor as self

Is to over turn the economic order of everyone for him/herself

Is to put yourself at risk

Thomas knew it

Let us go down with him so that we might die with him

He asked the hard questions

How can we know the way

Show me the place of the spear

The wound of the nails

But, it is Thomas who finally hears the word of peace

It is Thomas who responds

My Lord and My God

His words become

The early Christian affirmation of Easter

Another Easter has passed

Today we come back to regular life

Drawn by the spirit of adventure

Into the ways of faith

With Thomas we too can say: My Lord and My God.. Amen

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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