… when youth are affirming their faith ….
The Holy Gospel according to John, the 20th chapter.
C: Glory to you, O Lord.
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin*), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’
THOMAS: Whoa! Where am I?
PETER: You’re safe, Thomas. You’re just in a different time and place.
THOMAS: What??!!! Last thing I remember is standing before Jesus.
PETER: Yes, and you were doubting.
THOMAS: Yeah, but he can’t be alive. How is that even possible? We saw him die on the cross; we saw him buried in the tomb!
PETER: Our Lord had just asked you to do something ….
THOMAS: (looking at his palms and stomach) … touch the nail scars on his hands and see the wound in his side. Yeah, I remember. (looking around) But, where is he? What IS this place?
PETER: Can you believe the power of our God? He has sent us thousands of years into the future to this place called (looking down on the divine handbook): “Zi-on Lu-ther-an Church” in a city called “Pe-mbroke”.
THOMAS: Oooohhh-kay. (looking at the confirmands). The only normally-dressed people are these youngsters. I like your gowns; oh, sorry, aren’t they supposed to be called something else? So, they are being baptized! Where’s the river?
PETER: The river …. (looking at the handbook) is called the “O-tta-wa”. But I’m told these followers of Christ baptize at this thing called a “font”.
THOMAS: How can anyone get in that? Oh, I forgot … is that a magic trick, too? They get real’ tiny …. (snickers)
PETER: It’s not magic, Thomas. Like the resurrection of Jesus. God’s power to do all things is real. It’s not an illusion. It’s not pretend. I suppose we can’t ever really understand it because we’re not God.
THOMAS: Hold on a sec. Did you say these people here are followers of Christ?????!!!!!
THOMAS: So, where IS Jesus, if he’s alive?
PETER: He’s here alright.
THOMAS: You mean we are thousands of years into the future, and these people have never actually SEEN Jesus with their own eyes …
PETER: … and yet they believe. Yes, Thomas.
THOMAS: What do you mean: “He’s here alright”?
PETER: When you saw Jesus standing before you, he was already partly in heaven. After he left us, he promised the Holy Spirit.
THOMAS: The “Holy Spirit”?
PETER: The Holy Spirit is God, too. Just like God the Son, and God the Father.
THOMAS: So, the reason these folks believe in God is because the Holy Spirit is here.
THOMAS: But, then, where is the Holy Spirit? Same problem: if I can’t see with my own eyes and touch with my own hands, it’s not true.
PETER: Yes, yes. I’ve heard that from you before. Tell me, Thomas: do you have a brain?
THOMAS: uh … yeah!
PETER: I know you have a brain. You know you have a brain. But can you see it? Can you touch it?
THOMAS: No. Wouldn’t want to do that.
PETER: So, you won’t touch it or look at it with your own eyes?
THOMAS: No way!
PETER: Therefore, you don’t have a brain!
THOMAS: Okay. Okay. I get the point. Hmmmm. (scratches his chin, folds his arms across his chest, thinking) These people have never physically seen Jesus. Thousands of years …. Still believe? How is this possible?
PETER: Someone coming after us – Saul is his name, then later Paul – will write: “All things are possible with God”
THOMAS: Wow! I can’t believe this! (to the confirmands) Do you believe EVERYTHING about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit? … Do you ever DOUBT the existence of God? If so, why are you even here??!!!
PETER: Now, now, Thomas. Let’s not discourage them! This Paul also wrote that true faith is in things NOT seen, in what is HOPED for.
THOMAS: But how can anyone’s faith be so perfect?
PETER: That’s not why these young people are here today, saying “yes” to God and to their baptism in Jesus. They’re not here because they understand everything about God PERFECTLY.
THOMAS: You mean it’s okay to doubt God sometimes?
PETER: Let’s put it this way, Thomas: if you never knew fear, if you were never afraid, how could you know courage and joy? If you never lost anything or anyone precious to you, if you never knew how it felt to be lonely and sad, how could you know what it means to love? If you never doubted, never knew what it felt like to doubt and question, how could you know faith and hope?
THOMAS: Okay, again – I get the point. What you’re saying is that to be faithful and true to Jesus, doubting and questioning is an important part of following Jesus.
PETER: If you never doubted the resurrection of Jesus, we wouldn’t be here today experiencing yet another miracle of God!
PETER: God the Father gave me an important job after Jesus left us to go to heaven. He called me the “rock”. And the church would be built on what I could do to bring people together in faith for future generations.
THOMAS: Whoa! That’s a lot of pressure. (somewhat sarcastically) I stand in the presence of greatness! (bowing)
PETER: Not so quickly! I don’t know if you heard of this, but before Jesus went before the high priests the night he was arrested, I followed him to the compound where the soldiers kept him.
THOMAS: I’ve heard rumors …. What happened?
PETER: As I was warming myself by the fire, a couple of people asked me if I knew Jesus.
PETER: I denied him. I told them all I had no idea whom they were talking about.
PETER: Not once. But three times.
THOMAS: You were trying to protect yourself. You were being smart.
PETER: Maybe. But then the rooster crowed. And Jesus could see me from the courtyard. Our eyes met. And at that moment, I realized how weak my faith actually was.
THOMAS: What did you do?
PETER: I felt so badly. I couldn’t face him. I ran home and cried all night. I really doubted myself after that. I questioned not only my faith in Jesus, but myself.
THOMAS: Hey, you’re really no different from me ….
PETER: … And everyone here in this room today!
THOMAS: I guess if your faith isn’t perfect, whose can be!?
PETER: That’s not the point, though, Thomas. I think the fact that Jesus asked me to be the head of the church shows that God doesn’t call perfect people. Rather, God equips and calls people who recognize their own weaknesses, doubts and imperfections and who are willing to confess and be honest about that. And still turn to Jesus.
THOMAS: Hmmm. Maybe Jesus has plans for me, too, then, eh? I wonder what he’d want me to do? …..
PETER: Did you just say, “eh”?
PETER: Apparently, according to this divine handbook, that’s what they say a lot here in this country called “Ca-na-da”. (looks over the top of his glasses at Thomas inquisitively) Are you sure you haven’t spent some time here before?
THOMAS: (smiles) Let’s just say the Lord and I have already been on a journey together.
PETER: That’s good. Let’s hope and pray these young people will also continue on that journey with the Lord after today. What about you, Thomas? What will you do when we go back to the upper room to meet Jesus?
THOMAS: Well, I’ll be honest. I WILL put my hands in his wounds. But I think I already know Jesus is alive and will always be with me, even if I don’t ever see him with my own eyes ever again after that.
PETER: Let’s go. Goodbye everyone! Live the faith!
28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.31But these are written so that you may come to believe* that Jesus is the Messiah,* the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The Gospel of our Lord.
C: Praise to you, O Christ.