So what do we do now? That was the question I kept asking myself after a glorious Easter season. With the echoes of the choir’s Sunday anthem (“O, Happy Day”) still pulsing in my ears, I realized on Monday morning, I had to go back to work. I had another sermon to write, people to visit, meetings to attend, and weeds to take care of … Christmas is so much easier than Easter this way. After Christmas you get New Year’s Eve within a week to keep the party rolling.
In the church, the week after Easter, you get the story of “Doubting Thomas.” (see John 20: 19-31) The disciple who has been vilified for centuries because he wanted a taste of the new life the rest of the disciples had received when he was out running errands. A bit of a downer to deal with if you’re trying to keep floating on the high of “O, Happy Day.”
In many ways, Thomas’ story reflects the reality of the spiritual journey. Whenever the afterglow of an encounter with the divine or any sort of spiritual break-through wears off, it doesn’t take long for the questions to arise. Did that really happen? How does this insight change my life? What are the implications for the way I treat other people?
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It was the dilemma the first followers of Jesus experienced too. Even though they had encounters with their teacher come back to life, they were still in hiding. Sequestered in an upper room behind locked doors, they weren’t sure what to do next. And that’s when Jesus appeared to them with his familiar resurrection greeting, “Peace be with you.” And then he gives them, and us, a clue as to what to do next. He says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” and he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The Risen Christ offers an antidote to their fear and anxiety — “Peace be with you.” Breathe. Take a moment to experience this miracle of life beyond death. Allow my presence with you here to reassure you what my life was about is the truth about who you are meant to be as well.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” His purpose is now their purpose, and by extension is our purpose. As Paul later say to the Corinthians, “You are the Body of Christ … ” which I take to mean, we are to do the same sorts of things he did. Welcome the outcast and the stranger, bring healing and new life to those who are hurting, eat together, talk about meaningful things, and in doing so, honor the Creator. The hope in all this is that, as God breathed on the first humans and gave them life, so the Risen Christ breathes on disciples then and now with the presence of the holy to empower them to live in this way … even when it’s Monday and there’s more work to be done.