God's Word: Live It!

Showing items filed under “The Rev. Dr. Gary Johnson”

"Peace be with you."

In yesterday’s sermon we took a closer look at the story of Jesus’ first encounter with his disciples after his resurrection.  It’s easy to overlook the grace, peace, and mystery at work in this story and, instead, focus on the shorthand version we call “Doubting Thomas.” However, there is so much more here than a phrase usually muttered with tongue in cheek.

The first words out of Jesus’ mouth are “Peace be with you.” After their abandonment, betrayal running and hiding, Jesus blesses them with peace. For whatever reason, Thomas was not present for this encounter. He says he needs to see Jesus and poke around in his wounds and vows that he will not believe until does. Jesus appears again, and in another gesture of immeasurable love, he invites Thomas to touch the wounds and slip his doubt into his open side where it will be swallowed up by love and a peace that passes all understanding. It is here that Thomas confesses Jesus as Lord. Jesus does not chastise Thomas for doubting but looks for a way to relieve him of his doubts.

When we find ourselves mired in doubt, this story reminds us Jesus understands doubt. He doesn’t judge it he wants to gather us in, erasing the distance that doubt places between himself and us. It isn’t the doubting, it’s the distance. Jesus went to that cross and tomb to liberate us, not to judge us. He emerged to bring peace to our lives. That offer stands in times of doubt and faith. We can hold onto our doubt. Jesus will wait. We can discard his abiding love. Jesus will wait. What our doubting cannot do is chase Jesus away. When we decide to live with something more than doubt, Jesus will invite us to thrust into his open side where we can leave it behind and once again hear him say, “Peace be with you.”

On the side of...

Yesterday we walked the familiar path into Jerusalem waving our palms and singing our praises. All glory, laud and honor was shouted out to Jesus as we walked into the sanctuary to continue worshiping Jesus. What we found out is the Gospel of Matthew identifies two crowds following Jesus. One, the country bumpkins with nothing to lose are more than ready to worship Jesus as the Messiah. The second crowd is more skeptical. City folk, close to the temple, more sophisticated in their understanding of Torah. They wonder about the carpenter from Nazareth and how he can possibly be The Messiah.

In effect, it is we who are the two crowds. On the one hand, often in time of need or desperation we are more than willing to cling to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. On the other, we wonder about his usefulness in our lives. We have developed sophisticated ways to exclude Jesus, relying instead on social media, wealth management and politicians to meet our needs. Prayer? It depends on which crowd we are in, the needy outliers, or the busy and entitled.

Along with our two-sided attitude toward Jesus comes our two-sided discipleship. As we move along this Holy Week we will watch Jesus’ disciples go from adoration to complete abandonment. When he turns out to be exactly who he said he was, the Prince of Peace, the conscientious objector, the pacifist, everybody bails out. When discipleship gets hard, i.e. loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, giving half of what we have away, it is our inclination to question Jesus authority in our lives. When Jesus seems to be answering our prayers, we tend to hop on the Jesus train. This is our constant vigilant battle between our two selves. The question is always there. Do we believe or not? We’ll find out something about ourselves this week. Will we walk with Jesus all the way to the cross? Or, will we bail and show up on Easter after the gruesome cost for our souls has been paid for?  The Good News is Jesus is going into Jerusalem and head for the cross whether we believe in him or not. That’s why at least a part of us sings about him as “ our Redeemer King.”

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