John 20:19-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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 authorities, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So 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.”
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.” Then 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 answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But 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.
May God add a blessing to our understanding of these words.
Several years ago, my son who lives in New York City, sent me a video from inside his apartment building on Houston. There on a beautiful sunny early fall day sat a sparrow on an old, rusted fire escape just singing its heart out. Not a care in the world.
Looking back through the lens of time that is a small scene that bewildered me because it was filmed on September 11, 2001, just a few hours after the twin towers were hit. Our world changed forever that morning as people were trying to escape the devastation, and the realization that so many did not make it. The grief, the fear, the anger, the unknown, the ‘what’s next’?
And yet, here is a tiny sparrow just singing away bringing a beautiful sound to an intense moment. How could that be? Shouldn’t that sparrow be just as shocked and numb as the rest of us? Was it mocking the seriousness of that moment by singing and not bringing the fright we all felt to that Tuesday morning?
This scene also bewildered me because that little bird, singing on a rusty old fire escape, only a few short miles from the attack on the World Trade Center, gave me a deep sense of hope. One bird – one song – strong hope. And I think of these words from Matthew in chapter 6 – although challenging, are guiding us into a deeper faith even.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Parent feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will God not much more clothe you? Therefore do not worry. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
That attack on 9/11 was one created by human beings and since then we’ve put so many protective layers around ourselves trying to assure ourselves that could never happen again.
And here we are, nearly 20 years later where we’ve had an attack of another kind that is impacting every corner of this world and every person in it. I feel very grateful to be healthy and to be able to get out and have a walk every day. Mostly I walk around the apartment complex where I live. Sometimes I’m up to going on the interconnecting trails behind the complex that runs parallel to the Las Cruces dam. But whether I am in my second floor apartment – because I love upper tree level living – or on one of my walk-abouts, I see and hear birds – all day long. They are singing or cooing or wooing – all day long. Some are really busy gathering sticks and twigs and vines for their nests. Some are already picking grubs for their nestlings. It is a fun time for us birders and helps lighten the burden of these days. But like in 2001, their on-going life activity bewilders me as we wrestle with staying safe and healthy while they seemingly haven’t a care in the world except what the need is right in front of them right now. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Our calendars mark April 22 as Earth Day. For 50 years now we’ve seen it on the calendar and this event began in an effort to support environmental protection – 50 years ago – a half century! And this year especially I think Earth Day is so much more significant in our lives. If the meaning of the earth and its importance has not impacted us during this stay at home time, I don’t know what will. How can this earth continue to sustain us at the rate many countries and companies continue to exploit and abuse it? What will it take? The mandate in Genesis is not to damage this beautiful creation, but to care for it. And honestly – Earth Day needs to be honored every day.
And I wonder why that doesn’t happen. So we turn to the disciple, Thomas, who needed proof that what he was seeing was real – that Jesus was real and not a hoax being played on him. I don’t blame Thomas his doubt. He needed facts before he could believe. But with many facts already before us, how can there still be people in our world who can deny that we are in an environmental crisis? How can people still believe this is only a progressive agenda when we see the evident changes in weather, with melting icebergs, with outrageous fires throughout the world and still believe this is a hoax?
Now, Thomas came to believe when he saw Jesus for himself. What will it take for those who think coal does no harm or that fracking is an act of justice or that running pipelines through sacred grounds is a blessing? Is it all about bottom lines over human lives? The earth has always gone through various climate changes on its own from the time it was formed. But the way we live, especially over the past 100 years, also makes a huge impact on this fragile world.
The good news is that even in this unique in-between time, this liminal time, we can all make a difference. Even by making small changes today there will be a positive impact for our children and our children’s children and theirs as well.
Perhaps you’ve seen the postings by Ralph Holmes and articles by Til Zimmerman. There are many opportunities to do our part right now. A few include simply recycling, stop using plastic, intentionally using less water, planting gardens and one of my favorites, planting trees. Everything we do today can make a difference – even during this time we can make a difference. An unexpected bonus to this stay at home mandate is that less use of automobiles is helping to clear the air – literally clearing the air. Perhaps through these hard days there is a blessing for the world after all.
We are living in this liminal time – this in-between time. The reality is that we always have been – it’s that time between birth and death, it’s that Advent time of watching and waiting, it’s that Lenten time of retrospection, it’s that Resurrection time of new life emerging, it’s that almost, but not quite time.
In an Easter sermon, Southwest Conference Minister, Bill Lyons, shares that the word “liminal” comes from the Latin word meaning ‘threshold’. That reminds me of a sermon I preach at weddings, if asked, entitled “On the Threshold” where leaving one life for another will take place, yet no one knows how that life will evolve.
Bill shares that liminal space is where “new beginnings can really take hold. The stories of Eastertide, between Jesus’ resurrection and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, give us a window on some best practices for liminal living [today. He reminds us that] endings are important. Threshold moments have within them an ending. [This stay at home time will end.] Endings need to be acknowledged, grieved or felt, mourned or worked through, accepted, and meaning found in them before a new beginning can really take hold.” And like me, you’re probably also feeling all these feelings too of grief and mourning through this stay-at-home time where we are all trying to do our best and know that some days we are doing better than others.
As I prepare to leave you, this is just one more liminal moment in all our lives and I acknowledge the grief as well as the excitement in your new beginning with Bethany. And like all liminal moments, nothing will ever be the same. And that is as it should be. When people come and go in our lives the deck of cards gets shuffled around. From Linda’s leaving to Bethany’s arrival, your deck has been shuffled a few times in those liminal moments. You can look back and see where you’ve been and you can look forward and in the words of the Prophet, Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! But for right now we give gratitude for the journey and acknowledge that in parting there is sweet sorrow.
I think the following words reflect the reality of all our liminal moments from taking care of the earth, taking care of each other, and taking care of ourselves. These words come to us from Meditation Techniques on Facebook: “Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working. If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lesson. May we rise up and do better.” Indeed, may we rise up and do better.
May God bless our attempts to do the best we can whether planting a tree, or living our one life, or closing a chapter to begin a new one, or planting hope. Amen.
Copyright DMC 2020