Mother Katherine’s sermon preached on Apr. 16, 2023

Posted by on Sun, Apr 16, 2023 in Easter, Sermons

The Second Sunday of Easter

April 16, 2023

I’ve come to think the reason we hear this reading from the Gospel of John every single year on this Second Sunday of Easter (rather than a three year rotation of different ones as usual) is that even for those gathered in Christ’s name two thousand years later — the resurrection can be as hard for us to grasp as it was then, and Thomas is the designated proxy for uncertainty and disbelief. 

We heard stories from the Gospel of John all through Lent this year, largely about healing and believing. As in our Godly Play children’s lessons we are to wonder where we ourselves are in those stories. Did we share Nicodemus’ confusion about being born anew, born of water and Spirit? Do we long for someone to know us so well as Jesus did the Samaritan woman at the well, have we been like the man born blind, or like Lazarus bound up in the tomb and needing to be unbound? On Maundy Thursday some wrestled with the discomfort of having someone else wash our feet; was our innate squeamishness more powerful than Jesus’ command to do so? All of these come to us from Johns gospel, and today point us to one more. Thomas and Jesus. So, what do we need from Thomas and Jesus who meet one week after the first resurrection, and as we gather one week after our Easter celebration?

One of the very best professors I had at Seattle University was Mark Lloyd Taylor, an Episcopalian, author, preacher, and Associate for Liturgy at St Paul’s in Seattle. In his recent book, he writes about this Lenten-to-Easter lineup of readings from John;

“All those earlier stories were about hearing and believing. Seeing. Drinking the water of life. Being freed and being washed. Being touched by Jesus. The Thomas story is different. It’s about Thomas touching Jesus. Some things, in order to be believed and for us to have life, we need to touch them. Sometimes touching is believing.”

Do we see ourselves in today’s gospel? The setting is one of fear, the doors locked, and at first only the other disciples gather. Then a week later they regather and Thomas is there too. One can hardly fault Thomas for needing more to go on, the others have already seen Jesus and satisfied their need for certainty, but Thomas missed out on that. Without judgement Jesus knows Thomas and invites his touch, to reach out his hand to be certain Jesus is real and not an apparition. To recognize Jesus as risen, and fittingly, not in glorious words from the heavens or by Jesus’ beaming blinding radiance, but by his woundedness.

St Augustine preached, “[Jesus] saw the wounds in their minds, and what would cure their wounded minds, he brought along the scars in his body.” In another sermon he names Jesus as the doctor who says, “Come, come touch this and believe. …Come, put in your finger. I was aware of your wounds; I preserved my scars especially for you.”

In times of personal woundedness we might ask ourselves what we really believe, if we believe. That’s why we need what Thomas and Jesus shared in that touch. Not a touch that makes wounds go away or erases scars, not a touch that banishes pain from us; rather a touch that connects our flesh to the Body of Christ who is with us, and knows us. A touch by which we can sink into his arms and weep or rejoice saying as Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!”

Those of you who are Worship Leaders or Chalice Bearers may have heard me say that too. Within a few centuries those words, My Lord, my God!, became a prayer said quietly or even privately at the Eucharist, oneself affirming Thomas’ recognition and belief that Jesus had risen from the dead and was truly present. These are not old rote words; each time I say them I feel their power and joy – for all of us.

Whether personally or through someone you know, we can all relate to the disbelief of Thomas when he hears them all talking about the Resurrection and seeing Jesus, especially in our religion-resistant culture. For many, some sort of proof is required. Saint Gregory I, pope from 590-604, said Thomas’ disbelief has done more for our faith than the other disciples!

“Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence… As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. 

… When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told: ‘You have believed because you have seen me?’ Because what he saw and what he believed were different things. God cannot be seen by mortal man. Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God … Seeing, he believed ; looking at one who was true man, he cried out that this was God, the God he could not see. “

For one who ‘could not see,’ the strength of Thomas’ hope in all of this is inspiring; belief came, but his hope placed him there. Thomas could’ve told them of his disbelief, and walked away from them all. But he was propelled back because he hoped it was so. When the other disciples first saw Jesus he said, “Peace be with you.” I imagine in that moment they knew. And then had a whole week to discuss, explore, and confirm their experience with each other. Thomas had a week of not having seen, a week to consider his disbelief. He missed out seeing Jesus, yet somehow he still had hope.

Hope always sounds good to us, and yet it comes with costs. Hope makes you look outside of yourself and think of what is possible. The Easter moment most powerful to me is what I think of as hope seeing the first lights of dawn. That moment when they hoped but weren’t yet sure. When their time with Jesus had forced them to think it could be possible, their ‘Dare I hope it’s true?’ moment as they each saw whatever was their dawning of the answer — that his love had truly conquered death. And still does. No matter how ridiculous it is to believe, no matter how impossible it was to have happened, and no matter how knocked down or run over our hope is, through the wounds of Christ, God reveals himself for who he is, and it is through our wounds, we discover who we are. We are given a pathway into his life, his love, his resurrection. Back into his arms of mercy. 

We have them too, and it may be that your wounds or scars are what someone dear to you will see, touch, and through them find the way to know his presence. The way to the eternal life which his resurrection promises and proclaims. 


Mark Lloyd Taylor, So Fill Our Imaginations. Wipf and Stock, Eugene, Oregon. 2022.
The Works of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, John Rotelle, O.S.A. Ed., Edmund Hill, O.P. trans., New City Press, New York,1993
    Sermon #258 “Another sermon delivered on the same [Octave of Easter] day,” dated 412 CE.
    Sermon #237 “Sermon preached on the Wednesday of Easter week” dated 412 CE.
The quote from Pope Saint Gregory the Great is from his commentary on the Apostle Thomas, excerpted from a homily of his contained within that commentary. (Homily 26, 7-9: Pl. 76). 

© 2023 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.

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