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Believing is Seeing

by HW in HI

based on John 20:19-31

Drew and I were talking on the phone this week, while he was in the middle of studying. We were setting things up for this weekend. And he repeated what he had told me a week ago. He said he was exhausted and didn’t want to preach. I told him that wasn’t a problem. Not because I had a sermon in my hip-pocket. I never do that... But I said to him, “Don’t worry, just come. Your job is to be a sign of the resurrection.”

It is fair to ask just how it is that one goes about being a sign of the resurrection. I have come to believe that that is the job of every ordained minister. Simply to be a sign. Simply to let our presence speak for the real presence of Christ. This morning I want to go a little farther: that is the call of every Christian: to be a sign of the resurrection.

A few months ago I was talking with a friend about difficulties she has with were husband. No, he doesn’t go here, and neither does she. The nature of their troubles – they are the kind of troubles every couple goes through at some time or other. She was trying to get him to do something he had promised to do, but again he had disappointed her. She said to me, “How could I have believed him?” I answered her, “You believe in the resurrection, right?” And she said she did. Then she said, “What kind of priest are you, anyway.” But I wasn’t trying to be blasphemous. But how could she believe in the resurrection, and not believe in her husband? If we believe Christ has risen from the dead, then all things are possible!

The disciples were sitting around, a scared little band of followers. And I guarantee they were tougher than any church I will ever be called to serve. There they were: scared, probably fighting among themselves—and they had the door locked. Now, there are turn-around churches, but this would be too much even for Billy Graham. Makes St. James’ look pretty amazing by contrast, doesn’t it – alive, vital, wonderful. Anyway, back to the first church ever. Any minister worth their salt would call up the Bishop and say, “Sorry. I’m out of here. This is not a fight I can fight.” But look what happened. In the midst of all this misery, Jesus broke in. Jesus broke in, and he didn’t say, “You guys are pathetic.” Even though they were. And he didn’t say, “excuse me. Where were you. Seems to me I was being crucified, and you took off. And Peter – I do recall the cock crowing... He didn’t even say, “Why didn’t you believe the two Mary’s when they told you I a, alive? ” No. He said nothing of the sort. He said, “Peace.” He stood in their midst. And he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

And there we have it. The first church. Christ broke through. Not to judge one soul. But to be a sign – the ultimate sign. To be a sign of himself. A sign of his own resurrection.

Even his closet followers could not believe he had risen until they saw him for themselves. And Thomas wasn’t with them. And when they told Thomas he said he couldn’t believe until he had seen Jesus for himself. Seeing is believing. When I was little I had a friend at school who was from Missouri. And she told me that Missouri is the ‘Show me.’ State. Seeing is believing. The people in Missouri have nothing on the first disciples. They were the “Show me” Christians. There are many people in the world today who would be Christians, if we could just show them. Jesus did say, “Blessed are you who have not seen and yet believe.” But we have to remember that the first disciples did not believe until they had seen.

We cannot expect Christ to bodily show up these days. It would be helpful – we would have more church growth than we can handle! We simply cannot lock the doors and sit and wait. It could happen. I believe in the resurrection, and that means that all things are possible. But it makes a lot more sense for us to realize Christ is here. Right here with us today. And He has called each one of us to proclaim him to the world and be a sign of his presence to the world.

One of our members called me this week with an idea for ministry. It is probably not the kind of ministry where we can march in singing, “Jesus Christ is risen today.” Because it involves the state government, we need to support it a little differently. Our theme song might be, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” This ministry has to do with overcoming illiteracy in our elementary school in a way that is real and palpable. In a way that will change lives. My friends, this kind of a ministry is a sign of the resurrection. And it can resurrect lives. What I am saying is that we can show people Christ is alive by choosing ourselves to be a sign of the resurrection. We do not have to hit them over the heads with our prayer books or our Bibles. We do not have to confront them or judge them. Jesus showed up to his own unbelievers and gave them peace. We can show up also.

What does this have to do with Drew and youth ministry? We are asking Drew to be involved in youth ministry in a new way. We are asking him to be out in the community as much as possible, getting to know the teenagers of West Hawaii – getting to know their dreams and hopes and fears. Understanding their pain. Being present for them in a very real way. This means the youth that attend St. James’, of course. But it also means the youth that have never walked in our doors. And he doesn’t have to hit them over the head. Just be a sign to them of the resurrection. He can leave it to Christ to break through the locked doors. Amen.