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No Interview
a sermon based on John 20:19-31
by Rev. Thomas Hall

I've never been one for blind dates. But I will never forget my final blind date. A friend's sister needed a date for a costume party and promised me the world if I would attend with her sister. I'm a frugal person when it comes to social events so I grabbed a white sheet and poked three holes in it and threw it over my head. I would attend as a ghost. But when I went to pick up my blind date and rang the doorbell there standing in front of me was this oversized Tweedy Bird (the one that always says, "I taawt I saaah a puddy tat"). Her bird feet must have been three feet long and her beak one by two feet. Every time she turned her head I had to duck. So we went to the costume party-a no frills ghost on the right and an eight foot Tweedy Bird waddling down the sidewalk on the left. I was forever cured of blind dates. I now like to have personal interviews first before making commitments.

Ever been asked to make commitments without an initial interview? Without having a chance to really check something out first hand? You've been told that you've won one of five prizes, the least of which is $2,000 in cold, green cash; you need only to dial the 1-900 number and select your prize. You then discover that in order to activate your winnings you have to go and check out a time-share plan in person. So you drive the two and a half hours from your home to this location. The sales clerk runs to the car before you can shut the engine off. He has on the checkered sport jacket and polyester pants and white shoes. And is he aggressive! You feel pressured to sign the ten-year time-share contract. You politely decline but the sales clerk has been trained for this very moment and appeals to pride, prestige, and fear that you will never again have this opportunity. You manage to escape alive with your prize-a plastic camera made in China. Wished you'd never seen that green postcard that said you were a winner.

Our gospel story this morning invites us to make a commitment without any personal interview. The gospel summons us to believe in the resurrected Lord which may seem to be as risky as a blind date and as demanding as a timeshare salesperson. How did the earliest Christians ever come to Easter faith without personal interviews with Jesus to examine the nail prints and verify the resurrection? This question and the answer are in our lesson for the day.

The doors are shut and bolted. "They'll have to break these doors down to kill us," Peter thinks. Candlelight throws huge shadows on the walls. Ten men huddle around a table and discuss something in hushed tones.

"Who's next?" Peter asks. "You, Andrew? How about you, John? After all, you have connections and the authorities know all about you. What have we gotten ourselves into?"

Unexpectedly Jesus appears.

"As God sent me, I am now sending each of you. 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."

When Thomas, one of the Twelve returns from the corner deli he's pounced on by ten men, drunken with literally unbelievable news. "We have seen the Lord," they tell him.

"What are you, loony? I saw the Teacher impaled. Saw his hands hammered with pegs. I watched the fluid stream out of his side when the soldier jabbed his spear in. Don't try to tell me that he has somehow revived. He's dead. Let my finger circle the holes in his hands and examine the tear in his side. If you can't do that, then I refuse to believe."

One week later, Thomas is with his friends in the house and this time someone else goes to the corner deli for the bagels. Doors shut. Windows closed. Ten men around the table and it happens again. Jesus appears. Same words too. "Peace be with you."

I can imagine Thomas sitting way in the back of the room hiding behind oversized Bartholomew.

"Thomas, would you come here. I believe you wanted to have a personal interview. Chagrined, Thomas makes his way to Jesus.

"Put your finger right here and investigate my hands. And don't stop there, but reach out your hand and place it in my side. Thomas, you need not doubt. It's me."

When I was growing up, I could never bring myself to be assured that I really believed enough to make it to heaven. I struggled with my faith. At times I felt close to God, but at other times I felt God was on the furthest edge of the universe. One thing I knew for sure. If I could ever get an appointment with Billy Graham, meet in his office and let him tell me some special information that I had missed; if I could get him to pray for me and lead me in the sinner's prayer, then my eternal destiny would be a done deal. Eventually I did get to meet Billy Graham although it wasn't in his office but at a crusade in Durban, South Africa. I was playing the trombone in a Christian band that happened to be in the same town as the evangelist. The crusade team invited us to join them so there we were. Now as a budding musician I really liked to get the most volume-per-note. So I blasted away on one song, only to realize too late that my crusade savior had come and sat down right in front of me. I blasted and blatted away oblivious to his grimaces. Now I would never get him to pray for me.

Well, resurrection faith isn't based upon getting the right person to pray for us. Nor is it conjuring enough stamina within us to believe. God isn't asking us to go on a blind date with him either or forcing us to sign on the dotted line while we sing the final stanza of "Just As I Am." The entire Gospel of John is summarized in this story. On the basis of his promises-his track record-our leap of faith becomes a small step of faith.

When Jesus first came to the disciples he came as one who had fulfilled his promises to them. He had told them, for instance, that he would come to them and not leave them like orphans. He had told them that they would weep and mourn, but that their pain would turn to indescribable joy. He had told them he would be changed and now he comes to them with a changed body. He promised that he would give them the Spirit. And he did. And he does.

But just to set the record straight this morning. Thomas is granted a personal interview with Jesus to bolster his faltering faith. And Jesus doesn't severely chide him for his lack of faith either; he just points him to the better way to come to faith. To remember his promises-his track record-and to make a commitment based upon that. Thomas represents a faith that depends upon nail print examinations, feelings, and emotions to convince us that God is truly present, but God calls us to a joyous faith that breaks into song without having to feel or see or touch the Lord.

Because God always keeps his promises. Amen.