Same Journey; Different Paths -Easter 2
Same Journey; Different Paths - Easter 1
April 19, 2020
Rev. Fritz Nelson
Text: John 20:19-29
So, how are you doing? Its been about a month now. Are you hanging in there? Are you struggling? Are you angry? Or relaxed? Stir crazy? Content?
I find I’m spending more time on the phone than I ever have in my life. So many conversations. So many answers to the question of “how are you doing?”
A woman called me the other day – she works for the Jobs Ohio and is updating a county services directory – a task that’s been on the back burner for years but she can easily work on it from home. She’s worried about her son, laid off from the Cracker plant in PA, who hasn’t yet gotten an unemployment check.
She reminds me of another conversation, another friend who’s been living off savings because the unemployment has been hung up. She prays through her days and is at relative peace, but if unemployment or stimulus doesn’t come through before the mortgage is due…
Her commitment to prayer reminds me of another friend for whom this coronavirus time has been a time of great spiritual blessing, more time to pray, to reflect, to listen to so many sermons on YouTube and Facebook.
We’re all in this together, but we’re all coping differently. We’re all in this together but we’re all at different emotional, spiritual and psychological places. Some relish this time spent with kids or grandkids, spouses or significant others. Others hate it. Some relish the gift of being alone, others would do anything to get back to work, to school, to ordinary routine. Some have been largely untouched by the virus and its effects. Others have been sick, or are mourning those who have died. Some see this as a personal journey. Others see deeper themes of constitutional rights, economic injustice, racial inequality, political corruption and more.
We’re in this together. But that doesn’t mean we all experiencing the same thing.
The other day – one of you, I honestly don’t remember who, I’ve had that many conversations – mentioned taking the time to read all the gospel accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection. You were reminded, you told me, of how none of them match. Four gospels, four crucifixion stories. Four gospels, four resurrection stories. All four gospel writers either was there or knew people who were there. Each had directly experienced the resurrection’s life changing power. Yet each experienced it in different emotional, spiritual, physical and psychological ways.
By Easter night the disciples had already begun to scatter, each processing Mary’s story in their own way. A few of the core disciples were staying together in a room, afraid to go out due to fear of the authorities. Thomas was not among them. Neither were two others, who began walking the seven miles to a nearby community. Jesus appeared to them on the road. But Thomas was not on the road. They rushed back to tell the others and Jesus appears a second time, but again Thomas was not with them.
When Thomas finally hears their stories, he cannot believe. The other disciples didn’t believe Mary either, when she first told of meeting Jesus. All the disciples had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. They’d seen him raise Jarius’ daughter from the dead. But in their grief, fear, anxiety, loneliness and overarching sense of loss, they couldn’t imagine Jesus rising from the dead without seeing it. Thomas hadn’t been there when Jesus showed up. He couldn’t believe.
The Resurrection would radically change each disciple’s life. But how it changed them, when it changed them, why it changed them, how they lived out that change would be radically different for each of them. Each resurrection story was different. Each led to different callings, different ways of living out their faith. Some of the disciples ended up just going home, keeping everything to themselves. Peter would become the spiritual foundation upon which the whole church would be built. Mary Magdalene, who first met the resurrected Lord but was not believed, would become a great healer, prophetess and apostle – a woman so spiritually powerful later generations of male church leaders would brand her a prostitute to limit her authority.
And Thomas – who wasn’t there, who struggled to believe – the next week he was there, and Jesus came, just for him, erasing whatever doubts he had. Thomas would become a missionary as great, if not greater, than the Apostle Paul. His grave in South India remains a pilgrimage site to this day.
For every apostle a unique resurrection experience. For every one of us a unique coronavirus experience. The early church, in preserving the stories, never attempted to reconcile them, to make a single, authoritative resurrection story. Jesus never condemns Thomas for not being there, for experiencing the resurrection, for processing the resurrection, in his own way. Scripture never condemns those who simply went home after the resurrection, keeping everything to themselves. Scripture also doesn’t explicitly rank the apostles according to number of miles traveled, churches planted, converts made, people healed. Each responded to the resurrection in their own way, and it was okay. Each of us is responding to this time of pandemic in our own way – and its okay. The Lord’s still working in us and through us and through this time. He’ll meet us where we are. We’ll be okay. So be easy on yourself. Be easy on each other, and persevere in prayer.