Easter Alleluias – We May Wander… HE WILL NOT

It’s about this Jesus. It’s always about this Jesus. God has raised up Jesus from the dead! He is alive! ‘Living today, here, among us! Oh, there’s something about this Jesus. You know what it is? He shows up. I mean: he just shows up. Unanticipated. Often unexpected. And very, very frequently, just in the nick of time! I can’t necessarily speak for your life. But I sure can speak for mine. More than once, when I’ve needed him, asked for him, wanted him… Jesus has just shown up! When I haven’t been lookin’ for him…he still shows up. And there have been times, plenty of times, times when I’ve locked my doors because I was afraid, just like the disciples. ‘Times when I’ve shut up the doors and shut up my heart. ‘Times when I’d rather have been caught dead than caught by the Master doin’ as I’ve been doin’, feelin’ as I’ve been feelin’, or plannin’ what I’ve been plannin’ or doubtin’, what I’ve been doubtin’ when Jesus… just showed up! So I’m here to say to you today… this Jesus is alive! And he does and will live in your life.  And here’s one thing you can count on. Jesus shows up!

You may wonder. You may wander. You and I may seem to go and get far, far astray. We may not be able to see or find our way back. But here’s what we can promise in the light of Easter. Jesus shows up! We may wander. He does not. He stands always near at hand. Some months ago a good friend, a dear soul, a devoted believer wrote to me and asked, “How do we find our way back to him when we wander so far?” What a question! And no doubt there’s some stuff we can do. Indeed, we can learn from the disciples. We can learn from Thomas. But we begin and end right here. Though we may wander, Jesus does not. And that is forever the key to coming home to Christ and going home to God!

Thomas is not alone in his wandering. Neither are we. Yet Jesus is with us, long before he appears to us. It’s an ultimate gift of grace!

It has taken me a long time to see this. Maybe you, too. John reports the disciples all shut up and shut in. Why? For fear’s sake! Isn’t that the way with us! And what were theirs, what are our principal fears? First that we’re alone. Abandoned. On our own. No

body cares. Second, that hope can be crucified. We fear that evil has the upper hand and death the last word. Third, we fear that in the end what we think, believe, do, doesn’t finally matter. 10 shaken men, and perhaps a compliment of women believed all this, that 1st Easter evening. Two more had already left them. One for the rope-without-hope. (Judas was literally hung up on it.) The other, for the wandering unaccounted. We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t there. How true of us. Sometimes not even we know why we wander, from Christ, the church, our families, each other. We just do! And we can feel far, far away. But Jesus is still near! A 32 yr. old young father in another church shared this. “Ken, I lost my wife because I cheated; my job because I lied; my kids because I lashed out. I lost me because I lost my worth. Last week, at a stop light, I looked over at that big stone church. ‘With the concrete Jesus. On that concrete cross. I swear I heard him say my name. And then, ‘I’m up here for you. You.’ It was weird. But wonderful. I got it. He gave me another chance! [Thomas would understand!] If he can get down off that cross and forgive me, and get outta the grave and talk to me, I can get outta this ditch. And talk to the ones I love. And ask them to forgive, too. I can be… NEW. I’ve got a Resurrection Day.” Jesus shows up! Powerful. Personal. For you. Our Easter Jesus is present long before he appears to us! That Fri-‘til-Sunday for the 10. That Easter evening +7 for Thomas. Even through our own long nights of the soul. In the famous Les Miserables book/play, Jean Valjean gets 5 yrs. for stealing bread!  He serves 19, all downhill to the soul! He ends up at an old bishop’s home a beggar. He betrays this kind soul, steals his silverware. He’s caught. ‘Returned to the Bishop, booty in hand. Surely jail is next! But Christ is present, if not appearing. Says the Bishop (for the police’s benefit), “Glad to see you. But I gave you the candlesticks too, silver as the rest, worth 200 francs. Why didn’t you take them along with [you]?” Off the hook! Forgiveness. The doors no longer shut for fear. The bishop blesses, frees him. “My brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and I give it to God.” Resurrection! Jesus just shows up! Just like in the Upper Room. We wander. Not Jesus.

How do we find our way back? ‘By the marks and markers of the One who will show us the way! And… by standing in the midst of

those who have already seen …and believed.  Something happened to the 10 that Easter night. Granted, in their locked up, buttoned down fear Jesus just showed up. He didn’t need their permission, approval, expectation or welcome. Their hearts were as shut as their doors. John’s pretty clear on this.  But Jesus comes with two gifts. His peace. I love it! Don’t you? And I want it! ‘You? How do we get it? Just as they. Christ Risen just gives it away! He breathes on/into them! “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Breathe) It’s just like God in the garden with Adam! We’re a NEW CREATION today. Now for the 2nd gift. A mission (literally, missio, Lat., a sending). “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Our reason for being is now forgiveness, boundary, blessing. Be careful. Mindful. Faith-full! Forgiveness will be hard. And judgment of others a tempting test, a trial. How easy to see and squeeze hold of our neighbor’s sins, while wanting to scatter our own to the 4 winds! Retaining the other’s sins has eternal consequences for us, too. Nothing Christ says in the Upper Room cancels what he says on the hillside, “If you forgive others’ trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not, neither will your Father forgive yours.” Sobering! Maybe it’s why the 10 welcome Thomas back. Forgiving his wandering may somehow sign forgiveness for ours! Thomas senses this. ‘Keeps company with the believers. Here’s a practical, if unoriginal answer to the question, “How do we find our way back when we wander so far?” Put yourself among believers who’ve seen him risen, breathed his breath, got what you’re lookin’ for. ‘Loneliness lifted. ‘Sin forgiven. ‘Hope restored. If you want a resurrection, get with those who’ve seen One Resurrected! Then, like Thomas, lay your doubt and fear at His feet. His wounds will not be re-opened by your honest doubt. Have no fear of that. Paint your darkest desire on the palm of his hand and he’ll offer you that pierced place in his side. You’ll learn as Thomas learned. “No need, Lord. I believe.” Surely if Thomas can challenge as he does, be safe/saved, whatever your burden, it pales by comparison!

It’s about this Jesus. Risen and alive. He just: shows up! O, we may wander. He does not. ‘With us, before he appears. He comes with peace, and a mission. Forgiveness! Lost your way? Take heart. He’s not lost you! Stand with those who believe! And the Risen Jesus will guide you home!

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