Heroes and Villains: Thomas

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 20:24-29.

There is a powerful scene towards the end of Disney’s The Lion King where Simba, the reluctant and somewhat recalcitrant prince of the Savannah, is alone at night until he sees an effigy of his father in the clouds. Instead of coming towards him, Simba’s father seems to dissipate on the winds. Simba chases the cloud with all his might. He attempts to catch up with the wind and when he realizes he cannot, he hurls at the wind – at his father – “You said you’d always be there for me! But you’re not…And it’s my fault. It’s all my fault.”

I imagine the disciples felt the same way after Jesus’ crucifixion. Even though the disciples betrayed, denied, and deserted Jesus, I believe they continued to hope that all he had said would be true – that he would be with them, that he would die and rise again, and after ascending, that he would send his Holy Spirit to be with them always.

Ten of the eleven disciples have seen Jesus, but Thomas was absent. Thomas hears their testimony about Jesus, but he wants to see for himself. He wants – he asks – to see and touch.

Thomas wants to explore the realness of the resurrection. He wants personal confirmation that the resurrection was not an illusion or a trick or a figment of the disciples’ collective imagination. If the resurrection had been an illusion, trick, or figment of the imagination, the resurrection would not have the same efficacy, the same saving power.

“You said you’d always be there for me!” And Jesus was. Jesus is.

Jesus showed up. Jesus revealed himself to Thomas and the disciples again. Thomas asks and Jesus responds; Jesus provides and Thomas receives.

The story of The Lion King is a story of identity – of Simba discovering or returning to who he is, which ultimately guides him home. The death of Jesus caused an identity crisis for the disciples and followers of Jesus, too. Although Jesus foretold his death and resurrection numerous times, the weight of its reality finally set with the sun that Good Friday. Seeing the resurrected Jesus reminded the disciples of who they are and whose they are. Touching Jesus – physically interacting with his living truth – restored and reconnected the disciples to the living truth of Jesus’ miracles, healings, and teachings.

Wanting that confidence of who we are and whose we are, wanting to see and touch the living truth of our Jesus does not make us bad people. That desire locates us as individuals that trust our “asking, seeking, and knocking” will be answered by our Jesus that has already shown his desire that we would all believe. So if you have the desire to ask, seek, or knock – proceed! Jesus’ timeline in answering may be at odds with your timeframe of receiving an answer, but do not let that sway you from asking. Remember, Jesus is faithful and is making all things known. Jesus is here for us and answers us when we call.

Prayer: “When our confidence is shaken in beliefs we thought secure, when the spirit in its sickness seeks but cannot find a cure, God is active in the tensions of a faith not yet mature. God is love, and thus redeems us in the Christ we crucify; this is God’s eternal answer to the world’s eternal why. May we in this faith maturing be content to live and die!”* Amen.

*“When Our Confidence Is Shaken,” The United Methodist Hymnal 505.

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New Creation: Pleasing Fragrance

Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Corinthians 2:14-17

This Sunday in the Christian Year the Church celebrates and remembers the Baptism Of Our Lord – when Jesus presented himself to John the Baptist alongside the River Jordan for baptism.

The Gospel of Matthew’s baptism account reads, “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’” (Mt 3:16-17).

That day in the Jordan River Jesus is publicly claimed by God as the child of God.  When we anticipate, celebrate, witness, and remember baptisms, we recall how we, too, are claimed as children of God.

Holy.  Worthy.  Beloved.  With whom God is well pleased.

//

I live and serve in an area saturated with Disney paraphernalia – not a bad thing at all! – and as I dwell with this image of Jesus meeting John along the banks of the Jordan River a coy smile creeps across my face as I remember wise ole’ Rafiki leading a weary and lost Simba to the banks of a watering hole.  Simba peers over the side hoping to see his father – who died many years earlier – and instead sees his own reflection.  Disgusted Simba recoils and Rafiki encourages him to look again.  “Look harder…” Rafiki says, “You see…he lives in you” and Simba’s reflection morphs into that of his father’s.

Simba then hears his name rolling across the clouds like thunder and an effigy of his father appears.  “Simba, you have forgotten me,” Mufasa says.  “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me.  Look inside yourself.  You are more than what you  have become.  You must take your place in the circle of life.  Remember who you are.  You are my son.  Remember.”

Simba protests, “How can I go back?  I’m not who I used to be…”  And Mufasa implores, “Remember.  Remember.”

//

When we return to the waters of baptism – not for rebaptism for God’s grace is sufficient in the single ritual – it is to remember who we are.  Regardless of what we have done or left undone, regardless of where we have said too much or kept silent too long, regardless of who we used to be and who we are now, God calls us to remember.  To remember who we are.  To remember who God is.  To remember what God’s grace has done and is doing.  To refresh our memory of God’s claim on our lives.

We are holy.  We are worthy.  We are beloved.  We are with whom God is well pleased.

I am.  You are.

Remember.

Prayer: “Baptized in water, sealed by the Spirit, cleansed by the blood of Christ, our King; heirs of salvation, trusting his promise, faithfully now God’s praises we sing.  Baptized in water, sealed by the Spirit, dead in the tomb with Christ, our King; one with his rising, freed and forgiven, thankfully now God’s praises we sing.  Baptized in water, sealed by the Spirit, marked with the sign of Christ, our King; born of one Father, we are his children, joyfully now God’s praises we sing.”* Amen.

*“Baptized in Water,” The Faith We Sing, 2248.