March 26, 2023 at Saint Eugene Church in Oklahoma City, OK
Ezekiel 37, 12-14 + Psalm 130 + Romans 8, 8-11 + John 11, 1-45
My name is Thomas. When my parents chose that name for me, I am sure that they did not realize what a gift they were giving me. While there are several great men with that name: Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Beckett, Thomas More, I feel sure that they knew nothing of those men, and I have always believed that the Apostle Thomas was their intent. Over the 81 years I have carried that name, that man called: “The Twin” and I have grown closer. The oral tradition that shaped the written Gospels only recalled three occasions when he spoke, and it’s not hard to understand why they would have remembered and passed on his words. The three things he says reveal a movement in faith for anyone who would be a follower of Jesus Christ. First some bewilderment: “We do not know where you are going”. Then the first and shortest of all creeds, “My Lord and My God”. Finally, the courage and boldness that any believer must have when he says, “Let us go to die with him.”
With the words we hear today, Thomas challenges the fear in his companions as they near Jerusalem knowing that there is trouble ahead, and the enemies of Jesus are waiting for him. His timid, frightened companions remind Jesus that there had just been an attempt on his life. They don’t want to go, and they don’t want him to go. Thomas speaks up. What he suggests is that anyone living in fear is already dead. Fear drains the life out of us. It leaves us paralyzed and unable to fulfill God’s plan for us. Jesus knows what God wants, not just from him but from us all, and so, fearless, he goes.
There is much more to this episode in John’s Gospel than a story about a dead man being called from a tomb. This occasion in Bethany is not the first time Jesus as called someone to life.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke have Transfiguration scenes, but not John. There is no Transfiguration scene. The whole of John’s Gospel episode by episode, reveals the glory of Jesus. The whole Gospel is an unfolding of glory revealed in Jesus Christ from the joy of a wedding feast without wine to the sadness of a grave in Bethany. The glory of God is slowly being revealed through Jesus Christ, who constantly shows us the essence of God’s being and glory. We are invited to enter into the dynamic of that love and in response, give glory to God.
Come Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out and poured into the lives of those cautious, timid, and sometimes fearful disciples, the glory of God breaks into this world.
My friends, if the mission of Jesus Christ was ultimately to give glory to God and restore that glory in the lives of human kind, then we suddenly know what our lives are about and why we are here. The glory of God is the reason we have the gifts given to us using them for the glory of God affirms that we know who we are and why.
For three nights this week, I will refresh your memories about what we do here in this sacred space and remind you of why we do it. An example: I will soon say to you: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” And you say? “For the glory of his name!” There it is! There is your reason for being here. Giving glory to God is what you came here for not to get something. Yet, how often we hear some say: “I don’t get anything out of it.” Maybe they only do things to get something in return. I’m also going to talk about what God is doing here. Sometimes we miss that because we’re too busy thinking about ourselves. Join me three times this week. It might just be refreshing and change the way you experience this Holy and precious time we spend in this place.